Valentine’s Day Musing: Some thoughts on love

Today, 2/14/2012 is Valentine’s Day. It is a day where love is celebrated. It is day special attention is giving to doing what we believe will let those around us we care about know how much we care. We express love in a variety of ways through words, deeds, and gifts. Every person wants to love and be loved. It is something deep within each of us. God created us in His image, and thus the giving and receiving of love is part of who we are. The moments we experience of love, the moments we give love reflect God. Sadly, our love is imperfect and clouded in our own wants and desires. We love, not simply to love, but to be loved. When we fail to experience love in the ways we perceive we should be loved, we get hurt. Even when experience a touch of love, it does not satisfy. It is not enough. None of us are capable of loving as God loves, we all falter. None of us love purely or are purely loved by anyone else. We all have a skewed view of love.

God did demonstrate pure love. We find that love at the cross of Calvary where God in human flesh took on all of human suffering and frailty and providing the way that can save all those that accept His love, truly. Yet, some how we do not really grasp that love. Even those who have believed that God expressed love in such a way so as to enable relationship with Him, we fail to grasp. God’s love is far greater than we can comprehend. We get focused on what we experience. God often feels like this great “other” who lives a “way up there” and fails to act. Thoughts come to mind that if God is love, why does he seem so distant? Why is he not active in the world to reduce the pain we experience? Why does he allow bad things to happen. We does he not prevent unloving actions. Why does he not stand in way of all evil? How can God stand in the midst of great pain and sadness without doing anything to relieve it? Wouldn’t real true love always give what is right and never generate or allow pain? We just do not grasp love at all.

What we fail to grasp, is love is not about the momentary, the instantaneous. Love is not about getting what we think we need. Love is not about being flattered and showered with all that is good. No love is the giving fully of all in the midst of where we are. God has given us words to know love is not really about all that feels good. We quote those words often, they are used in weddings and even included in Valentine’s day cards. Take a good read over 1 Corinthians 13 and pay particular attention to verse seven. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That verse does not speak to the absence of difficulty or pain. It does not speak to giving others whatever they think they want. The verse speaks of giving a covering, holding firm, building up in the midst of pain, moving forward in the midst of whatever may be happening. Good, bad, or ugly love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. Love is persistent in all times and circumstances.

While our understanding and grasp of love is flawed, what we do grasp and experience reflects God who is love. Not our twisted concept of love based on whatever we think is best for us, but rather love that knows each of us intimately and knows what benefits us, knows even how what we experience will enable us to grow in love. He knows each one, each moment of failed love. He experiences that pain. He knows the depth of the failures in love, yet still what is of love is greater. God has shared that the impact of love in our lives is far greater than any wounding. For in God’s love is all safety, all security, and there is no lack even if we do not experience it in the now. So take time to think about love, think about the people God has brought in your life that touched you for the good and enabled you to experience love, even if you did not get it at the time. Seek to grow in love, for compared to God, our love is but of a child and driven of self but a time is coming when we will mature in love and demonstrate that to others. Our actions of love, however imperfect, always matter.

Passion Week Musing: Resurrection Sunday

Today is the day that darkness was defeated. Today is the day everything changed. Today is the day the stone was rolled away. Today is the day the tomb was found empty. Today is the day that the temple was raised again. Jesus is alive. Jesus is risen. Today is the day where when the emotions from the dark Sabbath turn to great rejoicing. The disciples initially were confused, bewildered, and uncertain. How could this be? Jesus alive! Unheard of, could it be? Yes, it in fact was. Oh glorious day. Jesus is alive. He is returned from dead. Not bruised and broken but whole. Yes, he still has the wounds, the scars, but he showed no sign of being hampered by injuries. There is nothing that can measure up to the joy the ecstasy of learning of Jesus rising from the dead. This was the true game changer. What seemed to be cause of hopelessness and despair led to great joy! Suddenly things began to make sense. Jesus became the sacrificial lamb. He fulfilled Passover that all who chose to believe would be saved. He defeat all darkness. He defeated death. He defeated the powers of this world. Why? Because He arose! His victory is why all heaven proclaims “Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!” Praise God the Lord Almighty for Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Now is the true time to proclaim Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Now is the time of true peace on earth, goodwill toward men. His purpose fulfilled. True wholeness, true peace is now available to all receive. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day the way is made clear. Today is the day that the truth is made known. Today is the day that brings true life. Today is the day that a miserable sinner like me has been transformed to a member of God’s kingdom with a relationship with the creator. This all because HE AROSE! He paid the price. Now I am made clean and whole. Sin has no further charge. I am free! So I celebrate because HE IS RISEN! HIS IS RISEN INDEED! Today is the day of the beginning of the end.  God’s love fully revealed.  All restoration made possible.  God’s kingdom come.  AMEN!

