Feeds:
Posts
Comments

1 Thessalonians 4:3

This is the will of God, your sanctification.

For years as I matured in Christ, slowly yet relentlessly, I asked Him what was His will of me?

What I was really asking was “why am I here in New Jersey in the 21st century?” What big things did God have planned? And how would I know when they happened what my role was? Would an angel speak to me? An ancient prophecy? A inner voice?

This is, unless I’m a lonely idiot (which I might very well be), thoughts that have passed through many a young man or a young woman’s mind. Even those not so young.

I was reading scripture today (an attempt out of a series of stuttering attempts to read scripture daily) and I came across 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Paul has just finished telling the church at Thessolonica how well they are doing at following God and obeying Him.

Then he goes into a command so small and so familiar I usually skim by it. It belongs in the “fruit of the spirit vs fruit of the flesh” verses scattered throughout Paul’s writings. Abstain from this, don’t do that, don’t be associated by this sin.

Interestingly enough, my eye caught this little qualifier (I believe that’s what it is called) where Paul equates God’s will to our sanctification.

[note: there is not just ‘one’ will that God reveals eliminating from His being, but several. This is another topic though; another talk for another time.]

Did you catch that? God’s will is our sanctification! Not that we accomplish this task or minister to that particular group or to fully understand and teach the truth of Sovereign responsibility paired with human responsibility. It is that we grow more and more into the image of Christ (Col 3:10; Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:29).

How freeing is this? And how important of a destiny? God says not that we ‘might’ be more like Christ hopefully but He says we ‘will’ be like Christ.

Paul then connects this to the wrath of God. He writes how those who bear the image of Christ will be taken up with Him into the clouds. And why is Jesus in the clouds? He has come to visit wrath on the earth. Like in the days of Noah, when scoffers scoffed and mockers mocked, they said there is no wrath to come.

This same thread is woven in Colossians as well. Throughout all of scripture, you see God say “be holy, for I am holy.”
This call for repentance is such a trope in today’s world. These words bring up the man in the sandwich board saying “the end is near!”

Repent!

What does sanctification mean to you guys? How have you incorporated it into your lives?

Crown of Thorns

I don’t think I know you

You have this droopy face
They say full of pain and love
How can pain and love co-mingle?
How can pain and love be equally yoked?
The mystery and the scandal
That pain was the result of love
But I think they are wrong
For you see that pain and love don’t
Combine into this one droopy face
With a crown that represent all
Humanity’s accomplishments
We built pyramids from sand
We raised dirt into mountains
We took trees and created gods
We scarred the earth in search 
Of that precious mineral which one day
Would bring majestic heights to us
Yet all of our abilities as the human race
Come together in one rip
One  twist
One tryst between thorn and pate
I don’t know you 
I think they don’t either 
You, who held the quarks and their kin
From imploding and scattering
Quasars and galaxies spin endlessly
On your words
The stars sing your praise
The trees bend and weave your song
The birds and beasts know no other King
Your throne is the mountains
Your footstool the plains 
The ocean is your cup
They do not know you
Open their eyes so that they may know
The man who bore man’s crown
-ing achievement upon his brow
So that when you next come
They may recognize the crown
Made not by man
But by love

Pendle Hill

Christians throughout the ages, in order to argue for the need of literature, have argued from Augustine who wrote “Like the treasures of the ancient Egyptians…which on leaving Egypt the people of Israel… claimed for themselves,” the truths of pagan knowledge “…must be removed by Christians…and applied to…preaching the gospel” (quoted by Williams, 6).

 

Augustine argued later in life for the value of literature lying merely in the truth that could be gleaned from it. He believed we are to only use the practical side of the written word. But this cannot be the only use for a Christian. How is one to approach art and, as Frye noted, be “extended” by it (Reflections 57)?

 

Literature holds more than just moral compasses and true norths. Literature, as with all art, draws one in with an aesthetic aura. God revealed his Son, neither in propositional terms nor a point by point bulleted power point presentation.

