the beauty of holiness

As a follow up to yesterday (and as a point of clarification), I'll let John Piper give a little background for the "killing sin" comment in my post. This is an excerpt from the sermon yesterday that concluded the conference, available here in manuscript form.

The beauty of holiness in God’s children is the harmony, or the concord, between our lives and the infinite value of all God is. And that God predestined us to holiness because his aim is that earth be filled with the beauty of holiness — the expression of the infinite worth of his transcendent fullness.

And on the way to that predestined beauty we have seen that God cancelled the sins of his people by the death of his Son. And then he commanded that we break the power of this cancelled sin — that we kill sin and pursue holiness. And then he instructed us to act the miracle of holiness by the power of the Spirit, and because he is at work in us to will and to do this very miracle. He authors it, we act it. And then he showed us that we tap into this sanctifying, sin-killing, holiness-producing power by the hearing of faith. By hearing all that God promises to be for us in Jesus, and embracing this as our supremely satisfying treasure.

I love that "on the way to that predestined beauty we have seen that God cancelled the sins of his people by the death of his Son."

We are swept up into this way-more-than-my-lifetime journey toward predestined beauty, but not by accident or afterthought. We are swept up intentionally, commanded to break the power of our cancelled sin and instructed to act this miracle of sanctification by the power of the Spirit and through the hearing of faith. On the way to an end God could already be enjoying, He sets us (saints in Christ's name) on the holiness path with eyes to see both the abundant joy of the path and the unbelievable delight in God's aim is to fill the whole earth with His holiness.

Do I make much of my Savior - do I love Him supremely by acting the miracles He has authored in my life?

I'm still chewing on this, but there's plenty of meat to go around. What are your thoughts?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

God the author, we the actors

I assume a certain posture when words escape me. Thankfully, it's a much more culturally acceptable posture than the one of my mind in the same moment (jumping, leaping, and exploding with wild gestures). It looks like pursed lips, furrowed and thoughtful brows, shoulders bent in, and eyes fixated on the thought threatening to wriggle free of my grasp. This is how I spent the weekend - with body borderline catatonic while my mind raced after revelations that came as a steady stream through the preaching and teaching from the Word at the Desiring God Conference. My pen sped across journal pages to scratch out notes and doodle inspirations; every once in a while I would nod or grunt or breathe out an "Amen!" with an agreement my heart could feel.

I think I would say this is one of many postures of praise, informed by a grace I still don't fully appreciate. It is in this posture I heard these words,

God works in you as the Author of the miracle and then you act the miracle.

Jesus gave sight to the blind, but it is the blind man who opened his eyes to do the seeing. Jesus healed the lame man, but it was the lame man who stood up to do the walking. Jesus canceled my debt of sin at the cross (Colossians 2:15), but it is I who must do the living out of my new sinless status. Through faith, it is I who must daily conquer that canceled sin by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Imagine if the blind man had not opened his eyes or the lame man had not stood up to walk. Imagine the miracles begging to be acted out, already authored by God but with hearts unwilling to be the actors. If the blind man does not open his eyes or the lame man does not stand, there is no evidence that he can see or stand. We must act out this miracle because in its acting out we see its reality.

I must act the miracle God authored because, as John Piper said, "Killing sin - pursuing holiness - is essential for salvation. The will to kill sin is the SIGN that sin is canceled."

Whooooosh. Like the thrill in knowing a roller coaster must descend with the rush of gravity after climbing to its highest height, my heart raced with these words that explained a truth already hidden in my soul.

Though my arms waved wildly in my mind, I maintained my outward posture of praise as I considered sanctification. I felt literally swept up in the joy and exhilaration of acting out the miracle God has already authored in my life. The process of becoming holy begins with the reality that God is holy - and we are invited to share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10).

We are invited to be like God (1 Peter 1:14-16) as we effectively conform our feelings, thoughts, and actions into complete harmony the infinite worth of the transcendent, trinitarian fullness of God.

What. an. invitation.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

why a scrunched up nose is never becoming

Awhile back my brother said something that got under my skin. I mean, really got good and messy - hit a nerve I think because I flared up real defensive like. He said he hoped I wasn't becoming a cynic.

I scoffed and stuttered and scrunched up my nose in protest. Cynic? Me? The one who thinks optimistically about how many plans can be overlapped in one day and about how many grocery bags can be carried at once and that if you sing a song loud enough or dance a jig brave enough the whole world will notice? Me?

I didn't take it very well.

