Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A (late) post on Valentines' day...

First off I don't want any comments on how this is late. I didn't get a chance to publish this yesterday. :)

I suppose I could rant but I don't have any major objections to Valentines' day per se... I mean for me it's got different significance - it's my bro's birthday. Always has been, always will be.

Some single people hate Valentines day, apparently. At least that's what some friends of mine have told me. Other than my bro's birthday I'm rather indifferent to it, even as a current single. I don't hate it because I'm single, and I wouldn't want to make a big deal of it if I were in a relationship - I don't really celebrate Valentines' day as such. (I do hate the profiteering that goes on in the floral & chocolate industries for the one day - but that's another story.) Why don't I believe in celebrating Valentines' day?? I don't understand the big deal in taking *one* day of the year to celebrate love... If you're in a committed relationship (heck even if you're not) you ought to be celebrating love every day. To wait for one "prescribed" day for over-the-top romantic gestures is silly (this is from a guy who's a romantic, by the way). My philosophy is to make those gestures on a regular (but not necessarily daily) basis.

I just don't get the fuss... But for those who *are* (I guess at this point it should be *were*) celebrating Valentines' day with their special someone, I hope it went really well. :)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Truth... What is it - really? (Continued from "Drowning in a Sea of Noise")

The truth... About what? Well... How 'bout the meaning of Life & the origins of the Universe. Ok – that seems a bit too deep, even for me. Call me the shallow philosopher.

Seriously though, I’ve touched on my faith – Christianity, and truth in previous posts. The question “What distinguishes Christianity from all the other world religions?” seems somewhat valid in a discussion about truth and why I believe it to be truth – so I’ll answer it.

Well – I believe Jesus when he said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.” (John 14:6-7).

But back to the question at hand (after that interjection)… The big difference between world religions and Christianity (as I see it) is as follows: all the religions that I’ve learned about consist of a set of rules or guidelines one must follow in order to achieve ‘goodness’ or righteousness before God (or their Gods, depending on which religion you're looking at). Don’t get me wrong, I’m no expert on world religions and have a very limited amount of exposure to them. That is a very generalized statement. But I feel it’s valid here based on my (limited) knowledge of them, and it’s important to understand where other people are coming from if you are to relate well to them – even if you don’t agree with their world view.

Christianity on the other hand is best summed up below, which I got from Jenna’s blog. (Thanks for doing all the research work Jenna! I had to use what you had, it said exactly what I was trying to say much better than what I had originally tried to summarize!)

A Biblically based summation of the love of God through Jesus Christ from George Barna's Think Like Jesus:

God's nature is so glorious that a group of his own angels, led by a renegade (the spiritual adversary we know as Satan) rebelled against God, seeking to overthrow His sovereignty. Satan's goal was - and is - to rule the universe, believing himself to be better suited for the job than its Creator.

Backed by one-third of Heaven's angels, Satan battled God and His loyal angels - and lost. God cast Satan an all the rebel angels out of His presence. Nevertheless, God continues to rule over them even in their banishment.

As a created being who must have God's permission to tempt people, Satan cannot cause us to sin, as we freely choose to do so . The time-worn excuse - "the devil made me do it" - is theologically incorrect. The devil may persuade you to reject God's ways, but he cannot force you or make you do anything other than what you choose to do.

While Satan gets credit for bringing us to the point of decision, the choice of doing evil is ultimately ours. We cannot blame circumstances, other people, or the spiritual world for our choices; we must own them.

No human being has ever been able to resist sin for the duration of his or her life; every person sins against God. Regardless of the motivation leading to sin, disobedience drives a wedge between our holy and loving God and us, fracturing the relationship He seeks to have with us and that we desparately need in order to experience the fullness and joy in life.

Too often we minize the impact of sin, believing that any given sinful act is just another insignificant and forgettable event in a life filled with thousands and thousands of choices. But our determination to trivialize sin does not mean that it is unimportant. God takes every sin seriously because it indicates the sincerity of our committment to Him.

Sin literally destroys our relationship with God; each sin is an offense against Him, even if it is unintentional. As a result, without some type of radical mechanism of reconciliation, it is impossible for us to gain God's unmitigated favour and receive His eternal favour and blessings.

Recognizing how impossible it is for us to remain free from sin, but unable to ignore sin, God determined that the only way for Him to enjoy an unbroken relationship with us would be through the provision of a permanent and encompassing sacrifice for our sins.

The incredible act of love by God - sending His perfect Son to earth to take full responsibility for our sins, and to pay the price for our past, present, and future bad choices - is the ultimate example of God's grace. It is that grace alone that enables us to have the assurance that our soul will live forever with God. Without the vicarious death the Jesus on our behalf we would not have any hope of eternal reconciliation with God because we are too immersed in sin.

When Jesus died on the cross, He did more than just expire with our sins in tow; He conquered both death and the necessity of eternal condemnation of all people through His ressurection. His return to Heaven provides us with an advocate before the eternal Judge as well as the means to become a new form of humanity through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, who lives within us once we confess our sins and turn our life over to Jesus.

