What you are about to read is the first of three blogs that will span September 2 through September 5, as a massive update on what God has been doing in my life through you, my incredible support and readership. I hope, as it states in the About section of this blog site, that you are encouraged, strengthened (maybe even convicted) by the Spirit’s presence; that the Holy Spirit would speak through my life, and thus through this blog. Thank you, so much, for hanging through this tumultuous and inconsistent past few weeks that I call my life. Lastly, I am humbled that you would even give this page a gander… so it is much appreciated (and most excellent)! In the words of Paul, may these words be salty.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 2:4-6 ESV)
I live in Pasadena, California now.
Right? Crazy. So crazy. A week ago I would’ve told you that it hasn’t hit me yet, but I’m now resembling the metaphorical remains of a car stuck on the train tracks, abandoned, then pulverized by an oncoming CSX train with attached cars, vividly graffitied by the phrase: “Welcome to Cali, rookie.”
Okay that’s a little extreme. But nonetheless, “I’m a little overwhelmed” would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, I love it here. Pasadena resembles my father’s hometown of Red Bank, NJ, of which I love, and Pasadena is in the middle of the San Gabriel Valley, which means if I want a view of the mountains, I just walk out the front door. Not to mention everyday “Cody-essential” commodities such as an Apple Store, a Mongolian BBQ, and a Pizza-n-Fries hole in the wall are all within biking distance (much to the chagrin of my bank account). Oh yeah, and I can bike to school too (much to the benefit of my gas tank). However, within an hour radius of Pasadena (with non-rush hour traffic) there is L.A., Anaheim, Santa Monica, Huntington, Newport, and Laguna Beach. If I could embellish the phrase “I don’t know where to start exploring,” I totally would in this situation. Regardless, California is awesome so far.
My journey across the United States was incredible, thanks to God, who created it’s western beauty that I had failed to experience with my own eyes for far too long, and to James, my 7-year-faithful small group guy turned friend and confidant. I’ll particularize the details of that trip in the next blog, part 2, to keep this one a little shorter than usual, but I do want to begin to mention some scripture we studied over the 5 day trip.
James and I began working through the book of Hebrews, taking a chapter day by day and each night breaking it down verse by verse, with help from YouVersion and the increasingly handy 2011 ESV Study Bible purchased this summer. Hebrews is an incredible book which reconciles Old Testament themes, people and rituals, with the salvation found in Christ. Tim Chaddick, Pastor of Reality: LA, the church I have been attending out here, spoke last sunday on how we have a tendency of domesticating radical ideas as Americans; in other words, we subdue ideas, we pulp them into submission, eventually watering down them down so we can comprehend and swallow, rather than something we have to chew on and wrestle with. He gave examples of the revolutionary genre of Rock-n-Roll in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that we now call “classic.” During this summer, on the last day of one of our trips in Mississippi, a trip leader blasted “Hell’s Bells” by AC/DC as the students were packing up. Don’t get me wrong, I am no stranger to at one time head-banging as a high schooler with my Dad to this song, but really? The last day of a spirit filled mission trip? of meeting and reconnecting with Jesus? Hell’s Bells? The irony is uncanny. THAT my friends, is domestication at its core.
So we, in many ways, have domesticated Christianity. We have highlighted our favorite verses and skipped over the others, we’ve focused only on the red verses and forgotten, or refused to consult the black and white foundation of those incredible red words, and even in those red words we tend to pick and choose. I’m guilty of all of the above. However, as Tim spoke of and as I realized wholeheartedly after reading Hebrews, that if we take scripture as a whole, within His entire will, knowing it as the very word of the Creator, it will ALWAYS disrupt this domesticating process.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV)
The book of Hebrews further confirms this view that if we want to understand Christ, to imitate him and those who follow him wholeheartedly (Heb. 13:7), then we must take scripture as a whole. The Bible is two testaments for a reason, and the writer of Hebrews does a pretty solid job of explaining why that is.
So let’s not water down the living water (John 4), but be filled and overflow with it. Because we aren’t dealing with a distant or dormant God, but a living God. Which is exciting but also sometimes terrifying.
it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 ESV)
I’ll go into my fear in greater detail tomorrow, but this verse could not ring more true. Because the true Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not sit idly by while we attempt to make Christianity palatable. For we who have surrendered to His will know that He rocks our world, destroys our own very foundation, our childish self-made kingdom so that we might be built upon the solid rock of Christ, that we might grow from the True Vine, and bear good fruit. We understand and submit to the fear of the Living God because not only, after experiencing this fear are we told “do not be afraid” through His word, but we also cling to the truth of the prophecy of Jeremiah, fulfilled by the second covenant in Christ, that:
I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:8-12; Jeremiah 31:34 ESV)
Our understanding of Christ must go deeper than public approval. It must. Or we’ll be left in the dust and 50 years from now all we’ll be known as… is “classic.”