Posts Tagged Joy

The Best Wedding Ever

It is a marvelous season of the year, and my life, as I have the joy and honor of seeing many of my friends happily becoming engaged or married. I have witnessed two weddings of very dear friends in this month alone, one of which was the most beautiful wedding I have ever been to. The chapel was gracefully decorated, paper lanterns of various shapes glowing blue. The wedding party entered, dressed in fine regalia, and the groom was beaming with joy of a dream come true. His youngest brother came in carrying a sign that read, “Here comes the bride!”

We all stood and turned our heads; it was as though an angel had appeared in our midst. Wearing white – the radiant fire of true purity – she shone in the light. The entire affair was pure loveliness, pure radiance, pure joy. The Light of the World shone through His beloved vessels that night.

The second wedding of the month was equally wonderful, but it felt different, unique. The bride appeared ethereal, and as we all stood gazing, the groom could not help but let a quick “Oh my goodness” escape his lips.

Then came the consummation of it all, when, after the vows had been said, the covenant had been affirmed, the pastor said, “You may now kiss your bride.” Oh, the beauty of pure love! I challenge any man who does not believe in magic to witness the purity and the happiness I saw as, somehow, two people are made into one flesh. This is something that the world cannot understand, for it is holy.

It is especially magical, knowing personally the bride and groom, and being intimate with their love story. The first groom is a man who has been my elder brother, a companion, and friend. The second, an intimate brother, one with whom I have fought alongside of, laughed alongside of, and cried alongside of. Their stories are both testimonies to the great grace and love of our God. As they both begin their lives together with their new spouses, I ask God to bless their unions. What God hath joined together, may no man break asunder.

Paul’s words in Ephesians 5 are some of the greatest and most beautiful verses on marriage in Scripture:

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

In the end, every Christian marriage is to be a parable of the love Christ has for His Church. A wedding ceremony in itself is a picture of this: The bride, dressed in white, cleansed and pure. They exchange a covenant, holy before God. The groom gives his life to his bride; the bride, in return, takes on the groom’s name, and will forever be known by him. They came in separate; they leave as one. This parable known as marriage will one day end, for it is but a shadow of what is to come. And imagine – if the shadow is glorious, how much more the fullness!

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On the Unwrapping of Gifts

Over the months I have been working my job (I work at a place for birthday parties), I have probably seen close to a thousand presents unwrapped. When I look into the trash cans and see the colorful array of torn paper, sometimes I think, “What a waste.”

It took a personal experience for me to understand why we love to wrap gifts. The thought hit me once more as I wrapped a gift for someone about five minutes before I left to go to their house and see them unwrap it. Since she would have it unwrapped very soon, it seemed to be just frivolous, especially since I was already in a hurry.

When she unwrapped it, however, and saw what it was, her eyes alighted and a broad smile spread across her face. A gasp escaped her lips, along with a quiet, “Wow.” That was all it took to ruin me; my pessimistic attitude towards gifts was undone. In that moment a powerful picture began to form in my mind. That tiny bit of time, in which she unwrapped the gift, contained all the emotions of wonder, joy, and gratefulness.

We wrap gifts because we want to see that moment when the recipient’s eyes light up, especially if it is entirely unexpected. Gifts express the joy of life, the bright of dawn. We cannot decide what type of gift we receive (we can, in a sense; but in the end, it is always out of our control). We do not expect to have to “pay back” anyone for a gift, though sometimes human compulsion causes us to. The only question I do not know the answer to is, who receives the greatest joy – the gifted or the giver?

As I thought about these heavenly realities, the powerful words of the apostle Paul came to mind:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Eph. 2:8-9

As I thought about that moment, filled with awe and joy, I thought back to when I realized what the grace of God truly was. A couple summers ago, I was talking to a brother about some things I was struggling with. He exhorted me in the plainest, yet most profound of ways: “Brother – you are in Christ. These things have no hold over you!” I paused; in that moment God’s Spirit came to me and showed me what His grace was for me. My friend’s words were true; sin had no more grip on me, because God had given me the gift of grace. Within me welled up joy unspeakable, and it would have been very appropriate if I had leapt up and down and done a wild jig, dancing as David before the Lord.

