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?