“corpse bride”

I just started watching the movie “Corpse Bride,” which I heard about at a retreat this past weekend. The movie is about a bride who is literally a corpse, dead, even though she still has a certain sort of beauty to her. This bride has to marry a groom, but the catch is: he is alive while she is not. Anyway [Spoiler Alert], the movie goes on to reveal that the groom is willing to die and actually ends up dying for this corpse bride.

This is the story of Christ and His own bride, the Church.

We are Christ’s bride. We are beautiful, but we were once “corpse brides” ourselves, dead due to our sin and living in a fallen world with no hope and freedom. Jesus is the groom who died for us so that we could be united with Him. He had no reason to die, for He was whole and alive, but He did it out of love for us. He died so that instead of being corpse brides, we could be alive and set free.

Honestly, the idea of the corpse bride can be a hard one to accept. A lot of times, we don’t want to admit that we are dead. We don’t want to admit that we are in torment, and that we have to rely on someone else to make us whole and beautiful.

The reality is: even when we accept Jesus into our lives, there are still areas of our lives in which may be dead. And even though our groom died for us in order to bring these areas to life, we often choose to remain in that state of brokenness and despair. We either love the darkness or we are so afraid of the light that we stay in this darkness. We grow so accustomed to being dead and broken that we don’t see that life is right in front of us – that all we have to do is take it.

Today, I pray that the Church chooses life in all areas of our hearts and minds. I pray that we recognize our brokenness, and instead of being ashamed or even proud, that we accept the sacrifice the groom made for us. God doesn’t want a corpse bride. Because as beautiful as she may seem in her lifeless state, this beauty pales in comparison to a bride who is alive, joyful, and free.

 

adultery

I recently heard the most interesting message about adultery – not literal (aka cheating on your spouse with another person) adultery with others, but adultery against God.

The passage of focus was 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. The messenger that day started by talking about the movement of different ideas and thoughts through us – how something first sits with us and where it ends up as we get closer to and more intimate with it. This journey, he highlighted, is as follows: 1) the mind (“a stranger”), 2) the heart (“a friend”), and 3) the belly (“a spouse”).

Proverbs 20:27 says, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly” (KJV).

So basically, where the Spirit resides, where ideas and thoughts are the most intimate are in the belly. Idols come into play, then, when we allow those things of the world – entertainment, people, ideas – come through our mind, through our heart, and into our spirit. We go from treating these idols as strangers, then as friends, and then finally as spouses. And that’s when we enter the realm of adultery against God.

Today, I ask myself the following questions: am I being adulterous with God? Am I allowing intimacy with idols instead of intimacy with the Spirit? Am I being intimate with the world? The answer to all of these is yes. But I cannot fix this on my own. Psalm 119:9 says,  “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”

God’s word, not our own will, sanctified us. It redeems us from adultery.

God does not give us these warnings against sexual immorality, against adultery, lightly. The sobering reality can be seen in the story of David. After David sleeps with Bathsheba, one of his advisors, Nathan, confronts him. David repents, and Nathan tells him he is forgiven. He says, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” However, he goes on to say, “But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

The reality is that showing contempt for the Lord, being intimate with this world, has its consequences. The Lord is merciful and takes away our sin and saves us from death. But sometimes there are consequences that we have to face in the aftermath.

I pray today that I can understand the grave nature of adultery against God. I pray that He gives me the strength to live according to His word – because I cannot do it on my own.

the new colossus

I pray for all refugees, all homeless, all the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I pray for the tired and the hopeless, and those that, in thinking they could find a friend, were turned away. 

“‘Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she

With silent lips. ‘Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'”

beloved ~ be loved 

We spend a lot of time at church learning to: 1) love God and 2) love others. 

These are very important, but yesterday at church, I recently heard a message about loving yourself – being loved. As cliched as it is, I don’t often hear it in the church, and so it resonated with me. There is so much self-hatred in this world: low self-esteem causes us to think we’re useless and worthless, physical and mental illness can cause us to think we’re broken or “crazy,” our flaws and what other people say about us, when taken to heart, hurts us and makes us feel unloved, and our past sins put us to shame. 

Ephesians 1:4-6 says, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”  

Too often, we let hurt from this world to close our hearts and hide from God. But really, God sent us his own beloved so that we could truly be loved. So instead of closing ourselves off from Him, we need to allow ourselves to just be loved by Him. Being unconditionally loved frees us from the hurtful words of others; it lets us remember that God is good; it takes away our shame and our fear. And inadvertently, if we let ourselves be loved, we are then put in the best place to love God [He first loved us] and then love others like He has called us to do. 

My prayer today is to love myself and to allow myself to be loved. It is to change my mind’s subconscious understanding  of love from that given as a reward to that given freely and unconditionally. It is to better appreciate the depth and height and length and width of God’s love for me. And it is to be so consumed by this love that I allow it to spill over into the lives of those around me. 

the rich man

I attended a Bible study today on Mark 10, about the rich man and his desire to inherit eternal life.

Though I’ve read this parable before, what stood out to me this time is that the rich man was introduced and characterized by one adjective: “rich.” While it may seem obvious, “rich” is not only what described him, but what is so significant to who he was as a person and where he was in the world. And of course, Jesus ends up telling this man (out of love) to sell what he owns, to give to the poor, and to follow Him. In a way, the rich man is basically told to give up the very essence of what defines him (even the way he defines himself): his riches. 
So I don’t think Jesus necessarily wants us to give up our wealth or sell everything we own. What he wants from us is deeper than this – it is the will to give up what we hold dear to us, what we use to characterize ourselves and what we allow to identify us. These identifiers, though not intrinsically bad in themselves, can be what keep us from following Jesus humbly and wholeheartedly. 

In praying to God to reveal what I may need to give up (or be willing to give up) to follow Jesus, what comes to mind off the bat is my reputation. Like many, I have a habit of caring too much about what people think. Though this isn’t always a problem, there are clearly times in which I let what people think of me and what I define myself as hinder my walk with God. Some examples: when I decide not to share a thought with a friend, because I am afraid I will offend him or her; when I avoid being open about my spiritual battles in front of my family, because I don’t know how they will react to this vulnerability; when I don’t want to talk about Christ or my faith during intellectual conversations, because I don’t want to be seen as naive or stupid (as if intellect and following Christ are mutually exclusive). 
Just like the rich man, what defines my reputation is essentially what I will be characterized by. In valuing my reputation above my desire to follow God, I could easily be “intellectual,” “spontaneous,” “easygoing” (all good things in and of themselves). But maybe in doing this, in following the easy and desirable path, I would fail to be the righteous, brave, and Christ-like person God called me to be. 

true fasting

Whenever I get too caught up in myself, in my emotions, in the struggles and the pain of this life – what often brings me back down is not mere comfort or peace or even anything that could take my sorrows and pain away. What brings me back is a renewed focus/perspective of the larger picture, the picture of a fallen world worse off than I am. I am reminded that there is a world that is broken and hungry and afraid out there, and that I am here to help that world. 

In Isaiah 58, God criticizes the selfish fasting of the Israelites. Their fasting was marred with quarrels and fights, with exploitation, with selfish desires. He asks, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”

I have to remind myself when I mourn and fast for my own sake and self of the kind of fasting God wants. He wants the fasting that looses the chains of injustice, that unties the cords of the yoke, that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.

Essentially, the kind of fast that God wants – the kind of fast that ends up inevitably bringing personal healing – is a life lived for others rather than for the self.