Monday, December 27, 2010

Between Christmas & New Year

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve has always been an odd week in my head. Standing on the brink of a new year. But, I suppose my question would be, “Why don’t we feel we stand on the brink everyday?”

There are a few reasons behind this inquiry: 1) Nothing keeps wicked man out of Hell at any one moment save the pleasure of God. Thus we dangle on the brink of eternal punishment. 2) There is no guarantee of our next breath, thus we stand on the brink of death. 3) Everyday is a new day and every night its eve, thus every morning we are on its brink.

But there are no ‘resolutions’ for new days only new years; there are no (at least very limited) contemplations of one’s eminent death; and there certainly are no thoughts of God justly damning one. Yet the truth of the matter remains, these three ideas coupled together must create some sort of feeling or persuasive thought within one moving one to action or change, right?
If every day is new and there is no assurance of the next breath and there is only God’s pleasure standing between eternal just damnation and one, should not one use every moment of that unsure breath during that uncertain day to avoid that awful punishment?

But the catch is that no one is capable of being good enough to sway God’s pleasure enough to swing one away from that brink of eternal damnation. Then our situation is utterly helpless and hopeless, so reason would suppose.

But God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us sent his Son in the condescended form of man to bear that eternal punishment so justly deserved by those that stand on its brink. Therefore no longer do the redeemed dangle on the brink of eternal punishment rather they stand on the brink of eternal joy in God. And every new day with all its uncertainty and every breath with all its flavor of a gift becomes the fan for the flame of joy in God.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Psalm 50 (Well worth reading & re-reading)

"The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.

Our God comes; he does not keep silent; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that he may judge his people: 'Gather to me my faithful ones, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice!' The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge!

'Hear O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.

'If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fruit are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and preform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.'

But to the wicked God says: 'What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers.

'You give your mouth free rein for evil, and you tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother's son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

'Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.'"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Gospel is not the end for which the Church exists

The Gospel is not the end of life or ministry. Things ought never to be done for the sake of the Gospel. Though the Gospel is beautiful and wonderful it is the means to a far greater end, an end for which all of creation was made, but the Gospel is, however, not the end itself.

It is quite possible that some will wonder at what I’m getting at, while some others will simply wonder if I am being heretical (and indeed some may damn me for writing this). But before I get to what I’m getting at let me say this clearly: missions, evangelism, heralding of the Gospel is NOT the main end, goal, or aim of the Church.

The end for which 1) God created the Church, 2) God created the world, and 3) God created you is for his own namesake. He made it all for his own glory. Yes, this should sound like Piper and yes, this should sound like Edwards, but above either of those this should sound Scriptural.

Here is my fundamental problem with a Gospel-driven Church; the belief in the glory of God is not taught nor embraced, though it may be believed on a theoretical basis. For you see, it is very possible that in the Gospel-driven Church the end becomes man. Evangelization of the lost becomes the purpose of the Church. Though evangelism is good, it is not the reason the Church exists. The reason the Church exists is to glorify God. This is the main purpose, goal, aim and end of the Church, not missions.

“Well, duh” Really?!? If that is your response to the end for which God created the world, the Church, and you then I highly doubt you believe it! If our sole purpose for existing is to be glorifying God then why do we see the same crappy movies? Why do we still read the same cheap novels? Why do we still center our lives on self? Nothing has changed! We have the ticket for heaven and we’re fine with just that… “But God who said ‘let light shine out of darkness.’ Has shone in our dark hearts to reveal the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2Cor. 4:4-6)”

If you really believed the Gospel wouldn’t the glory of God be a constant? Would it not be regard first in all respects? Because we have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, because God has shone into our dark hearts! We now see God’s glory and are enthralled with Him that is what this verse hits at.

But how many of us are enthralled with him? How many of us see joy waxing and waning because of a relationship or a broken iPod? We, ‘who have seen a great wonder’ are excited by cheap tricks and false representations, but the glory of God has no pull on us… Boys playing with a ball on Sunday afternoon is more of a wonder to us than the glory of God ever has been.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Violently Joyful

One must violently go about pursuing one’s joy. Indeed things must be ripped asunder and thrown aside for one’s joy to be complete. The beautiful vase is shattered; the gorgeous painting shredded; the priceless car wrecked.

For in seeing a better thing one forces one’s way to it. “For the joy set before him, he sold all he had and purchased the field. (Matt. 13:44)” Not because the field was lovely, not because the soil was good for farming, but because there was a great treasure buried in the dirt. He sold all he had! He violently, or recklessly pursued his joy in selling everything for a field because he knew there was a treasure worth more than he had.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to buy what he cannot earn. (Jim Elliott)” To pursue one’s own joy in seeking a great treasure is no sin, if the great treasure is worthy of pursuit. If the treasure is weak and languid and not worthy of the pursuit given it then it is sin, but, however, if the treasure is incomparable to any others, if it is indeed glorious, then it is no sin to pursue this treasure.

The treasure I speak of is God, he is not only Redeemer and Savior but he is also Treasure and Reward for the believer. He is both giver of the Reward and the Reward itself. “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness.’ Has shone in our dark hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:4-6)”

We have seen a great light; we have beheld a great treasure, one that is worthy of pursuit. We are drawn to it, not through obligation but through want of joy; we have fallen in love with it, not from fearful compliance but from worship. He, God, is indeed completely worthy of pursuit, and not only is he worthy of pursuit but he is worthy of worship. He is our satisfying joy. Nothing else will do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Deliverer is Coming

“My deliverer is coming, my deliverer is standing by.” As Rich Mullins said, “The song the captive children sang.” Here we are the freed-captive children. Here we stand in our ‘bodies of death’ here our hearts pine for the coming of our standing by Deliverer. Here we suffer the torments of sin; here we are ‘weary of earth, myself, and sin.’

Here we, ‘Hope for what we do not see.’ Trusting that one-day all sorrow and woe will be lifted. Trusting that our broken hearts will be mending by the Great Physician. Trusting that our conformation into the image of Jesus will be complete. Trusting that we will be wholly satisfied by the One who created. Yet there remains this unspeakable sadness even in our overwhelming joy.

By the grace of God we understanding we are redeemed from what we so justly deserve and to an extent desire to get what we deserve. For in the conformation of Jesus we begin to realize the unfairness of our redemption.

“As he [the believer] has more holy boldness, so he has less self-confidence…and more modesty. As he is more sure than others of deliverance from hell, so he has more of a sense of his desert of it. He is less pat than others to be shaken in faith, but more apt than others to be moved with solemn warnings, and with God’s frowns, and with the calamities of others. He has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart: richer than others, but poorest of all in spirit; the tallest and strongest saint, but the least and tenderest child among them. (Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections as quoted in God’s Passion for His Glory by John Piper)”

Growth ought to be evident in the believer’s life. If growth is not evident there is no belief simply a fraudulently ‘affection’ for the gifts of God, not for God.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

One thing encompasses all things for one purpose

‘One thing that encompasses all things for one purpose’ this very well might be the statement of my life. Allow me to explain.
One thing: God in all his goodness ought to be continually my only aim. This means that every goal set is simply a step in the greater aim of shooting at God. For if all of social justice or all of the universe is aimed at but not God then all of social justice and all the universe will be missed. For if I aim at the entire universe but not God my aim is too small. Therefore God in all his goodness ought to be continually my only aim.
Encompasses all things: In the aim of the ‘One thing’ the entire universe will be encircled and used for joyful satisfaction in God. In taking dead aim at God rather than fortune or women or drugs there are two things revealed.
1) Regeneration, namely redemption through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For only in regeneration is one capable of seeing the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). And therefore, only then (after regeneration) is one in any way inclined to press hard after Him for joy.
2) There is stark realization for the necessity of being satisfied by the only thing that is capable of satisfying an eternal soul, namely God himself. Temporal pleasures may be had in stuff however they are merely temporal pleasures they are not satisfying.
From these two realizations come the phrase ‘joyful satisfaction’ meaning ‘the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ has been seen and life has been profoundly impacted so as to seek joy in God rather than stuff; and intrinsically tied to this regeneration is the stark realization that only God can, and does, satisfy a soul.
For one purpose: The glory of God in my satisfaction of who he is. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. (Westminster Confession of Faith)” “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. (John Piper)” To be satisfied by God. Does this place my satisfaction above God? Am I elevating my satisfaction to a higher place than God? No. Indeed in the second greatest commandment we are told to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is an inherent ‘self-love’ within humanity. Is it wrong? Unless it is regenerated ‘self-love yes, but, however, if it is regenerated self-love it is not. For, “He God did not kill self-love; he supernaturally and profoundly transformed it into a spiritual hunger for the glory of God. (Jonathan Edwards)
Therefore my satisfaction is inherently and intrinsically tied to the glory of God. It has, through a supernatural and profound work, become a longing.

