Saturday, December 04, 2010

Miserable Affection

“For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face” (Psalm 11:7)

These last several weeks of defeat, bouncing back and forth between rebellion and repentance, has reminded me of the fact that the only good in me is that part of me touched and empowered by the Spirit of God inside of me. When I do good, it is the Lord’s life in me acting out good. What a glorious grace, that He would endure such grief to be with and in me! It breaks my heart and I hate all the more my frailty, my taintedness. I am angry at my state. I want to run far away from everything. And yet, there He is, persistently fixed to convince me of his radical devotion to me. I am undone by his love. I am humbled to a heap of sloppy mush, so uncomfortable in this acceptance, I know not what to do – I have no structure to act, to respond. I can’t even turn away from his loving gaze. I want to laugh at how pathetically helpless I am, rebuke Him for causing such discomfort. I am beholding the Lord’s face. He has made me upright by prostrating me with the weight of his love. He has made me righteous through the work of His Son, Jesus, on the cross. Enough already, God. Okay, maybe a little more.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


I have a question for my Christian friends.

Are you experiencing restoration?

Is this not the mark of God's presence in our lives? Should this aspect of our lives not point to the worth and wisdom of our God, as people ponder why we are more gracious, loving, healthy, balanced, whole... than the rest of this broken world?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Upside Down

The more I try to figure these out and make things work in life, the more disoriented and disturbed I become. I feel upside down. One is not particularly functional upside down. It's unnatural. It's a bit moronic as well. Trust I am describing myself and not anyone else. I will avoid outright accusing others of their depravity for the moment and settle with personal confession.

My mental capacity is horribly inadequate. I cannot attain a satisfying understanding of why the world is as corrupt as it is; the problem is exasperated when the God factor is considered. How can He allow the suffering and evil if He is so good? If He is who He says He is, knowing all and will all in His absolute sovereignty, then how and why the torment of loss and death?

My faculties for improvement fare no better. I will myself to live righteously, according to the notions of good that I judge to be best, only to find I have a skewed concept of right and wrong, or my actions have unforeseen consequences that should have been understood, for they are nothing new. I make the same mistakes over and over again. I do not learn from my mistakes. I trust still that I know best and can dig myself out of the hole.

But then there is the issue of fear. How many wasted years have there been due to the fear of failure, rejection, abandonment, disappointment. The very things we fear come about because of our fear of them. They are self-produced. I fear failing, and therefore, do not do which leads to failure. I avoid loving and being loved because I do not want to be rejected, only to be rejected for my failure to provide the very thing people need and want.

I try so hard not to fail in this Abundant Life promised us and am so afraid that I will miss out on what God has for me, that I accomplish my fears and miss out on Life. I try to stand on my own feet, thinking it is the right way to get to where I need to go, only I end up upside down.

When am I going to believe the Gospel?

When am I going to start to trust that all is taken care of and accomplished for me, and I am freed to live as I was intended to, all because Christ came and died, rose again, and gave us His Spirit to live in us, and quicken us to Life?

When am I going to flip upside down and start living the Kingdom way?

I need to die to find life.

I need to risk loving to be loved. This is not to say I can think of loving acts as a means to the end of getting my needs met, as if I just need to strategize and manipulate others to cause things to happen. I need to truly regard this lingering and compelling drive to control my life as the death of me, and toss it aside, not trusting that I can wield fortune for myself. Only then will I find life when I'm not looking for it. Only then will God have the room to move in me to be a blessing to others. Only then will I discover that it is in the union with my God that Life occurs.

Is this not completely absurd? The world does not comprehend this. It is foolishness. It is fantasy. It is fanatic. It is "unhealthy." According to the world, the Kingdom way is upside down and leads to craziness.

But being upside down is what puts us rightly in place for Life. I am dying for Life.

I am dying for it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Good Soil

I wrote a while ago about my basil plant. I have an update and an analogy to the faith.

Last I shared, the woody-stemmed, larger plant was blossoming. The smaller one wasn't doing as well. Both of those produced smaller leaves, but many. But that was about it... my plants plateaued at this stage for months.

I saw a basil plant at the supermarket. It was in the tiniest little pot, but there were lots of shoots and these big leaves. I bought it and replanted it in more soil. It was fine for a couple days, but then it all started to wilt. My new plant died. Now, all that is left are these trimmed stems, turned dry and brown.

Meanwhile, I decided to pay more attention to my faithful plant. I decided to give it more soil, like I did the failed, new plant. I found a bigger container and added more soil.

Something profound happened. The thing exploded, again! Except this time, the leaves grew so much larger. I got out of my plant (grown from seed) what I desired from the one I bought - these substantial leaves!

Not only that, but the smaller plant within the same pot as old faithful, is doing just as well as its bigger brother.

What can be learned from this? I am reminded of a parable Jesus gave. Mark 4 describes how the Kingdom of God is like one who sows seed, and some falls upon the road, some among the rocks, some among the thorns, and some among good soil. The seed upon the road is snatched up by birds; the rocky seed sprouts quickly, but wilts with no substantial roots taking hold; the thorns choke out the growth and the good soil flourishes. This is a metaphor for hearing the Word of God, his gospel, and how our environment affects what response we have to it. I have heard the gospel and for years, I have grown, only to be hindered in some way from thriving. I see how my choices, those things I CAN do, in my freedom, still are not beneficial, though perhaps permissible (1 Cor 10:23). I CAN surround myself with things, and gadgets and flood my eyes with titillation and distraction. But they do not edify. They are thorns. When I sit among vile things, numb to their influence, I rest upon rocks, and His good news will not amount to much, but wither.

Unless I transplant myself among good soil.

I did this with my plants, and they flourished. I gave them a more suitable environment to thrive and grow, bearing good fruit. Why can't we do the same thing for ourselves? Why can't we change our environments to better receive the good news of the Word (John 1:14-17)? What's stopping us? Our selfish pride, not wanting to be told how to live? Fear that the gospel may take us places we are uncomfortable in, losing control of what mundane lives we can live apart from God?

