John Adams, Mr. Bean's Olympic debut, seeing the suffering of Latinos, and my re-introduction to Spurgeon

Hello, friends! I am posting a this & that post today because my Sabbath is getting crowded with good things. I am learning to enjoy God as I walk through crowded days as much as when I sit through solitary ones - He is faithful either way.

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I read this article, "Not Like Me," over at The Curator magazine because I resonated with the opening anecdote of a new father with a notoriously bad driving record driving his first child home in the family car. I think I'll have a similar moment someday. But, the article mostly focused on this father's hope for his children - a hope that they would have the freedom to be teachers and artists and writers instead of a computer programmer. I'm not sure how I feel about this idea of progress producing generations more free to pursue less technical careers. He quotes John Adams in a letter he wrote in a letter to Abigail,

I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine. (John Adams to Abigail Adams, [post 12 May 1780])

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Did you watch the Olympic Opening Ceremony? It was a production, to be sure. Danny Boyle's dramatic presentation drew 40.7 million people to tune in to NBC on Friday night. I was one of those 40.7 million and I think there were beautiful things and strange things and things I wouldn't want my children to see (if I had children). This article from the Huffington Post, "NBC Sets Opening Ceremony Record with London 2012 Olympics." I'm a sucker for good competition and the underdog stories that are so easy to dig up when there's a world stage, so I'll be tuning in this week in what will add up to more TV than I'll watch all year.

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I am so grateful for this article from the Gospel Coalition, "Do You See the Suffering? Our Mirror Eyes and U.S. Latinos" because it says what people aren't talking about in the political arena: it talks about what we see when we look at people. Take away policies and papers and really look at our Latino population, without mirror eyes. What do you see?

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I have been reading sermons from C.H. Spurgeon - a well-known preacher from England who became famous for his common (some said vulgar) style. I love what he says about studying God,

"There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subject we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold, I am wise." But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with the solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God."  (C.H. Spurgeon in his sermon, "The Immutability of God")

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let LOVE fly like cRaZy

every promise, always kept

We suffer the sale of cheap words, but we buy them still.Every day their consequence cuts afresh the wound of our failure and exposes all the ways we fall short.

"The hill I'm walking up is gettin' good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep."

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzIab7WI7-E&feature=related]

Brandi Carlile can sing. She can sing and boy! can she write. Her song, "A Promise to Keep" has been rolling around in my soul since she released a free EP on Noisetrade. When I listen to this song, my shoulders slump with sadness - a kind of resignation that wraps me in and weighs me down. The words are heavy bundles with long, painful sighs because the notes sing the melody of hurt.

Carlile sings hurt... maybe because she has suffered the sale of cheap words, but she buys them still. Maybe because she feels the consequence of fresh cut failure-wounds and is exposed to all the ways she falls short. It's a humanity kind of failure - a shortsightedness that presumes another promise spoken, believed, and broken.

My shoulders fold in and my lip shakes a little and I hurt with her for the insufferable exchange - the buying and selling of promises.

I still talk to you in my sleep I don't say much cause the hurt runs too deep I gave you the moon and the stars to keep but you gave them back to me

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep

I still lay on my side of the bed I dance alone when the last bottle's spent memories like a river runnin through my head I'll have me an ocean before I'm dead

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep

I still whisper sweet words to you and when I'm busy, or have nothing to do I pray to god, that my words ring true and that your words might reach me too

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep I can't keep it...

My hearts in pieces so please understand I've tried to jump, but I've nowhere to land so give me your heart and I'll give you my hand and I'll try as goddamn hard as I can

The hill I'm walkin up is gettin good and steep but I'm still looking for a promise even I can't keep

She is desperate for an impossible promise and her grief is filling up oceans, recklessly hoping there is someone better than she. I get woven in to her grief like I'm knit right into the melody's sweater. I croon it out my car windows and sing it to the silent roof.

Why can't I find someone who keeps a promise these days? Why can't I keep a promise?

And with my heart freshly beaten, my soul cast down at our dreadfulness, I hear sweet words proclaimed from the pen of Paul.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:19-22 ESV)

For the promises of God find their Yes in him (Christ).

Through Christ I can utter my beaten, battered, folded-in AMEN to God for his glorious promises kept to a suffering and obstinate people. Not one of us can sing Carlile's song and not know her hurt. But, oh! that we might claim the AMEN in Christ - who was the fulfillment of God's promises and evidence of God's faithfulness.