 

God revealed Christ incarnate in the Word incarnate. Christ was revealed in narrative sweat and blood that takes the sweat of the brow to dig into and yield fruit. David bled out his wasting flesh and sleepless nights in stanzas and acronyms. We are presented creation in chiastic form. Law is granted through the lips of a prince.

 

Were instruction and life not bound by beauty, we would not seek it out. But beauty is not the end.

 

Ryken sees the balanced view of art when he writes “Writers do not, of course, claim that literature is only entertaining” (Ryken, 140, emphasis author’s). The balance, not the tipped scale, is that beauty and message reside within art.

 

It is the beauty that draws and the message that enriches. Regarding nonfiction, Veith writes “It has been said that any subject can be made interesting by a good writer” and vice versa (Veith, 53). There is nothing wrong in enjoying art. Veith argues “There is no need for Christians to defend any [literary] forms or to worry about whether poetry or fiction are legitimate for Christians to read or write” (Ibid., 47). It seems that in fact, from what Veith is saying, good art and good literature should start at being aesthetically pleasing in order to be received well.

 

Beauty should be the starting point to tame the beast’s mind.

 


 

[This has been on my heart for a while now.  As I am taking a class on the subject of Christian literature, I figured now would be a good time to lay some ground work on my ideas of literature.  Forgive the shoddy citing.  I am still practicing with MLA (after having used Chicago Styled for the past couple years.)  I hope this whets your appetite!]

Works Cited

“Reflections on an understanding of Literature.” The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Ed. Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2002. 55-59.

Ryken, L. “‘Words of Delight’: A Hedonistic Defense of Literature.” The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Ed. Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2002. 135-153.

Veith, Gene Edward Jr. Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature. Wheaton: Crossway, 1990.

Williams, Donald T. “Christian Poetics, Past and Present.” The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Ed. Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2002. 4-21.

Is This Hell?

Dante spoke of rings and depths in dreams
There dwelt myriad of evil things
Feces on lips and unconstrained pain
Eternal suffering, forever souls insane
Forever life, damned and reigned
Then again, an old poet’s words ripped
From the very lips
That brought Gehenna fire
Jesus spoke of smoldering hills
Worms feeding, dying never
Old ancient gods chained and tormented
As the damned burned in their coals
Child sacrifices to ghouls
Hades despising his role
Egyptians sailing through the Milky Way unaware of the toll.
But her.
His hands around her waist
His voice whispering her name
Don’t underestimate my hate
Don’t misunderstand my trust
She has only eyes for you
And I.
I tell myself
This is Hell

Image

Noah was directed by the enigmatic Darren Aronofsky who had directed other films such as Pi, The Tree of Life, and Requiem for a Dream.  Oh and that controversial one, The Black Swan.  He is no stranger to edgy.  After seeing the first two movies, I was dwelling on the ideas and themes for days afterwards.  Even now, at the mention of them, I still have questions and insights.

So when I heard he was doing Noah, I was excited.  What was he going to do?  How would he portray a character that had been so misconstrued by culture already?

Misconstrued?

Yes.  Misconstrued.  Who here has never had Noah and the animals on the ark as a wallpaper or a nursery picture?  It’s cute right?  Noah on a boat with some giraffes sticking their heads up and a bird or two circling around.  If you were lucky, there would also be some really happy looking waves with fish and such.

That same weekend, another “Christian” movie was playing.  God’s not Dead played next door to the Noah movie.  The choice was there but the decision was easy to make.  Watch a movie where stereotypes and caricatures had it out with a Duck Dynasty member thrown into the mix or see a movie with a Hollywood budget and rock monsters (more on that in a moment)?

Leading up to this post, I have read countless reviews from both multiple viewpoints.

The movie was offensive.

The movie really destroyed the actual story.

Rock Monsters?

It was a good witnessing tool.

The movie pushed people to read the Bible.

Rock Monsters?