I noticed that in these last couple weeks, I have watched significantly less television. And I've been full of joy! I received more out of television that entertainment. I received a spirit of timidity and sloth, lust and loneliness. I can easily isolate myself in front of a television, and never have to deal with life, people, relationships, work, study, etc. It's an escape from reality, and as long as I plug myself up to its incessant flow of content and flickering images, I can ignore reality. Wow, what abundant life that offers (John 10:10)!

Now, there are other vices in my life that choke out my flourishing. I'm seeing how my compulsion to check Facebook is drawing me into similar patterns as television did (and still does when I feel particularly lazy).

My questions are these: What in your lives prevents you from flourishing? Could you benefit from new scenery? What can you strip from your lives to foster new growth and break free from stagnation and puny fruit? What thorns choke life out of you and need to be removed from your lives?

Are you going to act upon this and thrive?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Born of the Spirit

"Everyone born of the Spirit is blown by the Wind..." -- Jason Upton

I was running my fourth lap around the lake when I passed up, for the second time, an elderly man walking with two canes, named Carroll. I jogged twenty yards past, and felt compelled to stop. Asking if I could walk with him, we continued to around the lake chatting.

I'm glad I didn't keep running. We talked about nature (moose), gardening, television, his wife volunteering at the library, his recent hip surgery, my seminary education... and how his knee is in need of surgery/replacement. At the end, I asked if I could pray for his knee, and we did.

Let me tell you. I could tell that meant a lot to him. He mentioned once how he and his wife went to church, but he started confessing after the prayer his faith in Christ with much humility and gratitude to God!

We need to voice our faith with confidence. We need not be ashamed of the God who saves. We need to be willing to go wherever and do and say as the Spirit compels us.

Have you been blown by God somewhere or to someone recently?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Heaven on Earth Glimpsed

I've been having one of those weeks, where things are just making sense. And it isn't so simple as to say it is just this one way, excluding this or that. I am experiencing the joy of the LORD, and it is as if in His grace, the mysteries of the universe are revealed. If I could sum it up, it is paradox; God is both thoroughly pleased with the unfolding outcomes of His providence and the world's response, and at the same time, righteously angered and vexed with the rebellious and ignorant ways of humanity. I think this is possible because God is infinite and beyond time as we experience it.

I want to share a vision I believe God to have given me in grace, and I hope it edifies those who read this to better grasp the majesty of the Great God. I need to set the vision in context, however, which I will do now through narrative.

My journey of discovering God is going on its thirteenth year. Many of those years have been spent bouncing back and forth between treasuring the grace poured out on me (and fellow believers that we could even know Him) and writhing in the torture of not being able to offer up the level of devotion and honor due Him. This more unpleasant aspect of the Christian journey has found a new dimension of brilliance after spending a season discovering a most true and wonderful aspect of God: I had revealed to me the glory and majesty of God, grasping more fully the splendor of His Holiness. Do YOU comprehend what it means for God to be fully separate and other than you and I? We commit a grave error and dishonor to God when we consider Him altogether like us (see Psalm 50, and note the attitude of God in His frustration and anger toward an irreverent people). No, I'm serious. Stop and read it. I want the gravity of such a posture with God to settle into the depths of your soul. You should feel convicted and and undone, much like Isaiah felt before God (Isa 6).

This season of my life was the most profound I had experienced up to that point. God is OTHER. He burns with an intensity of glory that kills those not extended Christ's covering. To this, we should appropriately fall to our knees (and even face) in awe, fear and reverence to God, as I continually do. But that is not all.

In continuing the story, I must share how these newly discovered gems of truth quickened me and those journeying with me to action, as the Word of God must do. A quick tangent: Imagine God in the midst of creating, speaking things and life into existence! What power is behind the words of God uttered from Him! What transformative and creating power does the Word of God have in regards to us as we receive! Ponder that for a moment. God's Word was having an effect on us who were seeing glimpses of God's majesty, and it was profound. We were given eyes to see how God was and how the world was, and the natural response was to grieve the state of the world, even the Church, as she is still in a state of harlotry, just like Israel before the time of Christ's first coming. We grieved and were compelled to cry out for justice to be done God by crediting Him the glory due His Name. We thought this looked like separating our flock from perceived dangers of spiritual harlotry, that we as a church would not contribute to the state of adultery by partnering with churches with particularly controversial positions on things like abortion and homosexuality. Some of my friends, I fear, are stuck in this position of writhing for fear that they will be judged harshly by a wrathful and glorious God who is serious about the state of sin and the wrong actions born out of that state, if they do not devote their life to warning others of this character of God. While this is true and God remains a God of wrath, I have yielded to God's outpouring of revelation and sense the picture is much more grand than that. I think it was this sentiment that caused alarm and hesitation in the elders of our church to oppose my group and the things we urged to happen. It was a messy and destructive process. Grace should have been extended more liberally on all sides. I pray God redeem and create new life out of the rubble. I pray all sides trend slowly and lightly forward, speaking in humility and receptive to the truth the other side can and does speak for the other. The truth is in both sides, which ties into the vision given me. I'm not there just quite yet, however.

It was my mentor, Jerry Nelson, who I believe summed up well the next chapter of my journey, which I find myself in now and further offers a unifying truth to these two sides of the faith. He said (and I paraphrase) that what is most glorious about our God is the fact that in His Holiness and intense Glory, God is with us and offers the opportunity of relationship with Him through the Son's sacrifice. Immanuel is extending mercy to a depraved people despite how egregious our state is for Him. Remember, God is infinitely perfect and without wrong, without flaw or defect. Our very nature is compromised and it would go against the very nature of God to associate with us if it were not His nature to love gloriously and perfectly. It is for His Name's sake that He relent (Isa 48:11).

