Thursday, June 10, 2010

Jesus is the good... gardener?

Today my mom was planting some basil seedlings. She took a few out of the peat container and planted them next to some other plants, but one for some reason she left lying on the step. It didn't look any smaller or sicklier than the others, but for some reason she neglected to plant that one. So I picked it up and found a space for it next to a snapdragon - it probably wouldn't be able to grow very tall, but at least it could grow.
Later, after I went inside, I started crying... the strange thing was, I was crying not about the basil seedling, since I had already rescued it, but because I realized something about how much God loves us... I've thought of people as "bugs" compared to God, or as "Sims", but never before as "seedlings"... It's hard to really love a bug, and "Sims" are just computer game entities, but seedlings are real things that people take care of... and they're even less powerful than bugs! But God cares for us nonetheless, and the reason why is because God knows that seedlings grow into mature plants which yield fruit - that fruit being our ongoing relationship with God! Jesus said in a parable that he would sow many seeds of faith, but only the ones that fall on good soil would grow into plants that could be harvested. And just as harvest time must be hard for a plant to go through, so it is with our walk with God - the times we're closest to God are the times in which we realize our relative insignificance, and God tells us (in sometimes painful ways) that while we might be insignificant to ourselves or other people, we are significant in his eyes for the very reason of this spiritual harvest!
But Jesus also said he would burn the plant which does not bear fruit... I'm not sure what that says about the duration of punishment in hell - on the one hand, plants burn quickly, but on the other hand, there's the whole "eternal fire" thing... In any event, though we might be like seedlings to God, we're more than seedlings to each other, and we can actually help each other bear fruit when the going (growing?) gets rough! So I hope I'm helping at least one person bear fruit here... whoever you are, God does want to cultivate a relationship with you, and while he's certainly able and willing if necessary to count you as chaff and not wheat, I'm sure it must be a painful decision... why not show some willingness on your part to listen to what God has to say to you? God only wants to reconcile with you... isn't that kind of amazing in its own right, that God, who is both the plaintiff and the judge, would want to reconcile with the defendant? And yes, I do say defendant - everyone has sinned in some way or other against God, and since God is the judge as well, wouldn't it make sense to take him up on his offer of a "get out of jail free" card? Look throughout the Bible - God gave so many people a second chance, even before Jesus came to the earth...  Noah and his family were spared the flood, because they listened to God... Even at Sodom and Gomorrah, God allowed Abram to search the city several times trying to find righteous people to be saved... And the Ninevites were granted a reprieve after they obeyed the words of Jonah; the city was not ransacked until they returned to their wicked ways. God is truly a loving, merciful judge, and Jesus is the good gardener, who won't let any of his seedlings... well, they can't wander away like sheep, but whatever seedlings do when they feel like being naughty!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

God does not walk in a straight line... but he's not drunk!

Sometimes people get caught up in rituals... "We've done it this way for 500 years - why change now?" But God didn't institute rituals for their own sake, or even for God's benefit... what benefit could human actions provide to God? He's God! He's more powerful than all humans put together! No, God instituted rituals for OUR benefit... people tend to forget about God over time, and rituals are a way to remind us of God's presence. But the moment they are performed for their own sake, or as something done to "appease" God, they become useless. The rituals have no intrinsic value, and we're incapable of appeasing God!

Think of Abraham going up on the hill to sacrifice Isaac... Yes, God called him to do that. But did God allow him to follow through with it? No! God didn't actually want Isaac to die; he just wanted to test Abraham's faith. Why would he do that? Not for his (God's) own benefit... God already knew the measure of Abraham's faith. He wanted Abraham to see it for himself!

God later instituted a sacrificial system in Israel. But did those centuries of sacrifices actually earn any favor for the Israelites? No, the prophets would say that they were not enough to cover up human iniquity. They did, however, remind the Israelites that God is important, such that sacred writings could be passed down for centuries with minimal loss...

Then, a LONG long time later, Jesus comes around, and those old writings are still around... and some folks realize that Jesus kinda fits the bill of this savior guy predicted in the writings... Naturally this is a polarizing event - some people (like King Herod) think this means the end of the world as they know it, and thus try to kill him off early on to prevent any changes to the status quo. Others think this is wonderful news and go around preaching about Jesus. Eventually the "kill him off" crowd seems to win, but the cat's out of the bag already, and lo and behold, Jesus comes BACK, even AFTER he's been killed, and reiterates the promises of the eternal kingdom, and that really bolsters the movement...

So now we've got maybe a third of the world's population who believe in the message of Jesus, and countless others who have believed and died already. And still no eternal kingdom... So, what do we do? Well, some of us go on following the same old rituals, and others come up with new rituals, and others give up hope entirely... And some of us go back to asking, "OK, what now, God?"

It's like God is leading humanity through a forest, and some people stop to look at the wildlife and lose sight of God for a moment... "OK, he was going north before... let's keep on going north... north... north..." not realizing that God turned to the east while the folks were admiring the scenery. Why would God turn east? God's not changing his mind; no, God is just trying to lead us away from danger! Maybe there's some bears or a volcano or something just a bit further north, and it would be safer to detour to the east for a bit.

