A Christmas Letter from ADAM, the First Man Alive

I remember that it hurt, looking at her hurt. I remember the gut-wrenching feeling of it all. I remember the silly fig leaves that Eve and I used as coverings as we hid from our Creator. At that very moment of shame and horror from committing the first sin in history, we felt Death. Only hours beforehand were we “being fruitful” and looking forward to “multiplying”. Up to this point everything we did joyfully flowed into further worship of our Creator. Things were perfect. When The Fall occurred, my initial thought was of how horribly passive I had been in protecting Eve from the deceptive serpent. I failed to lead my wife in the appropriate manner that I was designed for.

However, when God confronted us, I then realized the ultimate outcome of my actions … against God and God alone, had I sinned. For He gave only one simple rule, but in return I did evil in his sight. In a short moment, all the perfection of the world tore and everything became changed. Relationships and life became hollow and broken. Everything that people now see as normal on earth was once much much much sweeter in every way imaginable. And my sweet Eve…I remember that it hurt, looking at her hurt. I still remember it all as if it were yesterday. Since passing away, Eve and I have been shown infinitely undeserving mercy. We have been in the heavenly presence of the Triune God and dined the angels and countless descendants after us. The feeling here so indescribable that I cannot put it into words. All I can do is enjoy this merriment and worship him all the more. Even as I can remember my downfalls on earth, I can rejoice as I now have a warm perspective drawn from living in the presence of Christ.

I am currently writing this letter in heaven because today is a glorious day! The angels are flipping around with an excitement that has been anticipated for since the beginning of creation. They are celebrating a predestined plan put into motion before I was even created. Just a few months ago, Jesus left heaven to go into the world. And today He is born in the flesh to the virgin Mary! One of the angels just left to visit the family. Jesus, part of the triune Godhead, has left this wonderland in order to fix all that has been wrong with the world. To redeem to all creation that the big picture is the glory of God. Oh how he loves us so. I am in awe. Oh Oh Oh the depths of the riches and knowledge and wisdom of God! (Romans 11:33).

Through me sin entered the world, and death came through sin. From this occurrence death came to all people, because all have sinned. I have witnessed famine, murder, natural disasters, slavery, pride, hatred, wars, and many more calamities. Many generations after God’s promise to Eve and I (Genesis 3:15b), from heaven I saw God’s unfathomable promises given to Abraham, Moses, and the apocalyptic prophets. I have seen the miracles God laid out for his people and I gasped as they continually turned their backs on Him. I witnessed the Bible being written and ending with Malachi – followed by approximately 400 years of scriptural silence from the Lord… that is, until this very day of Jesus’ birth. The promise of the great and powerful kingdom and of a Savior given to the people seemed bleak from an earthly perspective. In heaven, however, it is impossible to fear that God would fall short of His promises. In His glory-filled presence we know that he wins. And now we see more of the epic picture He has been painting on the canvas of the earth.

I am looking at Jesus humbling himself to be born in Bethlehem. He could have been born in a palace with thousands of angels guarding him. But he chose a different route. He is 100% man and 100% God. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 53:6). I do not know how yet, but the Holy Spirit testifies to us that He will be despised and rejected by men, being acquainted with suffering. He will bear our grieves. Past, present, and future. I should pay harshly for my mistakes, but Jesus is taking my place.

As I continue to watch this epic story that God has had rolling since the beginning of time, there is no doubt that I will continue to be in awe. Let the earthly rivers and trees clap their hands. Let the grassy fields exult and the mountains sing with joy. The people of the present age and the people in the future are so utterly blessed. They have the Kingdom of God in the midst of them now. The beginning of the restoration of what was broken, initially by me, is there in the flesh. They get something that Moses, Isaiah, Abraham, and millions of other people just hoped for. They longed for this promise. But the people on earth get to know it and walk with it and see Him. It is not hope alone for them, but it is a concrete reality.

