Isaiah 53.

Who will come to hear the story

one that God has painted true?

With no part about Him special

why should we keep Him in view?

Some before us did mistreat Him,

jeered and scorned the One who saves;

He became a man of sorrows,

Every grief in life He braved.

Though we failed to love His presence,

yet He bears our burdens whole.

We saw death, and thought, “He earned it,”

didn’t see He saved our souls.

He took the beating meant for us –

because of sin, the Son was killed.

He laid His life down for our peace,

and by His wounds, we are healed.

So all of us, who’ve turned away,

had our wrongs and burdens laid

silently, upon His shoulders,

He, our Lamb, atonement made.

He was treated by His people

like a robber or a thief.

He did no wrong during His years

yet the Lord put him to grief.

Now we see what our transgressions

bear as fruit: the death of Him.

We’ve become now seen as righteous,

He intercedes for us, praise Him!

 

Well Taco.

It was a strange thing when I found myself in a position where I was driving home in silence and the urge to eat hit me, but the hour was just advanced enough for most stores to close their doors to the public.  Immediately, my mind started racing to various fast food options. Burger King was the first one that came to mind, perhaps to the dismay of the general public. Yes, I am aware that their food may very well be microwaved.  Yes, I know that there are other fast food restaurants in the area.  But, Burger King has established itself amidst my formative memories as one of the first establishments I was able to independently travel to and sit down in.  As I started driving down the road to Burger King, Kariya, a hot-pot, Korean BBQ fusion (wow that’s a lot of commas), lit my decision-making up with its neon signs.  Despite being supremely mediocre, it seemed interesting to try and eat there alone without feeling uncomfortable (due to the other patrons indubitably preconceiving notions about me and my life).  I performed a textbook ninety degree turn into the plaza and parked.  I told the hostess that I would be forming a party of one, which prompted her to inform me that single parties are to be made more miserable with an additional charge of five dollars. I was not that desperate to see both my spirits and my funds dwindle into smoke, so I politely (I hope) retreated back to my vehicle.  Isn’t it enough of a price to eat alone in a restaurant stocked to the brim with liveliness and camaraderie?  The aghast hole (read: gaping) that I reckoned to be my hunger was reconfigured in this moment of indignant self-awareness.  I wasn’t hungry; I was lonely.  In that moment, I realized: Lord, I am the woman at the well.  There is a hole in me that I presently had been trying to fill with food, and it’s no wonder it wasn’t working.  I know what caused the hole, but I hadn’t remembered or thought about its existence for a while until tonight.  Maybe it was the silence.  I was far too tired to commit to furthering the line of thought, so I settled on getting some Del Taco since I had already driven back and forth no further than five miles of my house.  Lord, I need healing, and I’m sorry for not following Your prescription.  I know what I’m supposed to do to fill the hole, but I need more time I guess. Forgive me.

Our Daily Bread.

Jude 1:17-18 says: “But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.'”

We now find ourselves, as a body of believers, walking in the aforementioned “last time.”  Yet, as we approach the return of our Savior, a striking problem becomes more and more visible: the generations have become more and more faithless, aside from the occasional flicker in the darkness.  The love of the Church (and I am not speaking here of the Catholic Church; rather, I am referring to the body of Christ of which Christ is head, as found in Colossians 1:18 and various other places in the Bible) has been mangled by the violent passions of each new wind of doctrine we hear in contemporary society.  Even some of the youth who faithfully attend Sunday services at a church find their vision of Christ obfuscated by their vision of social justice.  Now, this is not to say that the pursuit of social equality in its various manifestations – feminism, black lives matter, etc. – is somehow wrong or to be despised; they are all reasonably good causes, and causes in which we ought to feel a leading to be ambassadors.  I would, however, argue that Christ and His Bride are of far more importance in that when we were still sinners, Christ died for us so that we might have a heart for the brokenhearted circumstances we find ourselves in.

The problem with the love of the Body of Christ is a two-way street: our generation of believers holds our faith with grips that say, “Christ is coming soon, but my future is coming sooner.”  The church is at times both lukewarm and overzealous, creating a veritable chasm in its pursuit of the hearts of our generation.

