Noah’s Ark Gets a Reboot

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In light of last year’s earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, creative innovation has given way to the production of a useful emergency floatation pod (named NOAH) that can hold up to four people. It can withstand the beating and pounding of tsunami-like conditions, though it doesn’t quite match up to the capacity of the ark. It’s always really neat to see this kind of technological advancement in response to natural disasters. The human race is seemingly resilient to such cataclysmic events.

Then, you have movies like 2012 that borrow from the Genesis flood story and name their apocalyptic cruise ship/escape pods after Noah’s ark, too. Whether you believe the story to be true or not, of all the modern day spin-offs, the story itself is the most original, and its scope in purpose and success tops the charts. More than that, the redemptive value of the flood story lends itself toward a (spoiler alert!) future New Earth, whole and not so volatile… a much less crumbly and rumbly earth. Some day, we won’t need any sort of mass population saving device. All will be secure, but for now, keep calm and carry on.


Of the Setting of Goals, There is No End, Actually

When I don’t have a plan to eat healthy foods, I don’t eat healthy foods. You know, the whole fail/plan-plan/fail thing. Nobody wants to do that. But, when I do set specific goals to eat healthy foods, the meticulous thoughts about food and quality of choice in my food tends to increase immensely. So I was thinking, as long as my motivations are founded in ultimate Goodness, that is, for the glory of God, then any goals that I set will necessarily increase the overall value of whatever subject therein. Okay, so if my goal is to play more basketball, then being the dude created in the image of God that I am, I will necessarily think and work hard at my enjoyment, skill and competition in it. I won’t just simply play more basketball. Once I walk onto the court, I’ve already unknowingly set more fine-tuned goals that continue to increase its quality – my overall experience. For instance, I know I didn’t just walk on with everyday shoes. No, I’m wearing Zoom Kobe VIs, and I’m wearing gym clothes, not jeans. I’m measuring up my opponent. I’m taking post, the right position for me with my gorilla-boxing out and rebound instincts. Oh, I’m a brick wall, and you’ll end up on the wrong side when the ball comes down. Moving on. You see, with whatever we care about, we can’t not set goals. And once we set one, several more perfecting, secondary goals follow shortly after.

So what am I saying?

We’re goal setters. We set goals. We’re becomers. We become. But it doesn’t just stop there. We become like there’s no tomorrow. We become like we’ve never became before. If you’re a foodie, to everyone’s annoyance, think of the foodie you’ll become. Your selection process and enjoyment thereof will eventually be out of this world (think how many more times you’ll hyperbolize about food before you die). And so on. But stop and think for a sec.

If you are in Christ, he will perfect you, eventually, to become like him, and your goals will go through a dramatic shift. We will stand face to face with our Chief Good, God himself. He will look on us, clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and we will know justice and peace in loving embrace with our Father God. There’ll be no more becoming. What a relief! No more pressure for the indie band on their upcoming sophomore release. “It’s all good” will be “for real.” With no distracting sin, pain, or sadness, we’ll actually be free to image God as he created us to do so. Our goal setting will be hijack proof with no deviation. And, the pinnacle of all our goals will be utter amazement and unimaginable delight in God as we go on through all eternity living it up in the New Earth and the New Heaven.

So for now, in view of eternity, become the becomer you were born to be until Christ forms you to become like he.

By the way, once we reach the other side, being the urbanite that I wish, you can find me in the eternal city, The New Jerusalem, ’cause that’s where it’s at… all the action.


Shedding the Old Man

“So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said–but I don’t know if it spoke–‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff pulled off. You know–if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.”

“Well, he peeled the the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt–and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me–I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on–and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

-from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis

 


Asking Our Gracious God to be Gracious?

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Anticipating a difficult conversation the other day, I asked God to be gracious to me. Allow me to explain how he answered my prayer. As soon as the words of my prayer were on my fiery tongue, it struck me, or rather, the Spirit of God brought me down to earth from up high on my little personalized hill of perfection. I remembered God is always gracious to me. Never has he not been gracious to me nor anyone else. He is unchanging in his character. He does not give and take away his grace. He’s not like that. He may give and take away things which are dearly precious to me, but he knows what’s best for me, so once again, it’s his grace. By his grace, I was born, grew up, and started a family. And it’s by his grace that I grow old, weary, and worn. His grace is eternal and constant, or I would have imploded long before now. Asking God to be gracious is like asking me to love my wife or my son or my daughter. I’m wasting precious pleas before the almighty God who invented the very idea of grace and love. Of course he’ll be gracious to me. My prayer ought to be a little more filled with adoration for and remembering of the grace of God. Now, on to what really happened.

So, how did he answer my prayer?

