Friday, November 09, 2007

And The Stakes Get Higher...

I know several people who are fantastic at bartering, which, if you think about it, is just an elaborate form of mutual compromise. In the retail world, it's the equivalent of doing anything to preserve a sale: skim the profits a bit, throw in store credit, whatever. That's not good enough for God, and I respect that. Even when I wasn't a good Christian, it was an ideal I understood.

In discussing a motley assortment of issues lately, I've touched on the premise of conviction with a few people. This may sound strange, but I have a profound respect for anyone who is utterly faithful to his or her beliefs, much more so than the complacent individuals that seem all too numerous in the world. I think the staunch atheist is much more impressive than the lazy Christian, insomuch as a well-informed atheist is the type of person who has weighed all the choices before merely deciding that he or she has rationalized the facts to the very limits of their capacity to understand. That's much more inspiring than the believer who doesn't follow Christ but instead decides to err on the side of caution. In other words, if there is no God, there's no harm in paying lip service to no one, just in case. These are the people who live good lives but never really embrace Christ as their saviour. "He'll come through." While it is possible to exploit loopholes in the legal system, the spiritual realm is much more black and white. I've come to realize that. As someone who has little interest in half-salvation (doesn't exist, by the way), I need to fully embrace every ounce of direction I receive from God, i.e. I need to obey.

A few years ago when I started reading Genesis, I didn't get very far. I thought I was inspired, and perhaps I actually was for a few moments. It was around the time that I openly acknowledged that, while I'm not trying to recreate the Bible with my novels, there will be ample resonance to scripture throughout them. I'm not writing them for Christians, and I plan to make as air tight a case as I possibly can for both camps: good and evil. As my mentors (and all writers worth reading) would tell you, characters need to teem with life. Real life. That is, your villains need to have glimpses of fragility and their own version of goodness, and your protagonists need to have blemishes. As far as the real world goes, only Christ was perfect, and it's pretty easy to spot the failures of role models, nowadays. Balanced storytelling is the goal of my books, which only heightens the challenge for me. And the reason is that, even when I wasn't a follower of Christ, I was strong in my conviction. Everything I do always had to be as close to perfection as I could advance it. As a teen, I started collecting music. After ten years of devouring all I could, I now have about 900 records in my collection, the result of dropping all my spare pennies on artists, even when most of my entourage insisted that downloading made more sense. When I was heavy into video games, it wasn't enough to complete the game and move on. No, I needed to accomplish every possible objective and sub-objective so my mind could abandon any stray thought of incompleteness. My neurotic list goes on.

So then I embrace Christianity, and, for the first time ever, my conviction starts to reward me. Much like the pursuit of holy grail albums, Christianity never ends. I'll never complete every possible act of kindness as could be done through me, but it's not even possible for me to do that. The bar is only set as high as God sets it on my own behalf, and He does the same for everyone else who's willing to answer His call. Even still, I will fall short of this. I already have. That's been determined for over two decades. But I'm onboard now, and I'm going to do as much as I can. As I said above, my last attempt to get through the Bible fell way short of completeness. I have a new chance to accomplish this and a new sincerity in my approach. As God is wont to do, I've been noticing many gifts and blessings in response to the things I've done at His behest. I still have mental reservations about some of the things I feel compelled to do, but He's slowly washing away those fears. I came across a new directive tonight, which I can say without absolute certainty I didn't read three years ago, but first let us update a point from an earlier post:

Genesis 11: 6 "And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and [build ... a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven] they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do."

As you might remember, God's response to this was to divide the world into many countries and languages, so that man might not combine forces to amass a power too great. At first I thought God was trying to stunt humanity's progress and drive wedges between His people, as if they might actually reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Tonight, as I re-read that passage, my editorial eye caught what previously seemed negligible: the word "now".

What's its significance, you're wondering? Quite simply, God's covenant with Noah will prevent Him from ever destroying all life on earth again, at least until its time comes to a close. What that means, aside from a slew of other implications, is that man could regress to the state of gratuitous sin that inspired God to reset the scales with the flood. I believe that He is not so much concerned with losing a cosmic battle with humanity, but He here acknowledges that His hands are really bound by the promise He's made. Man could confound Him until the world's end, and God would have no means of intervening to save those who might come to embrace Him. So, instead of letting man achieve a state of universal narcicism, He divides the world. Imagine, for a moment, what fate would await all of us if we were born North Korean. I don't want to suggest my Canadian birth makes me spiritually privileged, but it absolutely makes me legally free to embrace Christianity openly. If you had witnessed last Sunday's service, during which we celebrated our veterans, you'd understand what an intense blessing it is that the world wasn't allowed to spin too far out of control. Even if we were born in Israel, the odds would dramatically increase in favour of scorn for Christ. Getting back to the word "now", it cannot be inserted there accidentally or for the sake of padding the sentence with extraneous words. Prior to the flood, God could have dealt with that situation according to His unbridled judgment, but Noah softened His heart. At no point did God promise to unify the entire world, and no promises were broken that I could perceive. Justice isn't always pretty, but it wasn't violated in that case.

So I am now appeased of the above passage, and I will trust that, even if I have not properly understood God's intent, it surely reaches much farther than my capacity to interpret it. Once again, God has reached out to me and given me peace through my efforts to understand Him. (Perhaps some of you have better interpretations, and I am always willing to listen to them.)

