Quotes of the Month- something I've read that I thought worth sharing
March 1998 from Reaching Out, by Henri J.M. Nouwen: "Our fulfillment is in offering emptiness, our usefulness in becoming useless, our power in becoming powerless." and "Although we have learned... that we are more than what the world makes us, we keep giving an eternal value to the things we own, the people we know, the plans we have, and the successes we 'collect.' Indeed, it takes only a small disruption to lay our illusion of immortality bare and to reveal how much we have become victimized by our surrounding world suggesting to us that we are 'in control.'" (p. 77 and p. 82)
February 1998 from Rooted in God's Love a book on healing from grief, loss, or abuse, by Dale and Juanita Ryan: "If we insist that our recovery always have the drama and immediacy of miracle, then we will not build the deep-down kind of hope that we will need during the really tough times in life." (p. 139, based on Romans 8:24,25)
Thoughts of the Month- my own reaction to some portion of Scripture
March 1998: In John 4 we have the account of Jesus meeting the woman at the well, but did you ever pay attention to how the disciples act at the end of the story? We probably subconsciously block this out because they are all too much like we are!
They return from town and find the Teacher speaking with a vile Samaritan, and worse yet, a woman. John is careful to tell us that they DID NOT ask any questions about this strange situation. Instead they proceed into a classic ethnic chicken-soup joke, "Rabbi, eat something," they say. We can only speculate on their motivation, but there are plenty of familiar choices available. Politcal correctness? Avoidance of controversial topics? Embarrassment? Timidity or fear? Feelings that it was none of their business? Apathy? Avoidance of what was sure to be a serious conversation? More interest in their own physical hunger than anything else? Failure to recognize that a spiritual event was occurring?
Since the incident is recorded, at least John eventually asked or was told about the interview. But how often are we like the disciples, avoiding interaction with the Lord for any one of a market-basket-full of appetizing excuses?
February 1998: "Life is not a malfunction." Actually that's a quote from robot Number 5 in the movie Short Circuit. Number 5 discovers that he has somehow become alive, rather than just an assemblage of metal and wire controlled by computer coding. His programmers say, "impossible," and spend the rest of the movie trying to capture and destroy the wayward robot and the girl who has befriended him. (A great movie if you can shut out too much unnecessary foul language.) Number 5 makes you stop and think about the definition of "life." Am I alive? Are you? We seem to think that we are, because we eat and breathe and create or read web pages. Genesis 2:7 assures us that God breathed into man's nostrils and the first human (who contained in his body both men and women) "became a living being." "Living:" the plain old garden variety of life, simple vitality, which even plants were given. "Being:" often translated "soul," the emotions, awareness and intellect, which we also share with animals. Surprised? I was. Lots of the verses which relate to life, and which we like to spiritualize, are these same levels of life. John 3:16 for example. That eternal life we are promised when we believe is more than just a spiritual quality, but a real, vital, familiar being-ness. The word is zoe (html won't read the greek symbols), that "lowest" level of vitality. In John 10, Jesus says, as the Good Shepherd, that he will give his life for the sheep. He repeats himself in verses 11 and 15, but not really. In verse 15, he says he will lay down his physical life, this vitality. In verse 11, however, where the English translation says he will give his life, it is his psyche, that he gives. Our life is in Christ, because he is our life. This truth comes from Colossians 3:4. Again, it's the simple vitality. Examples like this go on and on.
What's my point? I'm definitely not trying to reduce the quality of God's gift of life to something physical and trivial. Rather, I am delighted to know that God is not only concerned about my simple be-ing, but that this part of me is inextricably wound up in Him. These thoughts were generated from reading John 5:26, "For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself." This is again simple vitality, zoe. Whatever life we have, even our physical, "animal" self, is only on loan from God. Only God has intrinsic life, and since it seems likely that He will not choose to eliminate a facet of His own make-up, I have confidence in a corporeal resurrection and a future life more of substance than ghostly. I find this fact to be re-assuring. Maybe you will too.
Off the Wall- I like to explore wild ideas which are not essential to my basic faith, and which may not even be valid, but they are always thought provoking.
March 1998: We are clearly given permission by God to eat meat, all kinds of meat (Acts 10:9-17 and other references). However I think that it is possible to make a case for a reason to choose to not eat meat.
This idea must begin with the realization that Christ's redemptive work was for all creation. John 3:16- God so loved "the world." God loved the cosmos- the entire universe, not just the human world. Again in II Corinthians 5:19, God reconciled the cosmos to himself in Christ. Certainly this does not deny the spiritual dimension of humanness which can commune with The Spirit, but it does make verses such as Romans 8:19, 20 more understandable.