It is my hope that this statement becomes my life’s theme. To see God in all his goodness continually aimed at; which will encircle the entire universe to be used for joyful satisfaction in God; to the glory of God in my satisfaction of who he is.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Quotes

I just started "God's Passion for His Glory" by John Piper. In the first half of this book Piper seeks to press the reader to read Jonathan Edwards' "The End for which God Created the World" printed in the second half of the book. Here are some nifty quotes from the introduction & part one:

1) "'I think the Word of God teaches us more things concerning it... than has been generally believed, and that it exhibits many things concerning it exceeding glorious and wonderful than have been taken notice of.' In simple modern English: we have scarcely begun to see all of God that the Scriptures give us to see, and what we have not yet seen is exceedingly glorious." (p. xii-xiii)

2) Sereno Dwight, Edwards' first biographer, said, "'From the purest principles of reason, as well as from the fountain of revealed truth, he demonstrates that the chief and ultimate end of the Supreme Being, in the works of creation and providence, was the manifestation of his own glory in the highest happiness of his creatures.'" (p. 31)

3) "The further up you go in the revealed thoughts of God, the clearer you see that God's aim in creating the world was to display the value of his own glory, and that this aim is no other than the endless, ever-increaing joy of his people in that glory." (p. 32)

4) "God-centered grace nullifies the gospel of self-esteem." (p. 35)

5) "Human beings do, in fact, have more value than the birds (Matt. 6:26). But that is not the bottom line of our happiness. It simply means that we were created to magnify God's glory by enjoying him in a way birds never can." (p. 35)

6) "No act is truly virtuous-that is, truly loving-that does not come from and aim at joy in the glory of God." (p. 35)

7) "Our evangelistic task is not to persuade people that the gospel was made for their felt needs, but that they were made for the soul-satisfying flory of God in the gospel." (p. 35)

8) "God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God." (p. 41)

9) "Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves." (p. 42)

10) "'Where there is a kind of light without heat, a head stored with notions and speculations, with a cold and unaffected heart, there can be nothing divine in that light, that knowledge is no true spiritual knowledge of divine things. (Edwards)'" (p. 44)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Satisfaction + "A Severe Mercy"

(These thoughts are all an instigation of finishing "A Severe Mercy" by Sheldon Vanauken, within which are numerous letters from C.S. Lewis. Thus these thoughts are not my own, I attribute them to Vanauken and Lewis.)

What is satisfaction? My dictionary says, “Fulfillment of one's wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from this.” There is much to find satisfaction in, however it never lasts. The pride of doing something well, the excitement of holding that person’s hand, the first smell of spring or the first snowfall of winter.
We are everlasting beings trapped in the temporal. Time surrounds us. We long for those moments when time is forgot, when we sit and stare for what could possibly have been hours, but we care or know not. We have phrases like, “How time flies.” Or, “Where has the time gone.” Or, “Time has stopped.” This sense of time, rather of time stopping, and our longing for timelessness reveals something of who we are.
A bird does not think it odd to be in the air, and fish does not long for the day it will be wholly free of water, but we consider the time when time will not be.
In our understanding of satisfaction we must consider one major thing, the things that we take comfort and pleasure in are intrinsically tied to time, yet we are not. Therefore it is reasonable to see their inability to satisfy us indefinitely. Though a portion of us may be pleased for a moment the whole of us will never feel that same pleasure because we are more than flesh and blood as seen by our desire for timelessness.
Yet we tier out our minds in contemplation of the temporal; we wear out our forearms with the tight grasp on stuff; our legs burn with the runner’s pain in our sprinting toward things. Yet every toy ever wanted will disappoint.
The computer I write on will fail. The chair I sit on will waste away. The books I read will become dust. Indeed the fingers pressing the buttons will rot.
So, where does this desire for timelessness come from? It is right to say God, yet we do not believe it. Rather we may believe the desire for timelessness comes from God, but we do not believe he can satisfy our timeless desire. So then what is it that we long for? There is nothing else to long for. Either God satisfies our desire or he does not.
But it is no failing on God’s part if our pining is not met in him, on the contrary he remains blameless and it is we who are at fault. For in our being in time we can adapt our longing (by God-given grace alone) to be conformed to that of God. For in God being unbound by time it is impossible that he change. For change requires the passing of time, time, which God is not tied with. Therefore it is we who must be molded into the timeless image of God rather than God pressed into the mold of time.
The pining of our soul to be free of time is that of a fish out of water longing to be in water or a bird wanting to fly. Our home is elsewhere. Though some comfort may be had now, we will grow tired of it, and though the shiny catches our eye now it will fade and rust. We long to be wholly melted and dissolved into and by love, or to say it differently we desire to be satisfied by God.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Too Easily Pleased...still

“We are far too easily pleased.”
C.S. Lewis the originator of this quote hit the nail head on. We, as Christians in particular and creation in general, are far too easily pleased. This is glaringly true within my own life, and I’m confident you’ll find it evidently true in your life as well.
We piddle around with friends and movies, cars and music, marriage and sex, food and work. We see these things as of paramount importance. Indeed they satisfy us. But only for a short while, then we belly up to the bar of hedonism yet again to scarf down any other pleasures we can take comfort from.
Ought we not be learning of some all-satisfying goodness? Ought we not be drinking deeply from the fountain rather than bowing to its droplets? Ought we not look at the sun in all its radiance than worship the ray that reflects from the car window?
Sure, it is easy to say, “God is all-satisfying.” But do you feel that satisfaction? Indeed there is a major disconnect between what we “believe” and what we believe. The reality of our belief is seen in the hedonism of our lives. Searching for satisfaction in books, girls/boys, money, beer, tobacco, antiques, Facebook, Twitter, coffee, husband/wife, and children.
“Is God being glorified in this moment?” This may be the key question we batter into our brains and lives everyday. Is he taking glory in your treatment of your wife and kids? Is he taking glory in your consumption of food/drink? Is he taking glory from your time spent with the girlfriend? Is he taking glory from your quiet time?
“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. (Westminster Confession of Faith)” “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. (John Piper)”
If we do not feel God as satisfying than how can we be Christian?

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Post Thanksgiving Post

We have much to be thankful for. Friends, family, freedom, things yet these things are nothings. It is easy to say “nothing compares to knowing Christ” but in practicality this beast of a statement is hard to believe. We would rather lean on things than God; we like to hold the hand of a lover not trust the hand of a Savior. To be sure we’ve exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped creation rather than Creator.

The lie we believe is God is not sufficient, or God is not sovereign. The matters of earth he does not control. We are Deist at our best. God has created all things and now takes no part in them. “WOAH! No, no, no, that’s not what I believe!” many will say, you’re right, in your head you believe in the absolute sovereignty of God and in your life you believe in the absolute sovereignty of self. We do not see him as good, we do not see him as in control, and we do not see him as God. The clock has been wound and the maker has taken his leave.

The lie has become our truth. For so long we’ve been taught the Deist line of thought and we’ve been told it’s ‘Christian’ when in centuries past this thought would have stayed under the umbrella of Deism never to be confused with Christian. Not any more. Now the lines are muddied, now the lines are braided together. The enemy has woven and intricate tapestry for us to hang ourselves with.

We are told our things to do and things not to do, we are told we are ‘naturally good people’ and we are told ‘God love us’ then we go home and live unchanged lives. Indeed the wool is pulled over our eyes and we are ‘Christians’ headed strait to hell. We are morally good pagans.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is the name of thousands of our churches. They are Gospel-less, they are Godless, and they are damnably sick with the sin of self.

The Gospel must be preached. Sin must be called ‘sin’. Romans 3 must be taught (No one is good, ‘no one’ means no one.). Conviction must come. And God must be worshiped for who he is as shown in Scripture, not who I want him to be

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Time Has Come

The time has come,
One more car-ride;
One more song;
One more laying down to rest,
And one more throng
The time has come.

The time has come,
One more glance;
For many more fears,
And many more tears
The time has come.

The time has come,
Listen as the clock strikes time;
Listen as we move inside;
Listen to that horrid silence;
Listen to our somber weeping.
The time has come.

The time has come,
For one to go and some to stay
For hearts to break and lives to change
For wonder and for worship both
The time has come.

For: Doug

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beautifully Hideous

Here’s a thought that originated with C.S. Lewis:

What if all the beauty around us (sunrises, sunsets and the stars) is really just ugly? Think about it. If beauty were truly beauty would we move on from it? Wouldn’t we sit and stare for undeterminable amounts of time simply because we are beholding beauty? There would be no need to run from grandeur to grandeur in search of resplendence because resplendence would be found at the first grandeur.
But as it is we grow weary of one spectacle and thus move to the second and third each time the scene growing more ‘beautiful’ and us growing harder to please. So now the Grand Canyon must be replaced for the Alps and the snow covered Rockies for warm beaches.
The reasoning behind this thought is simple: these good things are not the thing itself. The beautiful beauties are hideous comparisons and dull replacements for what one truly longs for. If one were to behold all splendors and marvels this world contains one would be left wanting, this is sure.
Beauty will forever captivate us but will never capture us. We are not simply flesh and blood; we are not simply animal. Half of one may be held in awe of the Alps but the whole of one will never be. For how can the immaterial be captured by the material?
The soul is what I speak of, why should it fall in love with a mortal thing? Indeed the soul will last forever but the mountains will cease to be along with the beaches. And is not the soul the ‘seat of a man’? So it would be reasonable to conclude that whatever one’s soul falls in love with then the whole of one will fall in love with.
If this were true, then this thing that captures the soul must needs be radiant. It must sparkle and shine more than any soul. It must indeed be more resplendent than the sun. It must be truly beautiful. For only then will the immaterial soul be captured by that immaterial beauty, and only then will the dull replacements be seen as gorgeous representations of how much more beautiful the thing itself is.
“He [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb. 1:3)”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shakespeare Will Always be a Difficult Read

There is much I do not understand. Much that will always remain a mystery. Much that I will always marvel at with childlike awe; much that will consume my attention for an amount of time that I’ll never know because I am transfixed; much will always be unattainable for this mind to grasp.

