“The Real World”

Bright, shiny copper pots:

I have never seen anyone so excited about cooking utensils! 

copper pots

Jon was explaining his historical finds that coincide with his love of preparing gourmet foods.  One of the cooking pots had actually been “resurrected” from an underwater shipwreck.  Jon’s love of cooking is displayed as decoration in his home.

One expedition for book boxes prior to a move found me in a bar.[1] While there, the manager showed me his latest technique for dispensing drinks: a gravity system that worked from the room above.  Exact specifications created the beverage ordered by patrons below.  I’ll never forget the excitement of the owner.  He was so pleased to offer exceptional service.  Loving his vocation meant enjoyment of his life within the world.

I received a text from a former student the other day while he was in a tree stand hunting deer.  Back and forth electrons flew as I expressed amazement that he could hunt and text at the same time!  Guy told me that when you spend 200 days a year in the wild you learn to do many things at the same time.  Visiting his website I saw the pure joy in Guy’s eyes as he taught people lessons about life through hunting.

When God created “the heavens and the earth” He had such human enthusiasms in mind.  God’s assessment of His work speaks for itself: “And He saw that it was good.”[2] The word means “beautiful”[3] setting the standard for human excitement in creativity and aesthetics.  The material world is good.  We are not Gnostics, legalistically binding ourselves to human-centered regulations.[4] To enjoy God’s good gifts of life is a sign of gratitude; thankfulness to One outside of ourselves.  The Psalmist is blessed by astronomy, agriculture, biology, law codes, wildlife and human life.[5]

Delight in this God-given life is one of the reasons why I distain certain gospel songs.  Growing up, one of the little ditties we sang in church was “This World Is Not My Home, I’m Just A Passin’ Through.”  I have been teaching a seminar for some time with the title “This World IS My Home!  I’m NOT Just Passin’ Through!”  I love the smell of crisp fall air.  I love the smell of the air just before it rains.  I love the smell of wood fires in the night air.  I love the smell of a bakery, sautéed onion-pepper mixture on the stove, and Kentucky Fried Chicken®!  And that’s just a few smells!  The list is endless of what I enjoy in this life!

So it is with great admiration that I mention a hymn which perfectly explains my joy:

For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth, Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour, Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower, Sun and moon, and stars of light.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye, For the heart and mind’s delight,                                                                     For the mystic harmony, Linking sense to sound and sight.                                                                         Lord of all, to Thee we raise, This our hymn of grateful praise.

Satisfaction, Appreciation, and Thankfulness is the most important SAT test we will ever take.[6] To be ungrateful for the gifts given to us is to reject The One Who has given those gifts to us.[7] We ought to give thanks for the reality of this life since He has given everything for us to enjoy.[8]

E. M. Forster would cringe when people would tell him to “face reality.”  Turning round in a circle he would ask, “Which way should I face since reality is all around me?”[9] In a similar vein, Cornelius Plantinga rightly takes to task those who think paying bills, going to a 9-5 job, and balancing work with leisure is “the real world.”  He says, “Someone who lives in the ‘real world’ lives with an awareness of the whole world, because the whole world is part of the kingdom of God.”[10]

“The whole” compels me to contend “the real world” includes the seen and the unseen.  The five senses do not make sense apart from the sixth sense.  There is another world to which I must give an account.  The supernatural creates the natural.  The invisible God made the visible creation.  To neglect our responsibility to live under Heaven’s authority creates a disjointed view of life.  We succumb to naturalism, materialism, and pragmatism.  We begin to think that success is based on production.  “The bottom line” becomes our “finish line.”

God draws “a line in the sand.”  Unless we are careful, Deuteronomy 4:15-19 declares we are prone to worship, honor, and subscribe to the standards of this world.  I would encourage us all to ask ourselves this question: Is our Christian distinctiveness informed by “the real world’s” accountability to Another World?  As much as I enjoy this God-given life, I am constantly reminded that the creation has a Creator.  I will continue to revel in sights, smells, tastes, and human ingenuity as I remember that earth depends on Heaven.

The “real world” is wherever we are acknowledging Another World to which we must give an account.  Mark teaches the enjoyment of this life and The Next as Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary.

[1] Everyone with a library knows that the transportation of books demands sturdy boxes.  The best boxes are those that transport alcohol because of their small, strong size for bottles.

[2] Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31.

[3] A. Bowling. 1980. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. (Moody): 1:345-46.

[4] Colossians 2:16-24.  The Gnostics have a long history.  One key belief considered the physical world a nuisance to supernatural connections with “the spiritual.”

[5] Psalms 147 and 148.

[6] Deuteronomy 8:10-20.

[7] Romans 1:21.

[8] Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Timothy 6:17.

[9] Richard John Neuhaus. 1992. Freedom for Ministry. (Eerdmans):134.

[10] Cornelius Plantinga. 2001. Engaging God’s World. (Eerdmans): 139-142.

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