In Romans we are told that "the creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God [note small s on "sons"] to be revealed... that creation itself will be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." The main theme in these verses refers, of course, to the future time when death and decay will cease. The curse of the fall will be banished. However Christianity is, in its essence, a way of life which requires change now in the direction of the perfection which will only be realized when Christ returns. We accept this preposition easily in tems of our moral behavior when we aim to become (by God's grace) more loving, giving, etc. But there is a large corollary of thought (too big to tackle fully here) which relates this to all creation. Francis Schaeffer says, "Christianity... has in it the possibility of substantial healings now in every area where there are divisions because of the fall... The Christian who believes the Bible should be... [one] who is treating nature now in the direction of the way nature will be then." (Pollution and the Death of Man, p 68,69)
How will nature be "then?" No carnivores. (what implications here for ecology before the Fall and after the Second Coming!) Isaiah 11:7 and 65:25. The lion will eat grass like the ox, and food chain subordinates will become peers.
The next point to ponder is the origin of animal deaths. God initiated the slaughter! He killed animals for their skins to cover the naked and aware Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:21) This was the first animal sacrifice, an integral part and huge burden of the curse. We then begin to see the salvation of creation unfold, intertwined with the familiar story of human redemption. The quintessential Old Testament picture of redemption, the Passover, had redemptive adequacy for beasts as well as humans. The firstborn of the Egyptians' livestock, as well as of their families died on that fateful night. But the passover blood on the Hebrew's doors protected their flocks as well as their children. (Exodus 11, 12, 13)
Continuing to think about redemption being provided by sacrifice, we are brought smack up, hard, against the immutable truth of I Peter 3:18: "Christ died for sins once for all." And also, in Hebrews 9:22, 26: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness... but now he [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself." The blood of Christ replaces and supercedes the blood of animals. The blood of Christ covers all sin.
I do not think it is too big of a step to choose to participate in the redemptive work of Christ by extending the forgiveness of God to the animal kingdom now. I can aim to treat all of creation as it will be in perfection- no sin or death, waste or decay. I can move in the direction of godliness in all aspects of my life. Does this mean that I have become a strict vegetarian. Well, no; no more than it means that I am perfectly loving or forgiving. (And if you think I have those traits perfected you don't know me very well, ha ha.) Remember I call this section "Off the Wall."
But I do often find myself asking, "Since the Creator has already given His perfect sacrifice, how many more creatures must die for me?"
(Feel free to challenge me on this if you find my logic fuzzy.)
February 1998: Did you ever wonder where the Zodiac came from? How on earth did people decide that certain groups of stars, although recognizable, looked like bulls, crabs, warriors or maidens? Why are these traditions consistent throughout all peoples of the world? A line of thought that pops up in Christian writings from time to time is that the pictures in the sky were explained to humans by God, after the fall, as a story picture of redemption. "The heavens are telling the glory of God." (Psalm 19) There are multitudinous references in Scripture to the stars and heavens as pointing to God's truth. Psalm 4 and Isaiah 26 tell us that God calls the stars by name; this is a springboard to the idea that God created and named these patterns purposefully. This idea was put forth in the late 1800's, but two more recent books explaining the idea in depth are "The Witness of the Stars" by E.W. Bullinger, and " The Gospel in the Stars" by Joseph A. Seiss.
He're the sequence according to Bullinger (and much elaborated and defended in his book). The first four signs tell of the first coming of the Redeemer. We should begin with Virgo, the virgin: the promised Seed of redemption. Next, Libra, the scales: our goodness is deficient in the balance. Third, Scorpio, the scorpion: Satan who seeks to wound the Man. Then Sagittarius, the archer: the Conqueror going forth. The next set tell of the redeemed. Capricorn is the goat who was slain for the redeemed. Aquarius is the water-bearer; the living waters are poured out for the redeemed. Pisces, the fish, represent blessing. This set ends with Aries, the ram: The Lamb slain, but prepared for victory. Finally, we learn of the second coming of the Redeemer. Taurus, the bull: Messiah coming to rule. Gemini, the twins: the two-fold nature of the King, God and man. Cancer, the crab holding fast to the flock of the redeemed. Finally Leo, the lion, Lion of the tribe of Judah, triumphant.
Crazy idea? Too much like astrology? Maybe. But when I look at the night sky, I am thrilled to see there a reminder of God's perfect plan, rather than some fortune-teller's idea of what the stars have to say!