The Praise of Cute Babies, Ryan Gosling’s Abs, and Holiness

There we sat in the movie theater, with about 200 other people, just in time to see the opening of Crazy Stupid Love. With this being in the genre of a romantic comedy, it is safe to say that the female gender took the majority count in the room, ha. Midway through the movie we finally approached the imminent flirtatious scene between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (my future wife). What happened next turned out to be hilarious – Ryan Gosling takes off his shirt… and on the 32-foot tall, 75-foot wide movie theater scene, 200 people received a full HD view of his 8-pack abs. I kid you not, every girl in the theater automatically gave some type of audible reaction. 70 girls gave a deep gasp, 70 other girls giggled, and 30 other girls clapped. The 30 guys in the movie theater just smacked their teeth in a jealously retorted gesture. However, the reactions from the girls were priceless. There was a warm delight that triggered in their eyes and bubbled up into a spontaneously audible reaction. An external praise.

ImageNow, let us ask ourselves a question: Why is it that there was such outward expression givien off by those girls? Why did they not just feel the delight and keep that feeling to themselves? We know that their reactions to Ryan’s abs were not forced out but, on the other hand, were naturally performed. That action is slightly weird when you think about it, is it not?

Another example – In the church that I attend we have experienced this “baby boom” over the past 10 months. Literally, there are babies everywhere. I am scared. (I have a prophetic theory that the babies are going to take over the church and turn us into their slaves… but that is neither here nor there). One established fact is that the babies are awfully adorable. I mean my goodness they are precious.  They turn heads like it’s their jobs. People are continuously complementing the babies, continuously gathering around them, and continuously telling other people about a new baby that they must see. What is it that causes us to react like this? It is not as if we haven’t seen a baby before.

The answer happens to be the exact same reason that God asks us to praise him. All throughout the Bible we see numerous instances where God says to give him joyful praises.  C.S. Lewis, who used to be a staunch atheist until his conversion, used to hate Christianity for this reason. He felt as if God was this old beggar-woman asking for praises all the time. After his conversion, he realized the truth behind why God demands that we praise him:

C.S. Lewis –

Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’…

…“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.”

What Lewis is saying is that the reason girls in a movie theater naturally give an external reaction to Ryan Gosling’s gorgeous abs is because their joy in those abs does not feel complete until they let it out. The reason we tell people about cute babies is because we have to share this news in order to complete the feeling. The initial joy is fuel that leads us into some form of obedience to achieve the full joy. We see this with Instagram and Facebook as well. We post pictures of the coffee we’re sipping or the delicious meal we’re eating because we must tell someone. Weird, huh? We do it all the time. We are by design worshipers and want people to join us in that feeling of gratification. God wired us for this. God’s demand to praise him is not meant for Himself.  God does not need our approval. He tells us to praise him because in the act of praising we walk into a fulfillment of the eternal-like joy that we were created for. If God loves you he would want what is best for you. What is best for you is Himself. In order for your joy to be naturally completed, it must be expressed. The scriptures are hinting to us, “do you want fullness of joy…do you want everlasting peace and freedom…then praise God in all things with all your heart.” Isaiah 25:1, Psalm 150:2, James 5:13, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc.

The Lord wants us to understand that anything we praise that does not end in praise of the triune God will be fleeting (Job 7:6-7, Psalm 144:4, James 4:14). Ryan’s abs will not last forever, babies eventually reach the terrible twos, delicious sandwiches will quickly disappear, and Tom Brady will eventually grow too old for the game. Unless our everyday pleasures end in ultimate praise in Jesus Christ then those pleasures are restricted. Everything that is seen is transient. Our hope lies in focusing more on what is unseen. Jesus takes our sins, dies on the cross in our place for our sins, then rises from death. He gives us his righteousness. He gives us his heart. The more our affections are stirred for Christ, that joy will fuel our obedience to worship, to evangelize, and to naturally give off fruits of the spirit…freely. Not as a job or obligation but because we already feel his affections for us. Continually sitting underneath this Gospel story causes us to continually remember, which in turn, naturally triggers that “joy of eternal significance”. That joy that creation yearns for.

Let us adore Him. Let us praise Him.

Sources:

Reflections on the Psalms. C.S. Lewis. 1958.

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Angels & Fairytales: Imagine a Box

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Focus. Picture a box. Imagine what the box will look like. It’s simple and open at the top. Now picture yourself climbing into the box. Sit down. Run your fingers along the surface. Maybe you have to hug your knees to your chest in order to fit inside. Now enlarge the box to a size that will allow you mobility. Imagine that from the day you were born until this very day…that all that you know is inside that box. Now enlarge that box even further, making its dimensions indefinite. Picture a community of people to live in it with you – consisting of family, friends, and strangers. This box and the surrounding 4 walls are all that your subjective awareness holds.

