Feeling LOST?

First a confession: As of this writing I have not yet viewed the series finale of LOST. I intend to watch it this evening. However, I’ve gathered from comments by friends and a few posts on Facebook that a strong contingent of fans is unhappy with the ending.

I can only surmise that (1) not all of the questions posed by the show were answered or (2) the questions were answered in an unsatisfactory way or (3) the questions were answered very well but people were still left unsatisfied for some other reason (or perhaps some Other reason, ha!).  If I had to guess, option (1) is probably the correct one.

Let’s ask ourselves, however, what sort of ending could have satisfied our deepest longings for resolution. A complete run-down of all the answers in prosaic form? Maybe that “previously on LOST” guy could come out and say something like, “Well, here’s the 411, people. The island is a mirror-matter moon. The light is an old strobe dropped down a hole that now bears the character of deity; long live disco!”

But would such answers really satisfy us? Or would we just be angry that the answers were not to our liking?

The reason I bring all of this up is because the parallels are uncomfortably close to how I think we view our relationship with God.  How many times have I told myself, “If God would just visit me in my living room and explain everything it would be so much easier”? He could tell me why evil exists, where He comes from, how to keep my toddler from eating paper candy wrappings.  It would all be so satisfying!

But then I read the Scriptures.

And I see that answers do not always satisfy.  Didn’t the Israelites have the literal experience of God present before them, in cloud and fire and judgment and miracle and thunder and lightning? Didn’t He tell them explicitly and exactly what He wanted from them?

And yet somehow the very visibility of God seems to have produced the opposite of the desirable effect.  They made a calf and worshipped it.  They repeatedly and deliberately disobeyed.  Why?

Because our deepest longing is not for clarity.  It’s for communion. Relationship with the triune God. A closeness that goes beyond understanding and accepts my finitude in the face of His glory.  Answers rarely comfort; love usually does. The Israelites had clarity without communion because Jesus had not yet come. There was a gap between them and God, produced by human sinfulness, that only Christ could bridge.

Bad news for all of you who hope for perfect clarity about God and life and everything in between: You will never receive it.  Not even in eternity.  God is still infinite.  I will still be finite.  But we will experience communion. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the gap is bridged for those who believe. I will know Him fully and be fully known — not understand Him fully, but know him.

In the final analysis, LOST is just a television show.  No, really.  No, seriously.  I mean it. Don’t throw stuff at me, please. I don’t even know if the creators intended to deal with any of this.  Maybe they just threw together a hodge podge of Star Trek and Narnia and Gilligan’s Island to get people excited. I’m really not sure.

Could it be, though,  that we are feeling so LOST because we are looking for something that only eternity will provide? We think we are looking for answers from a television show or from God Himself, but what we are really looking for is communion. An encounter with holiness that goes beyond answers and leads us to true knowledge of our God.

So ask yourself again: Why am I feeling so LOST?

Tags: ,

Franklin Graham and Christian Persecution

A few weeks ago a news story about Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) charged up the Christian bloggers and editorials.  It seems that the evangelist’s invitation to speak and pray at a Pentagon event celebrating the National Day of Prayer was rescinded by the Army. The reason was that in 2001, after the World Trade Center attacks, he made public statements describing Islam as an evil religion and has recently described it as a violent religion.

While I personally agree with Graham’s statements and strongly support his right to make the statements in the United States, I also feel that the level of angst demonstrated by some bloggers is perhaps misplaced given the circumstances.

First, should we be surprised at all that the secular government would disinvite an outspoken evangelical Christian from an event designed to promote the concept that all faiths are equally valid ways to know God? Has it not always been true that the name of Jesus provokes conflict and scorn among those who do not believe? Graham drew a line in the sand by stating that Jesus is the only way to truly know God; that belief has never been a popular one, especially in the halls of government.

In fact, Jesus stated explicitly that we should expect hatred from the world on account of His name (John 15:18-21).  Not that we seek to be obnoxious, but Christian exclusivity will always be at odds with the world’s values.

Second, we might have an exaggerated sense of the need to protect our personal rights.  Our government does guarantee us certain rights, but the Scripture never encourages us to grasp at them. It seems that the example of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11) and of the early church (Acts 5:41) encourages just the opposite: a humility and joy even in the face of the loss of our rights.

Third, if this is persecution, it could certainly be worse.  Take a few minutes and look at www.persecution.org, the website of The Voice of the Martyrs.  Spend some time in prayer for our brothers and sisters throughout the world who are literally beaten and killed and imprisoned for the sake of Christ.  It helps to keep things in perspective.

So yes, we pray for our country.  Yes, we support those who are boldly proclaiming the Gospel.  And yes, we involve ourselves in government to the degree God leads each of us.

But we never place our hope for salvation in the kingdoms of this world.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”
(Philippians 3:20-21)

Tags: ,

Am I the Elder Brother?

Have you ever had a particular portion of Scripture repeatedly and seemingly randomly pop up in your life, as if God had something particular He was hoping to communicate to you?

When I was in seminary, there was one year in which every Bible study and sermon Shannon and I heard seemed to be from the book of Mark.  To be honest I’m still not sure why, except that there must have been something about Jesus’ authority and power that we needed to hear.

Lately it seems that the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15 has been invading my sphere.  About a month ago I read a marvelous novel by Marilynne Robinson entitled Gilead. The premise of the novel is that of an elderly minister writing a series of letters to his young son.  Although his intent is to bolster his child’s faith, in the process the old man discovers that he has his own struggles to work through before he can peacefully enter God’s presence.  I don’t want to give away too much, but toward the end of the novel I suddenly realized that Robinson had cleverly recreated Luke 15 in modern terms.

Then, this past weekend I read a non-fiction book by Timothy Keller called The Prodigal God. Keller’s exposition of Luke 15 is excellent, even though in places I differ with his conclusions about the relationship of works to Christian faith.  He raises some points about the parable that I had never considered, particularly dealing with the motivation of the elder brother in the story, a central character who is often overlooked.

All of this Prodigal Son literature has got me to thinking. A few questions I’ve been asking myself:

-Am I more like the younger son, who seeks his own personal pleasure at the expense of everybody else in his life? OR

-Am I the elder son, who slavishly obeys the Father out of duty rather than love?  Do I believe that my good works somehow merit me a better life or favor before God?

-Am I continually in awe of the Father (the hero of the story!) who has lavished His love on undeserving and unworthy children, both those who run away in open rebellion AND those who are religious yet self-righteous?

If I’m honest, I relate much more to the elder brother.  I’ve always been the “good guy,” the one who stays inside the expected boxes and rarely steps to the left or right. The challenge, of course, is that I can struggle with a personal sense of self-righteousness toward the “younger brothers” in my life, those who struggle with consistency and selfless service. You might say my sense of justice is a bit inflated, but for all the wrong reasons.

I have been both convicted and encouraged by Luke 15 lately.  Convicted because I am reminded: I am as much as sinner as the worst derelict, no more worthy of the grace of God than any other.  Encouraged because I am reminded: in spite of myself Jesus still loves me, still died for me, and still beckons me to “come into the feast” and experience the joy of relationship with Him.