I will not critique the different movie points.  Many good reviews do that already.  I even loved the article arguing the movie was a gnostic retelling of the story.

Why was Noah a good movie?

Did you hear the cries of the people as God punished creation?  Did you see the desperation in Noah’s eyes as he heard their screams?  Did you get how Noah saw himself as wicked as well?  Did you see how Noah tried to grapple with what he felt God was telling him?

In Noah I saw more reality than I had in other “Christian” movies.  I felt the art pull me into the story, into Noah’s desperation. I cringed as the whole world was reduced to seven, then nine, then eight people.  I felt the anguish of the mother as Noah held the knife over the heads of the babies.  And then I felt the relief as Noah relinquished and let them live.

There were real problems and they weren’t all nice and solved at the end of the movie.  We were left to deal with the consequences of Noah’s actions.  Do you know why he was drunk at the end?  Because he had failed his version of God.

“His version of God?  God told him to kill the babies.”

Did God really tell Noah to kill the babies?  Think back to Noah’s logic.  Remember when he went into Tubal Cain’s camp to find his sons women?  Remember that bedraggled man he saw that ate the flesh of animals or humans or whatever?  He was seeing himself as God saw man.  Evil.  Wicked.  Rebellious.

This was either Aronofsky’s big flaw or his brilliance at play.  As he is reportedly an atheist, I would say flaw but I could be wrong.

What does scripture say about how God saw Noah?  God saw Noah as righteous (Genesis 6:9).  Here is an excellent article on why this is.  If Aronofsky knew this to be true, then this is brilliance.  Noah is really a commentary on some Christian’s today.  We forget that God sees Jesus instead of our sin when He looks at us.  In the movie, Noah had some bad theology.  When he arrives back to the ark and locks everyone in, he reveals his plan.  As sin wasn’t the result of people’s actions but something inherent in them from the beginning, Noah figures God wanted them to die out and extinguish the human race.

Did God say this?  I found myself asking “If God wanted to kill off all of humanity, why save Noah and his family then?  Wouldn’t the fate of being the last man on earth be worse than a death by the catastrophic flood?

Noah is misreading God.  This is Aronofsky’s second brilliant point, one which I think he probably meant to flesh out.  Christians, me included, have the tendency to take the Word of God and twist it to fit their message, their ideologies, and their “convictions”.  Now, this doesn’t excuse Aronofsky for making God a mute deity who speaks through visions and signs but isn’t that how many in the American Church see God today?  But I digress.

I see the proof of Noah misreading God fleshed out in the end when Noah gets back with his family and passes on the birthright to his oldest son, essentially telling him to carry on filling the earth.  It is then that we see rainbows filling the sky.  Noah goes from ending all of life and doing as God had intended- encouraging life to flourish.  This is when we see full closure, a real ending to the narrative.

 

Yes, there is a lot in the movie that really trounces the Biblical text.  But it did get me to think about the nature and character of God way more than any other “Christian” movie ever has.

 

Appendix A

Image

(ROCK MONSTERS!!!!)

Ok.  Let’s talk Rock Monsters.

Due to the alliterate state of the American Church, I doubt most Christians have heard or dealt with the Books of Enoch.

“No, I totally have.  He’s that guy that walked with God and then he was not because God took him.”

The books of Enoch introduced us to some of the more interesting Angel lore.  This is the book Jude might have been talking about when he wrote about Michael and Satan arguing over Moses’ body.  The Watchers also show up in the book of Daniel.

So, in angel lore, the Watchers, or Grigori, are “Servants of the most high” who form the inner council of God and relay His messages to Earth.  Some also think that they are involved with human governments, helping man pass decrees and laws and such.  Also, as the root for their name indicates, it is thought that these beings never sleep and thus are always “watchful.”

There is also within angle lore the idea that these angelic hosts were the ones who fell from the heavens and, after lusting after women, produced nephilim.  Interestingly enough, the books of Enoch implied it was this transgression that brought about the flood.