But beauty remains there, even in the mysterious. It is rapturous, a sunrise or sunset. Though they’ve happened from the beginning of time we still marvel at them. Every night the sun goes down and the colors shock; every morning the sun comes up and the cool gentile radiance warms us. The stars circling in the heavens on a clear night and in the outskirts of Wichita they are nearly indistinguishable from each other. The smile of a baby, the warmth of a dear hug, the love of a mother, the tenderness of a good father, the smell of a new (or really old) book all of these things are beautiful. But even beauty I will never fully know.

I will never behold with my own eyes the depths of the seas. I will never see the sunrise from the moon. I will never fully understand the love of Picasso. I will never fully grasp the depth of Mozart and Bach. I will never savor the full goodness of French cuisine. I will never fully gain an intimate eloquence with the English (or any) language and Shakespeare will always be a difficult read. But I feel I know something.

Rather I feel I know some things. I concur with John Newton, “I know only two things, that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” This is all I will ever know for certain. Though the constellations will change and the sun cease to rise and set in due time, this one fact remains completely unassailable. Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

All my ranting and raving and kicking and screaming will not change it. All my looking to something or someone else to save me will not change it. All my hatred of this idea of me being fraught with sin cannot change it. All the sophisticated ethical debates I can conjure up against this idea cannot change it. It remains completely the same and has so for centuries and ages and will for eternity (past and future). Jesus Christ saves sinners.

I feel that all beauty and all radiance and all splendors may be lumped together and it would be incomparable to the sheer beauty of these two knowable things that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Though tears run freely at this thought and though the stars shine for this one purpose and though the trees raise their arms for this one purpose and though the sun sets and rises for this one purpose it does not compare to the simple idea that Jesus Christ came to save sinners.

Though our sin runs deeper than we’ll ever know Jesus’ finished work runs deeper. Though our curse is our nature Jesus’ nature is our new nature. Though our righteousness is as filthy rags Jesus’ righteousness is given to us. Though we can never pay this debt back we are seen as paid for.

“I know only two things, that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great[er] Savior.”

Interesting Conversation

I love the morning. When the sun still sleeps and the hustle and bustle of the street outside my house has yet to begin, before the classes reign my day, and before the wisdom of a leader is needed. When the silence is interrupted by the seemingly deafening sound of the refrigerator cooling down. Here, in this time, my soul is rested. Sleep no longer does the trick. Blissful silence in Scripture that is where my rest is now, the thoughts of the great men of old written in their sermons or in their books have become the conversations my soul and mind long for. The way a sentence is warped and whipped into compliance and their lovely use of proper English helps to calm my tattered mind.
There are few I now know who I converse with that help my mind they way reading these men do. I covet time with these people. It is, most likely, a very prideful thing I’ve made a habit. Leeching their time to calm my heart. Grabbing a pint with them and discussing the weighty matters is what my heart loves. Sitting on the couch with a peacefully sleeping dog between us while we indulge in sweet heart felt conversation puts at ease a world of fears. Sipping a cup of coffee and reading puritanical thoughts back and forth is a prescription few doctors would give.
But to engage in the superfluous conversations that most Christians babble through, that is a tedium and wear. We are redeemed. We are related. But we talk only about the weather and the kids. We talked about jobs and food, but we shy away from the deep talks… ‘Shy’ really is the best word to use here, the timidity of our cowardly hearts presses us to not reveal who we are.
My guilt in this matter runs deep, and indeed it is the reason I write. Superfluous conversations where we glance cleanly off the surface and never now the deeper heart lying within. I do not understand why we talk in such fashion. Is it our upbringing? Is it our sin? Is it our culture?
Our creepy porcelain face is harder to break than we ever thought or imagined. It remains intact though the sledgehammer crashes down on it. In some groups we splay our hearts open so well and reveal the brokenness within while in others we are a ‘neatly packaged person without a care in the world’… We’ve become good liars. The veil between us and everybody else is a thick one and we’ve hung it so sturdily and mightily I doubt it can be removed in one lifetime.
“Honesty is the best policy” though not written in Scripture is a breath of fresh air in the land of conversations and a good attempt to break the porcelain face with a nuke.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Wretch Delivered

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans 7:24-25
I remember when I first read this verse. It’s clear with in my mind, like it just happened. It was more forceful than a ton of bricks (I imagine a ton of bricks has quite a bit of force). I had read Romans before but it didn’t stick out, until this time. I’m not sure what was happening in my life which made it seem so very apparent that this verse was my perfect adjective, all I remember is reading and weeping.
Things haven’t changed much since then, I still read it and still tears come to my eyes. While teaching and the opportunity comes to quote it I must muster my courage and fight back the onslaught of tears. When walking to class and it is brought so clearly into focus within my minds eye I must slow my gate and focus on where I am so as not show up to class with red eyes.
Indeed it is my perfect adjective. Though I am a whore Jeremiah or Hosea don’t compare, though the Gospel is all I teach 2 Corinthians 5:21 doesn’t cut it, though I quote it often Isaiah 48:9-11 isn’t about me. Romans 7:24-25: if there were a dictionary about verses my face would be next to this one.
After three years of signing off letters, e-mails, and Facebook messages with it I still remember its meaning and still feel its weightiness. I hope this never changes, I hope I’m always a wretch in need of deliverance; I hope this body of death always surrounds me and reminds me of who delivers me; I hope I always give thanks to God through Jesus. I hope when I despair and sadness fills the sky from horizon to horizon I recognize I’ve been delivered because God has done it through Jesus.
So until my time comes for God to call me home the banner, which will fly above my heart, is this: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And once I’m home I’ll lay this banner at his feet and by his grace say, ‘Here is who I am thanks to you. Delivered.’ Only then will the wretchedness fall from this body of death and only then will I obtain a body of life and only then will this verse no longer be my perfect adjective.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Worth of the Object by: Henry Scougal

"First, I say, love must needs be miserable and full of trouble and disquietude, when there is not worth and excellency enough in the object to answer the vastness of its capacity: so eager and violent a passion can not but fret and torment the spirit, when it finds not wherewith to satisfy its cravings: and, indeed, so large and unbounded is its nature, that it must be extremely pinched and straitened, when confined to any creature: nothing below an infinite good can afford it room to stretch itself, and exert its vigor and activity. What is a little skin-deep beauty, or some small degrees of goodness, to match or satisfy a passion which was made for God; designed to embrace an infinite God? No wonder lovers do so hardly suffer any rival, and do not desire that others should approve their passions by imitating it: they know the scantiness and narrowness of the good which they love, that it cannot suffice two, being in effect too little for one. Hence love, 'which is strong as death', occasioneth 'jealousy, which is cruel as the grave'; the coals whereof are coals of fire which hath a most violent flame."
"But divine love hath no mixture of this gall; when once the soul is fixed on that supreme and all-sufficent good, it finds so much perfection and goodness as doth not only answer and satisfy its affections, but master and overpower it too: it finds all its love to be too faint and languid for such a noble object, and is only sorry that it can command no more. It wisheth for the flames of a seraph, and longs for the time when it shall be wholly melted and dissolved into love: and because it can do so little itself, it desires the assistance of the whole creation, that angels and men would concur with it in the admiration and love of those infinite perfections." (Scougal, Henry. The Life of God in the Soul of Man. pp 74-75)

Side note:
I wish we talked and wrote like this now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Observations of a New Pastor pt.5: Alone

I thought it was a stupid statement, one that had neither credence nor truth behind it. I thought this statement was used by men in ministry as a cop-out from portraying what they really felt. But, oh God, it is more true than I ever knew, and shame on me for ever believing otherwise.
“Leadership is a lonely place.”
Though you are surrounded be many people, and though your phone is constantly a buzz, and though your words are looked at with a sense of finality, leadership is a lonely place. The party can be jamming around you and people are flocking to meet you but your heart feels no different than when you’re in an empty silent room.
There is no buffer it’s just you and God, and, quite frankly, some days He’s not great company. Some of you might think that last sentence was awful blasphemy thinking, “Everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.” Let me be the cynic who bursts your bubble. It’s not. Every day is not sweeter than the day before. Every day you grow more aware of the sinfulness of your heart and everyday you wake up to fight tooth and nail against an enemy who knows he’s beat so he fights all the harder. Your eyes open on your pillow and your intentions are already tainted by your sin. You walk the 10-20 feet to the bathroom and you’ve already placed your hope in an idol. You sit-down to eat your breakfast and you’ve already thought impurely of someone.
But here’s the beautiful part, the sweet and sweeter part. Jesus knows (Heb. 4:14-16). So as a pastor who feels this sense of complete aloneness I can cling more tightly to my Savior because he can, and does, sympathize with me in my solitude.
So, I suppose, the ‘lonely place’ is a place where it’s just you and the Triune God. Though He is the one who spurns you he is also the one who comforts you. Though he is the one who disciplines you he is also the wing under which you take shelter. Though his hand is the hand that breaks you, as it does so you reach to kiss the hand that saved you. Thus the quote changes to a question, “Can you stand to be alone with God?” I wouldn’t answer it too quickly either.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Reflecting Sunday

