Monthly Archives: February 2012

Reading the Cosmos to Read the Bible to Read the Cosmos to Know Truth to Know God to Know Self

Let's begin at the beginning...

I want to be a good reader – don’t you? How does one learn to read? That depends on what it is we are reading. If you are learning to read words, you first figure out how to sound out the letters and then whole words, sentences and off you go, you’re a reader… but you’re not really reading until you understand what is being said.

We are bound to look for meaning in all we read and observe. Why do you think we see ponies, castles, and witches faces in the clouds as we lie on the soft summer grass? That brings me to the other type of reading. We learn to read the world. Hence, the interpretation of the cosmos. The object of my writing this for you is to awaken in us both a wonder and excitement to understand the world. Yet if we step back a little more, we have to ask why – why are we drawn to read the world? The answer is that we were made to do so. The Creator of the world has hard-wired us to wonder and search and seek for answers to where we came from and why we are here.

aaand begin here too...

The point of that wiring is to bring us to Him. Anyone in their right mind will conclude that there is God and that He is good. This is where we need to read the Word. We cannot read the world without reading the Word of God, yet we cannot read the Word without understanding the world and its literature – most importantly the Bible.

I admit I am riding the literary coattails of someone I consider to be a genius author and thinker, Pastor Douglas Wilson, who would readily admit he is riding the coattails of the many who thunk our thoughts before we were born.

Here is the post from which I am borrowing heavily for this post of mine. You will be entirely edified by reading it – Pastor Douglas Wilson, Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho is giving a book review about Mark Driscoll’s new marriage book “Real Marriage,” but the content is so rich and applicable for the life of our minds… you just gotta read it. And then maybe you’ll read the world with a bit more literacy.

I’ll leave it at this for now: Let’s be excited to know we can find eternally significant reality in Reading the Cosmos to Read the Bible to Read the Cosmos to Know Truth to Know God and Self.

I’m really thankful to know how to read. Are you?

Thanks for reading,

-Justin (looking into the clouds)

Reading God's world and Word = fullness of knowledge

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Meaning Woven into Nature, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Free Will or Freed Will?

An interpretation of the struggle between human-centered reasoning versus biblical truth concerning salvation:

You say “free-will!” I reply “freed-will in and by Christ.”

Ephesians 5:8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.

You say “my choice, life or death.” I reply “our choices are always death until life is given from above.”

Romans 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You say “God does everything He can and leaves the rest up to us.” I reply “God does everything He wills to do.”

Psalm 115:3 Our God is in heaven, He does whatever He pleases.

Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

You say “Love would not be real unless we were free to choose it.” I reply “divine love is superhuman in its rescuing us from our helpless, stubborn lovelessness.”

Titus 3:3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.

You say “We can have a relationship with God if we want to respond to His initiative.” I reply “His initiative is all our hope, nothing more.”

Romans 5:6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

By the way, what do you say?

To God alone be the glory, great things He has done... (and is doing)

Thanks for reading,

-Justin (celebrating his freed-will in and by Christ)

All Scripture quoted from the New King James Version (NKJV)

Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cherishing the Disabled

Thinking about disability and the Church – how are we doing at including the disabled and their families? Are we welcoming and excited to see them come in? I do hope so – God gives gifts in things that are hard to go through, and if any of us is honest, making friends with and living with someone who is disabled is a major investment of emotion and energy. The reward comes with difficulty. Yet even in thinking about our own “reward” we are being un-Christlike and self-centered. Let’s think about the good of others before ourselves! Let’s look at the love of Jesus for the least and the hurting, and follow Him.

Please do READ THIS perspective of a daddy raising a severely disabled son. Helps to remember that God wills there to be disabled people in our world so as to anchor us deeply into dependence on Him, and lack of affection for materialistic trifles.

I think the fact that in the US the majority of Down’s Syndrome children are executed for their disability is one of the greatest indications of our idolatrous hearts. Judgment is not on the way, it is here… but in the midst of the present darkness, God preserves goodness in our world by granting to His people a desire to respect all human life, and to practice charity towards those who cannot repay.