If nothing else, scholars believe this gave the exiled Israelites hope.  They had been taken from their promised land and the temple was in ruins.  The presence of God was no longer with them.  Despite this, there was a hope for exiled Israel as “it is possible these angels may be mere reflectors of Yahweh Himself.  He is the keeper of Israel who never slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121:4), and the One whose eyes range throughout the whole earth (Zec 1:10; 3:9; 4:10).”

I would figure, therefore, that Aronofsky combined the two major characterizations, the fall of the Watchers and their tendency to help mankind, and formed a whole new “monster.”  So calm down, these are not really inconceivable and are more biblical than you probably knew (with some poetic licensing added).


For the details regarding the Watchers, I referred to the Wikipedia page and my International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Vol 4 Q-Z.  The pictures are not mine.

 

Cut Her Loose

This morning I went fishing
Like me and my daddy used to do
The light was soft and
Coming up on the lake.
I could feel the air rush
Cool and sweet ‘fore the day began.
I could see his breath in the breeze
His hands firm on the till
His ghost anxious to be relaxin’
On the open mirrored lake
See, we never caught nothin’
In the lazy waters depths
He sat there, pole ‘tween his legs
Weaving stories out of thought
I laughed at his raucous fights
My favorite the one where he
And Jake were friends at the end
Of a night long boxing match.
Daddy said it had been over a girl
But when they were done fussin,
The girl was forgot, a friendship won.
Another favorite was where the girl
Came back one rainy night
To a bonfire drenched, soaked, dark
On a shore and love did abound.
As I grew older, laughter subsided
And the jokes lost their flavor
The truth came out and all was seen
For reality that the stories had been
Jake had died that winters end,
A lonely soldier in a foggy war.
That girl had just one kid and gave
Her life to Jesus on her death bed.
My daddy sighed, and laughed again
But here is where I grew so old
To see the laughter really hid tears.
I was grown the last we fished
With a son of my own.
Daddy held his pole in his hands,
His stories silent and old
“Tell me when Jake and you-”
“Son, not now. Let me tell you
Another story you never heard”
His eyes, once bright and keen
Now dimmed in the morning light.
Strong hands calloused and worn
Gripped the pole, knuckles white.
Then his hand shook and he was still
There was nothing but the air
His hands shook once more, wait!
There, a bite on his wormed hook!
Daddy wrangled that fish till he cried
“Son, this one is strong and proud.
Here’s how you deal with life
When you are all worn and tired out”
He pulled his knife and cut the rope
The fish, now free, swam away
“You cannot fear to cut loose
What you did not hold so tight.
When your mamma passed I cried
And remembered that bonfire night.
Son, you gotta cut her loose.”
Daddy died the other night
I cried and sobbed and prayed
My son stood by hand on my back
And said “Daddy, don’t be afraid.”
So now I sit here on my own
The setting moon for my light
Pole tween my knees and resting on
The memories of my Daddy’s life.

We look to the Sephirot tree,

Elements and holy founts

Yggdrasil seduces our minds

The mighty serpent intertwined

The tree of eternal life

Its fruit ever slightly out of reach

The healing properties of the shaman’s staff

The wood that splinters and cracks

The five points promise sanity

The emanations do hold sway

Three fold rules and “do no harm”

Constructs that double back

Snakes that bite and trees that kill

Cursed is the hanging man

Writs and wards and hallow ground

Bones and guts divine demands

Scry His fate, the Son of Man

See humble words transform

There is little power to your spells,

Your lore, your trees, your charms

The tree of life is forever gone

From this world we are in

The coiled serpent lusts for flesh

That was never really his

Step down off that unhallowed hill

Swallow thy pride and thy wit

“Fillet of a fenny snake

In the cauldron boil and bake.”

The false prince, throne usurper

No longer dances ‘round the pole

His King has set His footstool down

The Universe at His beck and call

Run to King Jesus, you who yearn

For rest beyond the dark

He who died that you may live

And rose to complete His work.