Reenacting the Incarnation?

I had an odd experience at Christmas Eve service last night. After the first song, a young woman (I guessed in her late teens) read a poem, which at first I didn't like. It sounded too touchy-feely, as if the wonder of the Incarnation was an excuse to celebrate ourselves. I also grumbled in my heart against this young woman reading it. An older person would have read with more authority, I thought. Then the poem did call us to remember that we, with our imperfections, are chosen by God, and we should present our imperfections to him and ask for his help.

Then I realized my grumbling about the youthfulness of the woman reading was in error as well. Mary was about that age (perhaps younger?) when she was chosen to become the mother of the Son of God. But I grumbled at someone so young being given such a small role as reading a poem from the pulpit in a service. I still have things to learn yet. But even so, God is with me, to help me do better than I would on my own.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

The theodicy on my computer

I have a theodicy on my computer. My son and I bought it at Walmart five or six years ago. It's called "Age of Empires II". The people who developed this game probably weren't thinking of vindicating God's goodness despite the existence of evil, but that is what they did.

If you've never played Age of Empires II, it is a game where you have villagers that gather resources, so you can build castles and make knights and archers and catapults to defend yourself against the computer's army and to conquer the computer's empire.

Like a lot of commercial games, it has cheat codes that you can look up online. One lets you create sports cars armed with machine guns, which totally dominate the medieval battlefield of the game. When I saw this code, I tried it out and it was impressive. One sports car basically won the game for me.

But I've played the game hundreds of times over the years, and only a handful of times have I used sports cars. After all, what is the point? It's not much of a game if I do that.

That is the theodicy of it. When I'm tempted to feel frustrated with circumstances that I know God could fix or remove in an instant, I think of Age of Empires. Does God delay his instantaneous triumph over evil to make the game more interesting? Scripture says he does want us to have faith in His power and authority even when we can't see it in our circumstances.

If my villagers were intelligent, they might well be frustrated with me. Why do I send them out to risk their lives building towers at the edge of the enemy territory when I could win an instantaneous victory? "How long, Master", they might cry out. "Do you not care that we perish?" But I don't want to win in an effortless, instantaneous manner, I want to overcome in a challenging, complex manner.

The analogy only goes so far. I don't care about my villagers because I know they are only pixels on a screen and objects in RAM with a few variables. God does care about me and about the world, he has assured me of that over and over. But he has a much bigger plan than just loving me, and his plan usually doesn't include giving me instantaneous relief over my problems. Age of Empires has helped me understand that.

God's pleasure

I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire.

I've been thinking about that quote these last few days. When do I feel God's pleasure in what I do?

One time is when I write, either here or in my narrative projects slowly staggering towards completion. When I take the time to write, I'm often encouraged by a deeper sense of joy than my normal. The colors seem a touch brighter, the music in church seems a touch deeper, a touch happier.

This is a challenging fact, besides being encouraging. Often, I don't want to work at my writing, or anything else. I'm entranced by the 21st century false gospel: Life is supposed to be convenient and almost effort-free. If something is hard, I can't be expected to pursue it until "they" update it to make it easy.

But I think Scripture calls us to a long pilgrimage, often involving struggle against circumstances and my inclinations. There are moments of ease and comfort, an occasional dramatic victory when I see God's power unleashed, but the norm seems to be needing faith to believe in God's great power when I don't see it unveiled in my circumstances.

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" -- a surprising blessing!

I've been meditating on Psalm 22 these last few days and have found encouragement in David's cry of desolation.

1) We worship a God who has endured far greater torment than anything we fret over.
2) We worship a God who promises to be with us in our distresses. The desolate feeling of verse 1 isn't the end of the story, read v 22, 24, 29-31.
3) we worship a God who receives and welcomes our honesty when we pour our distressed feelings out to him.

Do people still talk about the Four Spiritual Laws? I'm thinking Spiritual Law #1 could be reworded. Instead of "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," I'd say "God loves you and has an astonishing ability to give contentment in distressful circumstances."