Friday, September 28, 2012

The danger or delight of delayed death

Ecclesiastes 8:11

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

"On the day you eat of it, you shall surely die," God told Adam and Eve regarding the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of that tree and did not die that day (at least in the way one would expect - lightning bolt, earth opening up, a poof of smoke where Adam used to be, etc...) 

We are prone to evil at the wicked impulse of our deceptive hearts.  We are sometimes restrained by the threat of retribution and the penalty of breaching our duties to the law.  However, when we see others cross the the forbidden line and not suffer immediate, swift, and symbiotic punishment, our hearts are more prone to explore this new evil opportunity now free of the fetters of fear of consequences.

Delayed justice does not create in us more evil, it exposes the extent to which we are already evil.  We like evil. Not just the fruits of evil, but the evil itself.

St. Augustine illuminates this when he states,

"Late one night -- having prolonged our games in the streets until then, as our bad habit was -- a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree. We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs, after barely tasting some of them ourselves. Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. Such was my heart, O God, such was my heart -- which thou didst pity even in that bottomless pit. Behold, now let my heart confess to thee what it was seeking there, when I was being gratuitously wanton, having no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. I loved my error -- not that for which I erred but the error itself. A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself."

Praise God for His forebearance in not bringing to us justice in a manner as swift as we have earned and encouraged.  For in His patience, we have been granted mercy and opportunity of repentance in love at the hearing of His Gospel accomplished in Christ.

We are indeed (and also in deed) evil.  Our perverse minds are enticed to greater evil by the temptation to believe that delayed justice may imply no justice at all.  In God's grace, He has broke in and revealed His justice is earned, assured, looming, and coming soon to a theatre near you despite the skeptical dismissveness perpetuated by the previews.

In God's mercy justice does not occur immediately on the heels of every offense.  In man's pervasity, this delay often provokes even greater rebellion as the belief of retribution becomes dulled by repetative silence.  Instead of seeing God's worshipful patience, the lawbreaker perceives it to be apathetic indifference or flacid potence.  So we see revealed in delayed justice both the glory of God and the depravity of man.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thoughts from "The Three Amigos" circa 1986

Paige and I decided to watch The Three Amigos the other night because we're awesome. At one point in the movie, Steve Martin's character (Lucky Day) utters the following statement:

In a way, all of us has an El Guapo to face. For some, shyness might be their El Guapo. For others, a lack of education might be their El Guapo. For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us. But as sure as my name is Lucky Day, the people of Santa Poco can conquer their own personal El Guapo, who also happens to be *the actual* El Guapo!”

I absolutely adore the humor employed in exposing this nonsensicial sentiment often applied to preaching through Bible texts (particularly the Old Testament as though it were not about Jesus and were about us).

The ridiculousness of comparing shyness to imminent physical harm is absurd. That is the joke and Steve Martin expected you to laugh.. I love that the comedic value of this device was so apparent.  That is not to say this was a diatribe regarsding preaching, but rather that this principle of making everything about you is a skill set.  In principle, I have observed this phenomenon saturating a lot of what is passing for preaching.

Have you ever heard been asked, "What is your Goliath?" or "What is your Jordan?"  Now I get what some of these people often mean when they use these examples, but still it meets with resistance in my spirit at the suspicion of what could be meant by it. 

First of all:  David and Goliath is NOT a story about YOU!  You arrogant, self-absorbed, self-righteous jerk.  Everything should not have to be about you in order for you to care about it or to be relevant.  The Bible is relevant because it is, not because it appeals or applies to you in each and every circumstance in a "this for that" transaction. .

Second of all: The Bible is about Jesus.  David and Goliath is part of the metanarrative that is the revelation of the Messiah.  Some stories historically demonstrate God's preservation of the people through whom the Christ would arrive in fulfillment of His specific promise.  Some stories are documented as types and shadows of who the Christ will be.  Jesus is the Old Testament and the fulfillment thereof.

Lastly: Whatever your Goliath is, it is not "the actual" Goliath.  We all have difficulties to overcome and crosses to carry and none of them are Goliath or The Cross carried by Christ.  That is not to dismiss real pain and trial, but is to say that yours and David's were two different trials specific to you.

I know what people often mean when they employ this strategy of providing application points for the congregation.  I know the need to provide a "take home."  But sometimes the take home is pondering the glory of God in Christ and His faithfulness to fulfill His promises through unfaithful people.  Sometimes there is not a "to do" application for you. .

A story about Moses climbing Sinai may just be a historical event about which the relevance is mined in knowing how that event has shaped our present.  The task is not to discover or infer what our Sinai is, was, or will be.  Maybe for us, there is no Sinai.  And THAT'S OK!  it's not about you. If you have an hour and want to understand this better.  Click HERE.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A little ditty about rubber and glue and which one sticks where comes to mind

Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

21 Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22 Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.