“…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

When Beauty and Darkness Kiss – Interpreting the Artistic Power of The Doors pt1

Let’s interpret the beauty in the art of The Doors. Much of the artistic expression in this world grieves me because it is dead even while it lives, so to speak… disoriented and misshapen. In my opinion, the epitome of what I would call “stillborn glory;” art which is brilliant yet dead – is the poetry and music of The Doors. What I mean is that when an artist expresses himself so as to exalt anything as more valuable in itself than the Creator, the artist becomes blind and spiritually ugly, yet ironically their art can and often does still point us to the glory of God.

In this case, I know there are many who would not think much of The Doors – whether musically or aesthetically, the art would seem odd, dissonant, and jarring. Even if you would consider it to be average or nothing special, there are many who see it differently. I would point you to the numerous Doors fanatics out there still today, 41 years after the end of Jim Morrison’s life – they are serious fanatics many times. I am regularly disturbed and grieved by the exaltation of Morrison, as I have come across people who compare him to Jesus, when in fact the two could not be more different. Obviously there is something here which is powerfully attractive. The depth of thought and care which went into Morrison’s writing and expression is in itself impressive, and remarkably unusual. From a young age he read esoteric literature and developed his own interpretation of the cosmos, one which became magnified to truly worldwide, generation-spanning proportions.

This is worth understanding.

If we might set aside momentarily the manifestations of spiritual darkness which clung to the lives of Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger, and Densmore, we will hear a stunningly passionate musical art which for me has been at times quite moving. If you have read my other posts at all, you will know that I am easily fascinated, easily impressed, and profoundly moved by beauty and wonder.

Watch this video – first part is a poem written by Jim Morrison hearkening back to the blues bands he would watch live while living in Alexandria, Virginia in his late teens. The second part is one of the band’s most famous songs – performed in Copenhagen in 1968 on a sound stage without an audience, (an important part of this performance, since without an audience Morrison was much more focused on the music itself, in my opinion.)

I picked this performance because you can plainly see the raw talent and effort of the artists. In other words, here is a dramatic display of one of the 20th century’s most influential acts… and I ask, why does this music endure and profoundly impact so many people? No simple answers now – think about this! It is not simply that people are sinners and The Doors were sinful so therefore people find a haven for their sinful desires. Equally, it is not true that these were good men with good intentions, and that we are drawn to be moral and generous by listening. There is something more which happens to us as we behold the power of art, something which for us Christians is crucial to understand and communicate to our culture. Let’s interpret the cosmic significance of beauty found amongst the ashes. Please do share any thoughts you have… and

Thanks for thinking,

-Justin

P.S. In a future conclusion to this post on The Doors, I will offer a clear biblical interpretation and answers to the questions I attempt to raise here. I believe that through the biblical worldview we can redeem and celebrate the God-honoring aspects of those works which in themselves did not intend to be God-honoring.

Yours [O God] is the day, Yours also is the night... Ps. 74:16a

Categories: The Arts, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Grateful for the Art of Whitney Houston

1963-2012

As a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I inevitably grew up listening to the peerless voice of Whitney Houston being played in my home, Walkman, and at any given supermarket around Buffalo. Before I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to dance with somebody who loved me. I believe it is safe to say there are very few if any other recorded voices in history which were as marvelous as Whitney’s.

When I consider the works of a particular artist, especially regarding musical arts, originality and uniqueness are just about at the top of my list of criterion for how I judge quality. In this sense, Whitney did not invent R+B or soul music, but she was queen of the mountain in her class, doing it better than the others. I did love her style, and in memory of her life and career, give thanks to God for the lovely gifts He gives to the society of men.

It is singers and artists like Whitney who set the bar so high that I am made to feel like I am being cheated by the many wannabes out there pretending to have talent. Maybe that’s why my iPod does not have an extremely wide variety of artists…

Interpretation of her life and death

The media will inevitably molest the last fiber out of her death, prodding and poking into the deepest speculations of her psychology and downfall. I, on the other hand, will simply recognize that Whitney’s life and death illustrates biblical truth on a public, spectacle-laden level.