You see, what the elders of my church have steadfastly proclaimed and find foundational is the fact that God is loving and gracious and adamant at pursuing us for relationship. We too, can express our devotion to God through relationship with Him and one another. This is all very biblical and beautiful. And you must also see that my small group who had revealed to us the splendor of God's majesty, on an ontological basis - His very essence - was discovering and responding to truths that are very much biblical and beautiful. Even our warnings and desires for pursuing holiness (i.e. separateness) are biblical. What once was seen as contradictory in my eyes, how my elders either had it wrong and my small group had it right, or vice versa, I see that way no more. Now, I see, as in a vision, the persons of our God like a many-faceted jewel, sparkling brilliantly from one vantage, at which the sight makes you lose your breath and you can't help but fall to your face in worship, for He is that gloriously majestic and beautiful. Only, circle about the Jewel, which is our God, and from that vantage you behold a whole different scene, with wholly different truths, yet equal in importance though different in response. It is the same God, but more complex than our minds can conceive. He truly is infinitely Holy and Glorious, full of Grace and Love, wrath and mercy.

Let me tie this to a couple parables that Jesus shared:

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had bought it" (Matthew 13:44-46).
Upon beholding God, we experience a revealing of truths: of Him, of our world, and of a proper response aligned with such profound insights, and we are much like the man and the merchant in that such a treasure as God demands response, only there is not one right response. Just like the man is compelled to purchase property (where the treasure is amply located), the merchant is compelled to purchase a pearl, the object of his desire. Depending on one's vantage, a proper response may look differently than what another's response should be. You may need to buy land to build a church to serve God. You may have to adopt an orphan girl and name her "Pearl." It's going to look different depending on where we are with God. The coherence of responses, though, is that sacrifice and self-denial is required. Both the merchant and the man had to sell all that they had. We cannot only partially turn away from our worldly lives, not in the end. The more we gloriously search out the matter of God's persons (Proverbs 25:2), the more we realize we will never be the same. Sanctification is to be conformed to His likeness; do not forget that. God is jealous and will purify His Bride.

Realizing these things this week has been like entering the throne room of God, despite physically being bound to this fallen world. Heaven is a lovely notion, a reality not yet received. It has been glimpsed, however, and it steadies me for more abuse until He takes me home, into His Arms.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

A Theological Calibration on Life

So, I'm a seminary student, and part of the curricula is to engage in a mentoring program that fosters character growth spiritually. I chose this semester to work on that aspect of faith for the Christian regarding confidence and identity, where the believer not only knows about God's grace, but responds to Him with adoration and service. I described it as actualizing the Scriptural description of being "more than [a conqueror.]" Romans 8:34-39 says this:

Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
"For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I wish to start my calibration from the Scriptures with this truth from Paul. We can have the confidence that Paul had (and exhorted the Romans to have) because Jesus intercedes continually for us, who trust in Him. It says that in Hebrews 7:25 as well: "Therefore he [Jesus] is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." The love of God rests on the Son; the love of God is in Christ Jesus! So if Jesus is interceding and acting as a mediator between us and the Father, then who or what can separate us from the intimate love our gracious God offers us? The answer is nothing!

I need to own this more than I do. I often fall into thinking that my sin separates me from God. That even sounds biblical. But the truth is that I have been sealed with the Holy Spirit and He dwells in me. In grace, He reveals truth to me and patiently waits for me to truly own it. I can grieve the Holy Spirit in me and silence Him for a time, but grace trumps sin. That is, in part, the gospel.

I started this semester more energetic than normal for me, and sought to completely alter my character, eliminating my flaws through a systematic evaluation of every lie and stronghold from the Enemy. I based this off of 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, where it says, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." I do recognize that many of the character flaws I have are due to me agreeing with the lies that intend to deter me away from God (at least from my perspective). I planned to use this semester to attack every thought and test it to the knowledge of God, to see if it was contrary to Scripture.

Well, that got exhausting and lost a lot of steam after a few weeks. That, and the excitement wore off. I still think it is a valid and useful practice and that I need to do that often, but I realize now that I was operating more out of my own ability and strength than allowing the Holy Spirit to simply nudge me when I was buying into a lie. I whole-heartedly believe that God gave us the Spirit in order to serve us. He receives great joy from doing so. How often do we feel like a burden to God for being such a mess? I feel this way, as if God will breathe a sigh of relief when we finally arrive and no longer sin. What a lie! My heart, please understand how treasured I am to God!

One thought I have taken captive was this great plan I developed for myself to realize a more godly character. I developed an ideal Michael in my mind as to what I would be like fully living for God. This Michael was joyful, inviting, assertive and outgoing, readily eager to share the good news of Jesus as God with us. I imagined that I needed to be a bubbly extrovert...

I'm not a extrovert. I can't muster it. With the help of my mentor, I began to realize that there are some aspects of my personality that do not need redeeming. I do not need to operate by default as one who pursues strangers for the gospel. This is not to say that I am off the hook from God ever wanting me to serve in that role, but I don't need to become one who feeds off of such interactions... quite the opposite occurs, in that it takes a lot of energy to play that type for me. That yoke would not be too easy.

So what of one of my goals to initiate conversation with random strangers with the intent of sharing my faith (at least twice a month all semester)? I had the grandest intentions... but whenever I found myself in a cafe` or bookstore around such people, it felt disingenuous in that I would more be serving my needs, in fact I'd be using them, to "better" myself. A forced gospel presentation is not authentic and edifying, it is means to a selfish end, if not motivated out of a genuine love for neighbor.

Also, as I found from Scripture, those encounters I imagined having are out of context with where and how the disciples witnessed. Throughout the account in Acts, when Christ's apostles and others were sharing the gospel, there was occasion for it that was fitting to the environment. Peter and others taught at the Temple almost exclusively. In that culture, religious centers acted as a recreational hang out, and the topic of discussion was religion! If I were to intrude on the man at the coffee shop, interrupting his reading to force God on Him, I would not be aligned with the Scriptural model given me. Now if this person was reading a Bible or some other Spiritual literature, and looked perplexed, I have more of a legitimate context for engaging in conversation, as there is a logical link.