People talk too much and the more they talk the more likely they are to say something that goes further than what they really mean.  We all have been guilty of saying things that go further than we mean in a moment of passion or fickle inattention.  It stands to reason that others do the same and that sometimes we might be the source of their embelishments.

We all say things we don't mean on occasion which if they were heard could hurt the one about whom we are speaking without meaning.  The advice here is to afford less gravity in weight to the words others speak (particularly about us). 

It is also a reminder of our obsession with our selfish, little, narcissistic selves.  There is something about overhearing someone talking about us that immediately piques our curiosity.  We get very quick to cash in and pay attention to the conversation.   It is very hard to resist eavesdropping on conversations in which we get a whiff of our personage being discussed if we have the opportunity.  We love hearing about what others have to say about us.  Our most treasured idols are the ones we create so easily by looking in the mirror. Hence: Facebook and Twitter. Boom! Roasted.

Do not take to heart all the things people say about you.  You know, if you are honest, that you have often said things about others.  Whether it is a matter of getting caught or overstatement; either way we should talk less about others and be concerned less with what others are saying about us.

It is a hard habit to break.  We love talking about others.  We love knowing others are talking about us. Only in finding ourselves in Christ are we set free from disparaging others with our words and rendering a satisfactory sense of self from the sugary sentiments of others.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: "The Confessions of St. Augustine"

I recently listened to this audio book while commuting to work. 

You can purchase the book HERE.

I loved it.  I look forward to owning a hard copy someday so that I can underline the living crap out of it to my heart's content.  It may be odd and arrogant on multiple levels to consider St. Augustine a kindred spirit, but listening to his confessions, particularly the narrative of his development and God's wooing of him produced in me a great deal of relatability.  Much more than I would anticipate given the amount of time and cultural shift that seperates us.  But I found myself mesmerized by what the cooler kids would call "relevance."  The historic, orthodox doctrine of Christianity is in full display in Augustine's confessions.  I was very comforted in hearing the Gospel proclaimed in the same terminology, gravity, and simplicity as it is even now communicated by those regenerated by the Spirit of truth.

I was greatly comforted not merely in feeling a connection to a monolithic figure like Augustin, but mroe so in the thought and delight that the same Gospel of Jesus Christ that mended back together his religious heart also did the same for me.  We are united.  Not in a way that elevates me to Augustine's level, but in a way that elevates Augustine and myself blameless before the throne of God in Christ.

Here are some highlights I found inspiring:

"I have not hope at all but in thy great mercy. Grant what thou commandest and command what thou wilt."

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

“I was in misery, and misery is the state of every soul overcome by friendship with mortal things and lacerated when they are lost. Then the soul becomes aware of the misery which is its actual condition even before it loses them.”

"It was foul, and I loved it. I loved to perish. I loved my own error— not that for which I erred, but the error itself. Base soul, falling from Your firmament to utter destruction— not seeking anything through the shame but the shame itself!”

“For great are you, Lord, and you look kindly on what is humble, but the lofty-minded you regard from afar. Only to those whose hearts are crushed do you draw close. You will not let yourself be found by the proud, nor even by those who in their inquisitive skill count stars or grains of sand, or measure the expanses of heaven, or trace the paths of the planets.”

“You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”

“O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.' Say it so that I can hear it. My heart is listening, Lord; open the ears of my head and say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.' Let me run toward this voice and seize hold of you. Do not hide your face from me: let me die so that I may see it, for not to see it would be death to me indeed.”

“The soul is torn apart in a painful condition as long as it prefers the eternal because of its Truth but does not discard the temporal because of familiarity.”

“You are my Lord, because You have no need of my goodness.”

Monday, September 24, 2012

No one does good. Everyone sins.

Ecclesiastes 7:20

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.

If there are two things we can conclude from our observation of the world around us and the world within us, it is this: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Most of us readily observe how far short the rest of the world falls of the standards of God.  By God's grace, some of us are also then able to discern that we also belong in that group we formerly labelled "them."

C.S. Lewis osbserved in Mere Christianity that we simultaneously know two things:

(1) There are rules that ought to be followed by everyone.

(2) We have broken the very rules we know others ought to follow.

Knowing that people should not lie and feeling the sting of being lied against by others somehow does not prevent us from lying to others when it benefits us to do so.  It is a desperate situation in which we find ourselves.

C.S. Lewis said it this way,

“Now we our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, "You must do this. I can't.”

It is amazing to me the number of people whose hearts are so hardened as to come to this point in a sincere, deep, humiliating way.  Some will parrot these words and live in self-reliance, but so few truly surrender their lives to Jesus in full repentance and obedience to this reality.  So many say they need Jesus but deny Him by their lives.  Saying the words, "I trust in Jesus," does not mean you do per se. 

C.S. Lewis also said this,

"This is the fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion.”