I ask that they celebrate this day for many centuries to come. Just as the angels and the rest of us in heaven are celebrating. May they never forget what this day truly means. May they run with perseverance the race set before them… throwing away the sin and weight that clings to them. I cannot wait until the time comes when we will give them a rich welcome into this eternal kingdom. I was once Your enemy, now I am seated at the table. Jesus, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Some other verses used: Psalm 51:4, Romans 5:12, Jeremiah 2, Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 98:8, Colossians 2:9, Hebrews 11, 12:1)

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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

“This is Water Video” through a Gospel Lens

See video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmpYnxlEh0c

We always seem to grab hold of a new awe-inspiring Youtube video at least every other day. One that genuinely warms our hearts and causes us to “share” with our online social media. In 2005, late author David Foster Wallace gave a very well-received commencement speech at Kenyon College. It can be compared to the likes of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford speech. This 1-week-old video was made using much of the audio from the original speech and has now gone viral. However, there is something seriously lacking in his speech. That is…..he lacked an answer for us. A sufficient and attainable answer.

It should first be said that Wallace’s speech was indeed exceptionally insightful. He makes several valid points and does not shy away from some difficult parts of life. His full speech is actually even deeper and may be worth listening to. The core message of his life-advising speech is the importance of combining awareness, effort, and education– in giving ourselves a choice to better our lives and the lives around us. One thing that he gets exactly correct is at the 4:38 mark….because ever since Genesis chapter 3, all individuals do in fact believe that they are the center of the universe. The core issue with sin is that we subconsciously believe that we are God (Romans 1:21). Even secular psychologists confirm this in their research, naming it “The Truman Show Effect”. Where Wallace begins to swerve his speech into the wrong direction is when he uses quotes such as ‘..you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t, that is real freedom’ and ‘The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, every day.’

So, his solution to our selfishness, our inadequacy, our impatience, our lack of awareness…..is to somehow continually teach ourselves to be more conscious of the personal experiences of others around us. While also forcing ourselves to become more aware of the realities that we usually are too busy to relax and see. From this, we get truth and real freedom. Phew….well, that sounds easy as apple pie now doesn’t it?

What Wallace is suggesting for us to do is extremely exhausting. It is pretty much a second full-time 24/7 job, without a 401K. On the other hand, ironically, this freedom of truth is something that we all inherently desire within the depths of our souls. We want to care. We want to soak in everything/everyone around us for the fullness that they really are. The problem is that we cannot do this on our own will. The joy that comes from the perfection of this is always lacking outside of a relationship with Christ. There is a difference in willing yourself to achieve something and resting in that which has already been achieved. As we rest in the Gospel, there is an outflow from us (true believers) that automatically achieves what Wallace is stressing.

One thing that Oprah, Aristotle, Christopher Hitchens, and Kim Jong-un would definitely agree on is this– that the world is broken. Oprah comes out with a new silly self-help article everyday. Historically there is always someone new trying to find ways to fix the brokenness. Even the ancient Greeks would depict this in many of their mythical stories. God designed us to live and function a certain way that leads to joy, but when sin entered the world, the cosmos fractured in a way that now all that we do and think of fall short of His glory. Sin is now in our DNA from birth (Psalm 19-1-4, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12-13). With sin being in our DNA, it is a cancer that does not necessarily work as an external action but as an internal idolatry. The only time on earth when things we “right” was during the first two chapters of Genesis. Using conjecture: God would give Adam and Eve new iPhone’s and juicy steaks in the garden. In return, their mind, actions, and affections would not collapse on the iPhone itself, but created even more worship and understanding toward God. They were not tainted with sin yet. This allowed them to enjoy the fullness of the iPhone & steak how they were meant to be enjoyed. Win-win.

In order to get back to the state of awareness and fullness of life, we need restoration. Lucky for us, Jesus came to restore our ability to live life in the manner that God first created us (Romans 6:4, Eph. 2:21). How lucky are we. When this happened, for those that come and believe, our behavior begins to transform. Now….God does not simply want to transform our behavior; he wants to transform the heart so that our behavior comes out of a new heart. We have to catch that major difference there. It’s big. It helps us not walk with an arrogant swagger because we realize that we all fell short of the Lord. But Jesus picked us up and gave us his Spirit so that we can walk as he walked. We have a Maker that is so focused on His own glory that calls us into a holy joy that we can have, no matter how good or bad the circumstance. This is true Freedom. This is capital T-Truth. We need an ability that is spiritual. An intellectual method only allows you to know what to do, but does not allow you to achieve it. Without the Gospel lens, David Wallace just missed this. He died of suicide in 2008. I pray that he believed before it was too late. God’s ways are far wiser and complicated than we can possibly imagine.