Yesterday was Journey the Way’s first baptism service. It was incredible! I was privileged to help a dear friend identify with Christ in baptism, a father baptized his twin sons, a fiancé baptized his fiancé and all shared how God through the grace purchased by Jesus in the Gospel radically redeemed sinners from their just deserts.
Needless to say it was a gorgeous Sunday, neither because the sun was shinning nor because the cool fall breeze gently welcomed you outside, but because God saw it fit to show his redeeming power through saved sinners speaking into a microphone. The baptismal waters were churning they were not still.
But it was not at our typical Murdock Theatre. Friday morning there was a fire. Though the building itself still stands the inside is covered, every inch, with ash and soot. The reek of fire envelopes you as you walk in and your hands are stained black from the simplest touch of an object. Thus we were forced to search for a new location.
We soon came to the Abode Venue who welcomed us (indeed bent over backwards for us) enthusiastically.
While watching people share their testimonies and eyes that were formerly dry begin to well with tears I realized, “We are in a building that is not yet open (it’s still under construction) sitting on chairs that are not yet ours, watching people be publically welcomed into the family of God with time that is not ours, nor eyes ours, nor ears ours.”
‘Worship’ that is the word that will ever describe that Sunday. Not because of the fantastic music, but because God caused hearts to sing and souls to come alive because of Jesus. Life was breathed into formerly dead souls! Right there in a venue we never thought we’d be in life was granted to the called. What more could you ask for?!?
Dead hearts were awakened and saw the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and came running to him their Father! “It’s like a dimmer switch. It didn’t happen all at once, but now I want it like I’ve never wanted anything in my life.”
Journey the Way is where she is and who she is because of the sheer grace of God, and by that same grace he will continue to shape her into who he has called her to be. The Gospel must be heralded to the dead.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Observations of a New Pastor pt.4: Shepherd Your Sheep

Sadly, I have never seen shepherding modeled well in ministry. Yes, Jesus did it perfectly, but I’m not talking about him. I’m talking about the men I’ve been around. Will I ever see it done well (will I ever do it well)? I don’t think so. But can we take a dang good stab at it? Yes sir, we can, by the grace of God.
Pastors are to be under-shepherds of the flock of God. Of those whom God has called to be his sheep he calls (and gifts) some sheep to lead. These are under-shepherds (pastors) they are to follow the Shepherd (Jesus), and thus lead the flock through their following.
I’ve seen three tendencies in shepherds. First, over-leading, meaning the pastor will do a fantastic job at the church helping the spiritually sick and needy but will neglect his family. Second, cowardice, meaning the pastor will either flip-flop from conversation to conversation or will simply avoid the situation. Thirdly, laziness, meaning the pastor would rather not involve himself in the plight of the sheep for want of relaxation or home-life.
All of these will kill a flock. A pastor who neglects his family to tend the flock kills his primary flock (his family) and in so doing kills his secondary flock (the church). A pastor who is a coward kills the flock through indecision and unwillingness to preach the Gospel. A pastor who is lazy kills the flock by not using his shepherd’s staff to guide them to fresh grass and sweet water.
I am guilty of all of these tendencies. I have done them all at least 10 times (Neglect of priorities as opposed to family seeing as I don’t have one). So the rub is this: how does a pastor shepherd his flock?
He doesn’t.
Though he is the one preaching or writing; though he is the one drinking coffee or counseling; though he answers the phone calls and text messages; the best way for him to shepherd his flock is to understand it is God who does all the shepherding.
The identity of the pastor must be lost in Jesus. Only then will he lead his primary and secondary flock well, only then will he say exactly what needs to be said (offensive or not), only then will he feel the weightiness of his calling. For only then will all else pale in comparison with who Jesus Christ is.
So for the pastor, Jesus is your hope not your position. Life is the ebb and flow of the careening tempest, yet by the grace of God we cling to the Solid Rock of God and follow him well.
For the laymen, Jesus is your hope not your pastor. Your pastor will fail you. He is a sinner (not an excuse just a fact). Thus as he strives, Lord willing, to cling tightly (with all his life) to the Gospel, so you should follow his leading and cling tightly to the Gospel (with all of your life).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Overwhelming Flood (A post for believers)

Most of us know the feeling. If you don’t you will. When we are submerged completely beneath the gravity of life and the weightiness of our sin. When the tide comes rushing in so swiftly there is no hope of escape and no idea save panic in your mind. Whether it’s work or school or family or relationships matters not, the feeling is the same. ‘Utter helplessness’ and ‘sheer exhaustion’ are the words we press in other’s ears trying to describe our feelings.
It’s the evening when you crumble into bed and weep bitterly for no apparent reason. It’s the day when chirping birds and laughing children are gongs in your ears. It’s the moments when the warmth of the sun and the kiss of the breeze feel like needles on your raw skin. It’s the time when the sweetness of melodies and the sound of a dear voice are fingernails on chalkboards.
Indeed it is the whelming, no the overwhelming flood. While our feet remain firmly trapped in the muck the ocean pounds over us and there is no apparent end in sight.
Why does God let these times happen? What’s the point? Is he just a sick and twisted kid with a magnifying glass and we are his ant farm, or just a freakin jerk?
Our thoughts may tend to the ‘freakin jerk’ answer. We see these rough times in other believer’s lives, so doesn’t that mean God is just pulling our legs for his own kicks and giggles?
Religious affections.
What we love will be pitted against what we say we ‘love’. There is a reason these times are called ‘tests’ and ‘trials’ those are not just adjectives tossed to fill a sentence, they carry meaning. In a ‘test’ what you ‘know’ is shown for what you really, truly know. In a ‘trial’ what you ‘love’ is tried against the very things you practically love.
Is that explanation supposed to make you feel better about the dark depressive valley? No. Not at all.
This is:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
"My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives."
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Heb. 12:1-13

“If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Take heart and cling tightly to the Gospel. It is your only hope in this tempest called ‘life’.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Observations of a New Pastor pt.3: The Call

Called. This is a word thrown around in churchy circles. “Do you fell ‘called’ to tell them the Gospel?” “Do you feel ‘called’ to give more in the offering plate?” “Do you feel ‘called’ to missions?” The weightiness of its meaning has been lost thanks to a century of over use and unfamiliarity.
What is a call? Not a phone call, but a call in the churchy sense. This word that we’ve tossed about like a paper airplane without considering it’s meaning or the tonnage that follows in its wake. More often than not it’s used as a sentence filler or a vocab credit (look at me I know church lingo). But the call is a burdensome thing.
A man who feels a call cannot do anything but his calling. It is seated so deeply within his being it is a fire in his bones. Visible when he speaks, sparking up in his eyes at its mention. When conversation begins to move in that direction his heart wells up and his mind flies, he longs to speak of his passion and to see others drawn into the same love. For this man to do anything else would be a travesty. Indeed, If a man can stand to do something, anything else he does not feel a genuine calling.
So what is a call? It could best be described as a fire in the bones. Though this description leaves more to be wanted. It goes further than his mind and deeper than his heart; it attaches itself to the very fabric of who this man is. Indeed if his bones are broken because of his calling it is more likely to cause a stronger sense of calling rather than shattering it.
As a new pastor I would say this, “If I felt no calling to being a pastor, I would not do it. This job would suck if I didn’t feel called. The burden of being a shepherd of loving stupid sheep (though I am one) is difficult. Seeing people hear the Gospel and saying, ‘My neighbor needs this’ rather than recognizing their own need for it is a wearing tedium. But I feel a call. I’d rather have shards of glass in my eyes than do anything else.”
Granted there are men occupying pastoral positions who feel no calling. Some are there to appease their want for being seen as great. Some are there because it’s the only job they could get cause they sucked at Algebra. For the people following these men I feel pity, because they ought to be pitied. They will sit in their pew (or chair, or couch) and learn from a man who feels not the truth he pretends to believe. No fire in his bones, nor flame in his eye, he simply moves the sheep around the same ravaged field time and time again.
The calling must be made sure. It must be tried in the furnace of affliction. Indeed a man must be broken before he is sure of his call. The gravity of this word, this call, must again be made known. Men ought not to lead as a last resort, they must feel the fire in their bones.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Observations of a New Pastor pt.2: The Job/The Life