He brought it up because I wasn't really a fan of the newest social justice movement to hit social media. I wasn't against it, necessarily, but I wasn't throwing money in their direction either. The way I described it to my brother Sam was like this, "There are a lot of good things going on out there - a lot of people doing good. I just choose to support other causes."

Recently, while reading "A Praying Life" by Paul Miller, I decided it was about the shape of my eyes and the scrunch of my nose when I look at the world. I would never describe myself as a cynic, but there are times when I look at the world like nothing is possible. Like we're "headed to hell in a handbasket" and "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" - all the older folk, that is, who sit in the diners with 50 cent bottomless coffees and talk about how "everything's gone to pot."

Maybe that's when having an old soul is unfortunate - when you feel like you've seen enough of life to know that people don't follow through and good causes are corrupt and you can't even trust your own resolve.

That's when I realized the danger of furrowed eyebrows and a scrunched up nose. There's no wonder in that facial expression; no joy in the possibility of ANYTHING being possible. The danger of furrowed eyebrows and a scrunched up nose is what we don't want to grow up into. Because we never want to grow out of wide-eyed wonder. Never. Well, I don't at least. I always want to breathe hope in with deep, lung-filling breaths.

I want to live like everything is possible - like one person really can move a mountain by faith or bring a rainstorm with prayer or heal a paralytic with petitions. I want to believe that God could paint the sky in new colors tonight and that tomorrow I could wake up and not need my glasses (I always squint like spiderman to see if I'm cured).

I want to live like everything is possible because a scrunched up nose is never becoming. It's  not attractive to throw water on the fire in people's bellies and I think that's sometimes what I do with my scrunched up nose.

Today was gloriously opposite a scrunched up nose. Today FILLED to overflowing with possibility and I'm still drinking it in as my fingers stiffen with the cool, autumn air on the back porch. Today, my eyes were wide with the wonder of Creation singing the praise of its Creator while I breathed in deep so I could sing along.

I sent my brother a text the other day to thank him for calling me out. It probably seemed strange that it took me so long, but I'm thankful even if I am slow in learning.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz4ZOAsjW6g&feature=related] Thanks, Amanda, for delighting my ears with this brilliance!

shouting praise with sinner-strangers

Lord of all the earth we shout Your name, shout Your nameFilling up the skies with endless praise, endless praise Yahweh, Yahweh! We love to shout Your name O, Lord!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0eL88Zufic&feature=related]

There was something sacred about a the crowd of sinners filling up the Knapp Center with praise last night. And I'm not just saying that because sacred sounds postmodern and ambiguous and the right kind of religious. I use the word sacred because sometimes I need to shake off all my cynicism about Christian music and shout the name of the Lord with a bunch of stranger-sinners because the Lord deserves my praise.

Period.

I didn't know very many people - what kind of car they drove up in or what kind of family situation they'd be driving back to after we all filed out - but we must have all understood the invitation to fill the skies with praise. I was literally sing-shouting in harmonizing fashion and I couldn't stop the grin that raced across my face. I felt like Will Ferrell in Elf,"I'm in love, I'm in love and I don't care who knows it."

J.I. Packer said, "Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology." And sometimes we have to start singing to remember all the songs hidden in our hearts. Sometimes we get wrapped up in the time signature and the notes on the page and the really tricky key change on page 43... and we forget to sing.

We forget all His benefits. We forget His abundant goodness. We forget what we once were. We forget He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.

We forget to sing.

I really did get a little overwhelmed - thinking about all the sin we brought into that place; all the brokenness and despair and guilt and regret that hung on us like dark clouds. Sin is not unfortunate or uncomfortable - not something we can "get over" or medicate with the right public service announcement. I got overwhelmed because there was a song on the other side of the dark clouds hanging from all of us sinner-strangers.

There is a song to sing when we step back and look at the sheet music and realize the Lord of all the Earth upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. He is Provider, satisfying the desires of every living thing. He is righteous and kind and near to those who call on Him in truth (Psalm 145:14-18 paraphrase).

His response to a bunch of sinner-strangers singing His praise is delight. He delights in the praises of His people (Psalm 149:4). He delights. The Lord of all the Earth delights when sinner-strangers sing His praise.

Please, let's not forget to sing.

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The LORD is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. The LORD preserves all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever. (Psalm 145 ESV)

the highest stakes always involve darkness

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYz0JWJioOM] As Bilbo scatters chickens with his flailing arms and excited steps, a neighbor calls out haltingly, "Mr. Bilbo, where are you off to?"

