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 fiancĂ© baptized his fiancĂ© 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.