2/24/06

Optimistic Prophecy

Check this out. I've highlighted some verses of what I like to call “optimistic prophecy.” Many times, God’s prophets did not have good news, because God was angry about sin in much the same way as a parent is flustrated (that is not a misprint, it's a combo of flustered and frustrated) with their kid b/c they've told them and told them, but the kid just doesn't listen. But when those same bullhorns of God (that is, prophets) announced good news, it was good news indeed! In an effort to remind ourselves of what wrongs exist in this world, we remember the call of the prophets of what life will be like when that sin is gone. We see a beautiful picture when we imagine a better life – one without the aftereffects of sin. The neat thing about this is that it is said positively. If I can say that I love peace, then aren't I also saying the converse -- that I hate war?

After God judges sin and sets things aright, it will look like this:
Isaiah 11:6 - 9 (NKJV, emphasis mine) “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

(Imagine a life with no fear. For students, no fear of bullies, no fear of rejection, no fear of being hurt. For adults, no fear of any bodily harm, no fear for your family’s safety. That sounds like a life that everybody would long for. How exactly does knowledge of the Lord translate into this lack of fear?)

Isaiah 2:4 (NKJV, emphasis mine) “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

(No war. World peace. I can hear the sighs of relief from the beauty pageant contestants now... .)

Isaiah 60:18 - 20 (NKJV, emphasis mine) “Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended.

(Sweet! The Son will be the sun. That was pun-ny, huh? You thought that was funny, huh? Get it? "The Son will be the sun." It's a play on words. Get it? It's hilarious, right? You're laughing, right? Well, I thought it was cool.)

Isaiah 65:17 - 19 (NKJV, emphasis mine) “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying.

(No more tears. That'll put Kleenex out of business!)

Joel 3:18 (NKJV, emphasis mine) And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Acacias.

(Wine and milk in the mountains and hills sounds a little weird, but I get it. Abundance. Sounds like the American dream to me.)

That's the funny thing about Christianity. We say some of the same things that sane, loving people say, but we are labeled as lunatics for believing in something bigger than ourselves. But that is talked about in the Bible, too. The world is hostile to God. I just can't wait for that day when that will no longer be so!

2/18/06

How to love others with math.

If I may, I am going to share with you some of my comments from an online seminary class discussion. I have edited the comments in order to make the names of others anonymous, and have adjusted things to fit them into the context of a blog. But the main concepts of my post from that discussion are the same.

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In my ADD, my mind often goes to seemingly unrelated topics. But I must comment on Dr. D's words, "The inherent problem of religion in its developed, institutional form is its tendency to bind people to substitutes (rituals, laws, systems, programs) for God rather than to God."

Let us not forget the second commandment. Exodus 20:4-6 (ESV) says, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."

Certainly, God does not require my validation of his level of intelligence, but isn't He a genius? He knows that we always manage to turn the symbol into the object of worship -- that we can never seem to quite look past the symbols to He who should be the object of worship. This goes for the calf statue made of gold in the Old Testament and the cross hanging around our necks today. (Perhaps a discussion of the symbol of the cross will come up later. That would be interesting.) I am presuming a bit here, but I suspect there are many persons in the academic realm who worship the Bible as a book more than the God who authored it. I believe this issue (the symbol vs. the object the symbol points to) is connected in some small way to the other discussion of agape and the Theologica Germanica. I believe that religious rituals, the symbol of the cross, the concept of unconditional love, and especially the Bible all point to something else -- namely, God. (By way of background, there had been another discussion about whether or not sinful humans are even capable of loving unconditionally.)

Speaking of the impossibility of human unconditional love, I think of it mathematically. If the number 1 and the number 0 are on a line ( 1-------------------0 ), then I am at 1, and 0 represents God. God expects me to be perfect, and I have seen a real-life example of it in Jesus. (And He knows that I will not be perfect, which makes it slightly more complex, but that is for another discussion). Let's imagine that as I become more Christlike, I am divided in half. With every step I take towards God, I continue to divide in half. Mathematically, dividing myself in half means that I will be moving towards 0 for infinity, while never actually reaching it.

Now, without carrying the analogy too far, it also means that some people are very close to 1, and some are way down the line at 0.000006104 (sorry, I am just nerdy enough to actually pull out a calculator for a theological discussion). And those at 0.000006104 look and act a lot like those at 0.000003052 (because let's face it, we can't tell the difference between those last two on any line, right?!)

So, to pull all of this back from the abstract into reality, if a girl in a church youth group's brother is killed, I believe that the youth pastor would be right in telling the group that there is an obligation to forgive the man that had done it (this happened to an acquaintance of mine). While these words may be theologically true, it may not be realistically possible for 13-17 year olds in the midst of grief and shock to comprehend forgiveness, much less accomplish it. But remember that biblical truth only points to God's will. It makes no apologies for how difficult God's will actually is. But if even one of those students forgives or merely tries to forgive, and if he moves from 1 to 0.5, then God is pleased. Because I believe that while God expects perfection, He is pleased if we are at least moving in the right direction.