In Jesus we have a perfect Mediator who bridges the terrible gap back to God.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review: "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck (pt. 2 of 2)

Life east of Eden is a varied mess of intentions and attentions.   We desire to be loved and carry the wounds of those who have rejected us.  We carry the weight of our sinful hearts and the feelings, actions, and attitudes that result from its heavy presence.

Steinbeck is a fantastic author and storyteller.  I just finished "East of Eden" this evening and I could not be happier/sadder . It's that familiar feeling of seeing the end coming and being excited and anxious all at the same time.  Anticipating the end in sorrow while anxiously speeding through the material to find out how it all resolves.  Life under the sun is a messy thingy and Steinbeck places into picture the aches and aspirations of the human heart in this compelling tale.

I really enjoyed this novel.  Really.Enjoyed.

I can see myself reading it many times again in the years to come.  It captures and releases back to us in narrative the human condition in our empathy for Caleb and our frustration with Adam, our fear of Cathy and our admiration of Samuel.  Steinbeck weaves in and out of the Cain and Abel story as a template throughout the book by pitting A's and C's against each other in competition for approval and resources often hovering around a father figure.  The C's carry a curse of sorts that makes them markedly different (puns for my peeps) and incapable of breaking free from the shameful scars they bear.  The A's are routinely duped and destroyed by the C's.  The A's are often good-natured, but gullible; childlike, yet not childish per se.

In the end, we see the redemption of a C character in the unlikely person of Caleb.  We see the internal struggle and the threat of despair in failing to overcome from within that which can only be calmed by invasion from without.  Caleb needed to be released and absolved of his sin.  He needed forgiveness and blessing.  He needed these not from Abra, but from his father.  He needed them not from himself, but from one outside himself.

Sadly, the father wound is a prevalent literary device because it is such a prominent societal wound and easily readily recognizable by most.  The wounds produced by fathers who were too distant to encourage, too self-involved to pay attention, too cold to show love, too ashamed to be weak, too angry to forgive, too proud to be humble, too strong to be vulnerable, etc... are everywhere.  The failure of fathers is seen in the behaviors and vacuums of responsibility and confidence observed in every generation.  That is not to say that all fathers fail in this tragic way, but so many do.   One works hard, but hardly spends time at home.  The other is always at home because they do not provide by going out to work.  One is very involved in every activity, but fails to know their child intimately.  The other speaks kind words and boasts of good intentions, but often fails to follow through.

By God's grace I have resolved to do everything I can to avoid placing on my sons and daughters the weight of indifference.  A boy needs to know that his father loves him and is proud of him.  A girl needs to know that her father loves her and will protect her, her beauty, and dignity with all he has.  These things I intend - inasmuch as it depends on me - to work hard to implant firmly in my children as in immutable fact of existence.  I love my children and could not imagine a scenario in which they doubted on a deep, soulish level my earnest love for them.  May I never give them reason to believe or foster this lie.  May they never lack assurance that their daddy loves them.  May I speak the words "I love you" often over them, work hard to demonstrate in action the implications of them, and listen often to their needs, hurts, sins, successes, failures, and finish lines attentively that I may know them and that they may feel known and pursued by their father.

Fathers have the ability by God's grace to place within their children a powerful anchor of assurance.  Fathers also have the ability to take from their chidlren  by the Devil's guile this security.  We rarely can escape our desire to please our fathers whether it fleshes out as rebellious attempts to grab attention, insincere devotion to earn approval, or earnest accomplishment to prove our worth.  We are all too often trying to earn the eye, attention and affection of our fathers.  We inherently know we need something from outside of us to make right the inside of us.  In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself and in Him we can become the righteousness of God.  We need Him to invade from outside in order to make right the tempestuous world of our inside. My chief duty as a father to my children is to point them ever always to this reality by word, deed, and example.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it

Ecclesiastes 7:14

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.

When things go well, be happy.  Enjoy it while it lasts for this too shall pass.

When things are difficult, be reflective.  There have been good times and bad times and God has overseen each and every one of them.  As mysterious as propserity came and went, so will adversity often come and go and this too shall pass.

James 4:13-14

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.

We do not know if the earthly future holds for us prosperity or adversity.  We do, however, know that our God goes before us and by faith in Him we can overcome all adversity and be humbled by all prosperity.

"This too shall pass."

All of it. The good. The bad. And the in-between.

It reminds me of the closing line of Anne of Green Gables,

"`God's in his heaven, all's right with the world,'"

If you believe He is, then it certainly is for as long as He is in Heaven everything is certainly right. Come what may, it is right. The turbulence of our lives is anchored in the constance of our King's throne and the One Who ever intercedes before it on our behalf.  By His grace, it is and ever will be right.

God's glory is the only thing that never fades and never passes.  It is and ever will be in any and every thing forever always, amen!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thoughts from "Obsolete" by Sara Groves

This song came up on my random play list the other day while listening to my iPod (or my iTodd - pardon me if I've used that joke before). 