Here comes the tricky curveball:

Continue to imagine yourself inside this indefinite box. Really transfer your mind and soul into imagining the reality of this “box” scenario. My question is – Can you imagine anything outside of the box that is not presently inside the box? That is, would your brain be able to create a single story that goes beyond what you have experienced your entire life within those 4 walls?

The answer is that it is impossible to do so. If you were somehow able to imagine anything outside the box then what you created was a fairytale or myth, with respect to the foundational elements that already exist in your box. Therefore, by creating a story outside the box, all you have done is subconsciously grab hold of some form of truth from within the inside and transcend it outward. This explains why, ever since the beginning of time, we have been able to create stories of a spiritual world. Myths and fairytales exist to satisfy primordial (i.e. original) human desires. Myths are not lies, they convey the essential truth and primal reality of life itself. Anything pictured outside the box MUST be innately created. Craaazzy huh? Let see if it can get a tiny bit clearer…

ImageThis box represents the laws of materialism. Taking superiority in our society,  materialism states that “physical matter is the only reality and that everything, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of matter and physical experience.” Materialism imprisons us in a world of matter and physical facts; void of any divine god. They’ve basically convinced us that this is all there is. Materialism is one of the fruits of “The Age of The Enlightenment”. We studied this for only about 1.5 days in the 9th grade, ha (remember Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferon, etc..). The Enlightenment started in the 18th century and boomed in popularity. They believed that human reason could overcome superstition, tyranny, and the troubles in their world at the time. Many really great things came out of The Enlightenment that we benefit from today. However, one of their main targets was the Church. The Enlightenment brought in ideas of individualism and identity of self; and coupled with a new rebellious nature, against authority, that said, “No one is the boss of me”. So now we have some massive problems. The key being that it turned man’s eyes further away from God and deeper onto himself in every aspect of life and culture. We were already sinners, but now The Enlightenment exalts the “self” beyond what was normal and made it worse.

But lets bring it back to our simple box. If this earthly box is all there is, how are we able to picture and imagine things outside the walls. How can we create stories, spanning thousands of years, of a true loving God that created the universe if he does not exist? Stories of the supernatural. This boils downward to the everyday Disney movies, Justin Beiber songs, and the current craziness over the NBA Playoffs. Is it not ironic that Disney Movies always seem to portray an unlikely hero that comes along to save a people. These are all shadows of something bigger. Myths are a beautiful video that allows us a fleeting, but powerful glimpse of what is truly outside. They allow us to escape the 4-walls of materialism to see the truer beauty that lies above.

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My favorite chick-flick is Serendipity. I watch it about 25 times a year, at least. It is a story about chance and fate. About not quitting until you find that mythical “soul-mate” (It’s cheesy but it’s totally awesome!!!). You see, the screenwriter did not pull this fairytale of fate and everlasting love out of fictional thin air. As J.R.R. Tolkein once put it,

“We make things by the law in which we are made. We create because we were created. Creativity and imagination is God’s image-ness in us. We tell stories because God is a storyteller. We use words. He uses history.”

Serendipity’s plot of fate was taken from our innate sense of the prophecies and promises of Jesus coming as our Savior. Serendipity’s yearning for true-love was taken from our innate desire for the unfailing love of Christ.

Christianity is the archetype of all stories. It is the story in which all other stories have their source.

  • Greek Mythology, as fake/counterfeit as it is, still dips its authorial hands into Christianity for its wonderful stories.
  • Video games such as Halo and Call of Duty sell big because the gamers get a high from the feeling of glory each time the achieve a killing spree.  (FYI, playing Halo was the best years of my life)
  • We flock to watch Game of Thrones, Iron Man 3 and Superman because the glory depicted in the films makes us feel great.

This glory should be experienced in the worship of Christ and living out his exciting call on us. This can go on into music, politics, culture, and other domains of society.

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C.S. Lewis nailed it by saying, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” Luckily, for believers we know that ‘In the beginning was God.’

Picture a box. Picture yourself climbing into that box. Now picture Jesus in walking towards you and the box suddenly disappearing.

Some sources…

  1. http://public.callutheran.edu/~brint/Arts/Tolkien.pdf
  2. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705307318/1815-30-Birth-of-modernity-and-the-rise-of-materialism.html?pg=all
  3. http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/06/cs-lewis-on-reasoning-to-atheism.html
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_Enlightenment#Influence

Girls Are Cute and Atheism is Strange

Well……….it was my junior year of college when I fell head over hills (mountains, for accuracy) for this girl in my math class. It was literally my first legitimate big crush on a girl. It is safe to say that I was a slightly late bloomer. Most of the class periods would consist of me glancing over and daydreaming about her – wondering where our first date would be.