So the trick is, keep your eye on God! Keep asking God, "OK, where do I go now?" God won't lead you wrong; if it seems like God is leading you wrong, then maybe you're not hearing him correctly. East and west are easy to mix up! Ask again - talk to people you trust to get a second opinion - "is this REALLY what God is telling me? I don't THINK God would be leading me into a lion's den... but then again, maybe I'm supposed to tame the lions?"

Friday, February 26, 2010

How many astrophysicists were on Noah's ark? Maybe pi?

I just had this thought... You know how the dimensions of Noah's ark seem to imply that pi was somehow equal to exactly 3? Is it possible that God was being intentionally imprecise with the plan, leaving the details up to human ingenuity? God does seem to do that a lot... you pray for something, and your prayers are answered, but not in quite the way you might expect - you have to figure out what God's trying to say to you, or another human being comes along and offers what you need. And that's how salvation works too - it's not ENTIRELY God's doing; God certainly does the bulk of the work there, but it requires a tiny step of human effort called "faith"...

Another possibility of course is that pi WAS equal to 3 at the time, but due to the natural degradation of the universe, spacetime has curved such that it is no longer equal to 3 (much as a triangle drawn on the surface of the earth has the sum of its angles greater than 180 degrees)... I suppose we could test for that with some sort of laser measuring device - OK, pi is one millionth of a percent more than it was last year! -  but the first idea is more spiritually satisfying! :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

An entropic view of evolution, miracles, and the apocalypse

One time I was discussing the origin of the species with my friend who had previously brought me back to the church, and I was arguing in favor of evolution from a common ancestor (accelerated and manipulated by God, of course) while he was arguing in favor of a massive creation from which things degenerated, each creature containing "potential" for numerous other types of creatures similar but not identical to itself, with the amount of potential in each creature decreasing over the generations.

That theory sounded kind of silly to me, but now I realize that he's probably right... he didn't deny that evolution could happen; he simply said that no new species could appear through evolution, only changes in existing species!

So think about the universe in terms of thermodynamics... the second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy in any closed system will always increase. What's entropy? Well, it's basically homogeniety, or sameness. If all the universe were empty, for instance, entropy would be at a maximum. That's the way the universe was "before creation", so to speak. But then God created things, and since God is above nature, he has the power to reduce entropy, which he did then, and has done throughout history - we call these occurrences "miracles". The universe will then degrade over time - stars burn out, species go extinct, people grow old and die - but every so often God injects a shot of "anti-entropy drug" into the universe! God doesn't do that in huge ways very often, though, because he wants us to see that actions have consequences.

So what will the end of the universe look like then? Scientists tell us that one of the likelier possibilities is that the universe will just burn itself out - everything will become the same once again. That's almost like the Eastern philosophies of the "universal oneness". And that's what would happen were God not to intervene once again, once the universe (or at least humanity) has completely burned itself out! So the prayer asking Mary to "pray for us in the hour of our death" might not only refer to individual death, but death as a species. Once humanity has reached the point of annihilation, God will step in at the behest of all who have gone before (as described in Revelation where the departed saints have been pleading around the altar for ages) and rescue those who will accept his aid - all the rest (of whom I hope there are few or none) will be annihilated - but not by God's "punishment" or "wrath" - no, I think the "lake of fire" must refer to what remains of the earth after the apocalyptic war!

What does this mean we should do, though? Often I think the world is headed downhill - well, according to the Bible, as well as to science, I'm right! But does that mean I should study physics and start developing more powerful weapons of mass destruction in order to hasten the kingdom of heaven? No, while that would not affect my personal standing with God, it would not be what God wants me to do! It almost sounds like God is sadistic, but God wants the world to drag on as long as possible... not for any sadistic purposes, this is simply because the longer the world lasts, the more people there will be to join him in a relationship in heaven, which is what he's been seeking all along! What God wants me to do is to share my experiences with others so that they may come to know him through my testimony.

So yes, God has changed my life, and for the better, I'd have to say! If you don't know God or are confused about who he is, ask me or any other Christian - if we can't answer your question, we can at least point you in the right direction!

Friday, January 22, 2010

10 commandments? Aww, I wanted a stone tablet!

So I was reading Exodus 19-20, where God speaks the 10 Commandments, and I was surprised by something...

God spoke the commandments directly to all of Israel???

I always had this image of Moses going up on the mountain in seclusion, with everyone else awaiting his return, and Moses takes some stone tablets up to the top of the mountain, and ZAP! God engraves the commandments on them with a bolt of lightning... then Moses comes back down and presents the commandments to the nation...

But the story I read in Exodus says that God actually came down from the sky in a cloud surrounded by lightning, and spoke to those who would come and listen... and not only that, when people actually heard God speak, they said "Oh, Moses, we're so scared! Please, don't let God talk to us any more... you go and talk to him and tell us what he has to say!"

As if Moses had the power to silence God! The only person who has the power to silence God is the person who won't himself listen... and I bet that person has that power only because God is restraining himself from forcing the issue!

Speaking of which, I think I need to listen more, and be less scared of what God might say...