You can listen to it HERE.

Here are some lyrics that stood out to me:

And you don't know where you stand
And you feel so small and thin
And if you are dismissed
Will another take you in?

And you don't know where you stand
And did something pass you by?
And if you are dismissed
Will you get another try?

And I know I shouldn't care
If I'm out or if I'm in
Cause if I am dismissed
Oh You always take me in

This really speaks to our insecurities without Christ and our need for Him to heal even our continual disbelief in His sufficiency after we have accepted His sacrifice initially.

After all, what will happen to us when we are discarded?  When we fail and fall short and are no longer owed the respect for which we previously clamored?  In those moments when all for which we worked is rendered stubble, do we still have something on which (or on Whom) we can stand?  If we are dismissed, are we able to be restored? 

That desperate plea, that ache of lonely, confused, pessimistic doubt that we can be fully confident before God in Christ coupled with the positive assurance of our inability to do so confidently without Him is what we need. 

What happens to us when seventy times seven is eclipsed?  Is there an end to God's proverbial rope or a number of straws that would break even His large, long suffering back? When we are evicted by the guilt of our own shortcomings, is there anywhere for us to find respite and repose? 

Yes, Yes, in Christ Jesus, ever may our cry be, "Yes!" 

My heart is constantly prone to render these questions and desperate again and again to hear the Good News that God in Christ Jesus is for me and no longer against me.  Praise God for His reconciliation.  There was a real distance, a real eviction, a real dismissal.  And there is a real Savior, Reconciler, Redeemer, and Lord who restores, confirms, strengthens, and establishes me in His courts forever, Amen!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Same Old Songs Crackling into the Top 40

Ecclesiastes 7:5-6

5 It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise
than to hear the song of fools.
6 For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,
so is the laughter of the fools; this also is vanity.

The songs of fools are frequently the most popular.  The crackling sound of a campfire on a crisp autumn evening is soothing and serene.  But the sound is produced by flame.  Those thorns, good for nothing other than kindling, burn with brilliance and we are prone to forget their end is ashes. 

Because it is better for us to be rebuked, the airwaves are full of people making profit off telling you what your itching ears would rather hear.  Sweet nothings in your ear are preferable to statements that require reformation and repentance as a response.

Pop culture is the product of popular position.  Being rebuffed is never popular.

Fools laugh and make light of that which was intended to anchor us down.  The subjects of popular culture increasingly reflect a desire to make light that which is heavy and requires strength to carry.  No responsibility or backbone are any longer required to engage in the weigthier things of life such as sex, salvation, children, money, and marriage.  We have taken those things which ought to have required effort to uphold and made them silly, sentimental fluffy puffs that can be taken so lightly as to barely lift a finger to participate.  Yeah, there's an app for that.

It is better to have a wise man tell you that you're wrong than to have a fool sing to you the merits of your own depravity.  This is true. 

My children, listen to wise men and receive their counsel.  Beware of being wooed and sold the substance of your sinfulness being sung back to you.  When the songwriter is preaching to the choir of our shared shallowness you can be assured that nothing good will ever come of it.  Nothing.  My children, do not fall victim to the vanity of self-help and self-love so often solicited to you.  There is no solace in self, only in the Son.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: "The Call of the Wild" by Jack London

I recently read this book and took note of several passages that communicated (presumably without intention) with precision and profundity a template of God's love for us and ours in response to His.

"Love, genuine passionate love, was his for the first time. This he had never experienced at Judge Miller's down in the sun-kissed Santa Clara Valley. With the Judge's sons, hunting and tramping, it had been a working partnership; with the Judge's grandsons, a sort of pompous guardianship; and with the Judge himself, a stately and dignified friendship. But love that was feverish and burning, that was adoration, that was madness, it had taken John Thornton to arouse. This man had saved his life, which was something; but, further, he was the ideal master. Other men saw to the welfare of their dogs from a sense of duty and business expediency; he saw to the welfare of his as if they were his own children, because he could not help it."

We have experienced relationships that were purposeful, productive, protective, and pal-around (had to keep the "p" thing going, I apologize).  We were created for relationship.  But only one relationship provides that which our heart and soul find complete.  It is in the passion of responding to God's amazing love that we find overflow of joy and dignity and charity and levity with regards to ourselves. Being joyfully indebted to one who has served you is one thing.  To have this same One also be intent on further serving and loving you is another.  We have experienced the generosity of time, energy, money, or service of another and felt indebted.  How much more so when that same One does so without a implication of repayment and further continues to pursue and provide for you as though They are the one acting to repay you continually for something you cannot remember or imagine you are owed?

"Thornton alone held him. The rest of mankind was as nothing."