ImageConsequently, I ended up with a “C” in the class. Each night I would think to myself, “Tomorrow I am going to ask her out. No fears!” I would even rehearse the lines I planned to say in  my head. However, as class ended each day, I’d freak out inside and digress my plan into just trying again tomorrow. Long story short, I did nothing for the entire semester and it crushed me for about a year afterwards, ha.

During that semester I found myself watching drastically more chick flicks than usual. I needed ammo and ideas for this girl! Also, my IPod playlists consisted solely of extremely cheesy loves songs. My favorites were:Image

Teddy Geiger – For you I will

Train  – Drops of Jupiter

Plain White T’s – 1,2,3,4

Shawn Colvin – When you know 

Liz Phair – Why Can’t I breathe

The list was endless and continues to this day. The Disney movies that I watched that semester seemed better than ever. My DVD player was constantly playing ‘Serendipity’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’.

For some reason, the words being used in those songs/movies triggered off this emotion of “recognition” inside myself. As weird as it is, it is no longer even about the girl. There was something very deep inside my soul that recognized what was happening as if…maybe…I was created to feel that feeling. That feeling of a real, everlasting love that can successfully fill me up with everything I need. Weird huh? It’s like there should be a powerful being that can do this….

Switching gears,

Where did those feelings and reactions come from? There should be an origin of the intrinsic feelings of romance, happiness, sadness, laughter, satisfaction, mourning, etc. It is in our nature to try to find out what is behind everything in the universe. For thousands of years mankind has been trying to figure this out. This self-will to search for truth is given from God so that we may eventually seek Him (Acts 17:27).

Atheists have desperately tried to answer this question. There are many types (Marxists, Freudians, Naturalists, Relativists, Anti-theists and others) but for the most part they all believe in some sort of Big Bang-type creation from nothing and macroevolution. However, by believing in this, it would seem that they then inadvertently contradict themselves and cannot answer these simple “why” questions (let alone our existence). Unlike machines, we always seem to care about something. In order to believe what they believe, they must agree that our existence was an accident based off of a meaningless causation. Without a God creating the universe, we should not be able to say that something is good, beautiful, or true. We are simply matter in motion and chemicals firing off in the universe. If this is the case and everything is meaningless, then conversely what they claim and anything we do is not meaningful. We know this is not true. But without objectivity, the ability to judge, I should not be able to have a crush on a particular girl as opposed to another girl. Those cheesy love songs and movies should not have triggered off any meaning in my brain at all.

So where is the truth?

The truth lies within our living God. Being made in his triune image (i.e. from the time of Adam and Eve) our souls remember that at some point of existence there was once a perfect and infinite love that did fulfill us. It is seen in the first two chapters of the Bible. Every chapter after that is God’s story of bringing us back to that point of perfection. Ecclesiastes 3:11 mentions how we have an emptiness in our hearts that can only be filled by eternity. The reason we enjoy good food, but still are left wanting more is because of this missing piece in our hearts. When Adam and Eve ate, there fullness resulted in complete joy in the food and glory to the divine Father that gave it. It was perfect…until sin entered.

Luckily, Jesus fills this gap (John 10:10). This was done to create gratitude for his name and, in turn, give us fullness of joy. And at his second coming our fullness will be complete. It is a “double-grace”. We have gratitude in that Christ died for us and hope in that he is returning. It is a double-grace equal to double dessert. And faith binds the two together.

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Hmmm, where the heck was God’s “soverignty” during crazy events like the African Slave Trade???

A very lovable friend of mine has recently said that he’s having serious doubts about the existence of God. It is to the point where he does not believe anymore. His reason:

“If there is a God, then why would he allow so much destruction and violence to take place in this world?”

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17It’s a great question. My favorite atheist by far is Christopher Hitchens and, sadly, that’s one of his main points. However, an opposing question that’s rarely ever asked is:

“If there is a God, what is the deeper meaning of what he is doing in allowing some tremendously bad things to take place in this world?”