So, I am in need of adjusting me contract goal to better suit my purpose. I need to be willing and available for God talk, but within an appropriate context. I have the thought to offer a Bible study and meal at my apartment once a week to my neighbors, the vast majority I do not know or interact with. By offering such fellowship, I anticipate it would meet several needs for my neighbors, and there would be no pressure or awkwardness to respond to a piece of paper. Who knows how many might need and want social interaction who otherwise gets very little? Who knows how many might have questions about God? Who knows how many might just need a meal?

This might flop, but I'm going to give it a try. The point is that I try to be a person I would want to encounter. I feel compelled to share what hope and joy I receive from God, and alleviate the hurt of this world by offering guidance toward the Cure. Is this not the Great Commission, to immerse and submerge and dunk everyone in the Name and subject of the Triune God, to His glory?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Shame vs. Conviction

The distinction was reiterated once more, this time in my formation group. I think I could benefit from meditating on this issue.

Shame = an underlying notion of character deficiency; The shameful person believes there is something inherently wrong with him or her; It is guilt that leads to death.

Conviction = an uneasiness or disappointment of one's choice or action; The convicted person realizes a behavioral failures/mistake; It is guilt that leads to repentance.

2 Cor 7:8-11:
Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.
Why is it so hard to "go there"? I can write pages about how the principle should play out in theory, but when it comes to assessing my own life and my own feelings, I hesitate. I think I buy into shame more than I do conviction. It is hard to shake off shame when so often those things we do that we hate seem unavoidable; it is true bondage. It is easy to buy into the lie that there is something wrong with you when you can't measure up to the standard you set for yourself. I don't know who will read this. More than being embarrassed that I often feel incompetent, I wonder if a non-Christian viewing this would be confused, for they view themselves differently than I do myself. I wonder if they feel the pressure to measure up in some fashion, like I do according to the Biblical model of a godly, regenerate representative of God's Kingdom. I wonder if it just doesn't matter, or they have no aspiration for self-improvement, for they don't get their sense of happiness from realizing an increased spiritually healthy state. Are they then free to just be and subsequently find a sense of happiness, or are free to improve without even trying?

What role does Satan play in twisting states for Christians? Does he invest more resources in distorting truth for the Christian, to sabotage the potential witness that believer may bring? Do we Christians have it harder than all other types of people in the world? I get that there are those who face hunger and disease and war, disasters and crime... I realize that my state could be much worse. I realize I could be on the street and not know where my next meal will come from. I realize I could be without a car and dependent on government aid and public transportation to make ends meat. I, however, know for a fact that poverty speaks very little to one's happiness, for I have been in fellowship with significantly poorer people from Nicaragua who were happier than most people I encounter in the US.

I don't expect this shame that I feel to just drop off me (unless, Jesus, you want to do that for me), but what I can choose to do is to proclaim the truth and start the healing process. I am a Child of God, a co-heir with Christ, who has the seal of the Holy Spirit, dwelling within me, who never leaves me and intercedes for me with groans that go beyond words. I am deeply loved. There is nothing that I can do, there is no depths of depravity that I can sink that will render void my saintly status of blessed. Nothing can separate me from Christ's love, not even my ignorance that it is always there, conquering though I'm blind of the results. There is no condemnation for those in Christ, and indeed, I am in Christ. I am abiding in Jesus, my vine and sustenance, for I am continually filled with the truth of God and the ways of the Kingdom. I believe and act on my faith in Christ Jesus by confessing with my heart and lips the glory of my King, who has begun establishing His Heavenly Kingdom of truth and justice. I am free, for Christ has set me free in the inner man. I no longer sin, but rather it is the sin in me, in my carnal flesh, that does evil. I eagerly await the resurrection body that I may be fully free and integrated physically with who I am now, the spiritual new life I have in Christ. ALL of my failures are forgiven and not counted against me. It grieves the Holy Spirit, but God's longsuffering is patient and enduring, able to withstand centuries of offense, for the sake of displaying His glory and worth as Sovereign Ruler, for He delivers His people, those who call upon the Name of Jesus for mercy and grace, which He gives abundantly. My God is mighty and awful. His majesty humbles me, for I am found in His favor, considered a prince. His love reigns. It is His kindness that leads me to repentance, for I trust that He believes in me, and His joy strengthens me.

Even if I amount to nothing in life, and according to the world, I have failed life miserably, I am confident that my Daddy will receive me with open arms and royal robes when this age fades.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Who's Your Daddy?

I was recently struck with the realization that I hadn't a clue what it meant to be a child of God, for deep down, that concept unnerved me and riddled my thoughts with unreachable expectations of godliness that could not possibly apply to me.

So below will be a barrage of New Testament texts that have reference to the sonship of God by adoption. I'll attempt to piece together the beginnings of a theology on the saints' adoption as God's children, which I determine to be greatly lacking understanding in the current Christian milieu. My fears are that the enemy continues to convince us that this is made void by sin and best forgotten. My hopes and most earnest prayer is that the beauty of this rema of God (word or thought for the moment - cf. Ephesians 6:17) will so penetrate the depths of our souls that we find empowerment in our sonship and truly begin to live.

So here goes. I'll comment after each passage.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt 5:9)

These are Jesus' words from his sermon on the Mount, part of the beatitudes. I am immediately reminded of the words of Paul to the Corinthians: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." The new creation of believers in Christ are in the business of making peace and reconciling God to humanity. They are called sons of God.

...those who are considered worthy to attain to that age [of eternity] and to the resurrection from the dead... cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. (Luke 20:35-36)

Oddly enough, these are Christ's words to the Sadducees regarding a quandary they presented him about marriage and heaven. For my purposes I wanted to stress the fact that such sons of God are given new resurrected bodies and cannot die. They are also made equal with the angels in that day, inferring a glory hard to fathom in our current state and thought.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13)

Faith in the person of Jesus Christ, the one true illuminating and exposing light and source of purpose and existence, is the only means to attain God's favor and the title of child of God, more than an adoption; a rebirth "of God" (cf John 3:3-6). There is no second-rate sonship here!

