Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hoping Against All Hope

Hope. It’s a word I love. Probably, it would be safe to say, this is my favorite word. It’s tossed around in political campaigns and desires for grandeur, fame, relationships, food and money. But hope is such an all-encompassing feeling like joy or love. Yet it’s much more than simply looking forward to something.

I would submit that most of what we feel as hope is something we would classify as nostalgia. Remembrances of our past, good things which cause us to hope for their return, C.S. Lewis hits it square in the face by saying, “These things-the beauty, the memory of our past-are good images of what we really desire… [But] they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

Our hope in so far as it is deemed to be true and solid hope is not simply in what we desire for the future, but what we know from the past, mostly Jesus’ finalized work on the cross and victory over death. For if we hope in the future there must be an understanding of this past accomplishment not simply as fact but as faith.

But to hope in things seen is to not hope at all for hope is in the unseen, the eternal rather than the transient. Sure it may be a desire of things to occur, but it is not hope. Hope is founded in faith. But faith in the transient is misplaced faith. For though I can have faith in a relationship working and hope for it to last, that faith and that hope will not change what will be. But faith in the Eternal and hope in the Lasting leads to not simply to momentary satisfaction but lasting joy in the love of God.

So hope is just as complex as joy or love. But rightly placed hope will never put one to shame. For rightly placed hope does not merely look to the future of what will be but simultaneously looks to the past of what has been finished in one’s place for one’s sins.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

God Created Reality

Have you ever felt thwarted at your every turn? Having thought you’d done everything correctly and been as wise as possible in your decisions only to realize you’d failed? Attempting to grasp at the reasons for your failure but even in that failing to understand the breaking point.

Is there a proper way to respond to this? Is anger at your misunderstanding proper? What about confusion? What about complete indifference? Quite frankly, I don’t know what the right response is for those in this station. For in some sense anger seems correct because you desire to understand, but in some sense is your misunderstanding worth being angry over? Confusion seems proper because you have no idea what’s going on, but we linger here too long. Indifference seems most right in my mind, even though it might mean not learning a lesson at this exact moment.

Here’s my answer: sitting in a library looking at birds play while listening to some dang good banjo playing. That’s my answer. Trying to understand one thing: God created reality. For his own glory because that is (really it is, truly) my good.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Confession of a Restless Pastor

Some things I do well. Some things I do not do well at all. One of those things, which I cannot do to save my life, is rest. Taking naps is difficult, doing nothing is a strain for my mind and turning my phone off is maybe a yearly phenomenon.

But what is rest? Is it playing with friends or taking naps? Sure, physically speaking my body is rested in naps and friends encourage while we do things. But that’s the key; I’m still doing something.

Being rather than doing that is rest. Relying on a sovereign God to complete what he has begun. Trusting him to uphold me in the course of my focus on him. Having faith that God will do what he will do and being made humble by him to accept what he’s done as what I need.

I wrote a post called, “The Thinker’s Thoughts on Thinking,” and much of it has to do with rest, the necessity of turning off my brain. My proclivity is to burn both ends of the candle until I come to not simply a weary state of physical exhaustion but until I get to such a soul-tiredness that all I can do is weep…

It’s sin. Straight and simple, it is sin. To not trust the sustainer of the universe to sustain my being for a day is to tell the omnipotent God, “I got this, back off.” Essentially wanting to redeem my own soul by the sweat of my brow, the tears of my labor, and the blood of my heart. (Check out the personal pronouns in that sentence and try to tell me that’s not prideful.)

Pride is the root of unrest, prideful self-reliance. What must needs be learned is trust. Trust in God to do what he will do for his glory which is very much one with my good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Constant Need

Do you know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? The one that feels strangely similar to hunger but isn’t hunger at all? Maybe yours is that feeling in your heart, when it seems to free-fall to your toes? Or perhaps yours is the fogginess of the brain, where the simplest thought is the hardest of struggles? What do we need in these moments, what must we have?

Jesus. Not a man to give advice or a woman to listen to the issue, we need Jesus. We do not need to understand the nuances of the deepest theology we just need Jesus.

We need him… I need him to have lived a perfect life. I need him to have been beaten far beyond recognition as human. I need him to have been nailed to a torturous cross. I need him to have yielded up his spirit. I need the blood and water to flow. I need him to have been buried and more than that to have risen from the grave. I need him to be seated at the right hand of the Father on high interceding on my behalf.

Saying, “His debt I have paid and his heart I have won. I have loved him before the foundations of the world were set when You, my Father, gave him to me. He is mine and I will not loose him.”

