2500 Tons of Awesome….or Awful

pacificrim_trailer_hd_screencaps_21One of the best movies to come out last years was Pacific Rim. Sure it had some plot holes, but that was more than made up for by interesting characters and delightful action.

The most endearing character to me is a scientist named Dr. Newton Geizler (or Newt). He is fascinating because as he fights the monsters (Kaiju), he is fascinated by them. This is highlighted in an exchange that happens with Newt.

Newt: (The Monster) was two thousand five hundred tons of awesome. [uncomfortable pause] Or awful, you know, whatever you wanna call it.

Hermann: Please, excuse him. He’s a Kaiju groupie, he loves them.

Newt: Shut up, Hermann. I don’t love them, okay? I study them. And unlike most people, I wanna see one live and up close one day.

Raleigh: Trust me, you don’t want to.

To be honest, I’m with Newt.

There are no Kaiju in the real world, but there are awesome and awful things. Why does a storm chaser look for a dangerous tornado? Why does the Seattle volcano evacuation literature remind people not to go toward an erupting volcano? Why do we watch videos of fire and hurricanes with fascination?

Let’s be clear, these events are human tragedies. Hurricane Katrina cost over a thousand lives. In 1985, the eruption of the Colombian volcano Nevado del Ruiz sparked a lahar that killed 23,000 people. The 2004 tsunami killed at least 184,000 people and displaced millions.

When Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Phillipines in 2013, I was watching it closely. Part of me was excited to see suck a magnificent and powerful force of nature. The typhoon was exceptionally beautiful to see and awesome in the power it was releasing.

I also was worried. There were millions of people in front of one of the most powerful storms ever. I prayed for them. They weren’t prepared (no one could be) for the kind of power that storm was releasing. The weeks that followed highlighted the immense human tragedy that the typhoon caused.

article-2501471-19594E8400000578-211_964x676One of the most poignant images for me is this one. It shows a father carrying his daughter who died in the flooding. My heart breaks for this man. I can’t imagine carrying my Rosie. The weight of that loss is too much for me.

Think of it. You see the fear in you child’s eyes but can’t stop the water from coming. Selfishly, I would rather die than live with that memory.

So which is it? Are these forces of nature awesome or terrible?

There is an ironic reality to this. They are both. I think they are necessarily both.

Think about it, when we see a tornado swirling in the distance with its massive power and strange grace, we are awestruck. This thing is magnificent because it is like God. It spins with power and yet it is controlled, staying within a fairly cleanly defined area. It is awesome power just beyond what we can understand.

God is like that. We look at him and he is both awesome and terrible in his power. Not terrible in the sense of evil (for that matter, the tornado isn’t evil either), but terrible in the sense that should we defy him, terrible things will happen to us. Think of what Jesus said.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28 ESV

It is not cool to mention that we should fear God these days. We have a hard time reconciling this with the god we have made up in our heads who only loves us and gives us whatever we want. But the God of the Bible, he is one to be feared. In Job, he chose to come in a storm (possibly a tornado). In Exodus, he come to his people as a fire on a mountain.

The fact is, God is awesome and terrible too.

So what are the typhoons and earthquakes and volcanos? They are little images of a much more powerful God. Just like cool breezes and sunny days are there to remind us of the gentle and loving father we have in Heaven, the asteroids and solar flares and tsunamis are there to remind us that we serve a powerful God. One that we can’t control. One that we should get out of the path of his wrath.

Just as people prepare for disasters that we know to be coming (see your grocery store when a blizzard is coming). We have been warned to get out of the way of the ultimate disaster which is the just anger of God at foolish sinners. Paul warns us of the wrath of God:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Colossians 3:5-6

The wrath of God is coming and you and I are guilty of most, if not all, of the items on the list above. So what should we do?

(I)f you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9-10 ESV

What is the shelter from the greatest disaster of all? Jesus, he is the one who protects us.

But back to the original question, how should I feel about these great forces of nature. I should be awestruck by them and stand in amazement of them as little images of the much greater and powerful force that is God himself. I should be amazed by them as I am amazed by Him.