1) She was given a gift which brought her intense fame and success – a gift which was meant to awaken a worshipful thankfulness to God from her and from us the audience. I’m not saying her music didn’t do that, but sadly her lifestyle seems to have more so followed the Romans 1 darkening of the heart rather than the Psalm 107 enlightening of gratitude.

2) She was a mortal, a sinner like anyone else, and needed the same redemption as the lowest, most obscure peasant in India. No amount of talent or fame can lift a person above their need for the saving atonement for sin which Jesus accomplished at His cross, and in His resurrection from the dead. In this I do not judge whether or not Whitney trusted her life to Jesus at some point, receiving the forgiveness of her sins, but rather I recognize that her private life spoke of an unfulfilled longing for something more which all the money and fame did not provide to her. As C.S. Lewis said,

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

3) We can and should appreciate her art and talent, but never in a way that glorifies her, the creature, as it was all a gift and signs meant to point us to the glorious Creator – the greatest lover of music. The full meaning of music and the ecstasy we feel in listening to it is found in completing the equation: Beauty + the perception of beauty = joy and goodness unto thankfulness and worship of the Lord of the cosmos. God loves a cheerful worshiper, and He gives talents to men and women to then bring us the deepest, most satisfying joy of all; the joy of knowing and loving Him, being a vessel of mercy in the house of our Creator forever.

In coming months, I plan on delving into the art and interpretation of the cosmic meaning of another famous singer who died similarly to Whitney… my boyhood anti-hero Jim Morrison of The Doors.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: The Arts, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Pleasures of Creation

The cosmos is a work of art on the grand, divine scale. We, as human beings created in the image and likeness of God are hard-wired to create art and expression. We each have a soul which is born bubbling over with creativity, some more than others, but we all are created with the desire to make beauty. Which of you who can create a tremendous rhyme, a realistic, emotion-filled drawing, or a heart-wrenching film won’t then stand back in surprise at the beauty which your own mind and hands created? WHAT is that?

What is it that the creation of art is getting at, or pointing to? Isn’t it a capturing of a piece of the brilliance of the cosmos? Don’t we look at the universe, become inspired, and then breathe out our interpretation into the artistic medium? Isn’t it that the artist has been affected by God’s artwork, and in response will create some of his own? Haven’t you ever been captured by a scene in nature which is almost terrifying in the scale of its beauty? Have you listened to a piece of music which simply forces you to weep? WHY is that? It’s because of the design of the Creator – He made us to be emotionally affected by His beauties in creation, and to be inspired to create our own renditions.

The writer, the painter, the architect, the playwright, the sculptor, and all of the other beauty-makers among us… are acting out the divine program of creation and passion for pleasure! We are made to find pleasure! The Bible clearly details that not only does God delight in His own artwork, but He is pleased when we create as well – and indeed art is not the end in itself, but the relationship to which it points. God and cosmos, painter and canvas, writer and paper, and all of us looking back to God the great Artist in gratitude for His gift. Every bit of art is meant to draw our attention ultimately to the genius and glory of God.

I’ll leave you with a little home-spun poem for His glory and for our mutual joy as writer and reader. Let’s interpret the art of the cosmos…

untitled

Cerulean dusky, symphony,

symphony, sound of the night,

Bright eye flashes to scan through the sights…

Skin of the jungle, exhaling delights..!

Torch in the deserts, passionate light,

passionate lights as lovers alight

with passionate songs of somatic delight

and trapped inward singing of overflow’s might…

Which might in its time bring awful delight.

 

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

Categories: Meaning Woven into Nature, The Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stunning and Staggering – Look Up

Just about every time I go outside, I am quick to check the sky to see what I can see. Year after year I watch the planets, study the stars, and read up on the research and discoveries going on in our science culture. Some people go to nightclubs to have a good time, others to a play or a concert, but for me the planetarium or observatory is where I want to be. Which of you hasn’t at some time been outside at night and been stopped in your tracks at the sudden, almost frightening presence of 10,000 stars glowing above?