"You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. (John 11:49-52)

Caiaphas' words, the high priest during the time of Jesus' crucifixion, to his officials. Honestly, this passage perplexes me. How could he prophesy such a thing? What does this say to his culpability in pursuing such a thing if God gave him the wisdom of such a sacrifice? Anyways, I love John's commentary and foreshadowing of the ministry to the Gentiles, that God's children are "scattered abroad" and awaiting the proclamation of the gospel so that they can respond and be made new by God.

For if you live according to... the Spirit [and if] you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us... the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:13-18, 23)

I think this is crucial for the Church to understand. A wise man called Christianity a "serious and difficult religion." There are tasks for the Christian, mainly that we must live according to the Spirit given us, not quenching the Spirit (i.e. grieve) but die to the ways of the sinful nature. The contrary is to live as the world does, looking and behaving no differently than the world, in which case we truly have lost our saltiness and hid our light under a bowl.

The Spirit reveals truth (John 16:13) and the truth is that if we are God's we are His children. This is of great comfort to me. When I actually celebrate God's closeness with me, and honor Him, I have experienced my affections changing toward His ways and His thoughts. This of course makes the Christian stand out in a corrupt and evil world, and brings persecution and suffering. This is scary only to the Christian who does not yet comprehend the peace and joy that comes from owning one's sonship and heirship. Princes and Princesses indeed we are who treasure Christ!

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ... And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:24-27, 29)

The Abrahamic covenant is one that through his seed (ultimately Christ himself) Abraham would start the ball for a mighty nation for God, that would bless all the earth. Has this not already begun (see Schmidt's How Christianity Changed the World to discover Christ's profound impact on all of culture, often taken for granted today, e.g. we no longer have the common practice of killing newborns because they are not the preferred male)? Indeed it is the people of God that have been justified and clothed in Jesus, the perfect representation of humanity.

Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life (Phil 2:14-16)

Can you imagine a world where this group emerged who were free of complaint, but perfectly content and even joyous in the midst of hardship? Would they not shine so brightly, that the hungry and sick would want to join them and the self-righteous and affluent would despise them and persecute them, but to no avail?!

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure... No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God (1 John 2:28 - 3:3, 9-10)

I would believe that Satan would be very content in deceiving Christ's disciples into thinking that they were not yet considered God's children, that we have not yet been given a portion of our inheritance already, mainly Christ himself! I do not think it is too far fetched to say that the Enemy works very hard to put this into question for many believers, in attempts to discourage and paralyze the Saints. This has been my experience, and yet, I think the days are numbered that I feel defeated by sin and unworthy/unable to enjoy my God and be enjoyed by Him. You see, my hope is rising, and it is found solely in Christ, and I am pure and being purified still. Sin has lost its grip on me because God has called me His own.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments... We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:1-2, 18-21)

Some two thousand years after Christ came, our condition for understanding the gospel is somewhat different than that of the first established churches. There are many "Christians" who believe Jesus is the Christ (Savior), only they are not born of God. This passage can be taken out of context to say all who pray a prayer of belief are saved from hell. This is how I understood it growing up. I think passages like 2 Cor. 11:1-15 show that different versions of the gospel, highlighting slightly varied nuances, depicting a "Jesus" other than the true historical and holy Jesus are the Enemy's schemes to ruin God's work and lead many astray.

Imagine how if Paul, within the first 20 years of establishing the Church in Corinth, was bombarded with false presentations, how much more so will we, two millennia later, have such evil ploys infiltrating our understanding of the gospel. Indeed, I believe that is why the Reformation fractured the Faith into thousands of pieces. God, in His wisdom and grace, has revealed error, and compelled repentance in his saints and disassociation from those who treasure more the kingdom that they established through worldly means and that is reinforced with worldly benefits. But to the credit of Satan, he even used this splitting to distract and cause strife. You see we have admonitions from the epistles to avoid fakers, but Jesus' spoke of how wheat would grow intermingled with the weeds. What am I trying to say with this tangent of sorts? There was a time when the followers of Christ, those true children of God, lived out their authority and so shone in a dark and evil world that they could not help but change the world, because God was with them. We saw this when the early church unraveled the pagan-worship model of religion, and radically redirected the course of culture toward the things of God, with Emperor Constantine as a landmark. Then there was a time when God raised up another son to challenge the corrupted religious institution that was completely void of the essence of Christ's gospel; that landmark was Luther, and there are many who paved the way and supported him in this re-calibration of Christianity...

I believe there is a new time coming and indeed started, where the children of God will rise up to the challenge of being salt and light to the world once again. This is not to negate those throughout the between times who truly grasped the gospel. Those people exist. Indeed, God's grace to reveal truth throughout the age by the Spirit has not been lacking entirely. Is it not, however, becoming so dark that we are due time for the dawn to come once more?

Ecumenism has been a pursuit for decades. But its premise has been to compromise, to overlook heretical doctrine and find the lowest common denominator. There has been very little defining of what "gospels" and "Jesus"s are actually embraced. And that is why even after decades of attempts to reconcile faith traditions for the common good will continue to fail. They are not all children of God, and the love for one another does not come naturally like it does for the children of God, when they own their special place in God and live abundantly through that. I believe there will be children pulled from many different traditions, whom are inclined to the true gospel, for they are hand-picked by God.

What a beautiful day that will be when the children of God raise up in confidence of their status, empowered by their God whom they gird themselves with, and so shine with a most glorious brilliance! Lord, your Kingdom come, and quickly.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chop, Chop... Ouch!