Being a pastor is one of the, if not the only job in the world where your personal life has a direct relation on your professional life. Everything you do on your ‘off-time’ will come to light and be judge just as strictly as if you were ‘on the clock’. It is quite an interesting phenomenon, and of course makes total sense.
I’ve heard it said to pastors, “What’s wrong with your church is what’s wrong with you.” I wholeheartedly agree. Let me peal back my skin and show you my heart.
Depression is near yet not so dear to my heart. It always has been. When I hear of one whom rarely, if ever, struggles with depression I marvel and wonder what that must be like. It sucks. Yet I would not trade depression for a peaceful mind. The tumult of depression is a constant reminder of my depravity.
I tell you this because a majority of the people I am privileged to lead deal with depression. Coincidence? I think not. Providence? I think so. What’s wrong with my church is what’s wrong with me. Pride. The pride of introspection.
From thought life to action, from personal study to public writing, from sitting in a chair by oneself to teaching, in all of it there must be a pressing on to know God. One cannot simply be in ministry and not grow… unless of course he’s a fraud. One must always be learning, adapting, and becoming wiser. This does not mean the message preached changes. It means the kid who started in ministry grows up to be a godly man and continues this growth for all of his life.
So when the deep desire comes to just act ones age rather than fighting sin well, one must turn to the Gospel. When the spotlight of ministry grows too bright and want of the shadow wells up, one must cling to the Gospel. Why the Gospel? Because, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Though the judgments of men are harsh and though a constant feeling of condemnation sits upon the head, Jesus is the identity. The pastor ought to be lost in him, so much so that there is little reference to the boy that used to be there. My biggest problem has been taken care of on the cross of Christ and therefore the harsh judgments of men are a leaf in the fall breeze. The constant condemnation is fader for the fire of remembering; “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:1)”
But in all the falling of leaves and the stoking of flames the pastor must fight his personal sin publically, through the grace of God purchased on the cross of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Observations of a New Pastor

I haven’t been doing this very long. In the grand scheme of things I’m still naïve to many of the problems pastors encounter. But there have been things that I’ve seen now and things that I wish I had seen modeled by pastors I love which will shape who I am in ministry until God sends something bigger.
The dynamic has changed. It’s like moving to a different part of town, the friends remain the same, but they all change… Rather you change. Some I was close with before are still close but not near as close as they were. Some are a simple blip on the radar. Some I don’t know anymore. Things have changed. Whether it is God working to grow me, or my sin of being overly busy, I’m not sure.
As I write I see the books on my shelves and know from their spines which ones were good for my brain in ministry and which ones sucked. I think in terms of Sundays passed, not days or moments. A ‘big deal’ is putting a fire out over the phone or through a conversation. But the life of the pastor is more than these things.
It is my prayer, through this series of posts, to be extremely candid with you my readers (all five of you). To simply write, as a man, how working in ministry changes me, as well as to write simple insights into how I’ve done ministry poorly. I would rather write this now than after 50 years of ministry. I’d rather see this on my desktop and remember whom I serve, then to have theoretical constructs running amuck in my brain for 40 years.
So, here it goes, Observations of New Pastor. “Hi, my name is Sam Morris, I’m a pastor.”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Joy pt. 4: Grace

I know of nothing more beautiful than the grace afforded believers in the Gospel.
I have seen much. From cathedrals in Europe to the stars of a different hemisphere, from the mighty pyramids to the sunset over a jungle of unrest, they do not compare. Even the emotions of life don’t compare to this one theme. Gaining deep lasting friendships and holding a newborn baby, watching my brothers be baptized and seeing my sister wed, they do not compare.
It would cheapen the picture of grace to call it ‘gorgeous’ or ‘beautiful’ even ‘breath-taking’ leaves thousands more miles to be wanted in a remotely sufficient description of grace. I cannot, I will not attempt to describe its beauty, rather our relation to it.
We are drowning in its unfathomable depths. Thank God. We cannot tell up from down, left from right because we are so swamped with grace’s immensity.
God sits on his throne and commands the magistrate of grace to be lavished upon us, and he comes unbridled and unflinching to us. There is no hesitation in his step, no second-thought in his mind.
He comes and woos us to the King. He tells of his kindness toward us undeserved ones. Indeed he informs us he was sent by the King to carry us to the Sovereign.
“You see,” he says, “You are broken and cannot come to the King on your own. You have been shattered by the fall. But I have been bought by Jesus and sent by the King to cover your brokenness and take you where you could not otherwise go.”
Though we are covered in necrotic flesh and though the maggots eat at our wounds, grace covers believers. Though we smell and often look for love somewhere else, grace covers believers. Though our sin taints every intention in our life, grace covers us. Martin Luther described us well, “We are dung hills covered in snow.”
Grace. We are hidden within it. We cannot escape it. With every breath it covers us more. Jesus has bought an incomparable gift. He has lavished us with his grace.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Intentions are funny things

Intentions are funny thing. They tell us who we are. Not who we want to be seen as; not as who we are perceived as by others, but who we are.
Typically we feel pretty good about our decisions, about why we do what we do. But what if we trace our decisions and subsequent actions back to the intent? What would we find? Would we like what we find?
Jonathan Edwards resolved, “44- Resolved, that no other end but religion, shall have any influence at all on any of my actions; and that no action shall be, in the least circumstance, any otherwise than the religious end will carry it. Jan.12, 1723.” Religion being ‘true-religion’ AKA to the glory of God.
Henry Scougal said, “…How few of us understand and believe what we say? These notions float in our brains, and come sliding off our tongues, but we have no deep impression of them in our spirits; we feel not the truth, which we pretend to believe. We can tell that all the glory and splendor, all the pleasures and enjoyments of the world are vanity and nothing and yet these nothings take up all our thoughts and engross all our affections, they stifle the better inclinations of our soul, and inveigle us to many a sin.”
I’m struggling with saying that God’s glory ought to be the aim of our hearts, souls, and minds and if it’s not were sinning… But I feel it’s right. God is about the singular business of glorifying his name (with its far reaching implications), and thus we, as believers striving by his grace to be like his Son, ought to be attempting to be about the same business…
So the question remains, “If we trace our decisions and subsequent actions back to their intent what will we find?” Who are we? Are we self-serving or God honoring? The answer is there and we all know it, but I feel we are not shaken by what we find… We’re comfortable with being the sinner we are. This includes myself, thank God for the Gospel through which we say "O wretched man that I am who will deliver me from this body of death (this body of comfort in my sin)? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Joy pt. 3: Mud-pies & Sandcastles

All of life is learning. From the classroom to the distraction; from the Church to the house; from the coffee shop to the car, everything, all of it, contains teachable moments. But we don’t approach life that way.
We see life as the venue and the stage of performing our knowledge in front of the audience that ought to adore us. Being the spectacle not the spectator, being the star not the first-row (let alone the back-row).
But it’s hard to be the performer, the star, and the spectacle. It’s unsustainable. It’s exhausting. It’s killing.
Think about it, if life was seen as millions of opportunities to learn as opposed to your ‘special performance’ then resting and finding joy in the little graces would be comparatively easy. But if all of life is your ‘breakthrough moment’ then all of life is critically important and exhausting.
To be sure life is important and there are times were God uses you critically, but it is not always your show… In fact even when you are the linchpin you are not the star, you are used.
So the classroom is opportunity though monotonous; the happily welcomed distractor is opportunity though wonderful; the drive is opportunity though familiar; the book is opportunity though tiring; the friends are opportunity though fun.
All of life is learning, because all of life is grace. We live and breathe and have our movement because of God’s incredibly free and unflinching grace. So how does this apply to joy? Simply.
Mud-pies and sandcastles rather Mud-pies to sandcastles. Seeing every moment as opportunity to absorb knowledge creates joy. Child like joy in seeing things differently as if for the first time. So the monotonous moves from mud-pie to sandcastle. The act of changing a tire becomes fascinating as you watch your hands maneuver and work with just a thought.
Grace. It defines our joy. It ignites our joy. It moves us to worship. So simply stated our valleys and our low tides, our lack of joy is because we see the sandcastles of grace as mud-pies of familiarity. Lewis was, and is, right, “We are far to easily pleased.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Joy pt.2: Swelling Joy?

Every time I’ve talked with someone about their joy its been referred to like mountains and valleys. Some days, or weeks, or months are the mountains while others the valleys. But there is something else each of these conversations has in common.
Each time it has been implied, whether overtly through simple statement or covertly through shifting language, that all of life must be the mountaintop. All of life must be a swelling of joy like high tide all the time. But it won’t be that way, thank God.
It’s a simple thought; if everything were extraordinary then nothing would be extraordinary. The same applies here. If all of life were the mountaintop then none of life would be the mountaintop… We’d be these mindless joyless (or joy filled, both would look similar) zombies walking around on the plains of western Kansas.
Thank God there are deep, dark, depressive valleys. Thank God these valleys are full of cobwebs, spiders, and snakes. Thank God they smell of rotting flesh. Thank God they are filled with swamps and mires. Thank God the wear our souls raw and make us bleed.
If all of life were a mountaintop, none of life would bring us to our knees in humble adoration of being so frail and God being the maker of the valley and the mountain.
Those valleys, those low tides where your joy is under the carpet (or even the cement under the carpet) stand in stark contrast to those mountains, those high tides where standing on the carpet you were previously under is an easy thing to do.
However we thank God for the surmountable gloriousness of the mountains. We thank God these mountains bring us to the fresh clean air where our lungs are cleansed. We thank God these mountains bring rest and mend our souls.
The tide must always go out, and the valley follows every mountain it is the rhythm of saved-sinner’s lives, so when these happen and we are the dirt beneath the concrete we bless the hand that counts us worthy to suffer for his glory and in so doing kindle our joy (by God’s grace).