God establishes us in Christ, anoints us, puts his seal on us, and gives us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

The hills we walk up will get good and steep and full of suffering. But, even as we sing of our despair in broken promises, let us glory in the God whose promises are all Yes! in Christ. Every promise, always yes. Every promise, always kept.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the destruction of dillydally

"Don't dillydally, don't load up on video clips and music, don't trust the power of your community service programs, don't rely on marketing. Preach not yourselves, or you will veil the gospel. Preach what, then? The word. What word? The gospel word in the Bible word. Get your Bibles out and share the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is amazing the lengths some preachers will go in order not to preach the Bible! We labor week in and week out for years and years to craft the most dynamic, most exciting, most relevant, most creative messages, fitting in some Bible verses into the points we think are really important, and then we wonder why we've gotten loads of decisions but made no disciples." (Jared C. Wilson, p. 193 in Gospel Wakefulness)

Wow.

What an altogether perfect word for what we're doing in Christian circles these days: dillydally.

We eat up the facebook snippets, read the books, tweet the deets, post the newest viral explosion and search for songs with the most emotional moving typeface. No one is immune. We all seem to love knowing the good news. We love the controversies created by differing doctrines and debating the color of the carpet in the fellowship hall. We love to throw down the name of the newest book or sermon or method of sharing the gospel to prove we're keeping up with the Christian Joneses. I don't know why we do it, but I do know that dillydally is an altogether perfect word for all the acrobatics we use to get around preaching the gospel.

Wilson quotes 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (emphasis mine) before the excerpt above,

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

Paul writes about the way the gospel came to the people in Thessalonica - in word, in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction. I can't speak to what kind of theatrics surrounded their speech, but it's pretty clear that the gospel was explicitly shared with the people. Paul makes it sound like this is obvious - to preach the gospel in word - but we are not so sure these days (the shorter the Sunday sermon the better - seriously, what newcomer wants to listen to a stranger ramble on and on and on about blood and sacrifice and propitiation?).

But how can people believe the gospel unless they've heard the gospel? Explicitly, unashamedly preached with full conviction. The conviction piece is important because our role is not to convince another of the gospel's merit, but to fan the flame of our own conviction that gospel is true. Wilson writes, "My brother, pastor, don't worry about bringing the heat. Just be hot. Fan the flame in yourself to full conviction." I like that: just be hot.

Yesterday, I was reading Gospel Wakefulness poolside and a man asked, "What are you reading? Like, what's it about?"

A little sun-weary and caught off-guard, I fumbled before I found, "It's a book about the gospel... about waking up to the reality of what Christ did on the cross for those who believe."

"Oh, yeah, I believe that," he said, "I used to be really bad, like drinking and smoking and s---, but it was f----- up. I mean, I was hospitalized and I been sober since I got out. They gave me these new meds and I'm like s--- this is living. I mean, I can go out to the forest and be like, that's a f------ tree. It's like what I thought was normal was really screwed up. I mean, I feel like I'm finally awake after a life of hearing voices and s---. Like schizophrenia and all that s---. So, yeah I got out on Monday and it's been f----- awesome."

"Wow, that's really crazy." I didn't really know where this was going, but I was stationary on a lounge chair and it seemed like as good a place as any to discuss what is/isn't the gospel and how it relates to his hospitalization. "So, do you think it's the medication or something spiritual that happened?"

"Oh, yeah, totally that medication. It's crazy - the doctors had me on all kinds of s--- growing up and I was f----- up bad, but I just thought it was normal. But, seriously, there's no side effects to this drug I'm on. I sleep for 5 hours and I'm like gettin' s--- done before I go to work at 9 am!"

"Well, what this book is really talking about is the gospel (the good news) that we read about in the Bible. Jesus suffered the punishment that we deserve for our sins so that we can be free. He took on all our messes on the cross and gave us relief and joy in this life and forever in eternity with Him--"

"Yeah, I believe that."

At this point, I'm thinking 1) I should really brush up on my 'how to share the gospel when caught off guard in a lounge chair' skills and 2) does he really believe that?

"Yeah, it's like everyone believes," he went on, "You know, in a higher power. I mean, I believe Jesus is in all of us. Don't you believe that?"

I won't give you our whole conversation, but this guy was persistent, inquisitive, and interested. Granted, the situation was less than ideal - laying on sweaty plastic lounge chairs in bathing suits - but I suppose this is what it means to "always be prepared to give an answer."