Without even the slightest hesitation and between lopsided, barefoot strides he yells back, "I'm... going... on... an... adventure!"

Breathless. Flailing. Determined.

The grin that anticipates adventure somehow stretches from head to toe ... and it tingles. It's that tingly kind of grin we get when risk and purpose and fear and excitement explode in an opportunity called adventure. For some reason, we are convinced the purpose is worth the risk and the excitement is worth the fear. And probably for that same reason, we wake up like Neverland waits on the other side of our bedroom door and run down the road like we're planning to catch a ride on a magic carpet. Breathless, flailing determination that easily makes breakfast and the morning paper no longer important.

"A dark part has found a way back into the world."

The highest stakes always involve darkness. Always. There is no lopsided, barefoot run into something already discovered - something already tamed from its twilight.

Please don't misunderstand: it's not the darkness that excites, but what happens when a match is struck in a thick darkness. The danger of running into darkness is every bit worth it when you are holding what will make the dark light. The risk makes the hair stand straight up on our necks, but the thought of shedding light where darkness reigns is the reason adventure gets thick with breathless, failing determination.

Run with me and cast off your ordinary plans, but first - do you know where the darkness is and have you got any light to offer?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

As you can tell, I am more than a little bit excited for The Hobbit to come out. I have watched this trailer over and over and over again and it never gets old. The highest stakes always involve darkness and this film will certainly paint it in its truest shade.

when the beat becomes the rhythm

I'm not sure what that means,

when the beat becomes the rhythm

but it seems like what's happening to my prayers. I think I was trying to tackle 4/4 time -  to wrestle my prayer life into a disciplined and acceptable metronome pace. I'm not sure, but I think something beautiful is happening.

My prayers are sounding desperate. My prayers are starting with, "Oh, I don't know..." and "Oh, help me trust You..." My prayers are getting frequent.

Have you ever found yourself bobbing your head to a song, without wanting to or meaning to bob your head at all?

Maybe there's no disciplining or wrestling ourselves into the right kind of prayer life.

What if we're drawn into the rhythm of prayer by the beat of our desperate hearts? What if, when we finally get good and helpless, prayer is the song we bob our hearts to in those moments of anxiety or months of indecision?

What if the beat becomes the rhythm?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

I'm reading A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller right now with a small group and loving the journey. I definitely encourage you to check it out.

joy: a moral obligation

Given the opportunity to experience joy, are we morally obligated to take advantage? My cousin Vince sent me a text in the hours between night and morning - just a little note about he and his new college friends wrestling with the idea of joy.

It's something I've been in the middle of pondering for a couple days and reading his text in partial wakefulness brought it into clearer view - what do we do when joy is on the other side of an open door?

Open Doors

"Taste and see that the Lord is good," from Psalm 34:8 and "Delight in the Lord and He will give the desires of your heart," from Psalm 37:4 both imply action before experience. A person can read these verses a hundred times, recite them with monk-like stoicism and meditate on them with scholarly reverence. But, there is a threshold implied in the command, for tasting and seeing happen only with open mouth and eyes.

Something must be eaten to be tasted, no? Something must be experienced before it is pronounced delightful, no?

What do these open doors to joy look like and how many have I walked by?

It's crazy how relentless God is to pursue us with opportunities to experience Him. He doesn't give up when I pass by an open door marked "FOR YOUR JOY" with a foolish hope that there is something better down the road. He doesn't flinch when I've opted out of His best for my safe settling of just okay. His patience in pursuit overwhelms me because it's so altogether different from our apathetic inclinations.

I'm still thinking through these joy questions - still trying to figure out if it's a sin to walk by those open doors clearly marked for God's glory and my joy. But I'm not confused about joy being good. It's something I'm willing to fight for.

Here are some helpful ways to fight for joy, from John Piper at Desiring God.

erase the ways of our orphanhood

I already ordered the book by Rose Marie Miller that Christine Hoover talks about in her blog post, "No Longer an Orphan" because there's something about the disconnect between knowing and doing that strikes a chord. Yes, it's a chord that strikes over and over in my life - as I study biographies and as I study the Word. There is too often a great chasm between what we know about who God is and how we act as a result of that knowledge. For some reason, knowledge translated into a transformed daily grind is the exception and not the rule for most Christians. The oh-so-unfortunate truth about these lives lived on one side of the great chasm is that we miss out. We miss out big time.

Hoover writes of God,

He invites us into the family, gives us His name, dresses us with righteousness fitting of His family, and erases the ways of our orphanhood, especially our self-reliance and self-justification.

