Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Month: February, 2006

Knowing Jesus

Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you
There is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord.

Why is knowing Jesus the best? Why is this the highest goal of Christianity? What made Paul say that he counted everything crap compared to knowing Him? What makes Jesus so attractive?

It’s pretty much impossible to love Jesus, did you know that? Not because there is anything lacking in Him, but because there is a lot lacking in us. Think about a lovely piece of art, be it a painting, sculpture, poem, film, novel, whatever. The average person who knows next to nothing about the art of painting would look at a canvas and not be able to appreciate it. He may like it because it looks pretty, but he cannot fully understand it for what it is. The same is true with a person who never writes, he may be entertained by a book, but the real goodness of it, the artistic level, is lost to him. I think it’s the same with Jesus. We may read about him and affirm that he is was a lovely man and did lovely things. We may imagine that we would like him if we knew him, but there can naturally be no love for him because we are naturally anti-spiritual. We like religion, to be sure, and we often enjoy morality, but the true, underlying glory and beauty of Christ is completely lost to us, unless some understanding of holiness and spirituality is somehow infused into us. You can only see the real quality of a thing if you are somehow acquainted with the subject of its goodness. The best art critic is an artist. The best novel reviewer is a writer. The better the reviewer is at writing, the more accurately he will judge the written work. If Mark Twain says a book is crap, it’s crap. If he says a book is a masterpiece, we will be reading it for centuries.

So with Christ the only way we can ever love him is if we have his spirit put into us. Then we can see why he is so wonderful, why the saints of old loved him so much. The more his life is lived in and out of us the more we will be able to accurately judge how good he really is. Only with Christ we will never conclude that he is deficient, unless we really don’t know him at all. The more we see and appreciate his infinite perfections the more we will fall in love with him.

So why does God command us to seek him? The same reason our teachers in high school begged us to read those old classics that we hated. Because if we ever actually appreciated them and understood them, we would fall in love with them and read them more and more. In the same way, if I set myself to seek God and to try to understand these beautiful perfections he has, I will love him more and more. The great part is, those who love God get him. I may love a certain novel, but if the bookstore doesn’t have it I’m out of luck. The promise of God is that all who love him, get him

Stuff you don’t see everyday

October ninth was the Shi’a holiday of Muharram. It is a very special time for Shi’as all over the world. The main part of their parade took place outside my house. Here are some photos I took outside my bedroom window and just by my front door.

Those men are holding metal whips with which they beat themselves as the parade travels through the town. If you were to ask someone in Pakistan why they do this, they would give you one of two explanations. According to the Shi’as themselves, here is the story.

After Mohammad died he left no obvious successor. The Muslim community wanted to pick a Caliph to lead them religiously and politically. Most Muslims agreed on a man named Abu Bakr, who was Mohammad’s best friend. A smaller group of people thought that a man named Husayn Ali should be the first Caliph. Ali was the nephew of Mohammad and his only male relative. Ali’s supporters were called the Shi’a of Ali. Followers of Ali. Anyway, Abu Bakr died after a couple years, then another man took over whose name I can’t remember right now. Ten years later he died and was replaced by a man name Usman. Twelve years later Usman was murdered and Ali became the Caliph. The Shi’as were obviously pleased. Unfortunately Ali was killed shortly thereafter. The Shi’as went into deep mourning and split from the mainstream Muslim community. They regard this day as a very solemn time. They mourn his death all day and wound themselves out of grief.

Now, the trick comes when you ask a non-Shi’a about why the Shi’as hurt themselves on this day. The mainstream Muslims are called Sunni. They will tell you that it was the Shi’as who killed Ali all those years ago and now they are cursed people. They wound themselves because Allah will never forgive them, but maybe they can increase their chances through this rite. Different, eh? On a side note, I should mention that it’s rarely a good idea to ask about a group’s theology or practices from a rival group. It’s like asking a Brethren about what the Catholics believe. You’ll likely not get an objective answer.

So let’s think for a moment about the second explanation. I don’t buy it, just because the Shi’as and Wikipedia say different, but it makes me think. I wonder if they see something meritorious in all this. I wonder if they think injuring the physical body will make things better in the life to come. I was reading something this morning with Ruth that I wanted to share:

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as he had chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
1 Cor. 15:35-38

I caught something in this that I’d always missed before. You are the seed. When you die you are sown into the ground. After that, something very different comes up. I have a lovely plant growing on my roof. It has long branches, large green leaves and beautiful red flowers. At one time this plant was a simple, brown little seed. Something you wouldn’t even notice if you saw it lying on the ground. Today it is the first thing you see when you get on the roof. You are a seed, your death will remove your corruptible self and you will put on incorruptibility. What will the resurrection body be like? Different. Don’t try to figure it out, just compare a bulb to a tulip and you’ll get an idea. Except this tulip doesn’t sleep in winter.

How are Muharram and the new body related? I see people corrupting their bodies in the hopes of increasing their chances for future incorruptibility. But this is using physical weapons in a spiritual war. This is using paper and wood to build the USS Enterprise. Impossible. For incorruptibility we must kill the sin that is in us. We can’t. Jesus can. We needn’t whip ourselves, he was already whipped.

Praise God. That’s all.

Of Gnolls, and Trolls

Ordinarily, in the most expensive sense of the word, A gnoll and a troll (who is perhaps still gassy from eating a mole) make a horrible fighting team. Firstly, the troll is (depending on which fantasy you ally yourself with) either a hulking, massive, stone-skinned, drooling idiot, or he is an alacritic, lanky, wacked-out-hairdo, assassin. Secondly, the gnoll is weilding a flail. All this is to say that it doesn’t actually matter what the troll is like, because the gnoll will ultimately forget mid-swing, (which with a flail is perhaps enough time to reminisce fondly on the apt shape and beauty of the object it will intersect with because there is no preventing the meeting) and be forced to allow his weapon to make profound arguments on the skull of his comrade. Needless to say it would not be a positive factor in their quest to take over the traveler’s of the tree, as well it would not be helpful for this story’s plot, although come to think of it, I am almost certain it wouldn’t matter considering who else is writing this epic tale. Thankfully in this story neither the troll or the gnoll of the grassy knoll realize this, and so they, like many unprepared monsters of old, catapult themselves at the adventurers with a fervour any Monk would nod at, only to be met by Shane and his light-katana. The 9th decided at this exact moment to sit on a purple-freckled rock, cross his right leg over his left, and tie his shoe. Little did he know how superfluos this maneouver would be.