As believers, we encounter the scoffers in our lives, certainly; in the context of social media and the online world at large, we may even fall perilously (but silently lest we disturb our friends, our co-workers, or anyone, really) into the margin of the quiet minority, bleating along with the loudest voices of the next polarizing issue.  When we say that we know Christ is coming soon, that we know He will come as a thief in the night, that we know to not be like the five virgins who came unprepared with oil in their lamps, what are we really saying? Is it something to the effect of, “I know all I need to know about Christ, but let’s be real; He isn’t coming yet,” or “It’s nice to be a Christian and all, but God probably wants me to be more concerned with helping people in the now and being a good person, you know?” As much as these thoughts are for an audience, they are also the manifestation of a deeper self-critique because I too find myself adopting these positions.  However, just as the disciples never stopped asking questions about Jesus in hopes of understanding Him more, so too should we ask questions about the Christ who lives in us.  Where does that certainty of His delayed return come from? Perhaps it’s because we don’t really have a hope in Christ’s return at all – then again, it may also be the case that we simply don’t know, in all of our “knowledge” of Christ, what exactly to expect of Christ’s return; we exchange our ignorance of His glory for the comfort of facing the present reality when, in the most prostrate of faiths, His return is the reality.  But no, we don’t actually want that, do we?  Jesus wouldn’t want us to just kneel before Him all day when people need to hear the Gospel, right? It’s true, and yet how much Gospel are we honestly sharing in our lives? If we answer the dormancy of our spiritual lives with sound, but empty, spiritual doctrines, how can we expect to speak life into the world around us?  Maybe we shouldn’t be so critical of Judas in John 12 when he is mortified by Mary’s “wastefulness” before the Lord; after all, doesn’t he have a point?  It would be better to use that money to help the poor, wouldn’t it?  If it wasn’t apparent already, many of the questions asked are asked sarcastically; what Judas is doing is not caring for the poor, but opting for his own comfort when witnessing true worship because giving up his own comfort to fall at the feet of Jesus is a greater price than the perfume Mary poured out for her Lord.

The church also has its share in contributing to the lackadaisical faith of its members, but less so because of what the church is doing and more so because of what the church has become.  Defaced by the actions of Westboro Baptist and other very publicly “Christian” groups who passionately stain the testimony of Christ on Earth, the church we love fights a war both against the unbelievers and the believers.  Its plight with the unbelievers is the tremendous loss of trust that being human within the church has produced; society looks with rapt attention on scandal and misrepresentation, and when the humanity of public Christians shows, it pounces on each anomaly as if it were a fact of faith.  And yet, the hope is that they would understand that we are not perfect people seeking to make unbelievers perfect; we’ve merely found a perfect hope that restores our imperfection before the eyes of a just and loving God.  Since this is the case, the church has begun a gradual retreat from the public sphere, believing discretion to be the better part of valor and not wanting to offend anymore people by its “radicalism.” The church’s ability to love has been crippled by humanity’s ability to hate, and so, the church is found at odds with its own body, as an adolescent going through puberty.  It is awkward and no longer knows how to present itself.  Show too much love, and it worries about being a cult; show too little love, and it loses the hearts of men.

In this very long-winded and ill-conceived post, I suppose the most important thing I have to say is that we no longer feast on Christ, the living Bread.  Our appetites are slaked by more present satisfactions because we are blind to God’s reality.  The church we ought to love has become marred by its inescapable past, and believers and unbelievers alike shoot fish in a barrel when criticizing it in its present state.

All that remains is to simply pray, “Father, give us this day our daily bread.”

Give us Jesus.

On Baking.

I’m not a great baker by any stretch of imagination; I don’t know how anyone could really stake such a claim when shows like “The Great British Baking Show” exist.  (If you haven’t watched the show yet, you have something to do in your free time now – it’s fantastic!).  However, when I do exercise my baking wits, I find that the most enjoyable part of baking above sampling my own creation, beyond taking pictures of the final product, is the solitude that comes with the effort.  From my experience, it’s held true that people enjoy baking together; the camaraderie, the division of labor, the shared memories – something about it really brings people together, apparently.  This is not to say that I prefer to be a baking hermit.  I think that baking with friends, especially friends who are more experienced, always proves to be a tremendous learning opportunity as well as a time to have fellowship and literally break bread.

However, something about being alone when I’m preparing ingredients calms the inward storms I face.  The way I prepare my butter to be mixed, how I keep my eyes level on the “one cup” line, and the various idiosyncrasies that come with a novice baker’s “feel” – all of these things thread themselves together in a composition of unrevealed artistry.  While they might not be the best methods nor the most efficient, the connection that develops during the entire process of baking can only be summarized as catharsis.  Depending on my mood, my thoughts, my experiences, it can feel as if the baking process takes years, or it can take minutes.  The preparation of the ingredients allows me to gather my thoughts; it prepares me for the mixing of the ingredients.  When I pour in the dry with the weight, I like to do it in thirds; how I feel at the beginning, middle, and end of whatever circumstances I’m going through.  At the end of it all, I’ll think about how I want to deviate from the recipe.  An odd pastime of mine developed from writing countless persuasive essays is finding skewed facets from which to view the world, and the same philosophy holds for my baking procedure.  I never want to conform to what has been previously established because distinction engenders innovation.  And whether or not the finished product is glass grade is besides the point; the point is that it’s art (thanks Pinkman).  Whatever I’ve baked has been put in an oven with my sadness, my stress, and my pain.  Yet how fitting is it that out of the bitterness comes something sweet?  Life is just one prolonged bake, after all; we start raw, become mixed in with the chaos of this world, and are exposed to heat until we arrive where we need to be, and that’s all.  And so, I bake to place my mind where my heart does not wish to be so that my tears might season the souls of all who taste and see.