You can't get any more big time then saying He "erases the ways of our orphanhood." Wow. If you've ever hung out with orphans, this should sit pretty heavy - especially this bit about self-reliance and self-justification. Hoover cites Rose Marie Miller's list of orphan characteristics and each one reveals just how important "self" is - it's all you've got. As an orphan, self is elevated above all else. And living in the ways of our orphanhood is like climbing up a crumbling tower. The more heavily one depends on the mountain of self, the faster one realizes the rock crumbling underfoot... which leads to a more frenzied climb.

The take-your-breath-away-beauty of the Gospel is the freedom from climbing at all. Absolutely nothing is dependent on self when Christ is Savior. Protection, identity, worth, and future are all wrapped up in one man who gave us His family name. One man who is seated, not striving, in heaven and guaranteeing us both an already and not yet inheritance. We don't wonder about how high we will climb as the tower crumbles beneath us today.

We are free from climbing at all, from striving to preserve self because Christ has done more than preserve us. He has perfected us at the cross.

He is perfect for us. And daily He is inviting us to let Him erase the ways of our orphanhood.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the naked state of nescience

"If you know what a man's doing, get in front of him; but if you want to guess what he's doing, keep behind him. Stray when he strays; stop when he stops; travel as slowly as he. Then you may see what he saw and may act as he acted."

Wise words spoken by the character Valentin in G.K. Chesterton's novel The Complete Father Brown Mysteries. He is tracking a notorious thief, Flambeau, and explaining to two policemen why he chose to track the thief in a bus instead of in a much faster taxi.

Aristide Valentin is Chief of the Paris Police, but in this particular thief-chasing caper, he didn't have any clue where to look. He was stuck in what he called the "naked state of nescience." I like how he is so articulate about his lack of knowledge - I guess sometimes we need to sound impressive and confident even about our ignorance. I'm most interested, though, in Valentin's method in chasing the thief once he realizes how little he knows.

His method? "If you want to guess what he's doing, keep behind him."

I've been trying to figure out what it means to follow Jesus and I think I'll take a cue from Valentin on this one.

I'm not about to propose I know enough of what Jesus is doing to get in front of Him, but I'll confess I've done it before. I've run ahead, made plans, entertained assumptions and arrived at conclusions. The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I think Valentin's tracking tactic is the way to understand my Savior.

Because I seem to always be in the naked state of nescience when it comes to doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God. So, in my searching today, I will remember:

Keep behind him. Travel as slowly as He. See what He sees so I can act as He would act.

 

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

 

 

don't rush past this

It's Friday and my mind is not a mess. Don't rush past that sentence... it's kind of a big deal. Normally, blog posts are inspired by conflict or tension or frustration and my mind is mixed up like college freshman at orientation week luau. But, not today!

Last night I shared delicious tomato pie and conversation with friends and later processed (our code for questioning everything) with my Honduran sister. Laughter sprinkled over everything like the right amount of salt because I got up this morning rejoicing.

Don't rush past this, I keep telling myself. It's good to be serious, but OH! it's good to laugh - to breathe in deeply and enjoy all the very good things.

Last night, as Alejandra and I filled the phone line with chatter, she shared something that sent me spiraling (gladly) back into my fascination with words. She was trying to smoosh a week's worth of life into a string of words when she said,

I don't know if I should say this. I mean, I haven't told anyone here because there is no one to tell... but I haven't even thought about it until this moment. I'm saying the words right now and actually thinking about this for the first time. If I say it, then... words have power and I will start thinking about it more. When I speak it, it's real, you know?

I think she probably put it together a little differently, but that was the gist. Words have power. About that, I was already convinced. But, the way she said it made me think. Thoughts just hang in the air without consequence, but speaking thoughts into words is like putting weights on balloons... or putting weights on stars that then make a terrain-altering crater.

I shared what mesmerizes me the same glorious amount no matter how many times I speak it: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1) and then God said (Genesis 1:3). Back when things were formless and void, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit creatively conspired and then SPOKE. We speak and we describe things, but God speaks and things are. He chose to use language and from His words came galaxies and planets and gravity and microorganisms. After His words formed the world, God kept speaking. Throughout all of the Old Testament, we listen for God's words to the Israelites - his instruction, rebuke, correction, and encouragement. And then, after 400 years of silence, God's words became a human. The WORD of God was walking around, stretching his little arms in the morning light and breaking bread around a table for the evening meal. The Word of God - the very language of Creation - was one man. In the Word (Jesus) all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). All things.

Whew.