I am not advocating a faith based on feelings; our faith is based on the Rock of Christ, and it is immovable, no matter what our feelings may be. However, we should be profoundly affected by the gift of grace. Just think about what God has done for us. All throughout Ephesians, Paul tells us what we were without Christ’s grace:

“Dead in trespasses and sins… children of disobedience… by nature children of wrath… without Christ… aliens and strangers… without hope… without God in the world…”

We were all this and more. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has quickened [enlivened] us together with Christ, (by grace you are saved)…”

Think with me for a moment about this great gift. When I see what it is, it fills me with deep wonder, bounding joy, and a depth of gratefulness. However, it does not end with one “unwrapping”; there is something wonderful about this gift of grace. Rather, there is something very wonderful about the Giver of this great gift: He is Eternal. When I discovered the grace of God in a new way two years ago, that was not the last time – He has brought me back to the wonders of that singular gift again and again. Because God and His grace are eternal, we can never finish with them. We must unwrap them day by day, discovering new and deeper truths than we ever have before, and living a fuller life in Christ.

And that is the goal of the gift of grace; eternal life in Christ. In His words, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent (John 17:3).” He is our life here and now and for all eternity. He is the only Life. And because we have been brought into His grace, we can enjoy Him more and more every day.

“For the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” – John Piper

If you have not experienced the grace of God, or are simply curious about more of my thoughts on anything, please comment. I would love to hear from you. 

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: The Practice of the Presence of God

So you wake up in the morning, perhaps shower and get dressed, or grab a cup of coffee – whatever your morning routine may be – and begin your morning devotions with the Lord. Perhaps you read a Psalm, or a chapter of Paul, and pray. Then you’re on your way out to the world and whatever the day may hold.

By the time you’re through the day, you feel incredibly distant from God, as though the day stands as a wall between you and Him, and you wonder how it got there. So you go to sleep, hope tomorrow is better, and repeat the same pattern.

So often in my own life I found that I forgot all about God during the day. Because of that, it was much easier for fleshly or worldly thoughts to occupy my mind and by the time I ended my day, my heart was hard towards God. This little book, The Practice of the Presence of God ,  helped me with this problem. It details the experiences and maxims of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk. Since it is a small book, it won’t take you long to read; but it holds great power.

You see, Brother Lawrence found the secret to remembering God throughout the day and uninterrupted fellowship with Him, no matter his circumstances. He could honestly say, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen (he was the cook of the monastery)… I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” Lawrence found that every task can and ought to be done consciously to the glory of God, as expressed in his little poem:

 Lord of all pots and pans and things,

Make me a saint by getting meals,

And washing up the plates!

There are many ways I have found to practice God’s presence and to remember that He stands beside me. One is the memorization of hymns which I can hum or sing to myself and remember God. Or just turning off the radio in the car and being silent. What are ways you can remember God throughout the day? If you are in Christ, then He is with you; it’s simply a matter of remembering Him.

There is much more than just that in this book, and I highly recommend it to all.

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The Foundation of our Faith

Yesterday we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have noticed, however, in my own life and in the church a great lack of emphasis on the resurrection. It is in fact the very foundation of our faith. Just listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (Emphasis Added)”

Not only there, but all across scripture you find the significance of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ; they are not mutually exclusive. What the first accomplished, the other proved.

So I want to expound upon a few of the incredible things the resurrection of Jesus Christ achieved. This is by no means a comprehensive list and for brevity’s sake has been shortened from my original study; but I hope it will bless you as it did me when I studied it.

