Thursday, May 9, 2013

Return To Me...

I have just finished reading through the Old Testament for the first time this year. As I came to the final two books (Zechariah and Malachi), I noticed for the first time an exact quote/theme from both the prophets. It refers to the time they lived in. Judah had returned from exile and were in the process of resettling and rebuilding Jerusalem. People were living as best they knew how but evidently ignoring God's ways and God's laws. It might have been out of ignorance. It could have been from choice. Nevertheless, both prophets issued warnings and encouragements to return to God individually and as a nation. The quote is more specifically,...

"Return to Me and I will return to you" says the Lord of Hosts (Zechariah 1:3; Malachi 3:7)

God's statues and laws were being ignored. This turning away from God's laws had the consequence of placing a barrier between God and His people. His exhortation was for the nation of Israel to "return to Him" in order that He would return to them. Interesting...

Does God move away when we don't follow His leading or His laws? Or is it us that moves from God through our choices whether conscious or sub-conscious?

Can this be applied to people today? Are communities, here in the US and all around the world, choosing to move away from God by choosing their own rules for living?

I look at the majority of huge issues in the world today such as hunger, poverty, war, human trafficking, etc. I see a correlation between high indices of these things with areas of the world that are still non-Christian. While I am sane enough to recognize that the "christianized" places of the world have their own problems, it seems more than coincidental that the "non-christian" places bear the bulk of the world's chronic problems.

Some might call this the luck of the draw. Others might see it as proof of the oppression of the "have nots" by the "haves". I tend to see it as simply the blessing (or lack of blessing) of living life by God's design.

My personal theology is wired to the believe that God doesn't move. He never changes. He always seeks the best for His children. When we are "far" from God, it is not because He has taken up a new residence; it is because we have.

I tend to be a simple person and believe that the laws of the Lord are perfect and good. They revive and refresh the soul. As Creator and Sustainer of all, He is the only One who has the words of life for us to live by. A fool says in his heart, "there is no God" and consequently chooses to live his/her life as if they believed so. A wise man and a wise community/culture/people is the one who finds the One true God of the Bible and places their trust in Him and His plan for their lives.

So, when I see the quote, "Return to Me and I will return to you...", I am led to believe that our returning to God is more of us moving back to Him who has been there all the time. It wasn't He who was us.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I am Jean Valjean...

Last night, I finally finished my second time reading of Victor Hugo's, "Les Miserables". I had read it in high school, had seen the recent Hollywood version and picked it up again (it was free from Kindle books). I have to confess that one of the side benefits of re-reading the original version was that I did not have to listen to Russell Crowe sing. :)

As I read, I realized once again why this book is such a classic. The character development and the tragedy motif built into their lives are captivating. None more so than the main character, Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean is a criminal. He steals some bread to feed his sister's hungry family. In doing so, he relegates the rest of his life to being labelled a criminal. He is angry at the system that made him so. He lashes back but finds redemption in an elderly priest who shows him kindness. After another chance encounter, he vows to live his life for the good of others and leaves behind his name and identity. But he can never escape it not only due to the relentless pursuit of a police inspector named Javert, but also due to his own inner conscience.

The main parts of the book are Jean Valjean remaking himself, under various names, showing unbelievable kindness to those less fortunate and yet still struggling with his own identity. The denouement of the story comes rather early in the book where he attends the trial of supposedly the recaptured criminal Jean Valjean who is really no more than a local simpleton. When he can bear it no longer, he steps in front of the court and confesses to everyone, "I am Jean Valjean!"

There are many more plots and sub-plots to this literary classic but in the end, it is an epic struggle of a man and his identity. In the end, he dies as a man who truly knows who he is and in the arms of people who have come to learn who he truly was.

I wonder how many of us really know who are are? I wonder how few of us would want the world to know our true identities; those things deep down in our heart and minds; those things hidden from the casual eye?

As followers of Christ, we are known. We are known so intimately by God that there is nothing hidden from His sight. And the more we grow into Him, the more we become conformed to the image of His glorious Son Jesus, the more that we are able to bare ourselves and identities to the world.

Jean Valjean's story is a wonderful story of redemption. Ours is as well.

To be able to stand and say to the world, "I am _______"...Only you can fill in the blank.