Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How long?

I'm not one to just post some song lyrics or a random link, but I wanted to add this as a follow-up to last night's post. This song is by one of my favorite artists, Andrew Peterson. "The Reckoning (How Long)" is cry to God, asking how much longer we have to wait for Jesus to return and for God to set this world right. The lyrics in this song sum up my feelings over the last few days exactly. I'll be the first to admit that my selfish, human side doesn't necessarily want Him to return just yet, because there's tons of stuff I want to do here on Earth....but there will always be something else. When I'm downright honest with myself, I can't help but let these words be my prayer as I listen to this awesome song. Just follow the link below. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do. :)

"The Reckoning (How Long)"

Monday, December 27, 2010

I want to move to Narnia

I just recently finished re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I read all of them when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, but as a kid, I missed most (if not all) of their symbolism. I remember enjoying them a lot, so I was really excited when I found out a few years ago that they were going to start making them into movies. Thankfully, they've stayed pretty true to the books and I've loved all three of the movies they've turned out so far. (Hopefully, they'll turn the other books into movies as well, but that's neither here nor there.) After seeing the first two movies (which were The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe followed by Prince Caspian) I decided to re-read the series because as I had also realized after starting college, there was a lot of theology woven into the books; I wanted to catch what I had missed as a 9 year old. As I read each book, I fell in love with the them and the story that they told.

In my last post, I wrote about how I've rediscovered the birth of Christ and just how monumental it really was. Much in the same way, re-reading these books has helped me rediscover how incredible God's story is. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, tells the awesome story of our God. God creates man, but man turns away from God over and over again because of sin. But rather than destroy everyone out of anger, God chooses to show them how much He loves them by redeeming them through Christ. And then He goes even further by giving them instructions on how to live as His adopted children once they've been redeemed. And if that wasn't enough, He ends it all by giving them a glimpse of what's to come when He once and for all destroys sin, the one thing that stands between Him and His beloved children. He creates a new Heaven and a new Earth that's perfect and free from sin, where His children can be with Him forever. The best part?? It's all true. How awesome is that?! Although they are works of fiction and fantasy, The Chronicles of Narnia mirror this story, but simplifying the major points. All of this is just a long way of saying that I was able to draw the comparisons and similarities between the books and the Bible as I read, and that's what I loved so much about the books. They're purely fantasy, but you can sense the longing that the children in the books have to be with Aslan the lion, the God-character in the series. 

It was as I read about their longing for Aslan that I realized that's the same way God wants us to long for Him. Whenever the children were sent back to England from Narnia, they never stopped thinking about being back in Narnia with Aslan. How much more should we want to be where our true, living God is? The last book really got me thinking about this as well. As the book wraps up, the children are called to Aslan's country, where Aslan lives. They soon realize after arriving that Aslan's country is a mirror of both Narnia and England, only bigger, better, and perfect. And I may be off, but right now that's how I envision the new Heaven and new Earth that are mentioned in Revelation...a perfect Earth that's never felt the effects of sin. And I'm so excited to be there someday. But honestly, as long as I'm with my God and Creator, I don't think it really matters where I am.

That's what I've really been thinking about for the last week since finishing the Narnia series. God gave us the Bible so that we could see how much He loves us, so that it would point us to Him so that we could be saved by the blood of His Son, and so that someday soon we can all be with Him and remain in His presence forevermore. And that's what simply amazes me. It gives me a new perspective with which to read my Bible. It gives me a renewed sense of hope. And it reassures me that God has everything under control, because He already knows how everything will end someday. I'm thankful my God is who He is. And I'm thankful that He's able and willing to use even a book series written for children to reopen our eyes to how awesome His story is and how awesome His plans are for us. Our God truly is an awesome God. :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

"That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown"

I'll be up front about admitting that I'm a horrible blogger. Life has gotten way too busy for me to update my blog faithfully, but here we are. Allow me give a quick school update, because that's not the main reason I'm posting today. I'm halfway through my second year of dental school. I'm surviving and finding ways to enjoy it even though this is the toughest and most hectic year of the four (or so we've heard; honestly, they're all hard, ha). Most of my time is spent studying or working on lab work for several classes. This spring will be the final push before we start seeing patients this summer. We take National Boards Part 1 this summer, and we start treating patients in clinic sometime in June or July. Terrifying? Yes. Exciting? You bet!