1.       It proved He was who He said He was. “…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead…” (Rom. 1:4)

When Jesus walked this earth, He claimed to be the Son of God. It was for this (supposed) blasphemy that He was slain. Those watching mocked Him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” Yet Jesus didn’t answer His accusers with a word; He answered them with the undeniable testimony of the resurrection, appearing to the disciples and 500 after. The Roman centurion said at His death, “Surely this was the Son of God”; how much more would he have said that if he had seen the resurrection? Jesus was no mere man, no mere teacher; He was everything He claimed to be: the Son of God, the Messiah, sent from heaven to save His people from their sins.

2.       It proved His defeat over sin, leaving it in the tomb, and won life abundant now for those who believe. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

Paul expounds upon the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ throughout Romans 6. I am struck by the profound depth of the simple act of baptism. It’s not just being submerged under water; it’s being submerged in Christ. As Christ went to death, He slew sin in us, our old man, the flesh. And in the tomb it has stayed. When He returned to life, He brought us with Him so that we might live in new and true life. As the well known verse states, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, no longer must we walk according to our old patterns of life trapped in sin. On top of that, we can have life, peace, and joy in Him. He doesn’t just remove the old; He replaces it with something new, something radiant and beautiful.

3.       It proved that Christ has the power over death, that death shall one day ultimately be undone, and that we shall enjoy life everlasting with Him forever.  “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:53-55)

I agree with Charles Spurgeon when he said that 1 Corinthians 15 was perhaps the most eloquent chapter in the Bible. It is a chapter of the hope of resurrection life with Christ for all eternity. It is the chapter that details the ultimate destruction of Death itself. How great this hope we have is. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you…” It is this inheritance that we shall one day be brought to through the gates of death. For those who believe, death is not the end; it is merely the beginning into something far greater and far more wonderful than anything this life can hold. This is the hope of Christianity, and it is not some vain hope. It is not like the farmer’s hope for rain or my hope I’ll get the things I want. Those hopes might not be realized; our hope in Christ is rock solid. Nothing can shake it or move it. It is a hope based on a fact.

Do you have this hope? Do you want this hope? Do you want joy and peace and life in Christ, here and now? He is who He said He was: the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior. If you turn to Him with your whole heart, you shall not be disappointed.

Yesterday we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have noticed, however, in my own life and in the church a great lack of emphasis on the resurrection. It is in fact the very foundation of our faith. Just listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (Emphasis Added)”

Not only there, but all across scripture you find the significance of the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ; they are not mutually exclusive. What the first accomplished, the other proved.

So I want to expound upon a few of the incredible things the resurrection of Jesus Christ achieved. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it will bless you as it did me when I studied it.

1.       It proved He was who He said He was. “…declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead…” (Rom. 1:4)

When Jesus walked this earth, He claimed to be the Son of God. It was for this (supposed) blasphemy that He was slain. Those watching mocked Him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” Yet Jesus didn’t answer His accusers with a word; He answered them with the undeniable testimony of the resurrection, appearing to the disciples and 500 after. The Roman centurion said at His death, “Surely this was the Son of God”; how much more would he have said that if he had seen the resurrection? Jesus was no mere man, no mere teacher; He was everything He claimed to be: the Son of God, the Messiah, sent from heaven to save His people from their sins.

2.       It proved His defeat over sin, leaving it in the tomb, and won life abundant now for those who believe. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

Paul expounds upon the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ throughout Romans 6. I am struck by the profound depth of the simple act of baptism. It’s not just being submerged under water; it’s being submerged in Christ. As Christ went to death, He slew sin in us, our old man, the flesh. And in the tomb it has stayed. When He returned to life, He brought us with Him so that we might live in new and true life. As the well known verse states, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, no longer must we walk according to our old patterns of life trapped in sin. On top of that, we can have life, peace, and joy in Him. He doesn’t just remove the old; He replaces it with something new, something radiant and beautiful.