Not I, but Christ.

Something that has been weighing on me lately is the notion of who is in AACF, as well as the slightly discouraging talk of people looking for other fellowships.  I’m going to take a moment and be honest – numbers don’t matter to me, but people I’ve grown to expect to stay deciding to leave does hurt me.  I’m glad that God has taken the opportunity to lead me to dust off my keyboard and actually embed some thoughts into digital paper on this thought because I can be forthcoming and genuine about the burden that’s on my heart; I should also really get back into writing, and I figure a journal entry would be the best way to lubricate the rusted fluidity.

But I digress; returning to the topic of membership in AACF, as well as the fear of people leaving AACF for other fellowships, I believe that the anxiety has been slowly finding roots in my mind, and the attitude bears some alarming signs for how I’ve developed in my faith in recent times.  I think the core of this mindset is best approached through two questions: why do I feel hurt when people choose to go to other fellowships, and what does being a member of AACF mean?

The first question is a question regarding who I am jealous for, and how involved I am with the membership of others in AACF.  The honest answer to why I feel hurt when other people opt for another campus ministry is I feel like I’ve done something wrong.  I feel torn between not representing Christ well enough and just being a miserable, wretched person – both of which can be true, but might not be the precise reasons why people search elsewhere for fellowship.  I wonder about the thoughts going through the heads of others and attempt to make efforts to reconcile with them, thinking that a change in my own character is enough to sway their opinion of AACF as a fellowship.  I look around at the brothers and sisters and stand amazed that they seem to not notice the departure of some members, and that bewilderment turns into scrutiny of our own individual characters.  I feel hurt because sometimes budding friendships get cut off by virtue of not sharing a fellowship any longer, and it’s a shame because when did going to another fellowship mean that we don’t worship the same God? When did it mean that I couldn’t even be friends with them?  Once these two accusations come in mind, the gravity of the situation is magnified, and my own faults are shown properly to me; not only do I believe that I have failed to express Christ’s life in my own life, but also I have lost sight of what it means to be a member of the fellowship.

Being a member of the fellowship does not mean that the members are the only ones who know Christ.  We’re all broken people, coming together in fellowship that we might know, to a greater depth, our perfect Savior, Jesus Christ.  Being a member of AACF does not mean that my friend pool is limited to those in AACF; it merely gives me a close community with which to share my experiences of Christ.  However, it need not be the only community in which I may share Christ because Christ’s sacrifice has adopted me into a family with numbers exceeding imagination – a family that I will never know to completion over the course of my entire life.  Being a member of AACF does not mean that I have to have a certain personality, social standing, or otherwise.  It does mean that I have the privilege of knowing many other believers, all at different points in their walks, and understand the characteristics of God through their various stories.   Being a member of AACF is not a binding contract nor is it a matter of allegiance; being a member of AACF just means that God has placed me in this fellowship to meet with these brothers and sisters at this appointed time akin to what Acts 17:26 says.

What is missing, what has been changed, and what has been dishonored is the truth that God is the one who is sovereign over all things.  I feel hurt when other people go to other fellowships because I take it personally; had I half of Phinehas’s jealousy for the Lord and His people, I would see that they are not departing from the faith, but finding other believers to fellowship with and adding to the family that we are all a part of.  My jealousy is a personal jealousy, not a divine jealousy, and my endgame has departed from wanting to see more souls enter God’s kingdom to being a personal validation of worth through a statistical insignificance (in God’s time).  I have not been a member of AACF seeking Christ to be exalted; I have been a proud human seeking recognition by way of membership numbers.  For this, I repent.  I have lost sight of Christ and His glory.  I have misunderstood His will in leading people away from AACF.  I have forgotten His mercy to me and to countless around me, in AACF or otherwise.  In the end, Christ is who we need to express in our day-to-day lives, irreverent of who is watching or who’s approval is garnered.  We are not seeking the praise of man, as I have been, but looking ahead to the day we humbly kneel before God and join Him in His kingdom, singing His praises.  If I am properly representing Christ to the best of my ability and people are pushed away from the fellowship, praise the Lord.  If I am living out the life that He lived and desires for me to live and people are encouraged to join AACF more, praise the Lord.  My only desire is that I may die, and that Christ might live in me, in every part of my ministry and service, bringing glory unto Himself.  For in the end, He alone is worthy, and my greatest boast shall not be in the weakness of my flesh, but in the overcoming, conquering, victorious work that He has wrought in my life.  May we continue pursuing Christ magnified in our lives, and may we see ourselves gradually become transformed into mirrors of Himself.