In a world where many may have influence for better or for worse, the reverance of one above all others ought to be reserved for God so much so that any and every other is regarded as nothing.  Jesus commands a devotion so focused that all other commitments could be considered "hateful" in comparison to the love of Christ.  This is not Christ asserting any should hate their mom, dad, son, or daughter; but rather asserting by hyperbole the degree to which your first priority in Him is above and beyond that of any and every other priority that would follow (even that secured as second priority).

"For Thornton, however, his love seemed to grow and grow. He, alone among men, could put a pack upon Buck's back in the summer traveling. Nothing was too great for Buck to do, when Thornton commanded."

Buck would do anything for Thornton.  Nothing was too much to ask.  If it was Thornton asking, the answer was always, "Yes."  I hope my heart would be as this towards God and thank God that His Christ was so devoted to His Father as to secure my eternal hope by His perfect obedience and devotion to God on my behalf.

"He had caught the contagion of the excitement, and he felt that in some way he must do a great thing for John Thornton."

It is a natural response to endeavor to do a great thing for God in response to the greatest thing imaginable He already has done for us. It is a beautiful thing to observe in another when you know its sincerity is not seasoned with penance. There is a beauty in those, who have fully accepted and realized the love of God in Christ for them, working so hard to make the most of the evil days in order to make so much of Him in them.

There is a reason this book makes the top 100 for men HERE. It does document and capture the desire to lead and survive among a world of "kill or be killed" (or perhaps more literally dog-eat-dog *ba-dum-dum-chi*).  It is a half-time speech to the men of the world to rise up and take something (which exists by nature an impulse easily prodded), but I found its most poignant power in the themes of love begetting love and selfless sacrifice begetting selfless sacrifice (which exists in Christ an impulse that cost Him everything to impute).

Friday, September 14, 2012

Ultimate Death Match: Funerals v. Festivals

Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.

It is good to think about death.  So good that it is better than party planning.


Let's think about it:  Every person  you have ever met will die. And they deserve it.

It is because of sin.  Adam sinned in eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and in so doing has imputed to all of us our death.  In Adam, we all have sinned.  By nature and by choice, we have reaped the harvest of sickness, sin, and death.  We daily see the fruit of our efforts in the horrors committed against one another in our private fantasies and public obervations. 

Your sin, my sin, our sin.  None of us are exempt.  We have all contributed to the ever-growing river of condemntation currently damned up by God holding back His damnation, that wrath that will one day be vented fully on those fully deserving.

If you are alive and reading this, consider the fact that you will die and much sooner than you think.

“It has rightly been said, ‘Man is mortal.’ And sometimes suddenly so.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughts from (Book Review): "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov


I am posting this as "Thoughts from..." rather than "Book Review:" because I have to seek out some people smarter than me to figure out exactly what I just read it would be quite the undertaking.  That and I have recently just began posting everything not from the Bible as "Thoughts from..."

I recently read this book and found one line of particular import: 

“It has rightly been said, ‘Man is mortal.’ And sometimes suddenly so.”

We all acknowledge that we will die one day, but for most of us that "one day" is a far off fairy tale.  We are all of the sudden mortal and never more so than the day we unexpectedly die. 

The Bible speaks of us being frail and a vapor and like flowers of the field that fall.

In Men's BASIC, the men's minisry at my church, we are going through "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan this summer.  Chapter 2 of his book is all about dying.  Check out what you are missing below.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For Christ's Sake: Brokeness

Today at church Pastor Troy taught from Mark 14:27-72.  I love my church and I love Pastor Troy.  I am greatly encouraged by the thought and effort that is regularly placed into the service:  the music, the lyrics, the preaching of the Word, the hospitality to strangers, the church family business discussed, etc... 

My heart was stirred by the Spirit while Troy was preaching today in thinking specifically upon these verses:

Mark 14:27-29

27 And Jesus said to them, You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

Mark 14:50

50 And they all left him and fled.

Oh, the patient endurance and long-suffering of our Lord.  He knew they (i.e. "we") would all abandon Him.  He knew it ahead of time.  He did not speak these words as a tough-love attempt to increase Peter's resolve so that Peter would stay loyal later.  He did not speak these words in spiteful pessimism as He looked at a gloomy forecast foreshadowed.  He did not speak these words in bitterness or resentment.  He spoke them because they were true.  Peter would deny Him.  Jesus knew this.  Jesus' commitment to Peter was stronger than Peter's to Jesus.  Peter over-estimated His love and loyalty for Jesus.  Peter did not yet know the full weight and level of Jesus' love for Him.

It led my soul to ponder the brokeness and humiliation of having fallen short.  How Peter must have wept bitterly over his failure and embarassment in having so boldly sworn loyalty to Jesus only to so cowardly distance himself later from Jesus in fear. 

Jesus tells us that we will wander and that our hearts will falter.  Our response is either to muster courage and resolve to combat His prediction to prove Him wrong or in devastation lament the poverty of our efforts and despair of any hope of ever measuring up or fulfilling our desires.  We desire to be loyal to Jesus for our own's sake.  We do not want to let ourselves down. We are often obsessed with our own whiteness. 

