Depths of Understanding

Through translation and the molten nature of meaning in language, I have recaptured in my imagination something pleasantly sober the way even the hardest truths can be. No matter how hot the fire burns or how brutally it breaks down constructed things to irreducibly simple forms, it still brings warm life to the cold and reminds us of deep things intrinsic to human existence.

Consider the earth, with only the surface inhabitable, and yet beneath an entire world un-trodden by man’s body, where only his dreams and musings may go. Understanding goes deep with a person deeper than their body, but it also comes forth from within a person in ways that effect their tangible livelihood. There are lightnesses of understanding which men contemn, and there are depths to which some men go that many who go there seem stuck upside down with their bottom sticking up in the air: completely un-comprehensible to the surface mind. The lightness does the heart good, like the sea air does the deep-sea diver’s lungs good. But the Ordinary alone is not enough to maintain a profitable life. The ordinary life in which we live– that layer of reality in which we move around, make decisions, and react with decisions and chance far greater than our own control– is ruled by other layers of reality. And the deepest layers are the Highest layers. Let me lay out these layers as I see them.

-1. Humor. Humor is the level of understanding to which one person goes, to make another person exert greater understanding than himself. It makes the ordinary feel that he is indeed sane, and this fool who prates on and on makes him who is listening feel that he is sound. It is the humble gift God has given humanity to encourage and comfort the world with its ever-precarious, ever sobering, ever deepening conditions of decay and uncertainty and trouble. Well-crafted humor is the very fragrance of understanding rising up from the vents of that which is deeper than us. But, when used effectively, humor raises us to great heights, then either sets us down again, or plunges us into the deeper understandings into which we must dive. O the thrill of the hammer swung backward through the air, only to rush forward to drive the nail home once more! O the exuberant and silly breath we take to dive once more to the depth of understandings!

0. Ordinary Reality. The realm of the real and clear. Here far is far, and near is near, a spade is a spade, and a cigar is a cigar. Do not read between the lines. Words are sufficient. Listen to what is said. Read what is written. See what is shown. Many find this simple life good. It is. And yet the corruptions beneath the surface have far too often twisted the surface to that which is not simple. Look around you at the dishonesty of man’s hearts. A simple weight well-calibrated is true and good. It is the plethora of dishonest weights that make this level of understanding a dangerous ground. “Don’t believe everything you read” say the wise, and wizened. Solomon also said, “The simple believe every word, but the prudent consider their steps.” ~Prov 14:15.

1. Joy— Ah the pledge of good faith! There is truth beneath the surface! The Promise of a better surface life comes from digging a deep foundation and a roomy storehouse where the temperature is cool year round. Such cools calm the temperamental flares of heat which spring from a lack of reserve. The deep waters of life flow beneath the surface, and cool water is a nourishment to every soul seeking shade and sweetness in this broken desert of life. A man of understanding carries within him an oasis in any desert! He is the happiest of fellows to embrace the streams of truths that water all of the plants up on the surface. Indeed, for many this results in a nerdy withdrawal from all things surface and ordinary, and thereby leaving those without refreshment feeling abandoned, ignored, and deprecated. Nevertheless, these ordinary folk gain the hearty laugh of staring at people up-ended, bottoms in the air seeking some sort of treasures and refreshment that would otherwise be bought with a great cost underneath the hard sun.

2. Weight— The pledge is sweet, and the collection of waters tastes good, but there is too much water to carry around with a person. A man’s canteen, strength, stomach, and mind can only handle so much. Eventually, the immovable and inescapable nature of what is understood leads many to shy away from the responsibility which is thrust upon those who have understood it. Not only are there many who are in need of the life here in encased, but the one who knows of it comes to see the real predicament at the surface. The pressure and weight of all the understanding comes to sober the one once drunk with the pleasure and raucous laughter of understanding, and he comes to see his own face in the water, and in that face recognize his own makeup of water, and his resemblance to the owner and supplier of all the water in the world. These are those who are stuffy and self-absorbed and feel impregnated with the grand self-importance of that which they hold, lest they give way to the deeper levels of understanding which require greater courage.

3. Sorrow–Fingernails grind on a chalkboard, and a bone fallen out of joint is a deep pang of something wrong in the world. Understanding brings grief, that depth of the weight of all the world crashing down on broken supports. Seeing people in reality slip off the edge into oblivion unnecessarily just because the scales are tipped out of favor of real justice. It is heartbreaking to know not only the problems for so many, but the connection of the problems to other problems both cause and effect, and to see this web of impossibility, like the web created by a mirror shattered and fragmented from some point of impact. Understanding in people who face the deep underbelly of the world have one of two directions they can go now. It is too thick to explore here, you cannot go left and right. You can return to the surface with your sorrow you have learned, and boast over your understanding as deep as you went. You laugh at those who revel in new discoveries, because you have forgotten the pledge of good faith, and have seen heartbreak the more understanding you have grown. You can return jaded. Or you can go down deeper.

