Saturday, February 27, 2010

God and Beauty, Part Two

Excerpts from "Truth Decay" by Dr. Douglas Groothuis (2000)

From Chapter 10 “True Beauty: The Challenge to Postmodernism"

Those who aspire to honor the cosmic Lordship of Christ have compelling reasons to accept, recognize, savor, and manifest objective aesthetic truths. This is not a snobbish imposition upon the Scripture but a truth that richly resonates at the core of Holy Writ…God created the world according to his will and design. Surveying the work, God deemed it “good” –even before humans were created. There existed an intrinsic goodness that was not specifically moral goodness, since no moral agents yet existed on earth. God brought forth and blessed his creation as aesthetically good. It was beautiful, pure and brim full of potential. It was good through and through….the Creator made the man and woman as the pinnacle of creation, created in the “image and likeness of God.” These humans, though of the dust of the earth, also came from the Spirit; their sinless feet were planted on the earth, while their imaginations could soar beyond the stars. The task assigned to each of them—as subcreators and stewards under God—was to have equal dominion over creation and to cultivate it within God’s wisdom…As God’s image-bearers, women and men make things of all kinds, for both functional and artistic purposes. They chop wood for fire and carve wood for decoration; they harvest crops for food and practice cuisine for taste; they shovel snow for safety and make snowmen for fun. Artistic expression is a natural part of God’s good creation…When God’s creatures turned against their Lord, sided with the seductions of the serpent, experienced death in their beings and then found sin poisoning their once-pristine planet(Gen 3). From then on, all human culture became a thick and complex admixture of good and evil. Human creators—both redeemed and unredeemed—still serve as instruments of God’s beauty and truth through their artistic endeavors, but the very gifts of God given to his image-bearers can be turned against the Creator and the creation itself through sin. (pp 149-150)

Dr. Groothuis’ final comment in this chapter is this:

My emphatic point is that one who honors Scripture has good reason to believe in real aesthetic value and to reject postmodern relativism as strongly in art as in ethics or theology. Some Christians dismiss this project of honoring objective artistic value because it is alien to their worldview and because they are little acquainted with this kind of judgment…The alternative is a cultural capitulation—either implicitly or explicitly—to postmodernists decline. Such surrender only furthers the truth decay already so rampant in our culture. (p 262)

Monday, February 15, 2010

On having troubles...we've got plenty!

You know, as we try to hear God speaking to us through his word and to bring help to those around us; it seems that sometimes we just “know” that God wants us to minister to another person. So we offer a kind word or help in some way; and the whole thing blows up in our face! We end up being put down, or ridiculed,or you name just fell apart!

So in shock, we back off and seek God to see what we have done wrong. We self-check and examine our hearts to see where we “missed it”. After all, we had to have been at fault if things didn’t go exactly as we thought they should have. If things didn’t go perfectly; we had to have been out of God’s good and perfect will.

But what if we were in God’s good and perfect will?

Let’s look at Jeremiah’s life for a minute. He was a prophet in Jerusalem for a very long time; God gave Jeremiah specific promises to help him, and to say what God instructed him to. But what happened to Jeremiah? Well, he was threatened with death, he was beaten and thrown in jail, he had to ask shady kings to protect him if he promised to tell the truth; He was thrown into a cistern up to his armpits in mud, and left to die; and ultimately he was dragged off to die in Egypt (where God specifically told the people not to go).

Yet when reading Lamentations 3:20-25 Jeremiah makes the amazing statement “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is thy faithfulness.” He understood that we serve a merciful and loving God. But unfortunately we live in a fallen and fractured world. But through it all, all the evil and unloving people led astray; God is faithful through everything.

Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12)

Mind you, I’m not necessarily saying we are all a bunch of prophets, but certainly there is no guarantee that being in God’s will means no trouble. Jesus was very clear of the hard road we have to travel on; yet he is faithful through all the trials and troubles. He will never leave us or forsake us.

“And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and to not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” (1 Peter 3:13-17)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you his saints; for to those who fear Him, there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life, and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep you tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them form the earth. The righteous cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Evil shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous will be condemned. The Lord redeems the soul of His servants; and no one of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Friday, February 5, 2010


In attending an open forum on Christianity the other day, I was listening to an Atheist point out all the horrible things that God has done—or more precisely—what man has done in the name of God in the Old Testament; when the thought struck me, “He is 'proof-texting'”; he was pulling scripture out of its context.

But don’t we as Christians do the very same thing? We pick out all the “positive” and “uplifting” verses to pin to our walls and sticky note to our mirrors in the bathroom, in a kind of uplifting motivational game.

I believe we need to stop skipping over the “hard” verses, and take in the whole picture—the good and the bad. We live in a fallen, fractured world; and this is the reality and Truth presented in the Bible—not glossed over or sugar coated. We all know there is evil in the world, yet there is great beauty also.

As I drive into work, I am witness to a beautiful sunrise…a glorious blend of colors; yet I am not unaware of the traffic, trash, and homeless begging on the corner. It is up to us as members of the body of Christ to see the glimpses of the Glory to come; yet be serving to alleviate the suffering around us in the here-and-now.