Words have power and that's why I'm type-speaking the wonder of this morning into existence. I won't let it rush past, because it's Friday and my mind is not a mess.

There is laughter hidden in the most unlikely of places today and I intend to find all of it.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

treasuring Christ means sharing the treasure

If I was to write letters to the people who have heard the gospel from my lips, I wonder if I could say what Paul said.

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

(1 Thessalonians 2:5-8 ESV)

As I read from Paul's pen, I imagine what it must have felt like to know he and his little missionary band were "affectionately desirous" of me - ready to share the Gospel and their very lives because I was so dear to them.

Hm. These words come to mind: treasured, valued, loved.

Though I'm sure you would make assumptions about my extrovertedness if we met, relationships aren't something I instinctually sacrifice to develop. Often (ahem, too often) I would rather choose a book or a journal or precious time writing over developing relationships.

I remember moving to Austin, Texas after I graduated from college. After living with college friends for four years, renting a room from a nice couple in the suburbs was quite the adjustment. I read a lot of books those first few months. Sometimes, I would go to BORDERS to see how many books I could finish on the overstuffed chair in the biography section (I was on a bit of a budget). But, I'll never forget the phone calls I would receive from my new Austin friends. It would be 6 pm on a Thursday night - prime time to dig in to my newest biography on Blaise Pascal - and I would get a call from Katelin or Stephanie or Christine.

Selfishly, I knew Blaise Pascal was safe - that he wouldn't make drama or ask much of me. There was something else, though, that stirred me to say, "...Sure! I'll meet you there in 15 minutes." That something else was hidden in my DNA, woven into my identity by the hand of God while I was still in my mom's tummy.

We were made for relationship. We were designed to enjoy and share and give life in relationship.

Christ Himself proved it was a good design when He became flesh - intentionally walking into humanity as a human who reached out to serve, love, give, and bless. He did not stoop to walk in a flawed design. No, He lived life showing us how it was truly designed to be lived.

Being human is not an unfortunate mistake. God's design is good and the life of Jesus reveals it to be beautifully so.

And how is it that Paul can write with such deep love and sacrifice for the people with whom he shared the Gospel? Because Paul had experienced being treasured and valued and loved by God. Paul was overwhelmed by the amount of grace and mercy he'd received and wanted nothing more than to be spent living as Christ.

Treasuring Christ above all else means sharing the treasure.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

believing the gospel is beautiful means sitting in the theatre

There is a way of sharing the gospel that makes people wish it was true, even if they believe it's not. At least, Tim Keller thinks so (The Faith to Doubt Christianity). There is a way of sharing the gospel that draws people in first because it's beautiful. Not at first because it's reasonable or socially responsible or sweet sounding, but because it is simply beautiful.

I know we can do battle about beauty - what it is and who decides - but that's for another day (and a day that's already been).

Today, I'm trying to be a student of this kind of gospel sharing. I'm trying to understand what it means to put the beauty of redemption on display - to draw back the curtain on the glorious story acted out on the living stage. I'm trying to remember what it felt like to see the hero die for the villain... and the horrible knot in my gut when I realized the villain was me.

To share a beautiful story, one must believe the story is beautiful.

And for that, I must go and sit in the theatre. I must watch wide-eyed and remember every interaction and every awe-inspiring stage direction. I must hang on every word because every time I know the villain is doomed, but every time the story plays out opposite what I am sure I know. And it is beautiful.

To share a beautiful story, one must first believe the story is beautiful.

There is a way to share the gospel that makes a person sit on the edge of their seat and hang on every word. There is a way to share the gospel that makes one appreciate and even wonder at the beauty so much that one wishes it was true.

I want to learn this way. And so I must go again to the theatre.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the sexual revolution, a theologeek's confessions, contemporary art, and living life

Have you ever had a string of days where putting one foot in front of the other seems harder than it should seem? I mean, have you ever been frustrated at being frustrated? I'm just wondering, I guess.

Here are some things that are taking my mind off my feet this week. I hope it pushes you to think harder or differently ... and then I really hope that your knowledge grows feet. I mean, I hope your knowledge does something because otherwise it's just about puffing up.

Do you know Al Mohler? Well, he's kind of a big deal. Anyway, he wrote an article in The Atlantic recently about Helen Gurley Brown's influence on the sexual revolution. It is an interesting piece that speaks to one of the most confused cultural categories (sexuality) of our generation.