Passion Week Musings: The Olivet Discourse

In terms of Passion Week, after causing great disruption at the temple and driving out moneychangers and merchants the next documented event is that of the Olivet discourse. Jesus took extended time to give last words to the crowd of disciples. The discourse was his last public teaching. He spent time speaking in prophecy and parables. His teaching included the commentary on the ten virgins and the five talents. He also provided warning to remain in truth and warned of deceivers. He prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and the times leading up to His second coming. It is worthwhile to take time to read the varied accounts of the Olivet Discourse found in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and 25, and Luke 21. Jesus is quick clear that there is great difficulty and tribulation coming before His return both in terms of Israel and those in God’s kingdom. He makes it clear that there are signs to attend to and that love can grow cold and people can and will be deceived. Also emphasized in the discourse is the importance of our actions following what we say we believe.Through all of what Jesus talked about, there is one point that catches my attention today.

Jesus summed up his discourse with a call to stay awake. The book of Mark ends the account of the discourse in Mark 13: 34-37 (ESV): “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” So Jesus emphasizes the importance staying awake. The point is further clarified in the way Luke’s account wraps up the discourse in Luke 21:34:36 (ESV): “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” So Jesus does give clear directive that there will be pain, loss of self control, and distractions of life that can draw one away from attending to the Gospel.

There are endless varieties of pain; endless ways to lose self; and unyielding array of life concerns that can take the focus and result in failing asleep and failing to attend to the matters of a servant in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is noteworthy that in many circles within the Body of Christ are calls for revival and suggestions of revival happening in one location or another. In this discourse, Jesus warns not to go chasing from one location or another. He simply directs us to stay awake. Staying awake is actively attending to the matters of the Kingdom of God. It is found in loving others and attending to the various signs as they occur. It is taking focus away from pains, pleasures, or tasks of life and instead seeking to be about the Father’s business. No one else can supply what is needed, rather staying awake involved actively worshipping in spirit in truth. It is depending on the fuel of God and investing what He has given in order to spread God’s kingdom. His Kingdom is not of politics, it is not about relief of suffering, it is not about giving us all we want and reducing the cares of life. Rather, his Kingdom is about loving God and loving others fully and letting others know that there is only one way, one truth, one life, and one gate; JESUS! So stay awake and if caught up in the varied elements of life that lure and entrap like the Siren’s call of myths, WAKE UP! For Jesus return is always and ever SOON! He is the soon and coming King. We have all we need and all that is need for true revival is for each of us to wake up and actively use what God has given.

Limited vs Unbound Love: Valentine’s day musing

Everyone desires love. The question is what level of love they will settle for. Today on Valentine’s day, love is the theme. Examining the theme of love there are two concepts to which this mind is drawn. The two concepts are of limited love and unbound love.

First let’s examine limited love. Limited love is self-generated. It is love that focuses on loving others in reflection of love received. It is loving others based on what they do for you, the needs met. There are types of love that fall into this category. Romantic love fall into a type of limited love. It is based on attraction and being built up and loved by another. It eventually fades as it has a limit. Another type of limited love is familial love. Now there is familial love that transcends limits, however, all too often family is elevated about all and becomes soul focus. The focus on family and can result in limiting love in other directions outside the family sphere. It really comes down to loving those in our lives. It is what meets the needs of self or is derived from self. Limited love is limited in many ways including duration, scope, and practice.