He Lost First.

Time for some shower thoughts.  This is entirely unrelated to what is at hand, but in the bathroom or in the shower is where I do some of my best thinking.  Something about how the light illuminates individual cells of the fiberglass sliding door while gradually heating water sprays my feet really helps me connect the dots.  Anyways, enough of that.

As a hopeless romantic, the fundamental basis of my thoughts stems from a strong inclination to romanticize.  This ranges from the standard, stereotypical, love-type romance to the true appreciation of love that abides in the core of nature.  The key to being a hopeless romantic, however, lies in the necessity of being romantic beyond reason; where I have been crushed, I only allow my shattered heart to become finer and finer dust, waiting for the heat of reciprocation to weld it into something whole again.  In terms of Christians having dual lives, I suppose this would be my alter ego.  This is the area of my life that I keep “hidden” from God, the part where it’s just about me and my desires, not really having anything to do with God.  It’s not necessarily the healthiest thing to do, but it’s a human fallibility that plagues me to such ends.

However, in the shower, the two lives intersected, and the unintentional emotional masochism of being hopelessly romantic resonated within my perception of Christ’s love somehow.  In a way, I go through what Jesus goes through except to a far lesser degree.  Just as my pursuits have ended in nought, Jesus still pursues those that He loves.  And because He has the advantage of foreknowledge of whether or not they’ll return His love, it makes it an even more beautiful image of how much He loves.  If I knew that there wasn’t a chance the people I pursued would feel the same way as I did, then I would drop the venture at once; Jesus, however, knows that some people will never accept Him, and yet He still loves them.  Jesus is the original hopeless romantic, and His love story is one that defies genre, with the narrative changing in certain aspects per person based on their own experience of Him.  It just so happens that chancing upon this facet of Jesus’s love reinforced my faith and love for Him.  If He can love the unlovable, what’s stopping me from going beyond myself to love people for more than just a purely selfish reason?  We love because He first loved us, and it’s that pure love that I should be focused on expressing, not some fantastical love borne of present solitude, because I have an eternal companion in the form of Christ Jesus.

So Much Pride.

Lately, I’ve just been getting the yawning sense of despair within me that pride is becoming an issue of mine.  This is not to say that it wasn’t necessarily an issue before, but it certainly didn’t get to the point where it actually bothered my conscience.  It is perhaps the result of numerous factors that I knew could potentially boost my confidence to a dangerous level, and now I find myself standing at that level.  But, I suppose this is my first step towards improving in humility – the admission that I am proud.

This gets me to thinking about how complex of a thing humility is, and yet what a necessary component of our Christian life.  The thoughts that always run through my mind go something like this:

1) Am I proud? If yes, why, and how can I bring it back?  If not, am I sure of that, or am I deceiving myself? (Already there is a lurking measure of complete and utter self-discipline and willingness to admit to a terrifying fault.)

2) Am I humble? This is the tricky part, because if I say, yes, I’m humble, is that not in itself somewhat of a boast in my own humility? If not, where is the pride coming from, and this sends me in a vicious cycle looping back to question 1.

There are a ton of self-deprecating thoughts that follow after once I realize what a dangerous position I’m in.  Things such as guilt for not being humble, frustration at seemingly never understanding what true humility is, shame at not being able to be humble while judging others for their pride – it’s all one great, big mess.  But then I start thinking about it more and more, and I realize that true humility is when these questions and thoughts and anxieties don’t even bother showing their faces.  It’s when it becomes such a natural state of selflessness that you don’t even realize that you are, in fact, humble.  The Lord could only be an example of humility if He was paradoxically confident in His humility; however, He lived it out with His actions and it made Him the example of humility for us to follow.  Understanding this is also another interesting point of the Christian walk because then, it becomes a question of not how can I improve my humility, but rather a question of when will I let Him be my humility and boast only in what He has done in me, for me, and through me?  Humility is really still too complex of an attribute for someone as impulsive and cerebral as me to really understand, but I commit it in the hands of my Lord.