Bryan McWhite writes in a post for the EFCA online magazine about the difference between simply knowing theology and doing theology and what it means for reaching young people today. This is exactly what I like to hear! We must be about living theology not about knowing it. He writes,

What I didn’t understand at first (and realize now that I am a recovering theologeek) is that the younger generations are intensely pragmatic. And contrary to what many in the church might assume, their pragmatism is in no way opposed to serious theological thought. Young people really do desire theological understanding. But they want theological inquiry to serve a purpose beyond simply knowing.

To this generation, studying theology merely for the sake of knowing is inextricably linked to arrogance. For them, the study of theology isn’t complete until it ends in praxis. They do not abide the last three chapters of Ephesians being severed from the first three. They want to understand how knowing culminates indoing.

This piece on contemporary art, "Absolutely-Too-Much" admits that contemporary art can be a hard thing to appreciate, but it remains something to be admired. I like how this article shifts to philosophical implications in contemporary art because, of course, they are connected.

"We all had new iphones but no one had no one to call..." Thats a line from the song, "Life's for the Living" by Passenger. Sometimes, on those days when one foot drags as we put it in front of the other, we just have to remember that "life's for the living. So live, or you're better off dead." Sometimes, it's as simple as that.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuIGX_ZGgbM]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

te doy gloria

The chorus was like fingers playing my heart strings.It was like a cool glass of something I forgot was my favorite. It was like realizing I stood shoulder to shoulder with an old friend.

And it went something like this:

te doy gloria, gloria te doy gloria, gloria te doy gloria, gloria a ti Jesus

I know what you're thinking... "that's it? that's all it took?" And, yes. It was that simple. I was standing in the church service this morning with people from El Salvador and Mexico and Guatemala and the chorus came in like a wave on my soul's shore.

I give you glory, glory I give you glory, glory I give you glory, glory to you, Jesus

It is not a new truth - that the Lamb is worthy to receive glory - but it is a truth that feels weightier when felt the world over. This morning I sang it again in the language where I witnessed miracles, the language that made me desperate for miracles. And when I sing about giving Him glory, I do just that. I give Him the glory.

With each day, I'm tempted to write another chapter in Ecclesiastes and with each day God gives more reasons to be glorified. And so I sing. Sometimes the simplest phrases can best put all the tangled messes of daily toil into proper perspective. Sometimes the simplest chorus carries with it deep and complex theology about sovereignty and supremacy and hope. Yes. It's that hope I pressed into as I sang with families in the chapel at the retreat center, because we are desperate to give glory to the only One worthy.

The bridge rings out a phrase weighty enough to follow all the glory giving:

con una corona de espinos te hiciste Rey por siempre

That was it - one crown of thorns and it crowned the King of forever. So, today, I sang. I sang to give God the glory and I did just that.

I've decided I should sing more.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a friday for sifting

I'm between jobs 1 and 2 and it's shaking out to be a day of sifting. This Friday is being sifted until only the too-big pieces remain on top. And what is of most importance is becoming very, very clear.

It's normally not so easy to see with an eternal kind of sight. There are coffees to buy and websites to navigate. There are attendance sheets to make and databases to conquer. There are hours to wile away and weekend plans to make. There is an errand to run and another book to add to the pile of those I should read. But, today there is sifting.

And after this Friday is shaken, the big pieces that remain have little to do with what I've gained or stored or clocked or typed. The big pieces are eternal things that I cannot manufacture - things that put all other things in beautiful, right perspective.

Today, I am praying that my life is about the main thing, that I don't treasure my life more than the main thing, and that all other things will fall through my open hands so that I will cling to what remains. I am praying that I delight in Christ so much that I cannot imagine keeping this delight to myself. In my delight and revelry, in my worship and bust-at-the-seams joy, I am praying I live fully in the freedom His suffering allows so that He may be glorified as others hear the same call to freedom from my lips.

Because He is worthy to receive the reward of his suffering.

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hit by a train

The second time she told me I was really listening.

It's like I told you, Care. Being saved is like getting hit by a train. I imagine there are millions of pieces just splattered everywhere... and that's the end of it. Only a miracle - a straight up act of God Himself - could manage to fit those pieces together. Only God could make me whole after a disaster like that.

She was talking about salvation and this time I was really listening. I already knew Alejandra's life was a miracle, but hearing her tell her salvation story made me realize how little I had to do with it. It was really always this: she had stepped into the path of destruction and then God stepped in to offer a miracle - a life that is whole.

The next thing she said shouldn't have been shocking, but there is always more to learn about salvation.

I don't understand how people can have a middle phase to faith. I mean, when you get hit by a train, you either stay blasted in pieces or there is a miracle to make you whole.