More than self-help and self-worth and self-love we need to hear of Jesus, the perfect God-Man, doing what none could do and willingly dying for wretch’s sins.

And this we will always need, even when our stomachs feel the way they should and our hearts are stationed in their proper places and when clarity of thought is a breeze. We can never or will ever outgrow our need for the astoundingly simple yet infinitely complex beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ our Savior.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Obligatory Duty.

“He died for me why wouldn’t I live for him.” I hate this statement. Not only because it’s cliché but also because it is filled with bad Theology. But this mindset is a very difficult thing to get away from.

The mindset is this: To live in such a manner that is either 1) attempting at paying God back for saving one's soul or 2) attempting at making God love one more by doing or not doing a prescribed list. The affect of this is to kill the Christian, to choke out the newly forming plant because there is no air for it to be itself.

(We’ve this idea in our brains that all Christians should look exactly alike… I'm gonna go ahead and completely disagree. Will there be similarities, for sure, but will we all look just like each other, no, thank God. Because, quite frankly, I don’t want to be another Billy Graham or John Piper.)

The issue with the above (dumb) cliché is this: The Christian life is lived out of gratitude not duty. To hold to the above statement is to simply say that because someone did something for me now I’ll pay him or her back. Do you see the nonsense here? If there ever were a love for the one who redeemed one there would be an understanding of the great incapableness to even attempt at paying him back.

It must be understood to live for Christ is to do so gratefully as a since of love toward him, an overflow, if you will. To love him as a sense of duty would be like buying something for someone you love and telling them, “I got you this because I have to.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday's Ripped from the Journal: The Shrewd Manager (huh?)

The parable of the dishonest manager or the shrewd manager in Luke 16:1-13 is a conundrum to me. I don’t exactly know what to take from it. I suppose the unrighteous money does not mean unrighteously gained money but rather money which is not set apart for the work of the ministry – but this I only suppose.

Indeed as believers we are to be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves. We must be on constant guard for the coming of our King, but until then making friends with the world so that some might be saved.

This would make more since to me. To be in the world building friendships -- genuine friendships – with co-workers, in all being intentional with how we speak and what we speak about. Being careful to not be persuaded of the beauty of loveless trinkets. Being intoxicated by our King of Glory who’s redeemed us by the death of His Son.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Thinker's Thoughts on Thinking

I sometimes wonder if I had more patience when I was younger. It’s probably nothing more than the romanticization of youth, but still, in some areas I think it’s true. Also, I used to not think much. That’s probably why I had more, “patience,” cause I had no idea what was going on and was fine with it.

But I think about crap so dang much. The meanings of words, the gestures of friends, the possibilities for anything, wondering if I could or should say or do or not say or not do or passively be nothing. It’s a constant wonder and process of decisions.

Is it fine to covet the ignorance of some? To crave to not wonder, or to not be a, “thinker?”

And yet, I seek my thoughts out. I desire time in them. To be swamped by the feelings and the view of lofty thinking – I think this is a sin for me. Being much to absorbed in my thoughts… and yet here I sit writing in my thoughts.

Indeed this is a gift, but it feels so much like a curse. But is it that a musician is only thinking about music when he is playing, surely not. Surely the melody of some distant tune is floating amongst his imagination and around his frontal lobe.

So here it stands, the discipline of thought. It seems quite reasonable to discipline oneself to not think just as much to discipline oneself to think. To be indifferent to the outside stimuli, to simply be, surely this must be true, for there is a time for everything.

Perhaps this is true, truer than I’ve thought possible. Perhaps there are times and areas of life where the constant thought is to be released for the simple beauty of our dearest friend which is Trust.

To merely – yes, merely – trust what will be to be and accept the simple facts of God-created reality.

In All Things

“I don’t pray enough.” I’m fairly certain most people I know have said this at least once – if not more. And it’s true I don’t pray enough. But what is prayer? Is it just talking to God? Is it a, “War-time walkie-talkie (John Piper)?” Is it for comfort? Or, maybe, is it for strengthening? Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father (Matt. 6:9-13), so does this mean prayers are ineffectual if they are prayers to the Holy Spirit or to Jesus?

You see, we say (rather I say) we don’t pray enough but when it comes to the actual act of prayer we don’t really 1) know how to pray or 2) know what it is.

As to how we ought to pray I would say there is no better outline for it than the way Jesus taught us. This is not to say that praying to the Holy Spirit or Jesus is sinful, but it is to say it is not how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. We pray to the Father through the redemption of the Son in the power of the Spirit.

As to what prayer is -- it’s everything. For are we not supposed to be doing all things to the Father through the redemption of the Son in the power of the Spirit? So if this were done perfectly (ahem) would it not be conceivable for all of life to be constant prayer?