9-11-firefighters-flagI’m not saying that God directly causes cancer in people. I’m not saying he flew a plane on 9/11 into the twin towers or that he directly ordered the numerous genocides in Africa. But he most definitely could have stopped all those things from happening. There are numerous places in the Bible where he outright stops sin from taking place. The concept of God ordaining and being in control of everything is one of the toughest, most complex and controversial concepts of The Bible.  But it is true and is very real. At the end of the day, he is trustworthy and has a much different perspective than you and I. {And lets remember that people are the ones fighting the wars and causing destruction. If there is no God and people are sooo awesome, then why is there so much destruction and violence in the world?}

One thing I am constantly learning about God is that he is more for my joy than I am. He loves me more than I do and knows me better than I know myself. I graduated college in August and it took 4 months to find a job. Whereas if I were to write my own life-script, I would’ve gotten a job within 2 weeks after graduation.

To my constant surprise, during those sometimes boring, sometimes lonely, sometimes stressful 4 months God did an overwhelming amount of beautiful things that, in the end, were for my good and for His ultimate glory. I am so thankful for it all and would not write the script differently.

Now let’s go bigger. Let’s go global. The African Slave trade, for one example, was a tragic time in world history. We look back at the degradation and consumerism of those innocent human lives with shame.

If there was a God, why would he allow the African Slave Trade to take place?? What happened to God disciplining those who murder and steal?? Is this Almighty God not sovereign anymore? Ummm, if there was a God that hated sin, was he asleep during all of this????

slave-ship01sNo one in their right mind would argue that the African Slave trade was evil and filled with wrong intentions. But throughout the sinfulness of man during that era, God continued to do what he always does; reconciling all things to himself.

Here’s a fact. In the 1800s, there were less than 9 million believers in Africa. Today there are 516 million believers there. The most dramatic advance in all of Christian history. #MindBlown

Before explaining God’s sovereignty over Africa, it’s best if we can first see a quick biblical example.

The Old Testament repeatedly pointed towards a Kingdom of God coming to to the earth. When Jesus was on Earth he would constantly talk about the Kingdom of God. He describes the kingdom as a tiny seed that is planted, sprouts up, and grows. Right before he ascends into heaven he says to 500 believers, “go into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & to the ends of the earth.”  The church start doing big things baby. They grew to about 3000 people….but they still remained within Jerusalem, even after Jesus specifically told them other locations. So God, in his sovereign power, basically allows/destines Stephen to be stoned to death. After this happens, a large persecution takes place against the Church by the Sanhedrin and the Christians are forced into Judea, Samaria. (Mark 4:26, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:41, Acts 7) Coincidence?

So while Stephen and other people get persecuted….God’s plan is spreading out further and further, like he inteded. Christians are now preaching the Gospel in Judea and Samaria. And we can go on and on to Rome, European history, the Americas, yadda yadda yadda. Sometimes God ordains tremendously beautiful movements of revivals or just natural church growth that spur on Christianity to the ends of the earth. But sometimes he uses the not-so beautiful. Either way, God wins. There are times in scripture where sorrow, pain, and frustration are given to men as a gift by God to save them (other times it is a result of our sin or dark spiritual warfare). Sometimes a loving grandmother suddenly passes away, but then her wayward children and their families find the Lord because of it.

an-african-churchFrom the time of Acts until the early 1800s, Christianity never really takes off in Africa at all. The Catholic Church was the only form of Christianity there but it had no lasting results. The Catholic Church, missionaries, and anything else was outdone by the overbearing Islamic presence there. But things changed when the African Slave trade arrived. Two British-Protestant Christians who loved the Lord, took part in the largest influence in the history of Africa. Thomas Fowell Buxton sought to put an end to the slave trade by encouraging local commercial and agricultural initiatives in its place. Henry Venn was responsible for laying down the principles of more “temporary” missionaries to Africa. This also led to better schools and education, principles that gave Africa a foundation that they never had. Over the next 200 years, the Gospel spread within their culture and language, becoming the largest Christian population on the planet. 380 million believers.

And we don’t even have to go to the Bible for reflection, we can just look at history….what the heck would the world look like in the African Slave trade never happened? 180 degrees of difference.

The Kingdom of God is a seed that is planted. It sprouts and it continually grows. This is unlike any fairy tale or theory, but it is happening right now before our very eyes. united-church-of-god-celebrate-feast-of-tabernacles-kingdom-of-god.jpg.crop_display

If we have the end in mind, patience increases and anger decreases.

The things of this world occur so that men would seek him, even though God is not far from each of us. He is intimately aware of each of us, and does whatever he pleases in order that he is glorified and that we may have full and eternal joy in Him (Acts 17:24-27, Psalm 115:3, Psalm 139:13-16, Daniel 4:35). Those are very “unpolitically correct” and unpopular verses; but when they are dwelt on properly a huge weight is taken off our shoulders and we love him even more dearly with more joy to live with.