Friday, September 24, 2010


We live vibrantly and breathe wholesomely not because we are worthy of the breath or the life but because God bought the breath and the life… I don’t have a category for this.
It was put well at Community Group last night, “We are poodles with smelly necrotic maggot ridden flesh and tumors growing all over our bodies. Deserving nothing more than to be buried or shot. Completely unworthy of life. But God pulls up in his Cadillac takes us to his mansion and bathes us, picks the maggots from our flesh, and calls us his own.”
We are redeemed… We who were once covered in necrotic festering flesh with only the maggots to clean the wounds have been adopted by the King, taken to his palace and bathed by his Son.
We are redeemed… We who once were lying rotting in the morgue have had God breath life into our lungs.
We are redeemed… “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26
We are redeemed… Though wretches we are and sinners will be; though idols we’ll seek and God we will hate; by the unrelenting grace and mercy of God we are redeemed…
This cannot be categorized. Indeed my life must go into its category. ‘He made him who knew no sin to be sin so that I might become the righteousness of God; that while I was still a sinner Christ died for me; there is therefore now no condemnation because I am in Christ Jesus.’ Redemption.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Joy Pt.1

Joy is an interesting thing. We gauge our lives by our wealth of or lack of joy. We wonder at those things that produce it and those things that rob us of it. But what is it? My dictionary says, “A feeling of great pleasure and happiness” but my head tells me it’s more than that.
It’s a limited definition, if we take my dictionary’s word; we are limited to our feelings, the waxing and waning of emotion in the gusts of life. Quite frankly it’s unsustainable. John Piper would say joy is forgetting yourself in awe of something bigger and grander than you like the Alps, or a sunset, or God. But even that seems unsustainable to me.
I cannot always marvel at grandeur. Maybe it’s just me, but my head quickly becomes accustomed to the altitude and my heart quickly grows faint of the light and I return to where I began, lacking joy… And yet, it remains. Though I lack the swelling of joy, joy still remains, however small my portion may be, it’s still there, for there is grace.
Grace and joy walk hand-in-hand like lovers down a lane, inseparable. Often this is forgotten for want of resplendence. Rather than taking joy in the ordinary things, we reach continually for the heavens. We wear out our arms by grasping at splendor and we tire our legs by running from grandeur to grandeur. But we must be treading lightly. For if we do not keep a close watch the ordinary graces in life will turn into mud-pies in the slums rather than being sand-castles by the sea (Lewis).
So we look to the graces in our lives, those things we don’t deserve; which is all of life, to be joy filled. For in these ordinary things we are reminded of an extraordinary deed. We live and breathe because God was gracious to us in the Gospel. We see and hear because there is life in our hearts and souls. So though we often feel like we are absent and void of joy, by God’s grace, we must remember God’s grace for in so doing we find joy.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hobbit thoughts

I just finished reading “The Hobbit” for the one-hundredth time. Few books make me feel the rise and fall of the main character like that one does. Every time, I remember my first emotions of my first reading of the book. ‘Tenacious’ describes the hold that story has on me.
But it’s not the book causing the emotion, nor is it Tolkien’s keen grasp on the English language. Rather it’s the adventure, the journey. Seeing Bilbo go from introspective, easy living, comfort to hard-pressed scared, expectancy reminds me of us.
Think about it, remember back to when you first believed, if you can, indeed if you do. Life before was an introspective tangle where the most you expected was easy living and comfort. But then came the Gospel like Gandalf and turned everything upside down. You were thrown almost unwillingly into an adventure you barely understood nor cared for.
But as the journey continued and as the danger became more real you approached your ‘Misty Mountains’ where you riddled with the devil and won. All the while learning more and trusting your ‘fortunate luck.’
Coming then to your ‘Mirkwood’ of despair and depression, where friends are lost, then recovered, only to be lost and found again. Where darkness reigns and your heart longs for the place you were before the Gospel came to sweep you away, because it looks abundantly safer than where you are.
On to your ‘Lonely Mountain’ where the dragon lives and the fight against him proves to be an acidic fight against a violent foe. But this is the reason for coming, this is the reason for leaving home and kindred, to kill the dragon and take the reward.
So is your fight with sin every battle, every mountain, valley, and deep dark wood. Compelled by the reward to journey through what we do not know and fight the foe of sin. Each sin has its distinct journey to its defeat, yet the reward remains unchanged.
‎Though it’s cliché to say we realize we couldn’t have done it without our friends fighting by our side. And when the calm has come we are shown the ‘fortunate luck’ we trusted throughout our trek was by design.
But then there is the reward. The Reward. The same Reward Moses looked forward to. The same Reward that Paul, Peter, & Timothy longed for. The same Reward that Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lewis, and Tolkien looked forward to. It is the reason we journey though hard-pressed and scared. We look to the Reward.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My friend is dead...

What causes us to change? To go from old to new, from broken to whole. As a believer my first response is the Gospel, it is what brings us from old to new, from dead to alive. But how, how is it possible for news, good news, to change me?
I look at the story of my life, a short story but a story nonetheless, and awe. Not because I’m worthy of awe, but because the tale of my life, the narrative from beginning to now is like looking at the vastness of the stars on a clear night, or driving up on the Rocky mountains from the Midwestern planes. I realize my smallness, baseness, meanness that though it is ‘my life’ my life has had nothing to do with me…
Let me explain the reason for my awe.
“My friend is dead.”
This was the thought that swirled about in my head on that rainy May morning.
“My friend, who I talked to just last night, is dead.”
My class walked around like zombies, going from shoulder to shoulder weeping bitterly. We who were close called other friends in other schools to herald heartbreaking news. ‘Dazed’, ‘hit with a Mac truck’, ‘distraught’ these would be the words to describe us on that day. On that day, in an instant, we, I was changed.
But that was not the Gospel that changed me was it? It was the opposite, right? I think it was, there was a hope, quite frankly, completely outside pointing to something more, something better, and something satisfying. Saying, “This life is not all, there is more. The curtain will fall, your failing ripped tent will be made into a mansion.” Even though the tears cried were bitter; even though the life lost was valuable; and even though death seemed bigger, and scarier, and more real than ever before there was hope.
A hope that pointed to our biggest problem being taken care of, namely of sin defeated and life without end. Though a dear friend lay dead in a morgue we began to realize the stark reality of the state of ourselves. We who had been spiritually dead and in the morgue now lived vibrantly and breathed wholesomely because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The despair I had that day in the death of a friend gave way to hope, a hope that my life had never seen or known before, a hope that continues to fuel a fire.
So when I sit across the table at Starbucks from my friend’s father and say, “I’m glad your son died, because in his death God taught me the Gospel.” The awe of seeing the story of my past gives way to hope for the story God has.
How does the Gospel change us? How does good news change us? By showing us God and his sovereignty in both the fantastic and the unimaginably painful. By breaking us of the ‘control’ we think we have and showing us the Controller. By shattering the bubble we live in and showing us the vastness of the goodness of God. So how does the Gospel change us? By the grace of God.

Monday, August 23, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 4: Gospel-centeredness vs. whatever the hell is being taught

For clarity let me define what I mean by “Gospel.” The Gospel is: Jesus Christ living the life you cannot (nor could not) live, and dying the death you should be, daily, dying. Romans 3:23-28 and 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8 provided a beautiful descriptions.
This post is the main post. All the others lead up to this one. All the problems proposed in the other posts stem from this one misconception. All the silos, all the faux joy, all the porcelain faces, all the prideful nostalgia, all the fearful leaders, all the tradition come from one factor, lack of Gospel teaching.
The Gospel is central in the teaching of the Church… No, it IS the teaching of the Church. It’s not a sermon saved for Easter or Christmas. It is every sermon. It ought to be present in every group, every meeting, and every prayer.
Because of the Gospel we see deep-seated community; the realization of one’s depravity outside of Christ and one’s righteousness in Christ alone; an overwhelming joy that is quite inexpressible; a desire to lead others farther up and farther in to their understanding and application of the Gospel, even if they’re not the pastor; and the necessity to hold all things (save the Gospel) loosely.
But when the Gospel is not taught, when it is not heralded well, we see complacency, a fractured community, silos, pride, and stupid traditions. Congregants are more passionate about getting things their way than they ever have been about seeing the lost redeemed.
I hope by now you are catching my drift that you are beginning to see for yourself the paramount necessity we have, and the massive problem that must be overcome. Tradition is, quite literally, killing. I’ve said it in every post. Let me tell you why.
Belief in the Gospel is necessary for salvation. Whether you think God chooses you or you choose God doesn’t matter a bit. We who were once dead are brought to life by the work of the Spirit breathing life into our dead lungs through the proclamation of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Thus if the Church, the very place where this good news ought to be spoken and seen most clearly, turns from what it must proclaim to something, anything, else it is killing, through it’s resignation to see sinners damned.
As the Church we must, for necessity is laid upon us, preach about, sing about, commune over, steep in, meditate through, and savor the taste of the Gospel. But the verse we love to quote about sinners is our description; “They have exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”
However some will never learn. Some will always be more offended by the title of this post than the lack of Gospel in the pulpit. Some will continue on wanting to be pleased, have their ears tickled, if you will, rather than be broken of sin, and rejoice over the lost redeemed. They would rather throw names like ‘abandoner’ or ‘thief’ at those called to minister elsewhere.
But though our cynicism runs deep and though some of us have been burned so badly by the people of God all the aloe in the world would not calm the pain, we must remember one thing the Church is a whore. She, better yet, we will strive to be satisfied by every other thing rather than God.
So when she stabs us in the back and twists the blade, we forgive as we have been forgiven in the Gospel. When she cheats us and gives us what we ‘don’t deserve’ we must remember that in the Gospel we were saved from what we deserve, namely hell and death. When she tells us we’re not good enough, or don’t make enough, or aren’t pretty enough to be in her halls we must realize that the Gospel makes us good enough, wealthy enough and pretty enough to allow us to stand before God as righteous because of Jesus; as able to come with what we don’t have and buy what’s underserved because of Jesus; and as glorious as Jesus because of Jesus… It is always, only, ever about Jesus, not tradition.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Christ will be King