3.       It proved that Christ has the power over death, that death shall one day ultimately be undone, and that we shall enjoy life everlasting with Him forever.  “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:53-55)

I agree with Charles Spurgeon when he said that 1 Corinthians 15 was perhaps the most eloquent chapter in the Bible. It is a chapter of the hope of resurrection life with Christ for all eternity. It is the chapter that details the ultimate destruction of Death itself. How great this hope we have is. 1 Peter 1:3-4 says, “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you…” It is this inheritance that we shall one day be brought to through the gates of death. For those who believe, death is not the end; it is merely the beginning into something far greater and far more wonderful than anything this life can hold. This is the hope of Christianity, and it is not some vain hope. It is not like the farmer’s hope for rain or my hope I’ll get the things I want. Those hopes might not be realized; our hope in Christ is rock solid. Nothing can shake it or move it. It is a hope based on a fact.

Do you have this hope? Do you want this hope? Do you want joy and peace and life in Christ, here and now? He is who He said He was: the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior. If you turn to Him with your whole heart, you shall not be disappointed.

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Manalive!

G.K. Chesterton has gotten some attention on this blog already (what with Cheese and Fairy Tales as older posts); however, I feel the need to let you, my beloved reader, know that I have recently finished perhaps one of the most amusing, deep, and poignant books I have ever read.

That book, my friends, is Manalive. Recommended by my elder brother, who you may remember wrote a true Chestertonian essay called The Romance of Coffee, this short story captured my mind and ravished my attention. If a book can keep me awake past the midnight hour, dear reader, you ought to know it is indeed a good book; and this book is one such book.

The back cover of the Dover Publications copy my brother loaned me reads thus:

First published in 1912… Manalive celebrates on of G.K. Chesterton’s earliest themes: the joy of being alive. That principle is embodied in one Innocent Smith, who is taken up by a fierce wind one day and dropped on the lawn of a boardinghouse inhabited by a group of disillusioned young people. His arrival has a rejuvenating effect on this dull group.

In the course of the book, Smith courts and remarries his wife repeatedly, lives in various houses, which all turn out to be his own, and attempts murder, but only succeeds in firing life into his victims.

Perhaps the most lighthearted of all Chesterton’s “serious” books, Manalive is full of high-spirited nonsense expressing important ideas: life is worth living, one can break with convention and still maintain moral and ethical standards, and much of the behavior civilized man has been led to believe is wrong, isn’t wrong at all.

So often in life, we begin to see the incredible and amazing things around us as merely “normal”; we miss the beautiful sights and sounds that are all around us. So often we forget the beauty of this earth; and so with the beauty and radiance of Christ Himself. As one man in the book expresses, “Any habit is a bad habit.” Meaning this, that if anything we do becomes merely routine or normal or regular, we ought to check ourselves. We need to realize that the world around and the things that we do are perhaps the furthest thing from normal there is.

Professor Clyde Kilby, a professor of John Piper’s, said it this way in his list of “10 Ways to Stay Alive in the Beauty of God’s World” – I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic” existence.” (for more of this, check out this link: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/10-steps-to-stay-alive-to-the-beauty-of-gods-world )

This book is one that God has used in my life to remind me of the beauty and simple glory of the gift of life. Life is beautiful. And if this life is so wondrous, how much more that spiritual, abundant life which He gives us right here and now? How much more the eternal life we will one day have with Christ in heaven? In Him is life; and if you feel yourself dead today, if you feel yourself estranged from God, then find life today, now, in Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; without Him, we all remain dead. But thanks be to God, that through Jesus Christ, He has made a way for us to have life, abundant life, and eternal life.

Blessings on your weekend!

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Optimism vs. Pessimism vs. Christianity

We’ve all heard the classic illustration of the glass half full (no mystery as to which I am). Lately, I have been thinking upon these two attitudes towards life and have been wondering which, if either fits with the way Paul, Jesus or Peter viewed the world around them. As I examined my own attitude, along with the attitudes of those in the Bible and Christians in ages past, I have discovered some interesting and powerful conclusions. Will you join me in this adventure?