And that's the truth. There's no "call me, maybe" in this scenario, no lukewarm in this salvation equation. The only way to be sure you are "in" is to think you must be "out" (to borrow from Tim Keller). The only way to experience the highest delight in this life is to know that it is a miracle of grace to experience anything at all.

We must never, ever lose sight of that train or the tracks that we tread toward our destruction. We must never, ever lose sight of the magnitude of the miracle that put life in our dead bones.

And if you are still on the tracks, blasted into bits by your own doing, know that there is One who desires you do not remain destroyed. And He is the One with the power to do something about it.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a delight that purifies, protects, and perseveres

After reading this post by Tony Reinke at Desiring God, this excerpt from Robert Murray McCheyne's letter is rumbling around in my soul,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in his almighty arms . . . Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him. Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh."

He is altogether lovely.

Oh, and how grateful I am that we can know this love! How ready I am to "live much in the smiles of God" and "bask in his beams." This kind of delight in the Lord not only purifies, but it also protects and perseveres.

When all our delight is found in the One whose love and joy can never be exhausted, we are always safe and always secure. We are swept up into celebration and nestled into the friendliest nook - in the cleft of the Rock. When all our delight is found in Christ, we dance as David - unashamed and giddy with praise in front of the Lord. When all our delight is in the Lord, all our despair and defeat are drowned out.

And, you've never seen such perseverance as Christ-drenched delight. Christ, the image of the invisible God who holds all things together and in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1), has made a way for me through the blood of the cross. I can never run far enough to forget this delight - this deep gladness of rescue and this gift of new life. The delight chases me with thunderstorms and children's smiles and the taste of a homemade, family dinner.

This delight pushes out from every corner of my soul and expands it, leaving no room for sin or folly or Satan. This delight perseveres to consume a life, even the life where wickedness once reigned.

This delight that purifies, protects, and perseveres is as steadfast as a one hundred-year-old oak tree. Today, I'm resting in its shade with thanks enough for one hundred years.

what it means to cling

It's a strange unsteady that catches me today - grieving the evil and glorying in the God who overcomes. I can't see how anyone who puts thought to theological matters can be any less than always emotional - either deeply despairing or deeply delighting. It is both despair and delight at once that stretch me and today I read these words that remind me of the tension,

"In all your longing to love as Christ loved, you sometimes forget that true love for one thing will, or at least it should, produce a hatred for whatever stands against it." (from Note to Self by Joe Thorn)

I do forget. I forget that loving as Christ means hating what stands in opposition. "Hate" sounds unpopular. It sounds... mean. But when I forget to develop a healthy hate for my sin, I make friends with destruction. When I forget to develop a healthy hate for the sin in others, I lead friends to destruction.

And in all this, I am finding what it means to cling.

In the strange unsteady that rocks my boat today, I am learning to cling like my life depends on my grip. My desperate hold is always rewarded by the unfaltering strong arms of my Redeemer, who reminds me my life depends on His strength.

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O, Heart Bereaved and Lonely Words by Fanny Crosby

1. O heart bereaved and lonely, Whose brightest dreams have fled Whose hopes like summer roses, Are withered crushed and dead Though link by link be broken, And tears unseen may fall Look up amid thy sorrow, To Him who knows it all

2. O cling to thy Redeemer, Thy Savior, Brother, Friend Believe and trust His promise, To keep you till the end O watch and wait with patience, And question all you will His arms of love and mercy, Are round about thee still

3. Look up, the clouds are breaking, The storm will soon be o’er And thou shall reach the haven, Where sorrows are no more Look up, be not discouraged; Trust on, whate’er befall Remember, O remember, Thy Savior knows it all

making me nervous

In a few weeks, I'll sit around a table of delicious German food with some of my closest friends to discuss a true story of transformation, tragedy, and terror. We're going to discuss a book about a life - the life of a man who would not tolerate a theology that would wipe out a race of people. Reading the book, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, a few years ago was terrifying. I had walked inside the gates at Auschwitz in Poland and seen the incinerators; I had stood in the tower and looked across the field of long buildings built for suffering and death. The account of this brilliant German man with the right pedigree and the right education and the right friends is ugly in its revealing of everything wrong about the world... about the human condition... about everything culture slowly and slyly considers "right" without question.

But book clubs with biographies are meant to focus on the past, to stir up nostalgia or pride or gratitude that terrible times had such wonderful people to overcome them. So why is The New York Times making me nervous today? Why do I think Bonhoeffer's words would ring as poignant today, in our much progressed culture of tolerance?