I should also mourn. These are terrible disasters and the human suffering also breaks the heart of God as well. But in that mourning, I should not think that a typhoon or tsunami is the great danger. Those things can only kill me. No, what I should fear most of all is God himself.

And then I should do whatever it takes to get out of that disaster’s way.

-Chip

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Immortal Horrors or Everlasting Splendors

CS-Lewis-2_2735921b

C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis was an amazing man. I was recently listening to an Ask Pastor John episode discussing C. S. Lewis and John Piper describes Lewis as a Romantic Rationalist. He is one of the few people to be wholly rational and yet wholly able to feel and experience the world. Lewis speaks frequently of joy in a very methodical and clear way.

While I was listening, Lewis again blew me away:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.” -C. S. Lewis

Nations, art, and culture are mortal, but I am not.

This is profound. The creatures I pass at work are in their most humble condition today. They don’t even recognize the grandeur that being created in the image of God gives them. Far from people being boring or annoying, God has made them magnificent creatures: either “immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

And those amazing creatures will one day look toward Heaven and see a God so immeasurably beyond what we can imagine that they too will bow to him: either in fear or in joy.

I don’t view people this way. I often see them as nuisances or annoying.  Even my own children can become burdensome to me. I don’t see them as fellow heirs of an eternal kingdom with me, I often see them as barriers to a good night’s sleep.

Shame on me.

So don’t be as foolish as I am. Look at the people close to you and realize that they are delightful beings with a grandeur reflecting and eclipsed by the God who made them in his image.

He must be a great God indeed.

-Chip

HIV, The Porn Industry, and the Christian

Cameron Bay at a News Conference Discussing her recent HIV positive test

The porn industry in the Los Angelos area has a problem. There have been four HIV cases in the last two months and this has caused a halt to production in the much of the adult industry in the LA area. This is a big deal because the San Fernando Valley has a one billion dollar porn industry and it is costly to the producers of porn to have their sets shut down.

The story of trouble for LA County porn began in earnest when in 2012 the county voted to require condom use on porn sets. This was decried by the porn industry but in August and September of 2013, four porn actors and actresses were found to be HIV positive. One of those actresses is Cameron Bay (her stage name), who is pictured above. The question I want to ask is, how should the Christian feel about this?

To be clear, Ms. Bay was involving herself in some very risky behavior. HIV infections are rare in the porn industry due to mandatory testing every thirty days, But other STDs are very common. She repeatedly chose to expose herself to STDs and she caught the worst one of all. Not only did she get it, but so did her boyfriend who is also a porn actor.

But one of the big ideas throughout the New Testament is that we do not get what we deserve. She may have been foolish and caught HIV? I am foolish and have earned a place in Hell. The gospel is about how we don’t get what we deserve.

Jesus actually ran into a similar case once.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:3-11

He alone in all of the Universe is in a position to condemn this woman. She was caught and the law is clear. Thank God we have been set free from the law. You and I are toast if we need to uphold the law. Because we are forgiven, we should be gracious to Cameron Bay. Jesus saw no need to condemn her, neither should we.

So that leaves two things left for us to do for Cameron. First, she should have our compassion and not our judgement. We are no better than her and we were forgive. Second, we should hope and pray that she too could be forgiven by Jesus? Wouldn’t it be another wonderful confirmation of the ridiculous grace of God if she were redeemed as well.

Christian, we have no room to be harsh. Don’t wag your head judgmentally at the Cameron Bay’s of the world. Realize that but for the grace of a God, you would be far worse. God has been kind to us. May God be gracious and kind to Cameron Bay.

-Chip

Women Are Really Suffering Gentlemen, Pay Attention

I recently visited a blog for women because of an intriguing article about a man’s confession of his porn use. The article is good, but what floored me was the comments flowing from the article. Page after page after page of women whose husbands were abusing pornography and they didn’t know what to do.

I would encourage any guys out there who are struggling to understand their wives’ struggle. Read the comments on this article. These women are desperate and their husbands are callous. Don’t be these guys. Repent, seek help, confess your sins to your wives, join a recovery group. This is not a matter of a private sin and nobody gets hurt. I just read wife after wife after wife who were not simply hurt, they were devastated.

Be better than that men. Be better.

-Chip