I asked him some hard questions, mentally thanking Tim Keller for all those chapters in Reason for God that wrestle with doubts. We bantered back and forth and I was careful to not blink an eye with all his cursing. I'll confess I got kind of casual with my language, as we talked about who would populate heaven. He told me, "Well, I mean the good people. Like I believe we all put out vibes. I mean, if you're a b---- you're not going to be in heaven, but if you're good you will."

"But who determines who is good and who is a b----? I mean I might think I'm good according to my standards, but someone else might think I'm a b----... so who's going to heaven?"

More than ever in that conversation I needed explicit words. I did not need games or videos or pictures. I needed to speak the good news of the gospel into the chaos of crowded beliefs Joseph had assembled. And even when I spelled it out in all it's offensive glory, Joseph persisted with more questions and stories about his life.

I told Joseph about church on Sunday and he said he would come. He said it didn't even matter how early because the medication has him up by 5 am.

I pray he does come and I pray my pastor preaches the gospel because I need it just as much as Joseph.

Because we are all on the verge of destruction by dillydally... the painful beat around the bush game of kind of the gospel. We are all in danger of believing and speaking and hearing a gospel that is less than Jesus' words on the cross, "It is finished" and less than the glorious result of his work.

childlike, but not children

I got interrupted on the corner of South Kellogg and 3rd Street last week, right in the middle of my blazing hot run.

I had my rhythm (desperate run the suns, walk the shades style because of the heat) and my focused race face. My next stop was Bandshell Park for the water fountain, but I was a good 5 minutes from that oasis when a scene unfolded in front of me. I felt like I was in an episode of Early Edition (that show where Gary Hobson receives the paper a day early and then prevents many disastrous headlines as a result). I didn't get any forewarning, but I saw the scene play out as disaster and then rushed to change the ending and the image hasn't left me since.

The little boy was racing down South Kellogg on his bike as the wind took a yellow balloon bouncing in front of him. His face was focused and nervous as he threw his bike down at the corner. The balloon bounced it's way out onto the busy road and my words almost caught in my throat as I ran up beside him, "Wait, here buddy." An SUV and a sedan sped by in two-way traffic as the boy heeded my warning and then when the coast was clear I nodded, "Go ahead, but hurry."

He raced out to grab the less-than-inflated yellow balloon from the center line and raced back to get on his bike. I heard a "Whooopeee" as I crossed the road and continued my run.

Giddy anticipation of holding that yellow balloon pulled him racing down the sidewalk on his bike with reckless speed. The determined look in that boy's eyes would have taken him right out into the middle of South 3rd, his little body completely vulnerable. I couldn't get that look out of my mind as I raced on thinking about what almost happened. Maybe it didn't... maybe I imagined how almost it really was, but it rattled me all the same.

It made me think about the tension between Mark 10:15 and Hebrews 6. The former reads, "Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And then in Hebrews we read, "Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God..."

We are to be "like a child" but we are to move on from elementary doctrine. We are and we aren't supposed to be children and this little boy stretched that tension taut in my mind.

The beautiful things about his excitement and wonder are often things adults miss. A half-inflated balloon blowing across a busy road is definitely not worth the chase. In fact, I know very few adults who would get excited about a balloon in the safest of situations. We are not awed by simple things.

But, there is a reason the adult will not run into the street and it goes beyond an awe of simple things. The world has roughened and toughened the adult so his critical eye sees danger and weighs risks. The windblown balloon bouncing across South Third is not worth it.

When the little boy grasped the balloon with both hands and ran back to his bike, his eyebrows looked different. They were no longer furrowed with mission, but instead rounded with success. He got what he set out to get and his loud, "Whoooopeee!" was the beginning of his enjoyment.

We are to be like a child in our delight of good things, in our discovery of good gifts from the Father, in our reveling in restored relationship with the Lord. We are to be reckless even about throwing off the things that hinder and running the race marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1). Shame and fear have no place when we are called children of the Most High. But we are not to be children. We are not to remain ignorant about the world, but wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16). We are to throw all our childlike energies into knowing more about the Lord, finding out what pleases Him and doing those things (Ephesians 5:10). We are to let out our uninhibited "Whooopeeee!" as we relish the joys of living as children of the light (1 Thessalonians 5:5) who have access to the Father of Light.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

St. Francis, evangelism, reliable research, sexual identity, and the 99% I'll support

I was gone last week in Michigan, but I tried to stay up on my reading. I slipped away a few times to work and inevitably ended up perusing Twitter and the blogosphere to find out what's going on in the world. I think of my twitter account like one of those tickers that talk about the Dow Jones or Wall Street (I guess all that information flying across the screen is about the economy or something). Twitter is more my cup 'o tea because it's an aggregator of information of news in theology, arts, crafts, foods, and popular headlines. I don't find everything there, but between twitter and blog posts sent to my email, I read a lot of content from a computer screen. Here are some of the things I've found.