Optimism

As I said before, I am, by nature, something of an optimist. I fit the bill for the definition Dictionary.com gives: “the disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.” Whenever someone mentions a crisis in their life or the world at large, my instinct is to think, “Surely it’s not as bad as that.” An optimist is great if you need a little brightness in your day, but terrible if you need sympathy and comfort during a crisis, because we’ll always be telling you it’s not all bad.

In one of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories, the old Catholic priest comes upon the murder of what we might term a “motivational speaker”, a dear, old man who spread cheer everywhere he went. When discussing with an officer about why someone might be motivated to kill such a man, Father Brown replied,

“Yes… he was cheerful. But did he communicate his cheerfulness? Frankly, was anyone else in the house cheerful as he? (The man had a daughter and a few servants). You see,” said Father Brown, blinking modestly, “I’m not sure that the Armstrong cheerfulness is so very cheerful – for other people. You say that nobody could kill such a happy old man, but I’m not so sure… If I ever murdered somebody,” he added quite simply, “I dare say it might be an Optimist.” (The Three Tools of Death)

The problem with Optimism is that it denies the evils around it, painting them a little bit rosier than they really are. And often, as in the above murder mystery, Optimism is often a cover up for deep depression.

Pessimism

“Ah,” you might say to yourself at this point. “If Optimism is not the way, then perhaps it is found in Pessimism.” It would seem that Pessimism is better suited to the world we live in. But is it the way God wants us to view the world? According to ye old Dictionary.com, Pessimism is, “the tendency to see, anticipate, or emphasize only bad or undesirable outcomes, results, conditions, problems.” The Pessimist is able to see the pain today and coming ahead. The problem is that, too often, that’s the extent of their view.

When I think of people who had a dim view of life, I think of the Israelites in the wilderness, particularly the ten spies who held an evil report. As the story goes, after a long journey in the wilderness, the Lord has led the people of Israel to the edge of the Promised Land. This is it – the moment that everything before this has been leading up to. Twelve spies are sent into the land and, after forty days, return with this report:

And they told him, and said, “We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.” And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.” But the men that went up with him said, “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we. And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”

God had promised; yet they believed He wasn’t able to deliver. They saw the troubles – and nothing more. Whereas the Optimist paints with rose-colored hues, a Pessimist paints in only grays and shadows.

Christianity

So what have we to stand upon? Both Optimism and Pessimism have advantages; yet neither is the way the saints of old and Christ Himself viewed the world. Paul commands us in Romans 12:15 to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” We must not only be the smiles and cheers; we must be also to sympathize and comfort those who are weeping and mourning. We must be able to laugh and to cry.

We must also be able to clearly see the pain ahead, yet also the joy; they walk hand in hand. This is the perspective Christ had, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). The Pessimist is correct in seeing the pain; for, as Paul said, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).” But the Optimist is correct in seeing the joy even amidst the pain, for in the crisis of bonds, Paul also said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4).

So often, we blame our attitudes on our personalities. I, as an Optimistic sort, feel it is hard for me to sympathize with others’ pain; does that mean I am exempt from Paul’s command in Romans 12:15? Or perhaps you are a little on the Pessimistic side; does that give you sufficient reason to “Complain about life always; and again I say, complain” (1 Opinions 4:1)? Not once is the word “personality” or similar terms in the Bible. Are we all of different sorts of personalities? Yes; but our personality is no excuse.