We bemoan the futility of our efforts and exalt the depravity of ourselves in response to the increasing banquet of disloyalty we prepare before God.  We wonder how Jesus could ever forgive such treason.  We are heart-broken over our failure and wish beyond wish that we could change who were are, what we've done, what we do, and who we still are.

All of this and sometimes no thought to Jesus. Just our dirtiness.  Just the gravity of our plight.

We are broken over our own disappointments.  We are broken over our fears of rejection in not measuring up.  We are broken over our disillusionment in the human will to manifest its desires.  We are broken and none of it again with any thought to Jesus, but only to ourselves.

We are sad that we do not measure up.  We are sad for our own's sake.  We are not sad for Jesus' sake. We do not sorrow that He will not receive His due glory and honor.

He deserves our love, our devotion, our worship, our praise, our everything.  He beyond any and every person you have ever met is worthy of it all.  He deserves our love and loyalty.  And when we fail and fall short and flee from Him and His sufferings, we are sad.  Not because we have failed to give Jesus what He deserves, but because we had hoped for so much more from ourselves.  We had wanted to give Him more, to praise Him more, to love Him more.  But not with any thought to Him receiving glory, but with thought primarly on the joy we have in giving it to Him.  So even in our worship we often withhold a small portion as a idolatrous receipt of self-love and comfort.

May we be broken for Christ's sake.  May we in our brokeness lament that the Son deserves our love and not merely lament the tragedy of our own disappointment in having failed to bring our all.  All of these responses are right and true.  My point is not to infer that your failure to be broken correctly is yet another weight you must add to your already burdened back.  My point is to articulate just how depraved we really are.  So depraved that the Son tells us that we will fall away and the only horror that strikes us is our immediate fear of what He will do to us for having fallen away or how hard we must work to ensure we do not fall away.  Never once do our thoughts lead us to thank Him for enduring our betrayal with such patient endurance.  He long suffers our disloyalty and does so with full disclosure set before Him. 

In that sense, I am not proposing we need to feel sorry for Jesus.  He does not ask us to.  He knew the cost He would pay for us and chose in perfect obedeince and faithful love to pay it on our behalf.  He does not need our sympathy.  He does not ask for it.  That said, it is a statement of our situation that we often never think to first apply any sympathy toward Him in having looked His bride in the eyes knowing how far from the marriage bed she would run after the ceremony and in covenant love He married her anyway. 

The strength of our bond to Christ is not in our ability to conjure up brokeness.  He breaks us by revealing to us the depths of our need for Him and the wonderous extent to which He is capable of diving down that depth to retrieve us.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Now I lay me down to sleep

Ecclesiastes 5:12

Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.

People who are hungry tend to be highly motivated to work.  Work = food.

Those who are rich, full, puffed up, self-sufficient, and satisfied in themselves will never find solace.  I think the philosopher P. Diddy said it best when he said, "Mo money, mo problems."  Although I believe when he said it he was going by Puff Daddy.

People clamor after the luxury of full stomachs and then find restlessness at night.  In our sinfulness, we always desire by nature that which cannot satisfy.  We wish for rest while chasing anxiety.  We invite our stomachs to be our god and then curse our god for robbing us of sleep.  We ask of the creation that which only the Creator can provide and get frustrated when it falls short.  We create the environment of our own dissatisfaction by requesting divinity of banality.

1 Corinthians 6:13a

“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Thoughts from the "Heidelberg Catechism, Question #84"

Question 84. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel?

Answer: Thus: when according to the command of Christ, it is declared and publicly testified to all and every believer, that, whenever they receive the promise of the gospel by a true faith, all their sins are really forgiven them of God, for the sake of Christ's merits; and on the contrary, when it is declared and testified to all unbelievers, and such as do not sincerely repent, that they stand exposed to the wrath of God, and eternal condemnation, so long as they are unconverted: according to which testimony of the gospel, God will judge them, both in this, and in the life to come.

The Gospel will divide any and every one.  I have heard it said that there are two types of people in the world: those that believe that the world is divided into two types of people and those who don't.

I am of the first variety.  There are bad people and bad people who are forgiven their badness because of Christ's goodness.  That's it.  The Gospel divides the world into two groups of people.  Those who accept the Good News and repent of their sin in joyous response to the grace bestowed upon them and those who reject the Good News and pursue sin in the form of vigor: religious or irreligious. 