We fiddle about with food and drink, sex and friends while saying, ‘Christ is King.’ Yet more often than not the food, the drink, the sex, the friends are king and queen. We say our thoughts are consumed by the cross, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they’re not. We wonder more about the girl in the coffee shop than the weightiness of our sin and the removal of just wrath.
While confessing sin we do so with dry eyes. There is not sorrow for our affronting a holy God. No weeping for the bird we are flipping his way. No brokenness for causing wrath in the one we ‘love.’
Our sin runs deeper than we know. It inhabits the darkest folds of our hearts. We think it’s been uprooted and thrown away, but we do not realize uprooting our sin means finding its root. Like finding the roots of Mt. Everest we have an impossible job, yet we think we’re fine, we think we’ve figured it all out.
Hearing about a bloody, gory, puss infused, feces coated cross we sigh and feel warm inside. When Jesus is described as an unrecognizable hunk of meat writhing on the tree we wonder what’s for lunch. When the tomb is painted as empty we think, ‘Good, cause I’m worth it.’ More often than not Scripture leaves us feeling tired rather than distraught, humbled, and broken.
We are a disgusting people, a base people, and a sinful people. The longing to be so infatuated with Jesus everything else pales in comparison may be real, but we are weak and easily pleased. We’ve lost our objectivity indeed we never had it. Rather than aiming high we shoot for the mire.
But he will be glorified. He will be honored. He will be seen as the just and the justifier. He will break through our gates letting in his glory. Whether we want him to or not is irrelevant. We can’t stop him. He will do it.

“Create in me a clean heart,
For I have turned my face from You

Teach us of Your ways oh God

For we have turned away from You

Lord have mercy”

“We will run to you
Turning from our sin we return to You

Father heal your world
Make all things new”

“Your love and mercy build and shape us

Break us and recreate us now

Lord have mercy.”

Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Friendly Anecdotal Antidote

A good friend of mine sent this to me a while back. It's beautiful. My mind often returns to it. I thank God for his godliness, friendship, and ability to bend the English language to glorify God. I pray it helps you as it has helped me.

"An anecdotal antidote for our pride (this helped me the other day so I'd thought I'd share with someone who'd appreciate it):"
"How can we hold our talents and proficiencies above others as if we are superior for wielding them? Every talent we have is a gift from God, and our proficiency with it comes only by God's instruction. So our swordsmanship goes not to our own glory, but to our master who gave us the mighty weapon and taught us our cunning prowess. Let us then not boast, but have mercy, esteeming the gifts others have, for all our gifts come from the same Giver."
"Christ be with you, sir."

Fight the Good fight of faith.

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 3: Reality doesn't look like 'tradition'

We are creatures of habit for sure. Driving down well-worn streets, walking favorite routes, eating familiar food, and spending time with people we love. Often times these habits become our tradition. We open one present on Christmas Eve and save the rest for the Christmas morning. We go shopping on Black Friday and bond while dodging death for a cute shirt or some DVD’s at the butt crack of dawn.
The point is we create habits and traditions. So it is understandable that the Church will have habits, tendencies, and traditions. But we unrealistically expect the Church to always do the same traditions the same ways. We want a Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, and Adult Ministry and when it’s questioned we argue, “We’ve always done it this way and its worked, why should we change it now?” Has it worked? I argue no.
80%-90%, that’s the statistic of youth that leave the church during high school or after graduation. I suck at math but I know that leaves a 20%-10% success rate… Also known as failure. If a kid comes home with a 15% on a math test, he may be in a little trouble. Tradition is working, eh?
Reality does not look like tradition. Your traditions change, your habits change. Whether from a move, a child, or death your traditions will not remain the same. But we think the Church’s traditions can’t change. Traditional Church must remain the same so as to please those who grew up in the tradition. Because it’s the way it was done.
That’s the problem. Did you catch it? People want to be pleased and cuddled by a nostalgic memory of the way things were. Rather than being prodded to growth we would remain children of what use to be, than be men and women of what is. Its pride is what it is. Pride.
Change is inevitable. But we would presume to stop the hands of time to keep the church the way it was when we were kids. We would have the audacity to sacrifice our children to the god of tradition so things remain congruent.
Similarly, leaders won’t press for change, because they were trained in the tradition. They logically, and rightly, think that if the format changes their position may not be necessary. They are a stagnant bunch, where rot and decay run rampant and unchecked. A leader is an under-shepherd. Keeping watch over the souls God has given him. But if the leader is more concerned with keeping his job than pushing souls into the Gospel, he is a liar and cheat and the congregation he ‘shepherds’ should get their money back.
Tradition is sucking the life from the church.
May, God in his grace break us who audaciously presume to fight change choosing rather to be cuddled by nostalgia than broken by Gospel heralding.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Men should be men

Men should be men. Not boys with an X box and joystick.
Men should be men. Men ought to be understanding and gentile, and tough as nails. Men ought to love, cry and cuddle, and turn to protect his love with all he is. Men ought be able to get on the floor and play with the kids, and be a pastor-dad of his children, shepherding them in the Gospel.
Men should be men. But more often than not, the young women I talk to are meeting, spending time with, and dating (with the possibility of marriage and indeed marriage itself) boys who are farther from being men than a rock is from being a blue whale. She has settled for a loser. Because society tells her that’s all she’s going to get. Every sit-com shows her, her hopeless future.
Men should be men. A girl dreams of her ‘knight in shinning armor’ she dreams of a man that will sweep her off her feet, protect her from danger, fight for her, indeed die for her. Her dream is of Jesus her perfect man. But boys now a days aren’t striving to be like him, they would rather be a rapper or rock star. They would rather have twelve girls flocking to them, than one, single, life-long, passionate joy to know, woo, and love one woman.
Men should be men. Men should woo. I love that word. Woo: to try and gain the love of a woman. He ought to study her until he gets his high school diploma in his knowledge of her; then he should study her until he gets his bachelors, then his masters, then his doctorate, then second, third, fourth doctorate until the Lord calls him home. This does not mean she becomes his god rather it means she becomes his wife. He knows her, better than she knows herself in some circumstances.
Men should be men. I know, I know, I’m not married. I haven’t dealt with the trials of marriage, nor have I effectively (by God’s grace) wooed a woman. But I’m, sick and I’m tired of watching the boys of my generation be cowardly chauvinistic tools who use and abuse girls/women. Even the ‘good Christian boys’ are sucking it up. They are the worst! At least the nonbeliever has an excuse. ‘Good Christian boys’ are complacent desiring rather to be seen as ‘good believers’ than truly wanting to be on a trajectory of godliness. They start ten different Bible studies, but can’t get their butt out of bed to be committed to a Church.
Women, go for godliness. Don’t settler for a dork. Set your standards high and don’t be afraid to kick the boys down, they can handle it.
Boys, be godly men. Turn off the X-box and stop skewing around. Stop drinking/smoking your brain cells away. Learn commitment. Strive to be like Jesus. Cause your not impressive, you’re a tool and a joke.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 2: Community? (pt.2)