For the sake of avoiding to sound overdramatic, I won't describe my rising this morning as if the Lord pulled me out of bed. I won't describe Him as compelling me to my Bible instead of following my normal routine of turning on the television. I mean if I did, if I described the start of this morning like that, I might give the impression that there is more to my life than meets the eye. I wouldn't want to imply that my life is rich with meaning, that there is a underlying story unfolding that only reveals itself at crucial turns. It would be a crime to think of thickening plots, character development, scene changes. After all, is that not what literature is for? I'm sorry, reading is fading in importance and significance; is that not what film and television is for, to quicken our hearts for fantasy and drama and meaning? I mean, we all know that such things don't really exist in the real world? That's why we are so obsessed with entertainment, glued to our TV sets and soda-sticky theatre floors. I can almost hear the crutch of the popcorn kernel and feel the resistance of the sole as I retract my shoe from its solid footing. The remote, nearly an extension of my arm.

Nonetheless, my story must go on. It is my life, and I deem it significant even if it is not. Thus, I write. I record this moment of rising and sitting down to my Bible, which was opened to the Gospel of John. A little editing is required, for I first finished up chapter 14; heaven forbid you know what I learned from it. After all, it is entirely out of context for why I write this morning. You don't need to learn that Jesus disclosed information about the Spirit of God, how He is given to Jesus' disciples upon return his return to the Father. You need not know that how Jesus describes his connection with the Father, and with his disciples, all said in the same breathe as introducing the Spirit; it is irrelevant that you understand that those of this world will not receive the Spirit of God and cannot comprehend even His existence for they know not God nor see Him. No, it is pointless to tell how upon receiving the Spirit, those who love God will be loved by Christ and the Father and that they both will make their abode in the adopted child, no longer an orphan, for They came to them.

You need not know either that because the ruler of the world approached, and Jesus felt compelled to obey His Father's will, that they left that place where they talked, and the scene changed. After all, that was chapter 14; I write to speak of chapter 15. So let us just cut all that out. It is not relevant.

I write to describe my experience upon reading the first portion of the chapter, the metaphor of a grape vine. You see, Jesus described a Vinedresser as the Father, tending to the crop. The thick vine, the plant's trunk being the source of all life to the plant provides nourishment to the rest of the plant, the branches. Jesus described himself as that vine, professing Christians as his branches. The first striking detail from this metaphor that I encountered was the destruction of some of the branches coming off of the Jesus vine, those not bearing fruit are taken off from its life source and burned. That's not pleasant, so we'll just ignore that aspect. The second thing I noticed was the pruning of those branches that did bear fruit.

My bought basil seeds last summer. I planted about a dozen seeds, then. It is the following winter; just about a half a year has past. I think it is fitting that only two seedlings survived. I transferred them both into a makeshift pot from an old lemonade container, and they sit on my bedroom window sill now. One was so tiny. It still is, even though I planted it about 6 months ago. The other shot straight up. It's tall and its stems grew past the stage of having softer green flesh. Woody stems developed, and it took deep roots. The problem was that it wasn't producing many leaves. I wondered what the deal was, then I realized what I had to do. Chop, chop. I pruned the little guy, chopping off long sections of stem right after the budding of green that sprouted out at points lower down. The thing looked pitiful. Bald, brown branches with just a speckle of green at its tips. I wondered if I had to scrap my little project of having fresh basil around.

Then something wonderful happened. The green multiplied! I was getting double and quadruple shoots off the one, where I severed. So I did the same with his tiny basil brother plant, chopping half of the three inch guy off. In time, the little guy, too, grew exponentially, but only in leaves, not in size. The bugger is still tiny. My hope is not in him. I harvest from my pride and joy. Right now, I pruned again, and he looks pretty pathetic. But I trust more growth will come, and where once only two or three branches shot off from the trunk, I trust more will branch off and flourish.

Why tell of my basil growing? When I read that the Father intends to prune those branches that bear fruit, I realized that meant me. I have been following Jesus for just over 13 years. Why in the hell am I still pursuing this... fantasy? illusion? delusion? You would think that after a couple years, maybe during college when you learn of alternative lifestyles, that I would become wise to the Christian farce and abandon it. I almost did. I've told the story before, that I was at a place where Christianity seemed explainable. The feeling of singing worship songs to a thing invisible, actually feeling euphoria, can be seen as the brain receiving auditory stimulation resulting in the production of alpha waves... Just a chemical reaction in the brain, the release of neurotransmitters and firing of neurons. Christianity fulfilled some deep social needs as an adolescent, where I felt accepted and protected from negative alternatives, like escaping in drugs or joining a gang (ha! can you imagine me in a gang?!). Finding one's identity and community is a normal psychological and sociological phenomena. I just happened to choose the Christian variety. Others are entitled to their own. There is nothing special about the Christian take.

Or is there? You see, I did not walk away from Jesus in college because I asked He prove that He cared for me and wanted me a part of His team by showing up and doing something I could not explain. He did. Ask me about it some time; I'd love to tell you. Needless to say, I stayed, and I see now more clearly that God was doing some pruning on me, or at least on what image I conjured of who He was that was false and destructive.

Pruning is not pleasant! That's what struck me this morning and what I want to share with you this morning. Our culture has an aversion to pain. We think happiness is found in what is pleasurable: sex, food, entertainment like TV and film, etc. Life has meaning now in our pursuit to fill ourselves with satisfaction. Life used to mean more. People used to find meaning in work. Now, work is the means to provide for the entertainment. What drama we find in life seems meaningless, because it hurts and compromises the bottom-line of obtaining our pleasure fixes. Instead, we covet the drama as depicted on screen, for it is removed and safe. We live vicariously through make-believe characters; if they are derived from real life, we further dramatize the story. Nonetheless, we feel the meaning of those characters' lives and feel connected to something greater than our own miserable lives. Have you ever stopped to wonder why you feel a need to be a part of something bigger than yourself? Why do we make everything on screen according to this model of a higher calling (save maybe Seinfeld, a show about nothing, the epitome of our depraved society)? Is it not because it is the very design of our lives? The thing that gives meaning to our existence?