I love this question from the catechism.  It succinctly nails down the watershed event that is the preaching of the Gospel of God in Christ.  It is utterly foolish to those who are perishing.  It is despised and hated.  Do not forget that Jesus was murdered.  Not just murdered in the privacy of His own home, but publicly tortured and crucified.  People hated Jesus.  The Gospel leaves no room for "liking" Jesus.  You either love Him or hate Him.  I know it seems necessary to back fill all that black and whiteness with shades of gray, but they do not exist.  They are allusions/illusions created by the blackness constructed to allow one to live in darkness while wearing a white t-shirt.  That is to say if gray does exist, it is simply less black, but not white and the two categories remain the only options available.

I love the Gospel. I love that it pierced my black heart and called a spade a "spade" rather than letting bygones be bygones.  I love that the Gospel speaks with such urgency and seriousness that which really is.  You want someone to scream "Fire! Get out! The window is our only hope! All the other exits are blocked!  Jump! Please, jump!" if the house is on fire.  If it's not really on fire or it is only on fire in a sense, but not really being consumed by flame, then it is a cruel joke or the snobbish preaching of one's preference. 


If the house is really on fire, what would you expect somone who knows that to say?  The Gospel does not preach to you that the house is on fire.  The Law reveals to you that fire is bad and that the house is on fire.  You agree with the Law that fire is bad and do not want to be burned, but you disagree that you have lit your home ablaze by your own actions.  For all the Law tells you,  it does not tell you how to escape the flames.  By God's grace, the Law shows you that the place you rest your head is merely an expensive coffin. 

The Gospel, however, screams and pleads, "Get out!  There is a way out!" 

I love that God has entrusted the election and calling of his saints to the receiving of an eternal Gospel that is consistently proclaimed over and over.  The Good News is broadcast and by a miracle of God for the sake of Christ, some people actually believe it.  They really do.  It is absolutely crazy.  And I love it.  I adore it.  I love God's wisdom in using such foolish people like us to preach such a perfect propitiation.

"Repent and believe the Good News." ~ Jesus Christ

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Co$t of Di$ciple$hip

Ecclesiastes 5:10

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.

1 Timothy 6:10

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Love is an all-consuming thing.  If you love something or someone, you cannot get enough of it or them.  There is always a desire for more.   This is a great gift of God and one implanted within us to draw us to Him, the never-ending source of all things.  It is precisely this feature God created in our spiritual DNA that will make an eternity with Him full of joy and expectation.  When we love Him, we cannot get enough of Him and He is the only Person or thing of which there will eternally be an abundance.

If you love money, you will always want more of it and do whatever it takes to protect the sum of it you have already obtained.  Money is finite.  There is only so much one can possess. There is only so much one can own and you never own all of it, despite your best efforts to the contrary. 

This craving for more and more has led many to wander from the faith and pierce themselves with many troubles.  They do it to themselves.  They come near the throne of grace and in the cost/benefit analysis of their life opt for money as a source of security rather than the Author of all currency.  If you choose the creation over the Creator, you will bring upon yourself much grief and anxiety unnecessarily.

Money is not evil.  The love of money is evil. 

No one can love two masters.  You will either love one and hate the other, or vice versa.  Two masters will have two different ideas of what is best and you will have to choose which master masters the other.  Ecclesiastes says it clearly:  those who love money will never be satisfied with money (no matter how much they have). 

Those who love God however will ever be satisfied in Him.  An infinte desire is met in an infinite Source.  The Giver of a insatiable appetite becomes Himself the eternal bread of life for us.  We are ever nourished and sated only by He who created our desire. 

P.S. If you cannot live off of $25,000/year, the problem is not that you need to make $40,000/year.  You need to learn to live within your means of $25,000/year.  The person who does not tithe off of $50,000/year will not tithe off of $100,000/year.  Do not deceive yourself.  If you have a hard time giving God $5,000/year, you will have a harder time giving $10,000/year, not an easier time.  Everyone is more saintly in the hypothetical future.  Don't justify today's rebellion by telling me about the obedience you will have when the sitation hopefully better suits you tomorrow.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thoughts from "The Gospel is Good News, Not Good Advice" by Tulllian Tchividjian

Read the full post HERE.

This blog post by Pastor Tullian is from Michael Horton's "The Gospel-Driven Life."

I love good advice.  I love smart people who are able to tell me how to be smart.  I hate being dumb.  I hate failure.

The Good News tells me that God's foolishness is wiser than my wisdom.  The Good News announces a triumphant Christ that has conquered my failure.

I hate my sin.  I hate that I'm not perfect.  God hates that about me as well.  The Good News in Christ is that God accepts me not just as I am, but just as I am in Christ.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why knot?

Ecclesiastes 5:5

It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.

Why is the divorce rate so high?  Is an elevated view of self to blame?  Or is it a deceptive self-interest that should take the brunt of the liability?

Do we believe ourselves more capable than we are like Peter?  Is that why so many do not keep their marital vows? Or is it that we know we will not keep our promise, but know that it is required to get what we want in the interim?

People do not have to get married.  Especially in a shack up, break up, shake up culture like ours.  There is no necessity in it.  Society does not demand it of you.  You can have your cake and eat it too and all without the old, new, borrowed, blue bologna.