4. Surrender— The point of impact, where the real world we live in was shattered like that mirror is the brokenness of humanity which must be acknowledged and dealt with at the source of the problem: me. G.K. Chesterton understood this when asked in a Newspaper, what is the problem with the world.” He responded with these two words, “I am.” This is the moment to which Understanding leads a person: will you seek to preserve your life, or will you lose it? Here again, the man who has understood– who has “stood under” the reality of life and seen it’s fractured-ness and fractals and fractions–has two choices. He can lose self in annihilation or an inglorious manner that utterly rejects the goodness of understanding he learned at the beginning. Or He can entrust himself to the wise One who led him down this far on his journey of understanding, and commit the unpardonable sin against self: surrender to someone greater than yourself who requires your all with no caveats, no reservations, and no exit strategy. This is the “Lose yourself” that Jesus spoke of when he said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel will find it.” It is a risk. It is very much like death. It’s like giving up, except it’s more like “Okay God, you win. I won’t keep fighting you anymore. I will actually submit to you, and accept that You are the Savior and not me.” This is the decision to which your journey deeper into understanding has been leading. There is Reality, Joy, Responsibility, Sorrow, and ultimately Surrender of self to the One who has proved how worthy He is through his impeccable track record.

This is the end.
Of the old life.
Of the New life
This is the beginning.

5. Peace

“There are depths of love that I cannot know, til I cross the narrow sea. There are heights of love that I may not reach, til I rest in peace with Thee.” ~Fanny Crosby

Understanding brings a person to the core of all that is, and he discovers the need to surrender, and once there is surrender, suddenly, from the very core of a person’s existence to which Understanding has led, a life is born anew. A life that is never-ending because it is begun by the One who is Never-ending. A life that is not your own, but belongs to the One who truly owns all things. A life that is set not on a broken platform, but the deepest possible foundation: to the core of reality itself: The Maker, the Word, and the Resurrection. This is where Understanding can bring a person, but only with humility, love, grace, and courage–honesty with self and God. He is there at the center of the layers of reality. And in His presence is the FULLNESS of the joy the understanding of which one found hints at the beginning of his journey. He is there, eagerly awaiting those who will take up their cross, and lay down their lives for His World-saving cause.

The Depths of Understanding
Illus. by Aner327

These are the Depths of Understanding as I have seen it. And I hope that God gives you the heart to go to this depth with Him. Remember: “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” ~Hebrews 11:6.” If you find yourself at any point of this journey and you have stopped short of the Self-Loss Surrender that leads to life, go back to the last point you found yourself, and seek God. After all, “He who seeks God understands all things.” (Prov 28:5)

9. Israel–Obedience under Judgement

“By Faith he kept the passover and the application of blood in order that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as through dry land, the Egyptians taking their try were drowned. By faith Rahab, the harlot, who welcomed the spies with peace was not destroyed along with the unfaithful.” ~Hebrews 11:38– (translation mine)

Photo Cred: posted on Nov 22, 2011 by adamsart. accessed:
https://bibleartwork.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/crossing-the-red-sea/

Judgment

Sin deserves judgment. Humanity, yea the world, is inextricably and implicitly bound up with it. The Justice of God demands that He be feared, respected, and obeyed. Faith sees this reality plus one more. Faith sees that the same God who is Judge is Savior. He is also working to rescue those who are under his judgment if they will look to Him for their deliverance.

All three stories are astounding in that God was bringing about horrific judgment upon the world–Egyptian people, Egyptian army, and the people of Jericho. The Judgment of God upon the world being created by Him and refusing to worship Him is just.

And here we see the people of God showing us what faith is, and why it is so important. As Enoch knew, without faith it is impossible to please God. But Israel was the poster child to show the world that without faith it is impossible to appease God. Indeed, it is through the final gate of God’s Judgment that faith alone can carry a person to eternal life.

Salvation

All three times in this passage, God has come down hard upon the peoples of the world. God is not cruel to punish Egypt, who had refused to let his people Israel go. He is not cruel to slay the army who presume upon the goodwill of his miracles to soundly slaughter those who would without his hinderance end his people’s lives. He is not cruel to save only the one who believed in him when destroying the first city of the land of Canaan who had long ceased walking with Him or worshipping Him. Even so, God will not be unjust, cruel, vindictive to destroy all those who do not obey and believe. In fact, one might say that His work to save His people is a proof that he will not be unjust to do so. (See Romans 3:21-26 for some food for thought about this.)

