One of my all-time favorite things to do in Portland is to go running on a brisk autumn morning. The chill of the air instantly freezing the sweat pouring out of your pores. The smell of the wet grass and leaves reminding you of the previous cleansing rain. The fog lifting away, nearly transporting you into another dimension. But really, the thing that puts it over the top is the sheer beauty of the trees as they begin changing colors. Have you ever seen trees so spectacular? I had not until we moved here. I grew up surrounded by pine-needles, and they would simply die, fall to the ground, and catch fire.
But back to the colorful leaves, when I ponder it a little more, I realize that the beautiful colors are completely dependent upon immanent death. How can death be so lovely? And if death can be so beautiful, how magnificent is life? I don’t always view life as something so fantastic, probably because my frame of reference is so static. I need to step out of myself, so that I can truly understand life. That is relativity.
What would happen if you had a near death experience? Heck, let us actually pretend that you do die. And then you are given a chance to come back and experience this life again, with full knowledge of what life is about. I think that you would have a much more profound outlook on life, and you would probably appreciate all of the people around you much more because you would want all of them to experience as much of life as possible.
Enjoy this life. God loves you. He created you. He created this earth. I believe he wants you to enjoy life and discover his truths in the world we are in the midst of. “Love God, and do what you will.” (St. Augustine) You will not discover the harmony of this life until you learn to play with it.
One objective of my blog is to help people become one with each other and with Jesus Christ. As Bonhoeffer would say, this Blog covers both penultimate and ultimate things – things of this world and of the next. I personally love the things of this world and believe that God made the creation so that we could learn about it and be prepared for the world to come. The universe contains so much beauty & unity. It is my goal to share my knowledge and passion for math, physics, and theology thereby giving students the resources needed to learn about the beautiful things which God has created. Hopefully, this will encourage them to further His kingdom here on earth – and a major aspect of kingdom is becoming one with each other and with God.
I am a Christian educator and I believe that this role ought to be defined by faith: one of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and one of unending faithfulness to the students. And as a Christian educator, I seek to equip creative and critical thinkers, not simply produce students who score well on standardized tests. I pray that both students, educators, and everyone else who reads this blog is truly blessed and encouraged.
1 Corinthians 1.18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
The best way to describe this is to use an allegory of stirring (thanks to St Augustine). Imagine taking a stick, and then using the stick to stir a cesspool, the resulting aroma will be a foul stench. Take the same stick (after you clean it!), and perform the same action of stirring, but this time stir a bowl of perfume and a beautiful fragrant aroma will rise. Both occasions witness the same action of ‘stirring,’ but a completely different result occurs based on the essence of the object being stirred.
I think that we can draw out the same conclusion from the actions of Christ. He is an eternal member of the Trinity who becomes a man born of the virgin Mary, to be tempted and live a sinless life, then condemned by the very people he loves, then to experience death on a cross while proclaiming “Father, forgive them for the know not what they do,” then to rise from the dead thereby defeating death by death, and to then ascend into heaven so as to be seated at the right hand of the Father, to show that he was faithful to bring the plan of salvation to completion.
To the person that believes in the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, it is a sweet fragrance. To the person that does not believe in Christ’s faithfulness, this is the most ridiculous story ever concocted and Christians are to be pitied above all other people for they willingly take on the sufferings of Christ. But we who believe understand that we count it all joy to suffer with Christ, because we lay aside all worldly treasures so that we may know Christ and the power of His resurrection.
Are you willing to look foolish for the sake of following Christ?
You are walking through the neighborhood, not a brisk walk; this is a stop and smell the roses kinda walk. You are wearing your flip flops because you intend to move slowly; you simply love the way the leather feels on your feet. The sunlight is shining brightly into the fabric of your skin, and you begin to radiate. The greenness of Portland is all around you. The smells remind you of so many wonderful things and leave you craving even more. The beauty around you is overwhelming. Why did God make so many beautiful things? It was truly an act of grace and kindness – why else would he shower you with these gifts? He loves you so much!
You continue strolling through the beautiful things, and they nearly draw you to tears. They are so beautiful. What is it about beautiful things that can lead a man to tears? A newborn baby, his bride, the sunset, an old growth tree, a blooming flower, the changing colors of fall….
You were once told that it is God’s kindness that leads you to repentance – perhaps you are now beginning to realize what that means. Repentance is the act of turning away from your selfish desires and turning towards the will of the Father. What if you are somehow brought to tears by beautiful things because it is his kindness actually drawing you to repentance, helping you realize that the fading beauty of this world is only a mere glimpse of the beauty of the new heaven and earth that await you. In that day you will find true rest and true beauty.
Have you ever had an elevator conversation? They are really short and end when you get to your floor. While writing a dissertation or thesis, students are encouraged to have a prepared elevator conversation to share with anyone who is willing to listen. It is called an elevator conversation because you should be able to share your thoughts within 20-30 seconds. Kinda crazy, many dissertations are 200 pages or longer. How in the world can you share those thoughts in 20 seconds? Simply put: you can’t. However, you can whet the appetite for more.
It can be annoying when you ask a PhD student what they are studying and they fumble for words because they don’t know how to describe it. The best students are passionate about the subject and have learned how to present their material concisely in 20 seconds so that people will be craving more. Now I ask, should Christians be prepared to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in 20 seconds? If so, what are the major points that you would want to share?
I often have people ask me what I am doing with my life, and I often answer it totally truthfully in 30 seconds – it looks something like this:
“I am working towards reconciling the Church; Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christians. All of these major Christian groups believe in the Holy Trinity; the full humanity and divinity of Christ; his actual life, death, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven; and salvation through grace by faith in Jesus Christ alone. The Lord Jesus taught us to pray that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in heaven we are perfectly united, so I pray for this to happen on earth as well. In John 17, Jesus prays that we be one even as he and the Father are one. The ministry of reconciliation was on Jesus’ heart as well as mine.”
This is the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is reconciling us with himself and with each other and he is the only one who can make it happen. My identity is wrapped up in being a child of God; therefore, all of my actions flow out of that identity and I can answer questions like this without fear. My answer about my life did not concern my career or my thesis topic. I believe that the Good News of Christ is best shared with people when we are totally honest. People ask questions all the time, are you willing to answer honestly the next time? There is no reason to be afraid of people and what they will think of you. It is really hard to share your heart in 30 seconds, but it is totally doable and incredible!
If you had 30 seconds to describe what you are doing with your life, what would you say?