Holy Spirit, God, prompted me to ask him a different question altogether: to make me more gracious in my thoughts and words toward this other person in our conversation. I asked God to make me more gracious. He brought me to repentance. He changed me. My unchangeable God transformed me to become more like his own perfect Son, Jesus Christ. You see, it’s not a matter of will he be gracious to us but how he will be gracious to us and whether we will be in step with the Spirit enough to recognize it. His whole purpose is to get all the glory and be wholly loving to his children in a way that only he can orchestrate all at once. We are changed that we might more fully reflect the glory of our unchanging God. By his grace, I pray we will know it when we see it for he has been, is, and always will be gracious.


More on Valor

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In his speech, entitled “Citizenship in a Republic”, delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt charges:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Shame on the man of cultivated taste who permits refinement to develop into fastidiousness that unfits him for doing the rough work of a workaday world. Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride of slight what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day; nor yet for those others who always profess that they would like to take action, if only the conditions of life were not exactly what they actually are. The man who does nothing cuts the same sordid figure in the pages of history, whether he be a cynic, or fop, or voluptuary. There is little use for the being whose tepid soul knows nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder. Well for these men if they succeed; well also, though not so well, if they fail, given only that they have nobly ventured, and have put forth all their heart and strength. It is war-worn Hotspur, spent with hard fighting, he of the many errors and valiant end, over whose memory we love to linger, not over the memory of the young lord who “but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.”

What is your worthy cause?
For what are you passionate?

Be in the arena! Stand, and make your presence known. If only you realize you’ve been given the ability to stand and find your voice after much pain and struggle, then you will make your mark and find your groove. In high school baseball, whenever I would begin to work my way out of a slump, coach would call out, “Good gosh, looks like Josh Baylor showed up today.” Lots of practice, hard work, mental control, and an eye for opportunity are nothing if you don’t show up. Reminds me of Jesus’ miracle moments. Rise, pick up your mat and walk. Go wash in the pool. Cast your nets on the other side. Go, your son will live. God gives to us our ability to act and to believe. We simply show up and prove his generosity and power and goodness. So, get up, step forward, and go in the power only he can provide. Jesus actually stood in the arena for us so that we might show up and display the glory of God, his grand love and unimaginable grace for undeserving people such as us. We may endure because he endured for us. We are valiant because Jesus is valiant. Sealed, won and done.

Show up!


Valor

From The Silmarillion, Tolkien writes:

Last of all Húrin stood alone. Then he cast aside his shield, and wielded an axe two-handed; and it is sung that the axe smoked in the black blood of the troll-guard of Gothmog until it withered, and each time that he slew Húrin cried: ‘Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!’ Seventy times he uttered that cry; but they took him at last alive, by the command of Morgoth, for the Orcs grappled him with their hands, which clung to him still though he hewed off their arms; and ever their numbers were renewed, until at last he fell buried beneath them. Then Gothmog bound him and dragged him to Angband with mockery.

And more is said of Hurin’s courage and steadfastness in the face of pure evil. Never did he relent, but he became even more resilient for the sake of what is noble and good, even under excruciating torment and unto death.

Are you inspired?

For what cause, would you endure this much pain and suffering?

How would you continue to fight though defeat seems imminent?


Holiday Feasting and the Coming New Year

Recently, I read A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester. I share this following excerpt (pp. 68-69) from his book in hopes that we’ll all think a little more intentionally about how we actually live in light of how we actually believe. Moving our thought to action with integrity takes work and time, but in the long run, we’ll find our joy in living the way God intended for us to live and take part in his work of redemption. Chester presents a good argument to eat less processed food and relish in the process of food preparation and enjoyment, but the main thing I want to point out is how he is thinking so that might be inspired to make real, tangible changes in our lives for the glory of God and loving our neighbors well. This holiday season, a time when we take special care and time in quality food preparation and feasting with friends and family, might serve as a good starting point to begin the new year with some new Christ-exalting habits.

Chester writes:

The best thing you can do for your health is to eat less processed food, which is full of added sugar, salt, and fat–none of which is good for us in large quantities. “When my generation of women walked away from the kitchen,” Barbara Kingsolver says, ” we were escorted down the path by a profiteering industry that knew a tired, vulnerable marketing target when they saw it. ‘Hey, ladies,’ it said to us, ‘go ahead, get liberated. We’ll take care of dinner.’ They threw open the door and we walked into a nutritional crisis and genuinely toxic food supply.” Many of us have structured our busy lives around the availability of processed food, so we may need to change our lifestyles as well as our shopping baskets if we want to enjoy good food in good company. Food is not meant to be “fast.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer says:

“The breaking of bread together has a festive quality. In the midst of the working day given to us again and again, it is a reminder that God rested after God’s work, and that the Sabbath is the meaning and the goal of the week with its toil. Our life is not only a great deal of trouble and hard work; it is also refreshment and joy in God’s goodness. We labour, but God nourishes and sustains us. That is a reason to celebrate . . . God will not tolerate the unfestive, joyless manner in which we eat our bread with sighs of groaning, with pompous, self-important busyness, or even with shame. Through the daily meal God is calling us to rejoice, to celebrate in the midst of our working day.”

