Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Knowing and Being Known


In John 17:3, Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God the Father and God the Son. It can be easy to overlook these words, but to consider them thoroughly makes it clear that Jesus is speaking about the deepest desire of mankind. He is speaking about the purpose of every human being – relationship; and more than that, relationship with our Creator.

People get married for various reasons, but I think that fundamental to this desire for sacred union is the chance to truly know a fellow human being, and be truly known by a fellow human being. We want to really mean something to somebody, and we want somebody to really mean something to us in a completely unique, intimate way.

When we think of inspirational marriages through history and even inspirational marriages here and now, we don't think of them as being based on a good sex life, or being based on material benefits for the husband and wife. That's not to say that such things are utterly unimportant, but they're not the main thing. The main thing we -- or at least I -- get inspired by/insanely jealous of is the way the couple know each other so deeply and thoroughly. I want that, and I think it's fair to say so do most people.

Such desires do not stem from nowhere. God -- the origin of relationships -- made us for relationship with Him, and the tragedy of sin is that it has not only cut us off from this relationship, but it has also suppressed our desire for it (Rom. 1:18-23). In our fallen state we are incapable and unwilling to regain it, and so we desperately need someone to intervene; someone to atone for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is this someone.

Therefore a Christian does not benefit just from having a wise teacher or a person to cast their every-day problems onto. Such things are certainly not unique to Christianity, nor do they cut to the heart of the matter. The impact Christ makes in a believer’s life is far grander than these matters. Jesus made a way – the only way – for us to have fellowship with the Father and fellowship with Himself. Coming to Christ and putting your trust in Him means that a long-lost relationship with God can be restored. Christ’s perfect life and shed blood made this possible, and when we have faith in Him who is the truth, we share in His life, which is life eternal – a life of truly knowing God and being truly known by God.

Friday, January 9, 2009

We Need To Talk

So, I've written my first song...kind of. It doesn't have any words, nor did I ever really plan what I was going to play, so "written" is a very loose description of the process which took place. I just started playing a little riff on the guitar, decided to record it, and added in some bits and bobs. The result certainly reflects as much, but as embarrassed as I am about the sheer amateurishness of it all, I'm also somewhat proud of how spur of the moment it is. I didn't try and mix it very well, and as you can tell from the sharp tones of the electric guitar, I spent no time equalising anything. It just...happened so fast, you know? One minute I was fingerpicking on my acoustic guitar, and the next minute...I was putting a stereo track onto a CD. If I could go back in time then yes, I'd do things differently, but that's just how it happened. Was it a mistake? Probably, but it was my mistake to make...

I'm sorry, I've been watching a lot of Felicity lately. In fact, I've been watching so much that not only is it's dialogue being woven into my blog post, but I've named my song We Need To Talk. Pretty ironic, eh? An instrumental called We Need To Talk. Eh? Eh?!

Anyhoo, have a listen.


video

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

From Dust to Humus


For some reason, my sister mentioned over dinner last night that the word "humble" is linked to the word "humus", which means "ground" or "dirt". In case you're wondering, no, our dinner conversations are rarely if ever this intellectual/pretentious, nor were we eating chick peas. The point of highlighting this link was not for my sister to show us how clever she is, but to remind us that in a sense to be humble to remember where you came from - the ground...or in J-Lo's case, the block, but that's got nothing to do with humus.

I've been having a strange recurring thought recently, one that's left me equal parts grateful and confused. The thought is this - 25 years ago I didn't exist. I was nothing. That is, I was no thing. Nobody on this earth knew me, because there was no me. I had no physical body, I had no thoughts, I had no life. It's easy for me to think that the world started when I was born, but how conceited a world view is that? The truth is, I came from the ground, and was given life. I didn't earn life, or create myself. None of us can make such claims. What human being who has ever lived can claim to have created himself? Human life is not a self-existent phenomenon. It exists because a Being almost incomprehensible to us breathed life into mortal clay. A Being who is self-existent and is the source of all life decided to create human beings for His glory. And we have each of us been trying to steal that glory ever since.

It's no coincidence that where there are people in the Bible who know God, these same people are extremely self-aware, and can be said to know their earthy origins. David could sing to God, "What is man that you are mindful of him...?" (Psa. 8:4). And when Isaiah had a vision of God on His throne, his first words were "Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts." (Isa. 6:5)

It's quite easy to be proud and to think that the world revolves around us when we forget our origins. When we think of ourselves as eternal beings who are self-created, what 'need' do we have for God? Why should He receive the glory for my existence? And even if we do tip our hats in God's direction, it's quite easy for us to live our daily lives in a very human centred way, where all that matters is if we are as good as those around us, or perhaps a little better. If so, great, and if not, then at least we're not as bad as so and so. As Dr Arden Autry likes to say, the average person thinks he's better than the average person.

Unfortunately for us, the average person is not the yardstick we are to measure ourselves by. If we are to ever be truly humble as creatures, it is our Creator -- the One in whose image we were originally crafted -- who determines the standard. And as Isaiah discovered, our only response can be "Woe is me" when such a comparison between creature and Creator is made. In his excellent book The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul puts it this way:

"As long as Isaiah could compare himself to other mortals, he was able to sustain a lofty opinion of his own character. The instant he measured himself by the ultimate standard, he was destroyed – morally and spiritually annihilated. He was undone. He came apart. His sense of integrity collapsed."