If the Bible is nothing more than “proof-texting” out inspirational verses; it is reduced to a worthless book. The inspiration comes from seeing the whole picture of grace and redemption; the wonder of God’s infinite love to his image bearers.

“Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:6-7

“Then He will also say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;’ I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not cloth Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me,’ Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry, or thirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” Matthew 25:41-45

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Skating Lesson

This is an essay I wrote about this time last year for one of my classes. As dad is again, in the hospital; I felt led to share this small slice of my youth. Shortly after I wrote this, I did share the essay with him.

When I was about ten years old I had the chance to see Peggy Fleming ice skate at a skating rink in Philadelphia, PA. It was an exhibition; I don’t remember any other skaters, just her. She was wearing a beautiful green chiffon skating dress, and it just floated around her. She was so graceful; I decided I wanted to look like that on ice skates. This desire lead me into a wonderful lesson in following directions, really knowing how much my father loves me and how to overcome obstacles in life.

I didn’t understand the connections that my father had in ice skating until I was an adult, but as if by magic, ice skates would show up at our house; not new but the right size, girls figure skates. So that winter, I would awkwardly lace up the skates over two pairs of socks, to keep my toes warm, and totter out onto the iced-over farm pond; trying desperately to keep my ankles straight and to make my self move forward. I would dig the toe stops into the ice to propel myself forward, and after a few staggering steps, fall down.

This particular cold winter morning, dad was home, and he asked if I wanted to go down to the farm pond, and he would help me with my skating. Wow, I was going to get help. Maybe I could learn to skate better, maybe even like Peggy Fleming. I was excited, so instead of riding my bike down to the farm (a half mile away) dad was going to drive us down.

I bundled up: I put on my long-johns, jeans, extra sweaters, two pairs of socks, gloves, scarf, hat…I was ready! We walked slowly out to the frozen pond. There was only a thin crust of snow in spots, and no wind, so you could see your breath. My nose was cold but I didn’t care. Dad told me to run on ahead and get my skates on, so I jogged over to the edge of the pond and balanced on one leg at a time to take off my boots and pull on the skates. I hurriedly tightened up my laces, my bare fingers were cold, having to take my gloves off, and tried to get the skates just tight enough to hold up my ankles.

I stepped awkwardly out onto the ice; and promptly fell on my butt. Dad didn’t say a word; he just carefully stepped out onto the ice, and stood balanced with his legs slightly spread, looking very steady. “OK Lis” he said “stand up with your feet together, and get your balance. Now, I want you to let your feet slowly move apart.” I was amazed, I started moving forward; I hadn’t even pushed off. “Now”, he said, “lift one foot up and put it back next to your other foot, and let your feet slide apart again.” So I did. “Now do it again.” I was moving forward smoothly, doing what he said; I began to find the rhythm, and all at once it was easy!

He continued to show me more techniques, until I was not even lifting my blades off the ice, just simply shifting my weight from the inside edge of the blade to the outside edge; to smoothly turn and keep up my momentum. Then dad said “now build up your speed, and balance on one leg.” So I did, wobbling a little bit. So I tried again, and I felt smoother, more controlled. Then dad said “circle around and I want you to stretch out your leg and lean forward, make your body a straight line.” So I tried. I kept my body parallel to the ice, and smoothly glided along on one leg. “Lis, that is a camel.” I was thrilled! I did a move just like Peggy Fleming. I was a real figure skater. I felt wonderful, excited; I felt like I could do anything.

Now, to conclude this story, let’s go back to the introductory paragraph. I’m sure you can see from my experience how following direction lead to me being finally able to skate the way I dreamt of, and of course you can see that my dad loves me, after all I’m his daughter. Let me elaborate, I didn’t tell you something exceptional about my dad… You see, he only has one leg. He lost it in a huge accident in the mid 1950’s. So for my dad to walk out onto the ice to teach me to skate is a big deal. Falling is not as simple as it is for you and me; when you only have one leg, your balance is not the same. So for dad to do that for me, showed me so clearly the love he has for me; and one other thing, if he could overlook something as huge as only having one leg, I could overcome the simple problems that face all of us in our lives. Dad never had to have a discussion with me about overcoming obstacles, he lived it every day.

As I look back on the memory of that morning, I see that by having some direction, things will go smoother. I can now appreciate the huge obstacles dad has overcome. It is so clear to me not to let the daily challenges I face stop me. I also realize what my dad was willing to risk because he loves me. It makes me put my own life in perspective. What am I willing to risk to pursue my dream? And am I willing to listen to directions? So I decided to skate past the obstacles, keep my eyes on my goals and glide forward into a much brighter future.

Now I would like to add an addendum in way of expanding on this essay; My father was in a mid-air crash over Reno, NV while in the Air Force and successfully bailed out, yet lost his leg. Prior to the crash, he had been an add-in to the IceCapades (joining the team of "Frick and Frack"), was extremely active, and the day before the crash, had won a "Jitterbug" contest. The loss of his leg changed some things obviously, but he never let the loss of a limb slow him down at all. These things I found out later, as I "grew up".