Scandalon

Recently, I heard some leaders of other religious faiths remark on a flaw of the Christian religion. It’s the fact that ours is the only religion that insists that there is only one way to get to God: Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It seemed to them very obvious that there are many paths to God, and they expressed hope that someday we would grow beyond this defect. I had to laugh. Because this “one defect” is the sole standard of the Christian Faith. If we did not believe that faith in Jesus was the only way to find the hope of salvation, Christianity would melt in a moment. If I believed that there were many ways to God, and all were equally good, why would I chose the hardest, most offensive one? Furthermore, why should I try to make my faith easy for you, when it is so hard for me? Because out of the first concern, these same religious leaders expressed annoyance that so many groups of Christians had set out to convert them. If our religion accepted that there were many ways to God, do you not think we would cease trying to convert everyone in the world? We would let them go. Perhaps they would find an easier, less humiliating path.

I also heard some Christian leaders recently saying how disappointed they were when they saw a Christian conform to the standards of this world, even if their goal was to evangelize. And I have to agree; although originally these leaders where actually referring to a Christian’s style of clothing and color of hair, which I think is inconsequential. Because every style of clothing, or lack thereof, has been claimed by a culture, or subculture somewhere. And every time you put on a piece of clothing or adjust your body in any way, you conform to something somewhere. And in Christ there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman, black man or white man, or Protestant or Catholic. We are all one in Christ and look not at the flesh but at the spirit, and the fruits of the spirit. Which brings me back. You conform, not by what clothes you wear, or how many earrings, but when you subvert your nature, so that Christ is not glorified. A for instance: those Christian musicians who, in the church, sing unashamed the gospel to the saved. Then, when they go into the world, they change their name to hide the cross and change their lyrics, encrypting the message of shed blood, “lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” Sorry guys! The times of blindness and misunderstanding are long since past. Now is the time that we preach, not in parables, but openly, so that all may understand. Yes, this is offensive to many. Yes, people will turn away from an unadulterated gospel, but an erated gospel brings in sons. Jesus himself turned the masses away when he said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” He gave them a hard saying in order to drive them away, but he did not cease from preaching!

You see, almost 6,000 years ago, God set a precedent: When one man (and in him, all of us) tried to stand separate from God and be holy like God in his own strength, through the knowledge of good and evil, he discovered the lie. Without God you cannot be holy. Instead all he had was the memory of good in the experience of evil. He tried to cover his ness with a lie: someone else did this to me. But he remained exposed. And God had compassion on Man and Woman in the agonies of sin. He knelt down, and with the blood and flesh of animals, he covered them. And since then it has been understood: without shed blood there is no remission of sins. The stain remains and remains and remains. There is no atonement without blood, there is no circumcision without blood. No temple article may be made holy without the sprinkling of blood.

And God prophesied: there will come a seed of woman to crush the source of lies at its head, and that serpent, turned dragon black, would bruise the heel of man. And that “seed of woman” relates that this man would not come down the normal way. And that crushed head says that on this move, the sin would be permanently destroyed. And that bruised heel implies that even as the serpent’s venom seeps into the blood, into the very heart, until you die, so also the weight of sin would infiltrate the son of man, killing him. But that the heel is only bruised tells that though the son of man may die, the serpent’s death is the only permanent one. For a bruise will go away. And even as Christ rose again, so we too will be free from sin, if we continue looking to the wounding in his heels.

And again, God said, if you acknowledge him, he directs your path. So we acknowledge by looking to the footprints of the man who leaves bruises in the sand. God directs us: we follow his son’s path. And in the book of numbers Moses lifted up a brazen serpent on a pole. When Israel looked up, both bite and bitterness were gone. So also, when we remember another serpent’s suffering symbol on another kind of pole, both the sickness and the sin are gone. We can be both physically and spiritually whole.