Why does today seem so terrible?

I have to read the news in waves - a little bit here, a bit there... some in the morning and some over lunch. Because it feels ominous. A sliver of a column on the front page was dedicated to the continuing conflict in Syria while a lion and her cubs enjoyed a photo and feature further down on the page. Zoos are having trouble deciding what to do when babies "don't fit the plan." I guess those babies were part of, "All the news that's fit to print" in a more prominent sense than the failure of any diplomatic, peaceful measures by Annan in the battered and bruised country of Syria.

This probably reads like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle and that's because it is. I know I've got a hope secure and I know I've got to share this message, but is this world making anyone else nervous? When I sit around that table in a few weeks, enjoying good German food with kindred spirits, I have a feeling they'll know exactly what I mean.

wholeness in Christ for the broken

Good morning, friends. This little post has  been brewing since I got a text from my mom at 7:30 am. She was on her way to Chick-fil-A to buy a chicken sandwich. They make a good sandwich, to be sure, but the closest store is an hour away and this is a particular day to make the trek for chicken. And, with all my freshly-wakened, Wednesday morning (pre-coffee) clarity, I wondered if this emphasizing of polarization is productive. How can we sit down with the sick - those in need of the Great Physician - if we persist in putting ourselves in opposition? The lifestyle of the woman at the well didn't stop Jesus from hanging out there - he didn't go out of his way to go to a different well, one that supported a monogamous lifestyle.

He very intentionally went to where the hurting hung out because (though the woman didn't understand she needed saving) he knew he could offer something they would never find in the cycle of their sin. We have to step into the cycle of brokenness in the lives of the wayward in order to point to the freedom of wholeness. It is so crucial that we recognize how desperately we daily cling to Christ for wholeness. It's not as if we share a message that we've attained. Rather, we lean into God's faithfulness and hang on his words and stand on his promises because He is our wholeness.

We have been rescued from the cycle of brokenness and this is a message to share with the broken.

Don't get me wrong - I agree with Dan Cathy's beliefs (which I think were originally intended to communicate his disappointment in the divorce rate) and boy! can he make a great chicken sandwich! But at the end of the day, I want to be able to sit down with the prostitute, the lesbian, the bi-sexual, and every kind of wayward. I'm not sure that they would feel welcome at a table full of my friends who clearly oppose what they claim as identity.

It's a question of effectiveness, I think. I appreciate what everyone is saying, but I'm just wondering if it is all turning into noise.

Matthew Hall yesterday tweeted, "If not resisted, the siren song of political power/influence will usually drown out theological conviction & prophetic witness. #theory" and I think I agree.

In my Bible study this morning, I read:

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

and this:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:15-18 ESV)

What does it mean to rightly handle the word of truth? avoid irreverent babble? Is it possible that people on both sides can lead people into more and more ungodliness? I just pray against the talk that spreads like gangrene and that in its place we would lean into the Word so much that what comes out in our speech is gentleness and compassion and hope. By all means, eat your chicken sandwich and enjoy it (Dan Cathy didn't get so huge on the sale of a bad product), but consider what is the best way to engage with those who are sick and in need of a physician.

Go make a friend - have lunch, sit across the table, listen and care about the person looking back at you. See them and let them see you. Let's pray they see Christ, whose love constrains us to obedience.

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How Long (Love Constraining to Obedience) by Wayfarer

To see the law by Christ fulfilled, to hear His pardoning voice Can change a slave into a child and duty into choice No strength of nature can suffice to serve the Lord aright And what she has she misapplies for want of clearer light

How long, how long beneath the law I lay How long, how long I struggled to obey

Then to abstain from outward sin was more than I could do Now If I feel its power within, I feel I hate it too Then all my servile works were done, a righteousness to raise Now, freely chosen in the Son, I freely choose His ways

How long, how long beneath the law I lay How long, how long I struggled to obey How long, how long in bondage and distress How long, how long I tried without success...

Articles that give some great insight:

Evangelical Credibility and Religious Pluralism by John W. Morehead (posted at Qideas.com)

Why the Chick-Fil-A Boycott is really about Jesus by Trevin Wax (posted at The Gospel Coalition)

Is Chick-fil-A a Bold Mistake? by Denny Burk (Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College)

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day: A Bold Mistake by Barnabas Piper (WORLD magazine)

Chick-fil-A Controversy Draws In Jonathan Merritt's Sexuality by Jasmine Young (Christianity Today)