I know some who may read this buy into the naturalist model that says this universe happened by chance, that human life happened because a single-celled organism just happened to "come together" in just the right way to spawn, and millions (maybe billions) of years later we have homo sapien. Ot holds that there is not meaning to all of this, save what we determine, so why not have fun? I ask, why do you model your primary source of fun (i.e. stories with rich drama, where a greater purpose more important than yourselves is pursued) after something that contradicts your understanding of reality? Is there a design engraved in our souls (that inner life we perceive)? Do recognize that your worldview is a newer phenomena, for all other cultures derived meaning to life from some understanding of a higher being, whether multiple gods or the One who actually intervened on the earth hundreds of times throughout history (read a book called The Holy Bible if you're not familiar with these true stories). You may have verifiable, measurable knowledge to guide your conclusions; but there is other knowledge that exists cannot be measured, but comes by authority. If you think hard enough, even your foundation is based on things that cannot be measured, but you take them by faith.

The postmodern perspective fares no better. Truth does not exist and if it does, there is no way of determining it, so let's just choose camps and what works for you guys is fine, but we'll choose to believe these things; your truth is yours and ours is ours... If there is one truth, an absolute Truth, and those positions that contradict the real truth are held, and the real truth discloses the reality of judgement upon unbelief and disobedience, is it not foolish, nay reckless, to assume holding unfolded beliefs is okay? This is no more than intellectual vegetation! Cognitive apathy. You willfully plug yourselves into the Matrix to live in fantasy. You see, you who deny the Christian claims to truth are like my little basil plant, one plant altogether different from the plant of significance, competing for nourishment from the ground, not taking root, for Christ owns the ground. Your sun is blocked by the greatness of Christ's Kingdom, which has overtaken the garden. You Christians that buy into these other thoughts, are branches that stray away from Christ and dwell in the shadows. You are confused on where you belong and will be severed lest you return.

Pruning. It is going to happen. In fact, Jesus told his disciples that the reason He shared this metaphor of the vine was so that His joy may be in them and that their joy may be made full (15:11). The disciple of Christ will be cut apart. The old will be severed. This is to make room for fruit to bear. There is no more meaning for a plant than to bear fruit. There is no more meaning for the Christian than to bear the fruit of good works, those accomplishments in the world that make others wonder at whether the God they proclaim is legit. God the Father is in the business of pruning. He does it to those who belong to him. Others... tossed aside and judged already (John 3:18). The great news of the gospel is that still now, and until Christ returns in glory, there is opportunity to repent and believe (2 Peter 3:9). From eternity's vantage, all is decided. But our timeline ticks on, so hope remains. Receive the good news, I beg you. Be willing to go before the Vinedresser and receive the discipline of pruning off those things that destroy who you are. I reluctantly go for I know it will hurt, and am confident that I will turn back often in fear... but it is done for joy, for the abundant life. Though we feel the pain and question, the Lord is patient, however, and merciful to his children and will show them in time the great worth of becoming who they are intended to be. Something much more glorious will sprout up than what once was. Will you display your God-given glory with me?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"I Am Wrecking Ball" says the Lord

I am learning something new about the Christian faith. There are two parts.

First, the power granted the children of God is mighty, if only we would utilize it.
I know this is true because we have such passages that speak to the immeasurable blessing of God's favor for empowerment:

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Just as it is written,
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39).

The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Rev. 3:21)

Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Rev. 12:10-11)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-10)

I read this last one and teared up because I find it to be the most significant and glorious truth in all of history; how is it that an utterly undeserving people, worthy of nothing but wrath, should find the riches of God's grace lavished upon us, those children He adopts? If you do not know the depths of wisdom and weight of such a statement, I pray you do. I pray your hunger to know such freedom and grace captivate your whole being, down to the deepest recesses of your soul. I would love to talk about it with you if you do not know this God, who is more than generous with His love and grace to the contrite in spirit.

But I digress. The power of the children of God, those heavenly citizens of God's Kingdom whom currently experience eternal life on earth, the abundant life... the power is infinite.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11)

Lord God, Jesus Christ, I pray that your disciples would realize the authority given them by the indwelling Spirit inside them! Your work on the cross has annihilated the strength of sin and death once for all, and if only they would live in accordance with your ways, abiding in you, would this world know and see you for who you are: most majestic and glorious, worthy of all praise! Jesus, your Kingdom come more fully now, through your people. I ask this by the authority given me as a child of God in Christ, Amen.

The second part is this:
The schemes of the Enemy to deter the Children of God from godliness are most prevalent and captivating, if only we would recognize them.

For if we did recognize these schemes, and utilize our inherited authority in Christ, the whole world would marvel at the greatness of our God, for we truly would be salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16). The Triune God looks small and inconsequential because the Regenerate don't nearly represent Him as they are intended to. The Imago Dei in humanity has been restored and enhanced by association with the Crucified Christ, if truly the saint remains in God.

I speak boldly and what can appear arrogant because I recognize the need in me to treat this for what it is. Absolute truth and not merely quaint belief based on blind faith. If I treat it as genuine factual knowledge, eventually I will be able to own its significance deep down. Right now, it rests gently on my heart, and may detach, if the Enemy has his way. I want it engraved, so I choose to treat it as bona fide knowledge.

I want to share a story from my week that finely illustrates what I talk about here.
I continually wrestle with the notion that I am not, and fail to do, good enough, in part because I do things I do not want to do (e.g. watch a lot of TV)... Or do I watch so much TV because I feel like such a failure, thus buckle under defeat? This is a thought that is ever present in my mind. I'm sure all of you have some thought that you cannot shake. This one has been mine. This also may come as a shock, as it does not mesh well with the high esteem given above to the children of God. Nonetheless, it continues to be my experience.