But why all the signs and symbols? What’s the point of precedent? So that in the here and now we could look at words with awe and wonder? No, a simple point of law on the order of the universe: When the law is broken, a debt must be paid. If you throw a rock in the air, it will come down again. It has to. It’s the law. Unless you throw it high enough, and it manages to get outside our planet’s pull. Then suddenly, its bound by higher laws. If, one year, you suddenly decided not to pay your taxes, does the government say, “Aw, we understand. That’s okay.”? No! Your taxes must be paid! They will bind up your property and freeze up all your accounts. And I say to you, you will by no means be free until you have paid every penny back. Plus interest, multiplied and compounded. So also: “without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins.” But for nearly 2,000 years, there has been no shedding of blood for remission of sins. The temple was destroyed to the stone in 70 AD. And since that time, not a single drop has been shed on any brazen altar. There isn’t any brazen altar! There isn’t any mirrored laver. The Ark of the Covenant cannot be found. Most likely it was melted down. But it seems that only the Christian is concerned how God will judge his sins. Only the Christian seems to realize that no amount of good deeds will scrub away even one sin. We stand utterly condemned!

Technically, though, even that bronze altar and the Ark of the Covenant weren’t good enough. The sin offering was offered morning and night. The sins of the people were carried away on the scapegoat but once a year. But a sacrifice for my kind of sinning would have to be constant, or eternal. James says that if you have broken even one law, you might as well have broken every one, for you have condemned yourself as a lawbreaker. And the judgment is the same for one or many. For a person who breaks a law has broken the whole law, even as a person who quotes a line of poetry invokes the whole poem, or even the author, and every poem he’s written. They are all tied together, and if one string is broken, the whole weave of life unravels. Some Christians, in times past, understanding this, established among themselves proper ways and times of repentance, and believed that if they died between these times, then the sins that they had committed would be on their own heads, and they themselves would have to pay. Of course, they didn’t understand that, if this was true, then the payment they would have to make would be the true kind of payment, the kind you cannot earn with good deeds, but cannot be freed from till every penny has been paid. Nevertheless, it is true: if I die and my every sin has not been counted washed away, then I stand, breaker of all, condemned. The blood of sheep and goats is simply not enough. I need the blood of something greater to stand between me and my sin.

Remember that rock you threw into the air? If only you could get it high enough, it would stay there. All you need is someone strong enough to throw it high enough, until a higher law takes precedence. On all scores, impossible, so far as throwing goes. But C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “There is a magic deeper still. . .when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead the table would crack and death itself would start working backwards.” That’s what Jesus’ cross was. His life was the only one that was strong enough to throw our rock of sin far enough from the earth. The sacrifice on the cross was good enough to start death running backwards. A deeper magic, a higher law takes precedence. And when it does, the stone tables that Moses brought down will crack. And all the law is made of no effect, for it is overtaken by a higher law, called grace, empowered by faith in one man’s suffering. It’s not that the law is no longer there, but it is contained as a small, minute aspect of the greater law. The rigor of those ten lines of arbitration is seen within the steady flow of two rivers: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your strength, all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself. And they flow onward . . . Love God even with the strength you do not have. Love your neighbor as more important than yourself . . . A never-ending well.

At the end of the river, it becomes not a commandment, but a compulsion. I must preach the gospel. Not because I have to, but because I need to. I cannot contain it. There is an inward yearning inside all of us to leave off these earthen tracks. To reach for the stars until we become no longer planetbound. In the natural sense, we have achieved the ability to leave the atmosphere. We’ve gone as far as the moon. But no one lifetime, in any way we can design it, will ever be long enough to start here, and end up living among the stars. And even then, no technology imaginable will ever take us to that place we all know is real, the place beyond the stars. The other world. God has said it: “Even as the heavens are above the earth, so my ways are above your ways.” I guess, if we are still straining to be holy on our own strength, these could be discouraging words. But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. Now we know the way: One man can take us there. One man can show us the way and direct our path. We need this man in absoluteness. He is the only one. We need the man from Galilee.