There is another type of love though, the unbound love. A more familiar way of phrasing this is unconditional love. Unbound love knows no limits as it is love not self-defined. Unbound love flows from the heart and touches others. It is the type of love by which one can bless their enemies. It is the type of love that gives without hesitation. It is love transcending the limits of self and giving fully of self. This type of love is love that transcends self. It is the type of love that can flow with a person who is right with the Creator of the Universe. It is the love that is found at the cross and death of Jesus. It is the love that is seen by people giving of themselves at great personal cost. It is love that often is not seen as people quietly work toward loving others.

Personally, unbound love is this writers preference, but all too often fall short. My behaviors and responses are often steeped in self and trapped by my limits. I love my wife and family in perfectly, and often react out of my own needs and desires while missing or ignoring theirs. My own limits are seen in struggling to continue to be intentional in writing in a daily basis. My limits of love are seen in times of struggling to follow-through with made commitments. We all truly need to taste the unbound love. God created us with the un-quenching desire for that real charity. The wounds of life we all experience are due to facing on form of limited love or another. Our expectations and desires are squashed.

So how do we walk in greater levels of unbound love. It has to start with walking each dad in surrender to Jesus and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. It starts with loving God with the whole self and as we do that love becomes evident in our treatment of others. The more aware of being truly loved in a way unbound and immeasurable, as God loves each of us, the more able we are even able to love those who despise us. Ultimately, each of us are growing more and more in being able to love in unbound ways, or we face greater and greater limits to love, which results in fewer and fewer ways of truly being connected and truly loved.

Symptoms of a Hyper-sexualized Culture: Tiger Woods & David Letterman

Let’s face it.  America and the whole of North America is obsessed with sex.  Actually the focus on sex is far more extensive, throughout most of the world there is a huge focus on sex.  The pornography industry makes billions of dollars for a reason.  However, it is not just the titillation and gratification of the erotic that is part of the focus but the focus on the comings and goings of famous people makes billions of dollars as well.  Talk of sex of any kind draws interest.  An article on this blog about some sexual inpropriety at the Metrodome brought many hits. The fact is in general people attend to and are even over-focused on conversation about sex. 

Currently the United States and world is attending to the choices and sexual behavior of Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Wood.  Tiger is famous worldwide for his ability to hit a little white ball into a small hole with a stick.  Tiger’s choices are not really any different than a lot of people, he simply has unlimited opportunities based on his fame and fortune.  Another famous person in the news for his sexual daliances is David Letterman.  His behavior and infidelity should not be a shock to anyone.  He has always been very flirtatious with female guests.  There are many, many others as much money is made tracking the sexual proclivities of those famous and infamous.

Now while the culture is fascinated by the sexual activities and indescretions of the famous and infamous, efforts are underway to encourage assorted sexual engagements and minimize the difficulties.  A recent study at the University of Minnesota concluded that casual sex does not result in negative emotional consequences. The study surveyed just over 1300 sexually active students and used self-esteem and depression questions to measure negative consecuences. The study concludes that in general sexually active people are not disturbed and feel generally good about there sexual encounters and do not feel bad.  While the researchers report the results a suprise when you examine the emphasis culture puts and teaches on sex it should not be a suprise. Rather, in this day and age people are prone to feel depressed and have lower self-esteem if they are not engaged in sexual encounters either committed or casual.

The evidence of hypersexualization of culture cannot simply be concluded from that study.  A study in Montreal recently made the news by indicating that there is no men in Montreal that are “porn virgins.” Universite de Montreal assistant professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse wanted to study the difference between men exposed to porn and those that had not been exposed to porn. He could not find any young men not exposed to porn.  He then went on to interview twenty men and concluded that porn does not have a negative impact on the viewers and their life choices.  In essence it minimized any negatives that come from use of porn and normalizes it, all based on interviewing twenty men and asking them about there porn viewing, sexuality, and relationships.  Ultimately it is simply another flawed study that supports the hyper-sexualization of culture.