Enough about school. Today is Christmas Eve. I've always loved the Christmas season. Like any kid, I always looked forward to opening presents on Christmas morning, and let's be honest...I still do, ha. But as I've grown older, especially these last few years, I've come to appreciate the time spent with family much more. But even though I've "grown up" in church and have been a Christian since I was 7, I still don't think I've ever really appreciated the reason we even celebrate Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ. But this Christmas season has been different for me, and I'm grateful for that.

After some "shopping" and a lot of driving back to Etown for church, I now consider Southeast Christian Church my church home in Louisville. I've joined a small group, I've made lots of new friends, and I truly love worshipping there on Sundays. For the last few weeks, we've been in a sermon series called "Socks and Underwear". Socks and underwear are typically gifts that you get at Christmas that you really don't want, even though they may be exactly what you need. So, that has been the theme as we've taken a different approach to the Christmas story: The Jewish people back in the Jesus' day viewed him as their socks and underwear. When they expected the Messiah, they envisioned a warrior king, not a poor, humble carpenter born in a barn. However, Jesus was exactly what they needed, even though they didn't realize it. Studying the prophets and the Gospels from that approach has really given me a renewed sense of awe, humility, and gratitude for the Gift that we received over 2,000 years ago. 

I also had the pleasure of seeing Andrew Peterson's "Behold the Lamb of God" last Thursday in Nashville at the Ryman with some of my best friends. What a night! For those of you who have never heard of it before, it's a concert, for lack of a better word, that is completely based on Scripture. Starting in the Old testament, it goes through the Bible and explains Israel's (and our) need for a Savior; it ends with the birth of Christ in the Gospels. The music is very powerful and thought provoking, and it opened my eyes yet again to the truth of the Christmas story. Jesus came to redeem a world that was ravaged and oppressed by sin, and the entire Bible is devoted to telling that story. The Old Testament isn't just a compilation of books of laws, poems, and prophecies, but rather story that points directly to Christ. I've heard that all throughout college, but for the first time, it resonated and really affected me.

Growing up singing Christmas carols, reading the Christmas story from Luke, seeing the birth of Christ portrayed by various Christmas programs had given me a view of the birth story that wasn't entirely accurate. Jesus wasn't born on just a silent night, and most likely it wasn't all calm. He was born during a Roman census in a tiny, crowded city. He was born in a dirty barn that was full of animals, behind an inn. There were no nurses, no doctors, no midwives. Mary and Joseph were young, newly married virgins who were probably scared to death to be delivering a baby alone in such filthy conditions. And that's not even the half of it. This wasn't just a boy that grew up to become our Savior. Jesus left his throne in Heaven, spent 9 months in Mary's womb, and was born as a tiny baby into these conditions...not a birth that's fitting for such a King. He was with God from the beginning. He was there when God spoke everything into creation. He witnessed the downfall of man. He knew what he was being born into, and knew that he would have to die alone on a cross. He knew exactly what he was coming to do, and he did it willingly because he loves us so much. That is why we celebrate Christmas.

**Forgive me if you read all of this and said "Duh, Ryan." I just wanted to express the complete awe and humility that I've been blessed to feel these last couple of weeks. I really believe this is the first time that I've truly appreciated just how amazing and how huge the birth of Christ really is, and even though it saddens me that it has taken 24 years for it to happen, I'm truly grateful for this revelation. I'm even more grateful that the God of the Universe loves me enough to save me in such a way. I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and that you and your families will be blessed this season. :)