[Other verses: John 1:13, Philippians 2:12-13, Proverbs 14:12, Jeremiah 17:9, John 8:34, John 3:19]

Glory, Creation, & Clemson Football!!!!!

I went up to Clemson this past weekend. Clemson just breeds awesomeness. I have always been an avid people watcher/learner. There is this strange, immense amount of joy that comes from seeing other people experience just an ounce of happiness. Now that I’ve been a graduate and away for 4 months, it seems as if the ability to observe people and vividly comprehend & appreciate their uniqueness has magnified.

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After the Clemson-South Carolina game, some friends and I were journeying by foot back to our car and were reminded of just how crazy traffic is after games. Especially night games! While downtown we could see a far-out view of all the cars in traffic ahead of us. It reminded me of something C.S. Lewis once wrote. He compared the concept of  “the traffic flow of vehicles on roads”  to  “God’s creation of the flow of rivers”.  Now this gets beautiful when it’s fully thought about. We just need to practice the fun, vivid Christian imagination that we all have. Christianity is never meant to be boring. It is meant to be repeatedly awe-inspiring.

Here’s what I mean. We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Anything true of the “whole” will be true of the “part”. So if the entire Pacific Ocean is salt water, taking a small bucket of water from the Pacific Ocean will contain salt water. The purpose, meaning, and direction of the universe will be seen inside of what each of us do everyday. Any subset of the universe that God has created (i.e. people, rivers, trees, clouds, passions, video games, high school proms) will have some qualities and/or desires similar to that of God.

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We create things because we were created by The Ultimate Creator. Creativity, imagination, and beauty are God’s imageness in us. God is the master architect of creation. So since he created us, we display his qualities (even in things we create ourselves). People invented cars and even this can show traces of God’s influence.  If you look closely at cars moving together in a pack, they mimic a natural river flowing on its own water-path. My friends and I were literally able to look at the traffic in front of us collectively acting as if it were a calm-flowing river.  I for sure need to wake up and open my eyes more.

Not only do we create, but we also constantly exalt (i.e. glorify, praise, honor, rejoicing) things because we were created to give glory to God (Isaiah 43:7, Matt 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12, Habakkuk 2:14). During the football game this Saturday, I couldn’t help but notice this and laugh. By just taking some time to closely observe things around me the joy of everything was seen.

There were a number of girls with their arms tightly wrapped around their boyfriend’s arm due to the cold weather. That brings a certain type of honor to her boyfriend. It shows an appreciation for him and what he can provide.

Similarly, I can watch my guy friends that may have girlfriends whenever that girlfriend is around them. Some of the guys…I can see it in their eyes, just in the subtle ways they look at their girlfriend when she is not even noticing. It’s as if they aren’t looking at her in a physical sense, but looking at her soul. They are involuntarily rejoicing in the fact that they are in love with the soul of their girlfriend. Now my one favorite couple….. it really is all over his eyes when he looks at her. As plain as day. You can see joy, love, worry, and passion all at once in his eyes.

Friends that haven’t seen each other in a long time joyfully yell each other’s names in unison and hug before/after the game. Sometimes being so noticeably overwhelmed that everyone around them stops and looks.

Strangers sitting next to each other automatically are unified friends because they share a common bond. They give high fives when things go well. When they’re sad because Tahj Boyd got sacked…they’re sad together.

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In a broader way, we can look at the 80,000 Clemson fans yelling and screaming for a victory, bringing glory to the football team. All the while we can look up above the stadium into the night sky and witness something more intricate. The infinite number of bright stars, in their own uniqueness, scream for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 15:41, Psalm 19:1). It’s a funny irony though: how as we cheer for our football team, the stars in sky are simultaneously cheering for our Heavenly Father (Romans 1:20).  They’re picking up our slack as we cheer for a little football game.

Clemson will sometimes loose and let us down. Boyfriends will many times be dummies. Girlfriends have cooties ALWAYS. Friends will let us down. Strangers come and go. Cars will eventually die on us and end up in junkyards. But our holy & perfect God, so focused on the glorification of himself and of Jesus Christ through the fulfillment of the work done on the cross…never fails. He wins. And he loves us. We rejoice in that and put our hope in it. That is why Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

So let His name be lifted higher and higher by us. The rivers and our own man-made cars are already lifting his name high. The stars are doing the same. ALL of creation was meant to do so. Focusing on Christ will always guide us into more joy.