When we are in Christ, there is joy, peace, love and total satisfaction. If you find your heart hard when others tell you of their pains and trials, pray that God would help you to weep with those that weep. If you find it hard to feel joy in dark times, pray that you would experience joy and satisfaction in Christ. God is willing and able to help us, no matter what our troubles be, if we will ask Him. I will conclude with the words of Paul in Romans 8:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Embracing the Fairy Tale Life

by Zak Ellison

In his essay “The Twelve Men”, Chesterton points out that a distressing paradox in our world is that “the more a man looks at a thing, the less he can see it”.  In other words, the more familiarity we have with something, the less likely we are to appreciate its significance.  The posters and paintings that we hang on our dorm wall soon become invisible to us.  Class material that at first excites our interest often loses its appeal as the semester drags on.  Family members that we love and admire soon get taken for granted.  In various ways, our familiarity with the world robs us of the wonder that it initially instilled in us.

Observing the behavior of children supports the truth of this paradox.  The joy of children comes from their captivation with the wonders in this world.  They have not gazed on the universe as long as we have; therefore, its beauty is still fresh in their eyes.  Children delight in playing the same games and hearing the same stories over and over again because they are still enthralled by the beauty of those things.  Who would not sustain this sense of delight if he could?  Alas, as we grow old we seem to lose something of this delight, despite life being no less beautiful.  Our eyes grow dim with age and we no longer see as clearly the rich significance in every starry sky and every blade of grass.

We are all susceptible to this joy-killing familiarity with the world.  Tolkien describes it as a man locking his beautiful possessions into a cupboard.  A man who hoards in this way still possesses his treasures, but he can no longer enjoy them (Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”).  In similar fashion, the more familiar we become with the people and things in this world, the more we tend to grow numb to the depths of meaning they possess.  Unless we intentionally fight against this process, we will mentally lock up the wonders that we daily encounter; therefore, we will no longer delight in their beauty.

I am convinced that the reading of fairy tales can be a powerful weapon in this fight against the numbing effects of familiarity.  By fairy tales, I mean stories of ordinary people who find themselves in fantastic worlds where strange and magical powers are at work.  The world of fairy tales has an unexpected and startling quality about it.  Unexpected pleasures and unexpected dangers lurk around every corner, ready to ambush the hero.  There is also a sense that the fairy tale world exists for its own sake, quite apart from considerations for the hero.  The hero is expected to make his way the best he can during his adventures in this mysterious land.

Fairy tales can renew our appreciation for the world by reminding us of the wonder of God’s universe.  “These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green” (Chesterton, Orthodoxy).  When a story tells us of winged horses, it invites us to ponder the miracle of horses without wings (Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”).  The fantasy elements in a fairy tale recharge and stimulate our imaginations so that we can better receive the wonders of the real world.  Reading about the enchanted woods “makes all real woods a little enchanted” (Lewis, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children”).  Fairy tales provide an antidote to human forgetfulness, to the indifference of familiarity.

But more than that, they teach us that we ourselves also live inside a fairy tale.  The same fundamental qualities in fairy tales also exist in our own lives.  Our life has the same unexpectedness of the hero’s adventures in fairyland.  “The supreme adventure is being born.  There we walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap.  There we see something of which we have not dreamed before.  Our father and mother lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands from a bush” (Chesterton, Heretics).  Just like in a fairy tale, God creates the characters for his story and throws them into a world of wonder and danger.  God leaves it to us either to shrink from this adventure or to embrace it.

Embracing life like a fairy tale enables us to recapture a child-like sense of astonishment.  It helps us to remember that this world, though fallen, is indeed an amazing and wondrous place.  The fairy tale mindset makes us grateful, because it reminds us that all the beauty of this world is an undeserved gift.  The story is precious because it might have been told quite differently.  God did not need to write our character into his world, but he chose to.  Like a fairy tale, this world is often hostile as well as beautiful; however, God’s word assures us that our adventures in this world are not in vain, and that there is an even greater adventure yet to come.

In our age, fairy tales have often been dismissed as suitable only for children.  But I think it’s time to bring fairy tales back out of the nursery.  They may have more to teach us than we think.

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This was a piece written by my elder brother, Zak. He is a student at Columbia International University, majoring in Humanities; he has a deep love for the older writings of humanity, preferably those who have already passed away. 

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