There is something stunning about that sky…

My home has a skylight in the dining room through which I see a small patch of sky – and believe me I check it each time I walk by. Many times I catch sight of a proud planet as it passes through the view from the dinner table. Just now as I was walking through and checked the skylight, I was stopped cold by the glory of Venus, high in the dusky blue sky. No matter how many times I see them, I am shocked at the sight of the planets. I can really see that thing right now? I like to point them out to anyone I happen to be with – even on a ski lift last year with a couple of strangers – teenage boys who were chatting about some earthly thing. As we rose through the cold, cozy evergreens dressed in their white trim, I caught sight through the trees of beautiful Jupiter, and I knew I just had to share it with someone. The 2 teenage boys sitting next to me were all I had, haha…

Abruptly I interrupted their conversation;

You see that there?

I pointed through the trees at the sky. They looked at me, confused.

No, no… there!

I strained my finger toward the sky and tipped my eyes upward to the gleaming gas diamond. They slowly turned to look.

Know what that is?

They did not.

That’s Jupiter. Isn’t it incredible?

They snorted in what might have been an attempt at a polite acknowledgment. One of them made an effort,

You into astromony?

I sighed and thought to myself “yes, waaay into astroMONY… and spelling too.”

Yeah man, it’s totally fascinating,

I said, a bit sad for the state of public education. The conversation petered out with another polite mumble into their scarves, and the lift ride ended without incident as we parted ways.

And I have to think – how do I interpret my passion and fascination with the cosmic ceiling around us? Why is it that we don’t all act like my ski-liftmates and simply glance with a polite mumble? Aren’t you awed by the stars? What is it about that astromony stuff that captures our affections and brings up an overwhelming need to share it with someone?

Is it that we share something powerful and comforting when 2 people feel the same sense of smallness, yet feel it together while looking into space? Is it just mere intellectual stimulation? What is it?

Unfathomable

If you have been walking in a dark place in this life, the stars will not fix your troubles, but I do encourage you to get a breath of cold, cleansing air tonight. If there are no clouds, get outside and take a walk. Look up as much as you can without falling into a ditch, and let your mind think deeply about the stunning, staggering cosmos… and the wonder of the fact that you get to be here and see it.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Meaning Woven into Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Earth: the Cosmic Gloryground of God

I use Twitter as my only internet social network (less baggage than the others). Recently I saw as evangelist Ray Comfort tweeted a pro-life statement concerning the personhood of the unborn. In reply, a guy called @JimtheAtheist called Ray a “s***stain” and derided him as a fool. I then began to converse with Jim, touching on a number of different subjects surrounding belief and worldview over the course of at least a week. Jim’s very telling final comment in our exchange is here:

See that? It seems he is not so much an atheist, but more of an anti-theist. Jim seems to interpret the cosmos as a universe which could have been created by someone, but if that someone does not fit his idea of what a good God should be like, if He doesn’t speak as Jim feels He should speak, then Jim, (and in extension what seems to be many anti-theists on the march these days), rejects the God of the Bible as the true and rightful ruler of the cosmos and spends his life trying to get others to do the same.

Now I am not trying to pick on Jim for personal reasons – as a matter of fact I appreciate that he is passionate about his worldview. One thing which stinks like 9-day-dead raccoon on a country road is an apathetic, non-thinking person who blows in the wind of what other people tell them to think and do. So Jim gets the badge of honor for at least having a worldview, and for attempting to persuade others to think like he does.

On the other hand, the anti-theists among us are like passionate gnats beating their heads against Mt Everest. The frantic drive to dethrone the Lord of the cosmos will be as successful as an Eskimo selling ice, or even worse. The never-ending conversation between Christians and anti-Christians in the ultimate sense doesn’t matter: in this conflict, either the Bible is truly God’s Word and to believe otherwise is suicide, or there is no God and we will return to the unfeeling dust of the cosmos in a few years, consciousness eternally ceased.