Of course God's plan is not to simply rip us to shreds and watch us wander around miserably in a state of self loathing. The end result of humility before God is not destruction, but grace. We are told that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (1 Pet. 5:5). As Sproul goes on to say,

"Far from God seeking to destroy the “self”, as many distortions of Christianity would claim, God redeems the self. He heals the self so that it may be useful and fulfilled in the mission to which the person is called."

How much we know God will show itself in how aware we are of our need for God every second of every day. The Christian life starts with an acknowledgment of our need for God's salvation, but contrary to what we as self-help orientated humans might be inclined to think, our need for God does not end there. We don't grow into independence, but rather we grow to become more and more dependent on God as we relinquish our will in exchange for His. A Christian of 60 years needs God just as much as a Christian of 1 day. And a Christian of 60 years should be just as humble if not moreso than a person who has just realised that Christ is the only way to be saved from sin, for this Christian of 60 years has spent their life in the presence of the Holy, where they have been daily "undone".

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Movie Year

I didn't watch a lot of movies last year.

That's it.

No, that's not it. However, out of what I watched, here's a brief list and some comments about what I liked, loathed, and found to be disappointing.

Liked

My favourite movie of 2008 was Gone Baby Gone. I loved the dialogue, the score, the characters, the acting, and pretty much everything else there is to love about a movie. However, what I liked the most was the moral ambiguity of the plot. The way two people can have completely opposing views as to what is "right", and yet both sides can be sympathised with to the point where you actually don't know which side of the line you put yourself in. The movie is based on a kidnapping, but don't let that fool you into thinking that it's another Ransom. What Heat is to Beverly Hills Cop, Gone Baby Gone is to Ransom. Similar premise, but chalk and cheese otherwise. All watchable films in their own way though!

Of course one can't talk about good movies of 2008 without mentioning The Dark Knight. I really liked it the first time I watched it; I absolutely loved it the second time. Whether this is a slight criticism or a compliment, it didn't really feel like a comic book movie, despite the fact that its leading character was dressed up as a bat for significant portions of the movie. I guess the film makers wanted to portray it as a very serious film, thus avoiding any similarity with all Batman efforts pre-Batman Begins. They certainly did that, and the film is all the better for it in that respect.

What did feel like a comic book movie was Iron Man, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Robert Downey Jr was just, well, Robert Downey Jr, and who doesn't love Robert Downey Jr? Certainly not Robert Downey Jr. The film was just tremendous fun, with only a slight lack of action preventing it from being pitch perfect for me. If you haven't seen this movie, do so. I guarantee your surprise (unless of course you've taken to heart everything I've just said, in which case you won't be surprised at all).

Loathed

If you haven't seen Fool's Gold, then I envy you. I can't overstate how bad this movie is, but here's my attempt: It's the worst movie I've ever seen. That said, it's so bad it's almost comical in places. I went to see it with two friends and for the most part we just looked at each other at various points during the movie with disbelief on our faces, wondering Why did they make this movie? How were they allowed to make it? And who would be stupid enough to pay 9 Euros to go and see...oh, wait.

I mentioned it before in the blog, but The Mummy 3 was undoubedly a crapfest. To read more, click here.

I'd like to say that the Incredible Hulk was disappointing, and in a way it was. But it was also just rubbish and therefore loathable. Sorry Eddie, but you're gonna have to just hold your hands up for this one. Not as bad as Spiderman 3 though, I'll give it that.

Disappointing

A lot of people raved about Juno, calling it "quirky", "funny", "hilarious" and so forth. I thought it was a watchable film, but funny? I can't really say I laughed all that much, if at all. I may have had a smile on my face on occasion, but it was more pretentious than witty (the movie, not my smile...though maybe that too). Napolean Dynamite was probably the catalyst for this recent fascination with all things "quirky", but people need to learn that "quirky" does not necessarily equal "funny". Anyone can make a quirky movie. Just put in some dorks, some retro clothing and some crazy/hip parents and you have yourself a quirky movie. "Look at that dork being socially awkward! He's so...quirky"; "Look at those short shorts! They're so...quirky"; "Look at that dad offering pot to his son and being not at all concerned about real life issues. He's so...quirky".

Maybe I'm just trying to be obtuse by not buying into what most people consider to be cool, and maybe I'm the pretentious one. Or maybe I just don't get Juno. Whatever the case may be, I didn't laugh very much while watching it, and so disappointing it was.

As was The Quantum of Solace. I watched most of You Only Live Twice over the Christmas, and compared to it, Quantum of Solace sucks. I mean compare Blofeld (aka Number 1), the chief bad guy in YOLT, with the bad guy in QOS, whose name I don't care about. One of them provokes real fear, sending attractive females into piranha infested waters at the press of a foot pedal, while the other is a wimp. In the last couple of James Bond movies most of what a Bond movie is supposed to be has been erased, and replaced with what a Bourne movie is supposed to be. The results are not good, and people who say otherwise have lost touch with the essence of Bond.

There's definitely more to add in each of these categories, but I've spent the last minute thinking and nothing has come to mind, so that's it. Agree? Disagree? Sort of agree? Any suggestions of your own to make me feel silly for leaving it out? Leave a comment! You know you don't want to, but do it anyway.