Look at Israel. In Egypt, they cried out to God to deliver them. God starts fighting for them. The final plague and final test was a warhead of the most deeply devastating magnitude. He in essence told Israel, “Build a bunker.” They obeyed. They survived. Off they go to the promised land while everyone else who did not fear God lost their first-born son.

(For any people who think God was not just in what he did, please read the whole book of Genesis through Exodus 15, and then talk with me if you still feel that way.)

And then comes the Red Sea. The archetypal representation for Baptism and Salvation itself. By the miraculous mediation of God’s messenger the people are delivered through the water. And when the world tried it, they were utterly destroyed. God had to pass his people through the waters of Judgment. (See To a Mature Man: Stage 3–Baptism) It was the obedience of Faith which said, “He will fight for me. I will do the impossible, and He will deliver me.”

And then coming into the promised land, what should happen to those who are outside Israel. Those who fear God and have that faith are delivered, but those who are not (the “un-faith-ful” [those without faith]) are destroyed. Faith is the only means of Salvation.

New Testament

More than this, my seminary professor taught me that Paul in his ministry wrote to the Roman church to show what he was going for in his whole ministry for Jesus Christ. It’s in the beginning and the ending of Romans. “The Obedience of Faith” for all nations. There is One Judge of all the earth. All are under His judgment from our sinful birth. But faith alone is the way to Salvation, and faith without obedience does not deliver from Judgment. Therefore, because of Judgment, faith without obedience is not saving faith. As James said, “What good, brethren, does it do if someone claims to have faith but no works [of obedience]. Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14)

No.

Application

  1. Flee. Bestir yourself that judgment is coming against the whole world, and you are a part of that world.
  2. Trust. The same God who justly judges this world, will also save all who call upon His name for deliverance.
  3. Call upon the name of the Lord, for Him to save you, and do as He tells you.
  4. Obey. If you believe in him as your King, your Judge, your Savior, do as He says. It is through listening under Him and obeying His commands that you will know His salvation through and through.

Vision: God and the Scientist

I saw a man in a grey room typing at his keyboard. He was sitting in front of a computer, but his head I couldn’t see, except for a black square to mark out one whose face I could not see. He was a scientist. He was doing research on something.

I realized that he is being fed misinformation by those who do not acknowledge God, and who become foolish in their dark hearts.

And suddenly I knew. The answer is not better teaching.

The answer is God Himself intervening in the life of this scientist to bring Him to the knowledge of the Truth of Himself, in which all science is appropriated.

And as the Kingdom of Heaven latches onto him and lays hold. He passionately shares his findings and his way of thinking winsomely to the people in the scientific community.

Slowly the teaching in Science is changed back to a wisdom that advances the causes of science far into the reaches of unknown space. The galaxies were explored at greater depth. The human genome. The arch-robin and finches of the Galapagos are not classified separately anymore. A piece of flesh is sold in the marketplace for more tissue cells than ever before.

The Lord spoke to the scientist and he heard Him. He spoke and began to work wonders in his midst. A Christian who knew God but man knew not healed a nurse in a hospital.

How did you do that? “You ask because you will not believe. Ask and you will believe.” said the old man.

The scientist read his Bible and began to pray, and God found in his heart a pure passionate fire to live for him. The seed of rebirth was born in his heart, and flowered in living salvation. He began to speak to others about the revelation he found which was a light bulb to all his scientific teachings in darkness.

This is all I saw.

Interpretation: I believe it is the only answer to true salvation of the scientific community. God has to personally intervene. You who complain that the teaching must be better, and groan under the weight of misinformation called fact, and limited perspective called exhaustive, just take heart. All it takes is God intervening, and He will intervene in answer to the cry of His people, and He will remember His new Covenant in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior. Science is not the answer. Jesus truly is the answer, because only when God Himself intervenes to save, do we see the lasting powerful change and know in our hearts the goodness of God.

 