What you or I believe does not change the reality and truth under which we live, whatever that reality may be.

Yet what each of us believes does matter – and it matters forever.

This is the interpretation of the cosmos as we look through the lens of the Bible. So let’s look through the lens of God’s Word to see how God sees you.

Although you are only a speck of cosmic dust, you’ve been created in the image of God and therefore have profound, magnificent dignity as a person. The implications are far-reaching! That means that the most mentally-disabled child who cannot ever work a day in his little life, who offers nothing to his parents and who can only take from society is as valuable as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, or Mother Theresa.

Because of His valuing of each person, we have inherent dignity. Being created in the image of God is an astonishing honor! It is unique to the human race! When the question of life on other planets comes up, I have no problem believing that there are mind-blowing types of plants and animals scattered around the cosmos on gorgeous planets of teal, green, blue, and purple. Yet the Bible seems to show that the earth is the one and only place in all the unfathomable reaches of the universe which has been set apart as special. It is the stage of God’s redemptive history.

It is indeed the stage where God placed the human race who bears His image – the showpiece of the cosmos!

Privileged, unique, wonderful earth...

But above and beyond all of that, the earth is the place where God the Son poured out His eternal, unspeakable glories and willingly became flesh… even to become a peasant baby born in an animal stable. The eternal Jesus became human, was born of the Virgin Mary, grew up, and walked on this planet. But even beyond that honor, this planet had the blood of the God-Man Jesus shed upon it. He willingly became man, and willingly laid down His pure, perfect life on a Roman death cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. To begin to describe this glory, or further, the glory of His rising from the dead 3 days later, would be to pretend that words can capture infinity.

And yet I write. I write for each of us to spiritually feed and be filled upon the glorious truth of the Bible. The Creator of the cosmos has given us the Word which interprets His cosmos, and which reveals His intimate, personal work among humanity to redeem us from our rebellion against Him.

This Word reveals that Jesus is the Creator of the cosmos, and has become the re-creator of the new humanity in Him. The Bible clearly explains how sin has separated us from Him, and darkened the minds of those who have not trusted in Jesus for their reconciliation to God. He has spoken by His Holy Spirit through the pens of men to reveal a perfect record of His creation and redemption of fallen mankind.

For our friends like @Jimtheatheist, there is absolutely nothing about this which makes sense, or which sounds like salvation. It sounds like nonsense and ridiculousness. Yet the wildest thing is that we are all @Jimtheatheist. He is no worse than me – we are equally fallen and wretched at birth. None of us earns the right to enjoy and have fellowship with the Lord of the cosmos, yet we who are in Christ are better off because of the atonement of Christ Jesus on our behalf, and the application of it to our life by His Holy Spirit. The record of my sin is wiped away – I am a friend of God because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

The antitheists would have many contradicting arguments, yet no matter what they say, the Bible is precious because it is God’s Word, and especially because it reveals Jesus. The Bible interprets the cosmos because it was inspired word by word by the Creator of the cosmos. His focus is Jesus, and humanity being gathered together to Him, some for redemption and eternal life, and some for judgment and eternal punishment. If your interpretation of the cosmos leads you away from this central, absolute truth, then I beg you to test your conclusions in the light of God’s truth – His Word the Bible.

If your life does not center on Jesus; His eternal nature as the 2nd Person of the Triune God, His true humanity as the Messiah/Christ of Israel, His perfect atonement for the sin of all who will trust in Him, His resurrection from the dead for our justification, and His eternal place of glory, reigning as King of the cosmos… then it is time to check your heart and life in submission to Him.

In my future posts, I will get into greater detail about the good news in the Bible – its focus on Jesus; His remarkable, unique life, and His historical truth claims which rocked the world down to our day… always with a reminder of how we should then live and interpret the cosmos.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, The Message of the Bible, The Nature of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.