Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Can McDonald's be Foreign?

I've seen a good bit of the world. This is not to boast, but, rather, I consider it a blessing to have had my mind opened to things quite extraordinary and spectacular. However, I'm left with a striking impression that the world is growing smaller. Even in foreign lands, culture has, for a number of years now, begun to meld together with other cultures - a process that has been sped up by the internet, I believe.

However, there are some cultures which remain truly separate and distinct. This summer, I got to go to Israel (this was right before things started to get really heated up in that area). In this culture, I was truly and undoubtedly a foreigner. I knew none of the language, customs, or setting of life which drove Israeli existence.

If you ever go to Israel, you'll most likely go as part of a tour group. This is pretty much the only option for gringos like us who are so out of place that even ordering from an Israeli McDonald's would be near-impossible. Well, as part of a tour group, you typically go and visit all of the sites where major Biblical events are said to have happened. In most of these places, the Orthodox or Catholic churches have built monolithic Cathedrals to mark the spot.

At a certain point in these tours, everything begins to look the same and your appreciation for the locales that you are being taken to subsides. You become saturated and find it difficult to muster any recognition of the monstrous cathedrals that you're surrounded by. At one such location, named Tabgha, it was told to us that this was the location where Jesus multiplied the fish and loaves of bread for the crowd of 5,000 people.

Well, that's cool, (and probably not a true statement) but I had seen so many sanctuaries by this point that the Koi pond in the front of the building was more fascinating to me than the elaborateness of man-made chapels. As I stared at the fish and our tour group leader droned on with information, I heard something which snatched my audible attention: singing.

And let me make this clear: I had already heard a lot of singing. At every place we stopped, the priest leading our group made sure to sing the Scriptures or some Orthodox hymn. We'd gotten a lot of this ritualistic, chanting-type music along the way. But what I heard in that moment was not some Orthodox tune - it was an evangelical hymn.

As fast as you could say, "Forget the Koi," I up and bolted into the church where I heard the singing and almost immediately joined in song with this group of evangelical believers. Here, in the middle of Israel, surrounded by the foreignness and unfamiliarity of an astoundingly different culture and longing for something that reminded me of home, I was washed with the warm native-ness of what I knew and loved.
 "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." (Philippians 3)
Sometimes, this world is unfamiliar. Not because we're not used to it, but because there is, in our hearts, a desire for more. We long for a satisfaction we cannot attain. No one put it more succintly than C.S. Lewis, who wrote, "If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world."

Today, I long for home. To be done with this broken world. To be wrapped in the familiarity for which my soul was made. Brothers and sisters, we will one day be home.

But for now, make much of the journey.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Jesus Wants You to be a Murderer

I'm not sure when society transitioned from seeing Christians as people of valor, strength, and justice to a view of them being goody-two-shoes whose faith made them weak and unable to fight. It's as if walking with Jesus means that you are now a soft-serve, timid, sheltered, meek-and-mild, quivering creature who is petrified at the very thought that people who aren't believers actually do bad things. Along with this view, there simultaneously exists the perspective that the strong of this world are those who do what they want, when they want to do it. They are those who can get any women they want, experience all the pleasures they can get their hands on, and get the most toys.

This is for my warriors.

This is not a message for non-believers. This is a message for you, my fellow brother or sister who feels antagonized by a world that views you as feeble and weak. For however much this world tells you that it is a thing of weakness to not grab a hold of all the pleasurable sins you can, your resistance is actually a monument to a great strength that sinners have no ability to mentally process. To be surrounded by a sea of beckoning temptation and walk on the waters above it takes unbelievable focus and fight, neither of which are spawned by your own strength or willpower.
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2)
I won't go into details, but if you know anything about circumcision, it is painful. It is the taking of a knife to your body. And I don't know how much you know about burial, but it typically means that someone must be dead for it to occur. These symbols are given for a very specific reason:

Jesus wants you to be a murderer.

Christ wants you to to put to death your sin nature - to decisively, intentionally, and un-regrettably drag your flesh out into the streets, put a gun to its head, and pull the trigger without a second thought. And that would be decidedly easier to do if sin didn't look so good. In fact, it's so difficult, you can't even do it! That is why Colossians 2 explicitly states that it is God Himself who accomplishes His task in you throughout your whole life.

Essentially, your warrior-king has given you the strength to do what needs to be done. So as you stand back and are mocked by the world as they drown in their sea of temptation, remember your warrior-king. Remember that the God of infinite power lives inside of you and is working a might in you that is greater than the world can even comprehend. And as you fight with your teeth gritted and your failures mocking you, know that "you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4)

Dear warrior, Jesus wants you to be a murderer.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You Can't Climb the Clouds

No matter how much they stand as a testament to divine architecture, these divine skycrapers will drop the foot of its first climber. No matter how much you stare from your airplane seat at 30,000 feet and begin to truly think that these colossal marshmallows actually maintain some sort of structural integrity suitable for the fleshy pads we stand on, the clouds will reinforce the foolishness of a climb with the insult of death. And no matter how much they seductively stare back, tempting man with the most spectacular of all rock-climbing opportunities, their end guarantee remains only failure and fatality. For all of their light, beauty and jagged edges masquerading as foot-holes, clouds are liars, visually promising a glorious scale, but not even offering an anchor for your harness.

You can't climb the clouds.
And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. (2 Cor. 11)
I call shenanigans. Satan must be in cahoots with the clouds, teaching them their lying ways. Only, perhaps they have not learned as well as he yet. Oh yes, the clouds are liars, offering the sham of climbing its slopes to its aeroplane-bound onlookers, but one mistake they make: they will not hold your foot even for a second.

You see, Satan will hold your foot. In fact, he is a master of deceptive foot-holds, allowing you to grasp the rock-face of your sin and begin to climb. Don't worry - the steps will hold. And hold they will until you have grasped each vice, pulling yourself up to the pinnacle of this boulder of evil - a peak that promised you satisfaction, acceptance, joy, and love by means of your own self-glorification. But when you get to this peak, you find that this boulder is more like a cloud, and it lets you go as soon as you realize your foot-holds were always a fluffy, bright, beautiful illusion.

You can't climb the clouds.

And as you fall to your shameful and utter failure, you hear these words:
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee. 
This Rock of Ages, this risen Jesus, this Mountain of Shelter with a place carved just for you in its face, can catch you in your descent. And in catching you, it promises something better than foot-holds and dangerously deceptive climbs: to "soar to worlds unknown." 

You can't climb the clouds. But you can fly over them if you want to.