I don't understand why so many do.  So many, that is, fully intending not to stay married.  So many committing to "as long as love lasts" instead of "until death do us part."  Some still promising until death with their tongue while actually intending only "as long as love lasts" in their hearts.  At least when the "love lasting" promise is made it is up front about the likelihood that I am going to leave you when  my self-interested love in you grows dim.  I will love you as long as I like loving you.  That is grotesque, but more honest than the promises many make without a thought given to the words they are saying. I'm not sure which is worse: promising to be faithful and falling short or forecasting fickleness and following through with it.

It is better not to get married than to play marriage with no intention of making every effort to being and staying married.  Do not promise things to anyone about anything, no matter how little, if you do not intend to honor them.  I know, "a man plans his steps, but the Lord directs his paths."  However, the man in the proverb still plans.  The point of this proverb is not that men should not plan.  It is that they should in all humility recognize that God may intervene and interrupt said plans.  You will plan on something.  So plan to keep your promises dummy.

God can forgive unfulfilled vows, but do not neglect the fact that these broken commitments require forgiveness.  It is sin to commit to and fall short from a vow.  It is a lie, an error in judgment, a mistake.  All of those things it is, but only after it is primarily defined as sin.

The grace of God can wash us clean of these transgressions if to it we appeal.  I am worried that too often too many fail to offer to God in humility the failure of their broken promises.  Because we have a faithful God we are infused with love and ambition to be faithful.  We love because He first loved us.  We strive be faithful and honorable in our vows and promises because He is faithful and honorable in His vows and promises made to us.  We want to be like the One we worship, not to attempt to take His place, but to honor Him by imitation the way children pretend to be grown-ups.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Long in the Tooth Lament

Ecclesiastes 5:2

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.

We demonstrate the degree to which we respect another by the amount of time we allow them to talk to us without our need to interrupt or interject our take on the subject matter.

This is why your pastor is afforded 30 minutes (at least I hope) without a discussion (unless you go to a crap church where no one preaches so that everyone can pipe in their 2 cents).

As a result we do not talk much in the presence of those in whom we awe.  We tend to listen to them.  We talk more amoung peers and even more around people we determine need to know and be instructed in what we have to say.

What is your ratio of words spoken to God versus time spent reading His Words?

What is your ratio of words lobbed up to God versus the time spent in prayer listening and waiting?

Your answer says a lot about what you think of God and a lot abot what you think of yourself.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thoughts from the "Heidelberg Catechism, Questions #56 & #60"

Question 56. What believest thou concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?

Answer: That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, neither my corrupt nature, against which I have to struggle all my life long;  but will graciously impute to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never be condemned before the tribunal of God.

Question 60. How are thou righteous before God?

Answer: Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil; notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ; even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me;  inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart.

What a beautiful word: notwithstanding.

1. in spite of; without being opposed or prevented by

I am a wicked, waivering, waste of life and grace; but God can, will, and has saved me by faith in Christ. 

There is only one righteousness before God: Christ's.  All self-righteousness will be exposed as counterfeit, fraudulant, insufficient, and sardonic (not to mention Satanic).  The approval of other men on whose shoulders one arrives before God will shrivel in His presence.  Those who have elevated themselves either in their inner eye or in the eyes of others will find themselves being asked to move down from their assumed seats of honor unto their shame.

I love the simplicity and the complexity of this confession.  It is so clear and clean.  So easy to articulate and preach, yet so difficult to believe.  It is only by the grace of the Spirit of God that it finds any of us receptive.  It is then in the knowledge and belief of this Gospel that we struggle and strive the rest of our lives against the world's alternatives, the old man's desires, and the Devil's lies.  We do not ascertain perfection through exertion, but imputation.  It is not something to be grasped, but to be granted.  It is not our pursuit of Him that saves us, but His pursuit and preservation of us.

Our only hope is to be seen as we are not by Him Who ever is.  Though we have broken the entire Law, we can be seen as innocent of its charges.  Furthermore, we are not only seen as innocent of evil, but as doers of good.  Double imputation.  Christ takes our sin.  We take Christ's righteousness.  He not only absorbs that sin that is not His, but clothes us in a righteouness that was not ours.  Both of us end up looking silly wearing clothes that do not belong to us.  We both take on humiliation to wear the other's clothes.  Jesus on the Cross and us by our faithful abandonment of all else.  Jesus looked ridiculous hanging on a tree.  He did not belong there.  It was not His Cross.  We look ridiculous abandoning what used to produce our comfort.  We claim a righteousness that is not ours.  It is not our righteosness.  Jesus by grace wore my despicable shame on the Cross.  We by faith wear His robe of righteousness before the Father.

We are sinners by nature and by choice; notwithstanding, God sees us saints by grace through faith in Christ.