The Problem: Self-Salvation

Thanks Tim Keller for helping me with that phrase.
– – Dear Reader,
– – You have read lots. Here’s something else. I’ve been sick with a grueling fever for the past week or so, and I’m tired of it. As soon as I sit up, I start throbbing in my head. People are depending on me for so many things. I have responsibilities. Children to lead in song, home-bound family who need to go into town, and this is not to mention my truck which needs fixing, my laundry needs to be done, and I have about 2 hours of upright energy a day before my fever goes up a single degree. Thankfully my family are around to care for me, and take care of pressing needs as they arise. Things came to a pretty weepy head today when I had to skip work at school. I cried out, “God please come get me!” from my curled up blanket on the couch, wracked with weariness and worried-ness.
– – Finally. He really does listen. He just listens better than we do to ourselves. I could tell you countless times I had asked him to heal me because people depend on me. But now the problem comes down to just me living with me. What kept crushing down on me was the weight of everything I had to do, and just could not do. I had to partially delegate it to my boss.
– – I know He listens every time, but He responds to honesty. Suddenly, in that moment, I found myself writing in my journal, “Thank you for saving me from my own self-salvation.”
– – I like to think I can fix things. I can do it. I can handle life. I can face challenges. I can manage my time, my relationships, my money. And so I can, or at least act like I can. But what happens when all that power is gone? You go to your power source and have the balls to ask him, “Get me more power, so I can take care of things myself, so I will not need you to save me, cause if you save me, that means I have to completely serve you alone.” That’s what I’ve been doing anyway. I wrote this down after that realization:
“Let’s face it. We’re all a bunch of sucky self-saviors.” I slept with peace after that, ’cause I know my Savior is real. He won’t save everything important to me. That’s not His job. His job is sustaining the cosmos, just like he showed Job. And in the End his Wise plan is best.

 

Some Thoughts on Depression: Children, Brokenness, Humanity, and Work

I don’t know if I’ve ever met someone who hasn’t wrestled with this. Except maybe a few kids. That’s telling.

If there’s anything a parent wants for their children, it’s that they be happy. But so often, the way they try to ensure happiness for their kids is to avoid every hardship. “Let not my children know poverty, except from the safe distance of a charity event.” “Let not my children be offended, or they will grow up with self-esteem issues.” Other parents are tempted to overlook their children’s imperfections, because it’s so hard to face their own. “They’ll get better. One day they’ll learn.” But if they listen with humble ears to the honesty of youth, they will hear that the children know there’s something wrong with the world, and they know there’s something wrong with themselves.

Consider this truth: A person who does not grapple and come to terms with the brokenness of this world can never be truly happy. The very simple reason why is because if he does not, then he will never be able to grapple and come to terms with the brokenness of his own soul. To do one is to do the other. The brokenness without is the brokenness within.

I was about 14 when I walked through my Grandfather’s 100 acre baby-tree-field on a cloudy day. I had come so far to a point where all that was around me was six-to-seven-foot high thorn-thickets that smelled of stale weeds as far as I could see in front of me, and the cave grove of trees I had just left left behind me. I could have turned back, but I deeply felt that the Lord specifically called me to go through the thorn thickets. All I had on were shoes, short-shorts and a tank-top. I had no cell-phone, no water and I had left my canvas poncho on the dirt-road. I faced the thickets with an internal resolution: I could make it through. Why? Because He had told me to. In my hand I had a staff that was about 4 1/2 feet high. I knew there had to be a way. So, I got an idea, and I laid my staff up against the thorns, and lifted up my sneakered foot to press down the thorns. It made a dent, with only a little stinging scratch on my leg. It took forever. In those moments of toil, we know a taste of eternity. But after about one and a half hours of repetitious picking up the staff and laying it back down, I made it through the highest thickets to the lower thickets. Still could not move very quickly. Behind me lay a trail of broken down briers made by the staff in my hand which could take the thorns. And I finally made it where the staff in my hand was able to beat down the chest high brambles, and then I made it where I could steadily walk through careful to avoid the waist-high thorn-weeds. Then, I saw the dirt road and jogged to it, and plopped down on the ground to rest staring up at the bright-grey sky above me as grateful quivers of laughter shook my teenage frame.

Depression comes when humankind refuses to acknowledge their brokenness, and neglects to cry out for deliverance, and instead surrenders to the lie that God does not care enough about my brokenness to reach out his Hands to touch and heal, therefore I don’t care either. Read the Gospels: Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and he touched and healed people. In doing so, he showed humanity the Love of God for the world (yea even the whole world) because it was beautiful in His eyes when He made it. The Kingdom of Heaven is not some elusive abstract disconnected from the world. The Kingdom of Heaven, is Eternity fixing time. It is Power strengthening weakness. It is Goodness conquering evil. It is Grace overcoming guilt. It is Truth emancipating people from lies. It is healing eradicating sickness. It is Heaven restoring the earth.

Work is magical. It is through work that a human being extricates what is good in this world and makes it into something better. This is why hard-work is part of the cure for depression. It is the image of God to work, because it is God’s eternal power at work through His representatives on earth in time. To work is to enter into the timeless blessing of humanity in Genesis 1:28: Subdue the earth. And it is hard. Why? Because we as humans have made it hard. The ground is cursed because of us. The reason why we have “hard” work, is because our sin has made it hard, but the work is ever blessed.

Why are you downcast O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, I will praise Him. He is my Savior.