The fact is sexual intimacy has really become about seeking pleasure and self-fullfillment. It is about not witholding that which is gratifying. Our culture no longer considers all the relational aspects of sex, rather is pushes the seeking of self-fullfillment.  When people such as Tiger Woods and David Letterman engage in that self-gratification, then society focuses on their lack of self-restraint and publicly mocks them for doing that which culture ultimately encourages.

Ultimately we are all responsible for our choices.  The values and mores that embrace self-gratification and fullfillment above all else are engrained, but we each have responsibility for our own choices.  There is a better way than that which is promoted in our culture. It is the way of a pure, committed relationship within the confines of marriage.  Sex should be the final step of intimacy between a man and woman and should reflect the bond that is already formed between the two. Sex is the joining together of two people and it creates a lasting bond.   In comparison, the current elevated view of sexual pleasure in society is a damaged view. Relationships suffer over and over because of choices made related to sexual self-fullfillment. 

So given these symptoms and the ongoing efforts to normalize and minimize the negative consequences the self-fullfillment approach to sex, how do we reduce those symptoms.  Well, the world is the way it is. Ultimately even if you personally maintained healthy sexual initimacy within the confines of marriage there are many temptations and snares to create negative relational consequences.  Both men and women a like are assualted with tempting sexual options to seek self-fullfillment.  However, at the end of the day, whether by sexual pleasures or other efforts to seek self-fullfillment they all end up returning with emptiness. For the pleasure is temporary, and each of us have an ongoing yearning for more.  That yearning for more is not satisfied by any level of pleasure and is but momentary.  The reason is ultimately we need connection with the Creator.  We need to be in proper relationship with the author of love.  We need to experience true love, instead many settle for the momentary and fleeting pleasures. The world distorts the reality of what was created to build and reflect love. The created pleasure is used to fill the whole from the loss of relationship to God and His love.  His love though is readily available and is far more satisfying in the long run than any pleasure of the moment.

Thoughts from a Funeral: Do you fully love?

My wife plays piano and as such at times I get privileged to attend things like other peoples weddings and funerals that normally would not attend.  Tonight I was at a funeral of  Josephine “Josie” Foy mother to a member of New Joy church, David Foy.  The church is the one I am a member of and had asked for prayer for the pastoral search earlier this year.  I don’t recall if I ever met Josephine in my time around the Foy family, but I don’t think so.   Being around funerals or intense emotion is always intense for me as I take on the emotions that are there as an empathetic response.  The funeral was touching and one that did present a sound Gospel message as well.  The special music was touching and fitting of the event and those mourning the loss certainly must have been touched.   The funeral as a whole touched me as well, particularly the Eulogy David Foy shared and the bit of this woman’s life.

Josephine “Josie” Foy apparently lived a hard life and her father was physically abusive. She was a simple woman with limited skills.  David may the point that why her skills may be limited she always gave her all.  She gave everything she had into trying to raise her children in difficult times and much poverty.  She poured herself into her children.   So the first way I was touched is to reflect on the importance of total giving of self to God.  If we do not give fully of what God has given us and walk in true surrender we fall short of genuine response to God.

Another point that touched me from what David shared in the Eulogy was his description of Joyce as content.  He indicated that  whatever she was asked she responded “I’m fine.”   He suggested that her reply was not the simple polite exchange but a true reflection of her state of mind, for her she was always fine regardless. 

The third element David shared about his mother that touched me, was that he was uncertain until just before she died of her position in Jesus.  His wife Heidi years ago and been led to share Jesus with his mom and her significant other and they at that time, opened their hearts to Jesus.  David had doubted the sincerity of that encounter until his mother assured him that she was ready to die on all levels, meaning she was right before God.