Technicolor

It’s difficult for me to explain the religious aspects of my life to other people, people who don’t live it like I do. I have these two worlds: one shaded in colored pencil that is the real world for me, where normal people work and live, where ordinary things happen, like trips to the post office and bad break-ups. The other world is in pure Technicolor, bright greens and reds and yellows. God is everywhere and in everything, bursting out of the daisies, and crawling out of people’s eyes, like a diamond veneer that reflects every single ray of sunlight. This second world is the one that makes people catch me singing outside at the top of my lungs whenever I don’t notice that anyone is there, or makes me dance in public places when there isn’t any music. But these worlds are laid one over the other, and it is only with some great difficulty that I have managed to separate them in my mind. I have separated them because I have realized that nobody else seems to see this other, this Technicolor world. How could I turn to somebody and say, “The mountains are green, so very green, with the diamonds sparkling on them,” and expect to communicate to them at all? So I have to stop and separate my two worlds and say to my neighbor something along the lines of “My, I am in a really good mood today.” You get strange looks when you try to explain that, really, you do see a giant mountain set around the library, and that it is covered in diamonds that are reflecting and multiplying the greenness of the grass. They don’t see the hole that God has drilled between heaven and earth above the chapel and or the lakes of olive oil that are constantly pouring through there. They see a building with big windows, and a sky, and some clouds, and would probably think I’m crazy.

These two worlds fade back and forth between each other all the time. Sometimes the colored pencil world is the real one and the Technicolor world is a dream I dreamed a long time ago, and can’t remember all its parts. That’s when all my anger and boredom and self-pity and ual frustration and depression come out at me and try to strangle me. Then, with no real reason, the Technicolor world will take me over, and all I can see are the spiritual forces at work, and all I can hear is the voice of God, murmuring secret melodies in my ear. Then the drab mundane world is to me like so many stained glass windows—crystallized representations of things, and not the reality thereof. The light that shines through them shatters them, and my life is flooded with this blinding white light that washes away every hint of shadow. And then, sometimes, the both worlds are there together, at the same time, and I see everything two ways at once—and those are the times when I have difficulty explaining, separating the two.

God spoke to me today. I mean, really. Spoke to me. No, I didn’t hear a peal of thunder, and I wasn’t knocked off my horse and blinded. But walking back to my room from choir practice, and He was there. I can’t say it any better than that. Nothing was really any different, except that He was there. I could just tell. And over a period of two hours He was just more and more there every minute. The songs were welling up inside of me; all the lights were just a little bit brighter, and I could almost hear the choirs of angel voices singing. I went back to the chapel and did some work and then joined in, sort of spontaneously, with a worship team that was practicing songs for the service on Thursday. But eventually they were gone, and I was there alone, and He was there. Then I began to meet with him in earnest, reminding him, or (in the Technicolor way) he was reminding me, of all the things he was to me. He is Rapha, and Shalom, and Nissi—my healing, my peace, and my banner. He is the God who chases me, the God who remembers me, the God who knows my name. He is everything to me. I got to declare all sorts of things, like “We have this hope, that He has never yet left anything unfinished: His blood was poured out for me, I…will…be…poured…out…for…Him.” All sorts of crazy, fanatical, exuberant things because the God above all Gods was there—in the room—with me. I was in the chapel for about two hours total, and finally had to make myself leave because I had homework I had to finish. But even now I have this little bubble in my spirit because the God of all flesh was there—He came to visit me.

And then I have to operate in a world where real people live, people who perhaps don’t believe in God, or who believe in Him only in an abstract, theoretical sense. They say to me, “Why are you so happy?”

What can I say?

“I got to pray today.”

A Few Mathematical Considerations of Intimacy

What is the definition of intimacy? It can’t be simply “closeness.” You could be very close to a person and never be intimate with them. What if that person bores the mind out of you? Are you intimate simply because they know everything about you? What if you run in such perfect sync that you never gain any fresh perspective from them? Is that intimacy? Imagine two parallel lines: It doesn’t matter how close they get, just because they’re close doesn’t mean there is any interchange. Ok. Go with me on the line thing. Let’s say that different types of lines represent different types of relationships, and let’s say that how many times two lines intersect describes the level of intimacy in that relationship.

Ok. Straight lines. Very boring. They never change; they never waver. How they are is how they are. You see one part of them, you know all about them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lots of relationships are simple and straightforward and easy to read. But straight lines only intersect once. That means that the closest to intimacy two straight lines can get is two really close parallel lines. Any closer than that and they’re not two lines, it’s the same line. If these people are coming from different directions (or have a different perspective), the closest to intimacy that they get is that one time true encounter where they really connect. It’s very profound, but that’s it. They just don’t belong together.