So comfort, strengthening, war, talking, humbling, emboldening, and discouraging are all encompassed in prayer, and not simply those but also our jobs and families and friends and driving. These are all encompassed in the scope of prayer. We are to be doing all things to the Father through the redemption of the Son in the power of the Spirit (Phil 4:6; Col 4:2).

Perhaps it would be better to live a life of prayer than any other form of life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What is Joy?

Let me explain a word to you, a word, as I understand it.

Joy, joy is not simply happiness, nor is it simply excitement. For in joy there is sadness and there is brokenness, happiness and sorrow. Joy is an idea held within the heart transcending all aspects of life, from the devastating to the amazing. Happiness is fleeting and sadness will not last, but joy goes right through the heart of both of these.

Joy has been a recent theme in my life. Not simply in my personal study but in the teachings of the church as well as the discussions with my friends. Joy, it seems, is such an elusive thing.

We’re always wondering how it came to us when we have it and where it went when we don’t. But I don’t think that’s a proper understanding of what joy really is.

Joy, it would seem, is a constant. Once it is had, it will never go. “But what about when I feel no joy?” you might ask. Joy is no feeling, it’s an idea held in your heart -- not your brain. We feel excitement and happiness but much like love joy is not a simple emotion.

It is quite complex really. For though I love The Anchor I do not love it the same way I love my nephew. And though I love my nephew I do not pray for him the same way I pray for my future children. So it is with joy.

But with joy we have lower words to describe those base feelings of happiness and excitement, it is not so with love (I love Oreos and I love God – same word completely different meanings).

This is joy: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you… So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
This is joy." (2 Cor 4:7-12,16-17)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday's Ripped from the Journal: The Coming Storm

Everybody wants encouragement. I’m okay with making that sweeping generalization. In some capacity or another each one of us desires to be validated in what we’re doing or saying or where we’re going. In fact we’ve got terms specially designed to describe it when folks are “fishing for a compliment.”

But what about when encouragement comes and you’re not looking for it or fishing for it, what do you do then?

Isn’t it sweeter than those placid compliments you went digging for, to find encouragement in a place you didn’t expect? Or when the exact phrase you needed to hear is said, but you didn’t know you needed to hear it until it was said. Or even when there are no words at all, just a bird chirping or the rain falling or the rolling thunder – there’s encouragement in them too.

Maybe that’s the issue. We look to hard for encouragement, when the world around us is teaming with reasons to take heart and stand strong.

I’ve never thought about it like that. How would things change if instead of dying to find what I think I need I simply look at what is?

How would we be different?

If the bird can sing as the storm begins then perhaps a soul should still feel joy when the suffering starts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Recently I was chilling in one of my favorite coffee shops working on a few thing when I over heard this statement, “I like my Christianity just the way it is.” Needless to say I dropped eves for the rest of their conversation – I know wrong, somehow.

But it got me to thinking, how many Christians live in this same mindset, “I like my belief just the way it is.” It seems ridiculous to me. To think where your faith is now is where you'll want it to be for the rest of your life. Quite frankly, I don’t think that is the point of faith.

Oughtn’t our faith to be growing and changing? Morphing us from who we were to who we are to who we’ll be. And as our faith grows oughtn’t our capacity to love increase as well? To see those we once held in contempt as either dear brothers or people in need of friends.

To think oneself of having arrived in the perfect position of faith is to not have faith in the least. For if, “you’ve arrived,” then you’ve done everything that is possible leaving nothing more to be done and that’s not faith, it’s legalism.

It’s a dangerous thought – the plateau – killing what little faith might have been present (The Parable of the Sower Matthew 13:1-9). But the thing with the Gospel is it leaves little room for, “arriving,” or, “plateauing,” in fact it leaves little room at all for anything you’ve done (Isa 64:6). The beauty of grace is it makes life unfair and the wonder of Jesus is he makes you good enough.

So in a sense the plateau is real, for Jesus is the plateau and on him we stand. But in the sense of growing faith the plateau is dangerous and ought not be trifled with, for we simply will never arrive at needing Christianity just the way we like it.

Monday, August 8, 2011


This morning I read Luke 14:25-33. The section heading in my Bible is, “The Cost of Discipleship,” and it uses words like, “hate,” “bear your own cross,” and “renounce.” It made me think of an interesting theme, one that has been running through my mind for quite some time now.

I don’t like soft language. To be sure it is necessary at many times, but, also, many times call for the proper words to be used, words which might be considered harsh.