Now all that is interesting but the most powerful element learning about David and his mother was his telling about his reaction to the fact that as children his mother had given away David and his sisters and they moved on to foster care.  David talked about confronting his mother as a young adult and being able to let go of bitterness because he learned that her action was one of self-sacrifice and love.  She couldn’t care for the children herself so she gave them away.   This story really points to the importance of perspective.  When looking at things from our own eyes and pain we can view things that were done of pure love, to be something done out of evil.  We have the view that no one who loves another would cause pain or abandonment.  Yet, here, David’s mother Josephine Foy gave up David and his sisters because she loved them enough to recognize they needed more than she could provide.  And ultimately God has used that story even to this day with David’s Eulogy of his mother, and the impact on myself and others. 

Ultimately from this story the over all message is that of the importance of loving totally, giving all of self.  Josephine gave her all at great personal loss and even becoming the object of anger because of love.  She did not hold back.  Her life reflected brightly God’s love.  True, she likely made many hurtful choices that came from self, but she also reflected God’s love even before she had entered His Kingdom.  In reflecting on  1 John 4:7 (KJV) comes to mind:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

Josephine Foy before officially entering the Kingdom of God, showed pure love.  When she was presented with the opportunity to turn fully to God, she did not hesitate and accepted it so easily it left lingering doubt.  Yet, the quick acceptance seems to flow  from the truth of this verse.  Those that love are born of God and know God and when told of how to reconcile fully to God, there is no real hesitation as the state of heart being centered on love accepts what is known in the heart as true.

Now to wrap this article up, please consider to take to heart the life of Josie Foy.  Love God and others with all that you are and by so doing reflect God’s love.  In so doing you will learn more about God and grow in intimacy, for intimacy with God is known in how we love. 

 

 

 

Movie Commentary: The Mummy-Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Yes, I actually spent time watching another movie. I do enjoy movies, even some that are not the best done. I went with my wife and mother and saw The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. And to the reader, again a reminder that my commentaries when read will include spoilers, so you may want to stop reading if you care about spoilage.

 In terms of the technical merits of the film, it was at best an average action film.  Plenty of fighting, gun shots, explosions, and other special effects fill the screen.  The movie even tends to have some developed themes to the script. The writers and director of the film do not take themselves too seriously. I think of the three mummy films, this one was not as well done as the other two but definitely a fun movie to watch and worth viewing. 

However, the film is not real artful in presenting the product.  The acting is mechanical and devoid of true emotional connection.  The movie does more “telling” the story then showing the story. You really don’t feel the emotion of the conflicts depicted on screen, but really get told they exist, or if shown, shown mechanically. The movie does have a lot of interesting puns, some entertaining, some fall flat. They even have the actress playing Evelyn (Maria Bello, 2nd actress playing role) stating “I’m not that person.”  The funniest moment for me was the Yeti putting up arms for a field goal after kicking a soldier head through some posts of some sort.  

The film of course relies heavily on special effects. The most interesting was the three-headed dragon. The most impressive special effect to me was the avalanche with the evil emperor mummy walling it with a wind for a short period.  There are some instance though that the special effects are not real clear.  Twice the evil emperor mummy transforms itself into some form of beast, but it is not real easy to figure out what he is supposed to be.  Overall, though the film was fun and enjoyable and if you enjoyed the other movies, you should enjoy this one.

Now that the technical merits have been examined, now time to explore the themes of the story.  I will of course examine things, as always from a Christian perspective.  This movie, like most Hollywood movies contains themes that can be related to Christian theology and symbolism, but it is clearly coming from a non-Christian theme.  The movie displays a magical and mystical view of the supernatural with magic being a force used for either good or evil.  And I don’t want to dwell on that fact any further, since there are more interesting theme dynamics to examine.