With that in mind, consider how I interpreted this week these Bible passages:
"If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free... Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." (John 8:31, 34-36)

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin." (Romans 6:4-7)

It would appear, from my experience and thought process, that this freedom (free indeed) and newness of life spoken of was not my experience. I was left feeling more defeated than ever. Perhaps Jesus never freed me; it, after all, is conditional in its tense. Perhaps my spiritual death in Christ did not take.

I left my devotional time in the Word in a bad spot. You see, I wanted desperately to know success. Enduring success, not just sparse, intermittent victory. I wanted long-lasting and final dominance over sinful ways.

Enter my mentor. I share my frustration and depression. You know what he asked me? "How long do these Biblical truths play out in life?" Essentially, I was asked if I genuinely thought these were instantaneous events, or a life-long process. I had to answer the latter, because that is what seems to be the overwhelming testimony of Paul and other Scripture, even the collective experience of the Church. Even Abraham and Moses and David were works in progress.

I left my meeting with my mentor wiser, but not any happier. Why was I not content with that answer? Why did I still long for victory, now, happily ever after?

It hit me later that day as I worked to take captive every thought, especially this one.

You see, I thought that if I could exercise authority and victory over sin and find freedom from its enslaving bondage, then I wouldn't have to burden God with my failing as much. I wouldn't have to rely on Him for security as much.

I hope you caught the error.

Also, I wanted victory now, and had grown horribly impatient with the process of sanctification because I convinced myself that such results were expected in reality... At least, that is how resolution is depicted on television. Wait, is television not reflective of reality?

Are you beginning to see how crafty the schemes of the Enemy are? Satan will use the very phenomenology of television to distort our perceptions of reality, aiming to discourage and deter us from the truth and beauty of Scripture. I selfishly framed my perception of reality around lies, covertly implanted by the enemy. Satan will use our sinful flesh, hungry for satisfaction, the evil world full of its dominating forces and powers of darkness, and his craftiness and half-truths to raise up speculations and every lofty thing against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Here is the truth.

The Christian is in possession of divinely powerful weapons, capable of demolishing fortresses. In Christ, the Christian destroys those speculations and lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God, taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ, who is Truth.

There is power in the Christian to be more than a conquerer. That power is God himself. We confess that the very Spirit that rose Christ from the dead dwells in us, and that same Spirit leads us to all truth (John 16:13). God is our wrecking ball, mighty in battle to level the fortresses of deceit and wicked contempt brought against humanity.

The LORD is a warrior;
The LORD is His name
(Exodus 15:3)

LORD Jesus, the Great I AM, One with the Father, Yahweh: Great is your Name in all of creation! I adore you for who you are. I do not even need to mention what great deeds you do for your people, you inherently are beyond my comprehension of all that is good.
I confess my failure. I am but dust. And yet your grace is enough to turn this dust into your son. Amazing grace! Thank you, hallelujah! Do not keep this truth from my heart. Strengthen more my gratefulness of your love for me. Truly, who could be against me? Not even myself! Help me and others to dwell richly in these thoughts of how precious you are, Lord. As I act justly, allow me to know your sense of justice and righteousness, that what pleases you. As I love your mercy and kindness, guide me in ways in which I can display mercy to those who need to see your better way. As I walk humbly with you, will you illumine this dark and evil world to see just how precious your grace is toward a depraved humanity? This is my desire. Your Kingdom come quickly. Amen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Sovereign

Have you ever been extremely sorrowful, almost lost for the disrepair of your state seemed beyond hope, yet you were at peace, even satisfied, with your circumstances?

The world, for the most part, does not understand joy. It operates in the context that joy is synonymous with happiness, contingent on the relative pleasantness of one's state.

I am approaching this point of sorrowful yet at peace.

I am joyful.

I base this joy on my knowledge of God. Life sucks. People suck. They disappoint eventually. God is altogether not disappointing, so far as He is faithful, pure and good. I know that in Christ, God has revealed a glorious love, one that leaves any benefit that this world can offer in want.

The million dollar question: how can such a loving and perfect God allow such deplorable conditions to exist? Why not rid our condition of evil? Going further back, why allow sin to exist at all? Could He have not prevented it in the first place? Is He not responsible, via neglect, for sin and evil? How can we trust and worship a god who sovereignly chooses this scenario?

I have plenty of thoughts on this? None of them commandingly demands adherence. I think what satisfies my angst is a picture of God that He revealed to me, one of impeccable beauty, power, love, healing, reconciliation... The purpose of the mess is to reveal the infinite worth of the Absolute. A glass of pure water cannot be appreciated and enjoyed for its inherently good quality unless one has known experientially of a muddied, metallic water. We cannot fathom the glorious perfections of God unless we knew intimately Depravity. But the analogy fails when considering the lack of power that water has to illustrate what emotional baggage such an experience has on the participant; God, in contrast, is powerful to make right our circumstances for his recipients of mercy.

Still, why some and not all? Why send anyone to Hell? How unfair is that? We are quick to call foul, never realizing that if this was his design, we would never have the free will we so desperately treasure, to choose him or not (if one wanted to reject salvation, they couldn't if all were saved). Our human agency is rendered inconsequential and meaningless, void of any value unless humanity maintains responsibility, a free and independent will exercised by the soul, apart from God's determining. Is it not our choice to rebel that led us to this mess, and ultimately our fault, not God, for our state? Can we rightly say that the sun is at fault and the cause of the dew to settle at night for lack of its rays presence (Edwards' argument)? Likewise, can we blame God for not upholding humanity, preventing a Fall from grace? Is He not just to punish such rebellion in the way He determines sovereignly, just as He is sovereign to choose to prevent or not our demise?

To the one who has no concept of God's infinite greatness and love, the problem of evil is an unconquerable mountain. To those that glimpse this, and have a notion that this universe and all that is in it is designed and purposed to display a Great God, the problem of evil is a bit more inconsequential (Phil 3:7-11).

I have joy because my God is becoming increasingly lovely in my comprehension of Him. What is man that you are mindful of him? How great is our God for making relationship with Him possible!