Take for instance this passage; many might say after reading this, “God wants us to sacrifice our lives to him.” WANTS? Or to say it another way, “God wishes us to sacrifice our lives to him.” For wish is the definition of want. To soft serve what should be the most threatening statement of a believers life? This is a tragedy (it’s far worse than thinking turkey-bacon is somehow comparable to real bacon).

He demands our lives. He demands we live as dead men walking. He demands our crosses be daily on our shoulders. He demands all else to be renounced and used for his glory. He demands our love for him to be powerful and so all-encompassing that love for family looks like hate.

Is this demand one that should be on all believers? Yes. Why? Because we are his disciples, it is the cost of discipleship. Yes, it is a hard cost to pay – but the beauty of the Gospel is it makes life unfair and the debt we owe is paid. And therefore, the demand, though it looks hefty is seen as light for our burden of sin was nailed to a cross and we no longer must carry our pain. We are free to be radical in the mundane.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday's Ripped from the Journal

Luke 10:38-42
“Now as the went their way Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Is there enough time allotted in my day to sit at Jesus’ feet?

My service to the church will be futile if I am not at my Master’s feet biding his call. Orders will not be properly heard or understood if I cannot hear my Captains voice.

The hustle and bustle of the pastorate can so easily ensnare my soul. I must, by the grace of God, transcend and be at his feet whilst doing my duty.

If fear it is the same for many, to go all day without any form of communiqué with our Leader. We are offered so much in such a small thing, but we cannot bring ourselves to perform it, yet often times when we do we perform a hideous form of it.

Prayer is what I write of. We do not pray, as we ought. Either we pray with intent to get something out of our one-sided conversation with the Divine or pray in a completely wrong manner.

Indeed he must make us humble to learn and accept what prayer is and its paramount importance in the fight.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fight to Love

“Fight the good fight of faith.” Paul said it; I use it at the end of e-mails, Facebook messages and letters. But what does it mean? Sure it means, fight the good fight of faith, but more than that simplistic definition what does it mean for our lives? Let me tell you how I think.

I like to romanticize things, it’s a way of coping, I suppose. You see, if I think about something in terms of a story than I am much more apt to be appreciative of them, it or whatever. So when I read, “Fight the good fight of faith,” my instant thought is, “God knows how to talk to my brain – Duh.”

Look at it like this, rather than the monotony of the drudge of simplistic life see it as war. Well, really, believers should be seeing every moment as a war.

In each corner of our lives we are struggling against an enemy who is very much apart of us. We cannot escape his ruse, for a part of us wants his ruse to win. Striving to push back the fall but failing all the while.

Fight the good fight of faith doesn’t mean strive to live perfectly. It means fight to believe. Fight to see Jesus as sufficient. Fight to see this life as war. Fight to see this war as won but not yet over. Fight to love your family. Fight to cherish your friends. Fight to see a sip of coffee as worship. Fight to believe.

All of everyday of each moment of our lives will be – as Christians – a battle to see any of this Jesus stuff as wonderful. Sure we believe it, but we simultaneously don’t. So to see this life, this belief as easy, is quite frankly, to not know Christ. For why else would it be called a fight if it was really a cake-walk?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Death is Grace

What do we think of when we think of death? Often, I assume, we think of caskets and crying widows, Psalm 23, or the manner in which a friend died. Driving by graveyards with our breath held because it was a fun game when we were 10. Viewing the, “Homecoming Escort,” as both annoying and morbidly intriguing.

We usually steer clear of the discussion of dying. And, to be honest, we rightly do so, for it is a vast unknown. Some have faith, and some have science, but both are not 100% sure what will happen.

As one being saved by Jesus I would fall into the category of faith of an afterlife and an eternity with God. But sometimes I have my doubts. And sometimes I want nothing more than to be there now, and it of this I wish to write.

‘Longing’ might be a good word here, longing to die. To be free of earth and sin and myself, to look beyond that vast unknown chasm knowing what it felt like when my last breath was gone.

(Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Get this dude a psychotherapist because the suicidal thoughts in the post are everywhere.” Societal thought has made death taboo however it’s just as much apart of life as love and we can talk about that without need of psychotherapist all day long).

But here’s my point: when we feel and understand so deeply our revulsion to sin we are, in that moment, screaming at the top of our hearts, “O death where is your victory? O death where is your sting?” And it is then when we see death as a grace not as a monster.

For what good God would let his loved creation wallow in the self-deprecating pitiful state that is Falling Short? How could a loving God be loving if he sat aside and let all men trudge along rather than bringing them away from the monotony? How could a glorious God be glorious if he did not eventually show his awful power and beautiful splendor to those he made to behold it? You see, death is a grace.