Accepting God's grace (through Jesus Christ) is not merely "eternal fire insurance" - a kind of supernatural death benefit that kicks in after our funeral. Salvation introduces radical changes into our earthly experience as well. The Holy Spirit of God is sent to take up residence within
us, providing power, guidance, and security that would otherwise be unavailable.

So why is this such a big deal? It continues below...

Why God's Love is So Painfully Awesome:

He sent His own Son to die a painful and unjust death on behalf of people who did not deserve another chance, much less a free ride for eternity.

He is so totally in love with us, and so desirous of an intense relationship with us, that He analyzed all of our dysfunctions and developed a relatively painless means our of our own frailties.

He sees the good in the believer that he or she cannot see in him or herself.

He fought to the finish to defend us from an adversary who merciliess exploits our weaknesses.

He made this abudant love and care available to everyone, and is waiting for those who are not yet interested in the hope that they might have a change of heart and embrace the One who embraced Him first.

Aha... Here's the key point... God desires a relationship with us... Jesus makes a relationship with God possible. It's not about earning salvation or righteousness (as with world religions)...

Drowning in a sea of noise…

Wow… I’ve been thinking about what to write about tonight, seeing as how I feel the need to post something, but I didn’t really want to just post for the sake of posting. If I had wanted to do that I could have written something about the Simpsons or how the Leafs won last night or something like that… But lately I’ve been thinking about blogs. What are they, really? They’re their owner’s personal (and yet very public) online forum. Yay. Seems like there are many hundreds of thousands (or probably tens of millions) of blogs online. That’s a lot of noise… Everybody with their own personal podium, declaring (writing) their opinions for the whole world to see. Blogs took quite the interesting turn through the media during the past election here in Canada, in particular when one of the party bigwigs got into trouble with opinions posted on their blog… Whoops. Guess there should be a degree of discreetness in blogging. Maybe. Or maybe people should be aware that opinions aren’t always a safe thing to post online.

But what makes this blog special compared to all the others? Well… For one, it’s mine, and therefore it’s important to me. My single solitary voice among the many others. :)

Second, I’d like to think that it contains some Truth as well as my opinions. Not relative truth. Relative truth is a misnomer. By definition truth cannot be relative. Dictionary.com defines truth as follows:

1. Conformity to fact or actuality.

2. A statement proven to be or accepted as true.

3. Sincerity; integrity.

4. Fidelity to an original or standard.

5. a. Reality; actuality.

b. often Truth That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.

Numbers 1 and 2 essentially show that truth cannot be relative – facts cannot conflict with each other. You can’t tell me that one person’s view of “truth” is just as valid as another person’s view of “truth” if they disagree. In that situation, there are 2 outcomes: either (a) one person is wrong; or (b) they’re both wrong. #5-b goes along with this thought too. Either we’re all wrong, or a few people are right. The question is – which group are you in? Are you sure you know? (More to follow next post.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Divine Change

I've been reading through C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia since Christmas. Something stuck with me from 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', and I'd heard that section is a parallel to how spiritual change can occur in our lives, but it wasn't until I read it myself that I understood. If you haven't read the book, the passage I'm referring to is where a boy named Eustace is telling a story about how he had found a treasure trove, put on an arm ring he found particularly appealing, fell asleep and woke up as a dragon. The problem was that the arm ring that fit him as a boy didn't fit him as a dragon. He tells of how he meets Aslan the lion and that Aslan wants him to shed his skin, and become a boy again. (Lewis - as Eustace - puts it this way: "The water (from the well) was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe, it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first.") Eustace tries 3 times to shed his skin, without any success. At this point Aslan tells him that Eustace can't do it on his own but that he needs to let him (Aslan) do it. Eustace talks about how the pain he experienced when Aslan ripped the dragon skin off him was worse than anything he'd ever experienced, but how as soon as it was off and Aslan threw him into the water he felt great.

It made me think of how Jesus wants to change us all into the people we were created to be - it's painful (or sometimes just seems that way) to give up things that sometimes hold such appeal, but He gives us so much more when we let Him make the changes in us that He knows we need to make.

Tithing is an example in my own life... I was great at making excuses in the past as to why I couldn't. Eventually it came to the point where God made it clear that I could make excuses or I could make the change, but that each had a different set of consequences. I decided to trust Him, not knowing how it was going to be possible. Since that point I've never been without what I need, but I also learned that there's a difference between what I want and what I actually need. It's (in my opinion) a great and very important lesson that I needed. It's amazing how society is great at getting us to confuse needs and wants. At first it wasn't easy to do without the money I had committed to giving, but it's amazing how as I realized I was giving into wants (and wasting money as a result), all of a sudden what I thought were needs weren't stuff I had to have to survive. I've not really missed much. But if you'd have asked me to do this 5 years ago, I'd have said something like "That's impossible, I need all the money I have coming in." The change was painful at first, but I don't see it that way now. And was it instantaneous? No, it was a slow process, but a very worthwhile one.

Now don't get me wrong, I believe that God wants to bless His children in ALL ways (spiritually, emotionally, relationally *and* financially), but that He wants us to have the first 3 right so that we are able to honour Him with our finances. Money is a useful tool, but we have to understand that we must use it for His glory, not for our own. But that's the subject for another post...