We ought to be desirous of true community within the church. Starbucks and bars offer a different kind of community, a community that doesn’t require the attendee to be real. People are known for their work rather than their struggles; they are known for what they drink not who they are.
Tradition has made this ‘community’ within the church. People are known for where they work not who they are. Indeed, most cannot answer the simple question, ‘Who are you?’ without much pressing, they answer with what they do, not who they are.
Is it possible to change this, to trade the bastard child of community for community itself?
The mold must be broken, not in two, but shattered. The tradition must be forgot and we must press on to have community. Now we have ‘neat country clubs’ by God’s grace, in the future we will have godly community.
Though it is dirty to toss the Sunday school (country club) model out and push all ages together, indeed it will be difficult, but when is life not? Yet through this strife our young will see godliness lived out in the generations before them.
To be sure, our grey-haired congregants hold a beautiful place. They have seen life, come through its trials, and have, by God’s grace, continued their belief in the Gospel. Occupying a unique arena in discipleing the young in both life and faith. Yet the old do not, not learn. They learn how the young culture thinks, works, feels and thus can adapt their skills to the new generations.
All stations of life will benefit from the lumping together of ages.
Church was not meant to be multiple silos.
The silo model is a wonderful strategy to kill churches. It is divide and conquer used by the devil to smash and grab the young, create a pride complex in the old, and a sophisticated air in the parents who now think it is the church’s job to disciple their kids. Within genuine community sin is fought, accountability given, the Gospel heralded, thoughts redirected by Scripture, and discipleship done with all ages seeing struggle, sin, reproof and Gospel-victory.
But we ‘Christians’ are lazy. Apathy is our cup of coffee. We sit and sip this brew and anticipate the ‘next generation being the difference.’ While our young die, while our kids are taught to look up to David, Moses, and Abraham rather than Jesus. Our thick skulls must be broken, and biblical community must be had.
Indeed we need graceful, forceful redirection.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 2: Community? (pt.1)

(This will be a two-part post)

On an average Sunday thousands of churches will perform the routine of ‘Sunday School’. Children will attend ‘Children’s church’ with its coloring pages, crafts, and ‘children’s Bible stories’. Youth will go to their building or room, eat donuts and drink soda while sitting on couches. Then have ‘stimulating message’ with cliché phrases and pyrotechnics given. Adults will go to their room and sit in chairs either around a table or in rows and listen to a man who has studied all week to teach them.
But something is missing, something important, a main tenant to Christianity.
Silos. Silos are what tradition has adult, youth, and children’s ministries, which ‘cater to each level’s individual needs and comprehension’. But this tradition is killing community and our youth.
Boys grow up watching other boys get old, graduate and go drink their brain cells dead. While girls grow up seeing other girls get old and sleep with the drunken boys. Because there is no community within tradition! Boys cannot watch godly men be godly men in college, because they are in a different part of the church. Girls cannot watch godly women be godly women in relationships because they meet off campus. Boys cannot watch godly men be godly men in marriage because the married folks meet at the other end of the church. Girls cannot watch godly women be godly women with their kids because they meet on Thursday mornings by themselves… Are you catching my drift? Do you understand that this ‘silo system’ we have developed, this Sunday school system, this tradition is killing our youth?
Additionally, within tradition we don’t talk about sin. We don’t confess to each other. We don’t repent to each other. We don’t cry because our sin is massive. Rather we walk around hiding our sin as best we can, avoiding being seen as vulnerable. Our facade of faux joy is like the face of a well-polished porcelain doll, never changing, always smiling, ever eerily fake.
So the proposition is this: break the porcelain face to reveal our own, marred, scared, impaired, and hideously ghastly features so as to be in community with other appallingly similar shattered people.
The answer is simple, but it requires work, it isn’t pretty, and it is not clean. Traditional churches seem to want to come off as though they have no problems, as though everything is all right. Bull. Churches are hospitals. People are dying in them, defecating, having limbs amputated, sicknesses cured, gory wounds mended. If a church longs to be seen as clean and shiny as opposed to needing sterilization from such grotesque diseases, then it would be better for that church to die than carry on. For what good is a hospital with doctors who are scared of getting the floor dirty with the blood of patients?

Monday, August 9, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 1: Cynical

Most of us grew up in it. Walking in on a Sunday morning seeing people just like you with years of deep-seated problems repressed behind a composure of faux joy and the illusion everything is all right. Casual conversation flows carefully, not wanting to get tied up in the mire of someone’s ‘sins’. Glancing cleanly off the surface people greet each other and find their sets, the children are in their place, the teens in theirs, and now you, the adult, sit in yours.
As you sit through the service the preacher gives some helpful hints on the meaning of a word, six points on whatever he’s talking about, and you sing a myriad of new, old, odd songs. Whether the music feels soft and mellow, or you walk out thinking it was a concert doesn’t matter they do it all the same.
It’s an old theory, divide and conquer, working well on playgrounds, in police interrogation rooms, at dinner, and war. Splitting the enemy into manageable portions and reigning victorious over each. So the church has taken the family and catered to each level’s individual needs. The Children get something that stimulates them to learn about the Bible in Sunday school, VBS and other activities. The youth receive pizza and a man whose been trained specifically to help them learn about God, through weekly studies, camps, and retreats. The adults sit with coffee in hand listening to a man talk, to learn more about life while attending Adult Fellowships, prayer meetings, and other weekly events. All of this is designed to create good converts, people who know the Bible, God, and life well so as to live God-centered, Bible-based lives. Right?
Wrong. This system of church that we call ‘traditional’ is killing the Christian faith. The church has become, over time, more harmful to one’s faith than helpful. Whether you go to the flashy-concert-mega-church with some sort of teaching, or the small fledgling church with solid teaching, it doesn’t matter. The system, the way they do ‘church’, if it is traditional, is dangerous and ought to be killed. In those cases church has become a pitiful country club.
By now the majority of readers will say, ‘O were you burned by the church?’ trying to explain away my cynicism through psychology. No, the church, to answer the question, did not burn me; I’ve simply grown weary of the same statistics being true and the ‘church’ not acting like the Church in any manner whatsoever. So in these posts entitled “’Traditional’ Church?” I will chronicle the reasons for my cynicism and, by God’s grace, offer what seems to be the logical solution.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What's coming

I've began working on a series of posts entitled "'Traditional' Church?" These post will vividly portray my thoughts and feelings towards the church the majority of us grew up in and continue to go to. It would be wise to read them all before making your decision on my lunacy. By God's grace, I pray that we are encouraged to love the Gospel and cling ever more tightly to it rather than our traditions. Be looking for these posts.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hebrews 4:14-16

Hebrews 4:14-16
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

This is one of my most favorite passages. One that gives raw unbridled hope to us sinners. Telling us we are not alone in our temptations, we have One that sympathizes with our weaknesses.

"Before the throne of God above,
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great high priest whose name is ‘Love’
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart,
I know that while in heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there,
Who made and end to all my sin.
Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God the Just is satisfied,
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace.
One in Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!"

Praise the One, risen Son, of God!

I don’t know what to say of this passage. Let it be a source of joy for our broken souls. Our confidence does not rest in ourselves, thank God, but rather in our great High Priest who intercedes for us. No longer must we try to withdraw from the throne of God, because the stain of our sin goes to our core, but rather we are free to draw near because of Jesus, because ‘It is finished.’ Instead of God’s righteously just wrath we find grace and mercy to help in time of need (indeed all the time).
What should this make us do? Sing and dance with all our being? Or weep and cry like only the freed slave does? How do we react to this truth of grace and mercy rather than just damnation? I know of no other answer than overflow and love.
Love for God who saved us apart from anything we could do or want. Love for people to tell them of this great mystery that has been revealed to us. A wellspring of love, more than that of the man and women in love; more than that of a father and mother to their children. This love is, and indeed does drastically change us.
The atheist believes; the agnostic become Christian; the simple become wise; the slaves are freed; the dead live; and the broken hearted rejoice. I’ve been all over the world and know of nothing more beautiful than the weeping eyes of the new believer. Not a sunrise or a sunset; not a new born child; not a lovers embrace; not even the husband washing his wife’s feet (though these are all beautiful they don’t compare). Nothing but a sinner seeing, for the first time, the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hosea 1:2-3 (Pt. II)

This is part 2 of Hosea 1:2-3 “The unbeliever’s whoredom.” Last time we looked at the believer’s.
For this section we’ll look at Romans 3 starting in verse 10

“’None is righteous, no not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good;
not even one.’
‘Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.’
‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’
‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’
‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’”

One who does not believe is first of all, disobedient, and therefore in direct rebellion to God their Maker. Rom. 11:30, 32; Ephesians 2:1-2; 5:6; Colossians 3:6; Hebrews 4:6,11 these verses all speak of the disobedience of unbelievers (some of which have now become believers, by God’s grace) The Greek word is “apeithia” not only means ‘disobedience’ but also ‘rejection of belief.’ Thus when the dead man is not doing good, nor can do good, he is living in unbelief and therefore rejection of the Gospel.
Faith is an act of obedience toward the calling of God in our lives. Now the calling of God is irresistible, yet at the same time it is still obedience to believe the Gospel.
Those who are living unaware in their whoredom are those that do not believe the Gospel; those that do not have the call of God on their life; those that, as Romans 3 puts it, have, ‘no fear of God in their eyes.’
Thus for those of you that do not believe the Gospel, your whoredom is just as real, you just don’t know better. How could dead people know better?
So, examine your life. Do you believe the Gospel? The purpose of this blog is not to make you wonder whether or not you’ve been redeemed rather it is to spur you who are believers on to grow. And to spurn you who do not believe to belief. So for both you who believe and you who do not believe be, “working out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)”