Not only did God give us food, he also ordained cooking. Cooking is a central expression of the cultural mandate. God gave this world to us to care for  and cultivate. But he also gave it to us to explore and develop It was God’s intention that we take  the raw material of his world and use it to create science, culture, agriculture, music, technology, and poetry–all to his glory. Every time you bake a cake, you’re fulfilling that creation mandate. Every cake is a reminder of our freedom to create and be creative in the image of the Creator. Every time you place a meal on the table with quiet satisfaction, you’re sharing the joy of the Creator at the creation of the world when he declared everything good.

So take the time and care to cook a fine meal and feast with friends this holiday season, but do it in such a way as to illustrate how God intended for us to live and to demonstrate God’s redeeming work in a fallen world. Don’t stop there, however, let this line of thought drive you toward reforming your beliefs according to God’s word and conforming your whole life to match those beliefs. We can think this way about how we cook, eat, party, work, rest, spend/save, travel, play, etc. When Jesus confronted the Pharisees, it was because they blindly lived life according to tradition and enforced it on others rather than living according to God’s rule and inviting others to enjoy the freedom it brings. Living a pharisaical life is saying you believe one thing but not living out of that belief. So don’t go party because it’s just what people do right now or because you’ve always done this, but go party because God means for you to party and because you have something worth partying for. Oh, and one more thing, party like a rock star, or even better, like Jesus. You can begin by reading Chester’s book; he’ll give you great insight into how prominent eating and drinking was in the life of Jesus 2,000 years ago and how central it will be for us with him in eternity.

Happy feasting and celebrating!

Discovering Grace, Community, & Mission around the Table

 


We, Men

We, men, are but little boys playing with toy boats in the bathtub. Until we waken to the harsh weather and the many days at sea, until we row and sail through strong gales and heaving waves of surf and foam, until we open our weary eyes and lift our heavy heads to see the vast ocean blue in wondrous fear and amazement, just then, just then, we may begin our ascent into manhood. For a man sees all this and knows how very small he truly is. He knows how unbearable life is when lived alone. A man trusts in the Son of God, the man Christ Jesus, who commands the wind and the waves because if he does not, he must either sink or go on playing with toy boats in his bathtub. So now, men, let us go out to sea and cast our bread upon the waters, lest we tarry too long in a wash basin.


Dusk, Dinner, Dear Friends, and Delight

Earlier in the week, we were faced with this view of Cambridge from the Esplanade (Boston side of the Charles River) on our way to share a picnic with our good friends, Matt and Sara.

When has there ever been a moment that you would whole-heartedly forsake, even deny, the opportunity to see a beautiful sunset? Or, to dine al fresco in near perfect weather? Or, to make time for dear friends to merely enjoy their company?

Possibility for delight in these things alone is grand, but the sheer possibility of simultaneous delight in all of them is immeasurable since it is ultimately orchestrated by the God, who is both infinite and personal. The majesty of the moment realized in the details, great and small, like the sky, the air, the smell, the calm, the taste, the fill, and the time of day, displays his infinite character and moves us to delight with gratitude in our transcendant God. The miracle of the moment occurring in a relationship between sinful people makes for a trick of sorts turning independence, selfishness, and pride on their heads. For sharing the meal, listening to one another, and caring for the well-being of each other, each have all taken place in this moment amongst these people because of the Cross and Empty Tomb of Jesus Christ and because of God the Father’s relationship to the Son and because of the Spirit of God filling us with all the presence of Christ. Yes, every delight we experience comes from above, from within the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, personal and infinite, that we might give thanks and glory in the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Bread of Life, the Friend of sinners, and the Redeemer of our souls.

This dinner at dusk with dear friends is nothing but delight leading to Delight!


He is Life; I am alive.

He is Creator; I am created.
He is Sustainer; I am sustained.
He is Savior; I am saved.
He is Master; I am mastered.
He is Provider; I am provided.
He is Good; I am blessed.
He is True; I am verified.
He is Beauty; I am adorned.
He is Power; I am empowered.
He is Love; I am loved.
He is Grace; I am favored.
He is Mercy; I am acquitted.
He is Forgiving; I am forgiven.
He is Giver; I am given.
He is Joy; I am delighted.
He is Faithful; I am assured.
He is Glorious; I am worshipful.
He is Sovereign; I am dependent.

I need Jesus.