I think the movie all boils down to a central theme of being when we are reconciled and work together, even if coming from different perspectives, we can defeat evil.  This was really made evident in how they defeated the evil emperor. Rick (Brendan Fraser) initially states that the plan is to divide and conquer.  In the process of fighting the evil emperor, the special dagger that needs to go through the mummies heart to kill him, breaks in two.  Rick and Alex (Luke Ford) come together from different angles and reconcile the knife in the heart of the mummy, resulting in the mummy’s death and defeat. This scene encapsulated the varied themes of the movie into the central theme of ultimately coming together.

 The coming together and reconciling is important in the movie.  Rick and Evelyn at the start of the movie are missing each other and basically living in their own separate worlds.  They also are alienated from their son, who isn’t telling his parents what he is up to.  Everyone is doing there own thing.  When they come together for this adventure, they rediscover what they have in common and ultimately reconcile around those common elements, which ultimately is based on their love for each other, but also the similar ways they interact with the world.

As such, the movie also points out the need to be true to ourselves. We need to be doing that which fulfills how we are wired and created.  When we step back from our place in this world it can lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately conflict and isolation.  Rick and Evelyn came alive when they were back in the action versus being retired and holed up in their mansion.  

The movie does put a lot of emphasis on love.  The movie has love betrayed by the evil emperor resulting in the death of his general.  There is love restored between Rick and Evelyn, and there is the new love being formed between Alex and Lin (Isabella Leong).  Amidst these relationships also runs the theme of the value and importance of sacrifice.  The writers designate that the pure in heart sacrifice for those they love. Evelyn was willing to die for her husband.  Rick received a fatal wound for his son, Alex.  Lin and her mother sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) have their immortality sacrificed for a spell to raise those the Han Emperor (Jet Li) unjustly killed building the Great Wall. So by their sacrifices the writers designate the characters as good, pure in heart.

Of course as in any movie with mummies, resurrection is also a theme.  The movie has Han Emperor resurrected by water from a fountain in Shang-ri-la.  There is  Rick being spared from death by same fountain.  There is the resurrection by spell bring back  those wronged by the Han Emperor. There is also the immortality of the sorceress and her daughter.  The resurrections are generally limited to their tasks.  The emperor would become permanently immortal and set to take over the world. The resurrected wronged time ends when the evil emperor is defeated.  The sorceress and her daughter lose immorality in completing task to stop the emperor.  We don’t know the effects of the water on Rick other then keeping him from death.  Actually the movie does also draw from passing on of purpose from father to son, which is a fairly common theme connected to resurrection, that our lives and purpose carry on through our children.

So you have themes of reconciliation, love, sacrifice, resurrection, and purpose. These themes all taken from a standard secular view.  The movie shows love is epitomized through the romantic relationships as well as passing on of through our children.  The secular view is also seen in the reconciliation of coming together under the common bond of purpose, which is that of fighting evil in the film. 

These messages are positive and uplifting and definitely being cause for reflection, but it misses the boat when compared to Christian beliefs. Evil has been defeated through Jesus at the Cross and no need to fear some mummy coming to life to conquer the world. Christians believe there will be on last great political figure intent on taking over the world and who will be defeated when Jesus returns.  My mother  felt a connection to the resurrection of the Saints related to the resurrection of the oppressed and unjustly killed.  However, the resurrection of the Saints will not be just a bunch of flesh rotted corpses and skeletons but with new bodies. 

As a Christian, love is vitally important but love doesn’t stop at those we care about. Love doesn’t stop and burgeoning romance.  Love is to be displayed toward all and not a love that looks out for own needs but matches what is shown in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

The essence of that love as played out in sacrifice is found only in Jesus who is the true fountain of eternal life.  Eternal life is not some mythical fountain or spring, it is found in the gift of Grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus is the way the truth and the life.  Any sacrificial love on our part, is reflective of Jesus on the cross.  To have true eternal life, true resurrection, a person simply needs to accept Jesus sacrifice, and turn from the self-seeking and power grabbing that occurs in building kingdoms of self.  God has created true purposes for each person, things to do in the Kingdom of God that truly fulfill how you were created and no matter how successful you are, until you walk in the true purpose in the Kingdom of God you will not be satisfied.