Aside from all the things I've already mentioned, God instructed me last week to do some house cleaning at work. There were conflicts that had started to fester, so I intervened against my own judgment. It's something I had previously attempted to clear up in January and May, but I never followed through with it entirely. This time, it was all in. The funny thing is that God always comes through when I allow Him to, and, while it's getting less and less surprising to see His work in action, it never gets less exhilerating. In other words, my trust in Him is growing.

Earlier tonight, I had planned for something of an early sleep. I budgeted time to watch the Sens host the Capitals, and I watched the entire game. Even though my team lost, something critical happened during the course of the broadcast. It was something that afflicted me this afternoon, mostly when I was driving from points A to B. See, if I can use hockey as an analogy, I used to contribute to my own loss. I don't think I was ever terribly malicious, but I used to act quite selfishly. A lot of sin is selfish, I think. It was like I was allowing Satan to win a lot of games against me. I wasn't fighting back. In steps Christ, who wins a few games for me, erases my deficit, dresses me in brand new uniforms, all the padding a guy could want for the rink, and teams up with me. Suddenly, instead of letting Satan walk all over me, I'm thrust into a dog fight. Problem is, life's more complicated than merely outscoring an opponent. I need to play things as perfectly as I can. And as Satan seems to regard my eternal soul as a hot commodity, I find my mind, the cosmic battleground, pretty volatile of late. As I drove home, and as my mind wandered during the game, I started to envision horrible outcomes for all the things I hold dear.

"Psst. Hey, James! That weird little discomfort in your back. It's not from sleeping the wrong way; it's cancer."

"I have seen the future; you're gonna die alone."

"Don't trust in the progress you made at work; they're gonna bend you over and dig deep, buddy."

Yepper, quite an aggressor, that devil. If I had been smart, I would have stuck my nose into scripture the moment I got home. I would have probably done myself a world of good to pass on the last period of the game, when my mind was really hitting some sour notes. I knew it wasn't me, and I knew it wasn't God, and I knew the force behind it would not stop trying to knock me down some pegs until I exhale my last breath. But the important thing to note here is that I did stick my nose in the Book, and I did solve an issue that I had previously written about, and I did read farther than I had a few years ago, and I now find myself in a situation that, had you described it to me prior to October, I would have told you to pound sand. But, after what I've experienced, that's not an option.

See, my previous post was based mostly on anticipation. I have indeed spoken with a few non-followers about my commitment to Christ, and I have indeed met a lot of scepticism about how important it is for me to follow this path. But I know the floodgates haven't opened on that one yet. And they probably will. And here is where a lot of people on the fence are going to really question my logic, but how could I possibly call myself a Christian and not pursue to the same extent I expended on trivial things like music and video games? Sorry, same extent should read as much further than.

So, finally getting around to my ultimate point, the one that, after having read it, was clearly going to prevent me from sleeping, at least not until I catalogued it here. Like I said, I don't believe in half salvation. That'd be equivalent to half perfection. Neither exists. This time, it's not as complex as morality or creation. I thought those were large hurdles, and they were. This one should be, but it's not. What I can't do is offer an opinion, so I'm putting forth a question. Only informed answers will be considered, but here are the passages that I need to know more about:

Genesis 17: 1-10 "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and thou be perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall they name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumsized."

In my sitcom spit take voice: "HOYO!"

Now then, a few disclaimers. I'm quite certain that Christ put to rest a lot of rituals that, honestly, I'll never understand. Burning livestock as an offering to God, for instance. Earlier in Genesis, rituals like these are mentioned to produce smells that are pleasing to God, and perhaps they are, but I can't think of any examples of this over the past 2000 years. Bear in mind, I'm still pretty new to all this, which means I have a lot to learn but haven't reached a point of burnout or novelty with it. God's path can't be reduced to novelty, anyway. It's life or death. So, considering that Christ was Jewish, and, if I am to correctly understand that Christianity is virtually indistinguishable from Judaism until Christ came to erase our sins, is Christianity therefore not based on elements of both belief systems? Let's just say that I am in violation of that covenant, if it applies to me. Does it?

Regardless of what you think of me, I'm going to must needs side with God on this one. But I don't really plan to commit to removing flesh from yours truly if this covenant is A) outdated, which it says it never will be, or B) not applicable to me. Otherwise, I guess I have a date with the Yellow Pages.

For the record, in case you're wondering, I get much more peace from airing these bizarre truths than I do from concealing them. As I said before, the truth is liberating. It really is. But yeah, not knowing about this one really kind of sucks. Much more than the initiative I may have to take soon. Not thrilled, mind you; but not afraid, either. Just like human laws, ignorance is no excuse. And now that I know about this clause in the contract I've made with God, I need some freaking advice already. Funny thing is, about an hour ago when I said out loud to God that I was willing to do whatever it takes, Satan suggestive mind games, well, that little bugger is sulking somewhere. We'll leave it at that, for now.


Blogger Slave Morality said...

I can't tell you how relieved I am to find these, you had me worried there for a minute.

"For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we can wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love." Galatians 5:1-6

"It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that would compel you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who receive circumcision do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God." Galatians 6:12-16.

"Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh." Philippians 3:2-3.

Found these on this page:


9/11/07 09:25  
Blogger James said...

Well, tremendous thanks are in order. And, as I noted, I wasn't going to go through with this until I had completely resolved the issue, but I am absolutely astounded at how unafraid I was to raise this issue. I find it absolutely ridiculous that most people would be more stringent in enforcing the rules of "Go fish", but when it comes to their immortal souls, shortcuts seem okay. Anyway, you really came through for me today. Thank you!

If nothing else, this incident proves why I need to read the Bible cover to cover, and repeatedly.

9/11/07 10:02  

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