How about relationships that change? We need some curves. Let’s try parabola and hyperbola. I don’t remember the equation for hyperbola, but parabola are pretty simple: it’s that x=y² thing. The line on the graph comes down from out of nowhere, gets to a certain point, makes a sharp turn and heads back out in exactly the opposite direction, up and out. So we’ve got two people coming from roughly the same direction, they get close for a while, have a few intimate moments, and then they go their own separate ways.

Of course, the really interesting stuff involves circles. I think a circle describes a relationship that just isn’t going anywhere. Two perfect circles would either go round and round connecting in the same places but never really changing, or they would simply never get any closer together. Either way it’s rather pointless (ha ha).

However, by far the best relationships could be described by trigonometry functions. You know, x=cosine y-1, and all that stuff. Radio waves. They go back and forth over the same general area, forever. It always changes, so it doesn’t get boring. But there’s a definite pattern, so it doesn’t get weird. You know what to expect. So, those of you who kept your handy dandy little graphing calculators from high school, put in the same graph the equations of x=sine y and x=cosine y. They’re exactly opposite, right? But look, one goes up exactly the same as the other comes down and then they go back, so they meet in the middle. And then they do it again. If intimacy is the number of times they cross each other and really really make connection, really touch the other’s life, these guys are infinitely more intimate than any other type of relationship in the world. No matter how far apart they get, they’ll always come back together. And look, they’re both exactly opposite and exactly the same. Folks, these guys are married. Or best friends: x=sin y and x=sin y-.25. They’re almost exactly the same, but they come from a little different background, so they still intersect.

Of course, since people’s personalities have so many more dimensions than just two, we have the opportunity to be all of these sorts of things at the same time. To some people I’m a straight line and to others I’m cosine to their tangent. Some people are always there but nothing ever changes. It all depends on what lines it runs along.

Geometry Revelations

I’m in this prayer meeting and I suddenly get this postulation (that’s a mathematical idea, not a pimple)

I saw a circle and I imagined myself tracing that circle with my finger touching a single point at a time. It would probably take me less than a second. So, a circle is made up of an infinite number of single points, arranged so that, if you trace each point, you come exactly back to the original point. So you could cover every point (which has no definable space) in less than a second. That’s all of infinity in less than a second.

Then I imagined what happens when you take that circle and rotate it around it’s diameter. The circle describes a sphere. Rotating the circle, again, probably takes less than a second. But two points of that circle made another circle at right angles with the first. And it took less than a second. Again: infinity in less than a second.

So, I take my imaginary finger again, and I put it on the sphere, touching only a single point and made almost a circle. I trace a circle (almost) in such a way that when I get back to the original point, I’m exactly one point over on the circle at right angles with the first. And I trace the circle again, ending up only one point over, and so on until I reach the first point I started on to begin with. How long would it take me? Forever! Literally! Since a single point has exactly 0 dimensions, it would take me exactly forever to touch on every single point, no matter how fast I went. The only way for me to do it is if I could touch every point of the circle at once and then rotate. (And if I could ever figure out where to put a fourth dimension, it would be the same story: the only way to touch every point would be if I had a finger that could touch ever point of the sphere and then rotate.) Infinity squared, and to the 3rd power . . .

And, since I was at a prayer meeting when this mathematical vision caught me, I’ll put a twist on it: How much less could I, being a finite creature ever begin to see every aspect of his grace? I could touch an infinite number of points in a single second, but just when I understand everything, TWIST! and there’s a whole new dimension. There’s everything I’ve ever believed, but it’s contained within a system I can’t even touchevery detail of. At least, it would take forever.

Grace, grace squared.

Grace foreseen. Grace untouchable.
Grace Indescribable. Grace beyond imagination . . .
and so on ad infinitum.

What I was trying to say was…

My Uncle John put up a very interesting response to the last important post that I put up (no not the one about the snow). I realized that I had probably not completely made myself clear when I read his first line, “Your anger concerns me.” Oops. I did not mean to sound angry by any means, a little upset about a flaw I perceive about the medical system, but not angry. Instead of simply copying, pasting and responding to what Uncle John said, I decided to simply write a follow up in response to the issues he brought up. So here goes.

First, I would like to say that I do not want to reduce the amount of choices in medicine. On the contrary, I want to increase choices for everyone involved. Continue reading “What I was trying to say was…”