  • How well do you know the saints? You know, the ones that get their soundbites memorialized on those inspirational posters with landscape scenery. How well do you know about their lives, their ministries, and their beliefs? Do you know them well enough to recognize when they are being misrepresented? St. Francis of Assisi is famous for saying, "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." There is one huge problem with this inspiration - it didn't happen. Check out this great article, "FactChecker: Misquoting Francis of Assisi" by Glenn T. Stanton to find out more.
  • This short article, "No Such Thing as the Gift of Evangelism" by Ed Stetzer exposes the excuses far too many believers use to 'get out of' sharing the gospel with others. I'm interested to know your thoughts - especially if you've taken a Spiritual Gifts Inventory that said you are not gifted in evangelism. Stetzer shares four proposals that I think are very helpful.
  • Have you ever wondered where the statistics come from that say a child in the foster care system requires 40 square feet to live in the state of Iowa (true story, I checked)? Where does research come from and why do we trust it? Who is checking and double checking the methods of the researchers and how many re-writes of the results happen before the public sees it? Here's the biggest question: when we don't agree with what research finds, is it bad research or just disagreeable results? A professor at UT conducted research of children of gay parents and came up with some very UNpopular results. A blogger wrote a letter and now the University of Texas is looking into his "questionable" ethics in the study. Check out this article from Denny Burk, "The Witch-Hunt for Mark Regnerus" and see if you can make sense of it.
  • This article, "The New Sexual Identity Crisis" from Jeff Buchanan (Executive Vice President of Exodus International) writes about the identity fragmentation that we see in regards to sexuality. Too many people have chalked it up to progress or trend or fad and not enough of us have taken a deep look at what it means for society and culture that we are a people so sexually confused. This article gives great insight.
  • In this video, Jonah Lehrer shares that "grit is the stubborn refusal to quit." I love that. I can support 99% when it stands for good, old-fashioned perspiration. If you've got the time, his insights on creativity and how we get there are really refreshing. [vimeo http://vimeo.com/45162748]
  • I am a huge fan of the arts. HUGE. My mom is a music teacher, my dad's family of 10 grew up performing, and I grew up on the stage with my siblings in church and school productions. This story in the Huffington Post, "Grace, Love, Courage: on Art, Artists, and Patronage" talks about one particular person and her support of the arts.

As always, I could give you more, but these should keep you pretty busy. Enjoy, folks, and don't forget: knowledge is useless if it doesn't result in acts of love. Even knowledge of what's going on in the world should point us back to ways that we can serve and share the hope of the gospel.

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

(1 Corinthians 8:1-3 ESV)

how many daisies?

"Natalie. Build. Castle!"

"Oh, are we building a castle?"

"Uh-huh! Yep! Build castle!"

"Wow, look at that ca--"

"Natalie step on it!"

"Yep, you sure did. Now what are we going to do?"

"Natalie. Build. Castle!"

And so it went this past week - back and forth from the water to the shore and back again. Dig, rinse, scoop, pour, stomp. Repeat.

There's a beauty in a child's monotony that big people miss. We want our actions to produce something that wasn't there before we started. We want results that make sense.

And we are annoyed when rhythms appear (to us) to move without purpose. We don't delight in doing simple things over and over again. There's nothing delightful about laboring for underwhelming results.

We've lost our awe of little things.

But, oh, I wish you could have seen Natalie's face! She got so industrious with that shovel and had such purpose with the big red bucket. She kept beautiful busy - building or destroying - and every once in a while she would invite someone else to join her. Try explaining to great, big  2-year-old blue eyes that digging, rinsing, scooping, pouring, stomping and repeating isn't a good use of her time. Just try it.

Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I wonder what he would say to my 2-year-old niece who does the same thing over and over again and watches the result like it's the first time she's ever seen it.

She isn't expecting something different (she knows full well what is coming), but when "it" happens, she blooms with joy. Every time, like it's the first time.

G. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy Chapter 4:

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

I love it.

love how Natalie could have the same amount of joy every time she built up the sand and every time the water washed it away... Every time I hid under the blankets and every time I appeared from underneath... Every time she said, "Natalie go outside, please" and every time she convinced someone to follow her.

Most of all, I love that "God is strong enough to exult in monotony." Every once in a while we stop and admire the way the water comes in to the shore and splashes the beach, but God makes the water work in rhythm every day with crazy, consistent joy. I love to think that God "has the eternal appetite of infancy."

Because how many times have we succumbed to sin, "growing old" with maturity marking our progress? How many times have we decided we don't have time for monotony or aren't interested or amazed by it anymore?

And how many daisies did God make today, delighting the same in the monotonous beauty of every one?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a hope that can be caught

There's a reason hope  is described as an anchor in Hebrews 6.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, (Hebrews 6:19 ESV)

An anchor is unmovable - it's what holds the ship in place when the waves are doing their darndest to toss it out to sea. The anchor is solid, stubborn weight digging deep into the sand and there's nothing slippery about it.

If this is how the Bible describes hope - sure, steadfast, and stored in the deepest place within us - why do we treat it like such a slippery thing? Why does our culture insist that hope is elusive and uncertain and temperamental?

This article, The Urgency of Hope by Chris Castaldo over at The Gospel Coalition captures this dreadful misunderstanding. He writes about the alarming suicide rates around the world and what we offer as substitutes for true Hope,

The great English journalist and satirist Malcolm Muggeridge, reflecting on forms of despair in the 20th century---particularly among proponents of Stalin in Russia and Western nihilists devoted to materialism and abortion---said modern man has a "suicidal impulse," a type of self-hatred. This impulse has spawned a bewildering number of proposals to cure, or at least curb, the problem. Unfortunately, varied as they are, these remedies share a common thread: their ingenuity and power are limited to human resources.

We've replaced the anchor of hope with something like the Claw arcade game. The child stands and stares for several minutes with growing excitement - imagining the plush toy that could be hers in a few moments. Then, she puts two quarters in the machine and moves the joystick around  tentatively, preparing to make a move. She starts to breathe faster as she decides to go for the pink teddy bear. With one last shaky breath, she pushes the read button and watches speechless as the metal claw descends on the mound of stuffed treasures. The claw grabs the pink teddy's right ear and her premature delight comes out in a squeal... quickly silenced by shock as the pink teddy wiggles out of the metal grasp to land in the pile once again.

Nothing about the child's hope to walk away with the plush, pink teddy is certain.

This kind of hope is slippery. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to hold on tight enough to keep it around for another day.

This kind of Hope is nothing like an anchor. The next verse from Hebrews 6 reads like this:

where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20 ESV)

There's no speculation - nothing slippery or elusive about what Jesus did on the cross. Our HOPE is anchored in Christ's definitive work on the cross. He went before as a forerunner on our behalf  - He walked right into the punishment we deserved, suffered in our place, and then sat down because the work is finished. Our Hope is seated, like an anchor, at the right hand of the Father because He is so sure that our future is secure in light of His sacrifice.

No other message of hope will steady a boat amidst the waves. No other message will do. 

If it's hope you are looking for, don't look to a politician or a parent or a partner unless you want to anchor your ship with another ship being tossed about. Don't reach for a medication or a work promotion or a new burst of self-esteem unless you are confident your ship can survive the strongest storm sailing solo.

If it's hope you are looking for, you will only find it in Jesus - seated like an anchor next to the Father without even the slightest chance of movement.

If it's HOPE you are looking for, reach for the one that can be caught.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Trip Lee, teaching children, Andy Griffith, and Isaiah 42:21

Here's another round of interesting articles, videos, links, and things. Enjoy, friends!

  • Trip Lee has had some serious press. No matter who is listening, the way he can fit so many words in such a short space is commendable. Here he gives us the Gospel in 2 minutes. Take a peek - you'll be BLESSED! http://vimeo.com/44541665
  • I love Sally Lloyd-Jones. If you ever run into her, you can tell her so. I know she is just being faithful to use her gifts, but there are a lot of people benefiting from her diligence. This article reminds me of so many Sunday School classrooms and so many "moral of the story" endings to Sunday School lessons. God never meant for the Old Testaments characters or New Testament letters to make us more honest or better sons and daughters. God gave us the Word because He wants us to know Him. We can only "be holy as He is holy" when we know Him and that's why the Bible is not about us. The Bible is all about God. Read the article here.
  • My Grandpa is an Andy Griffith fan. I'm a fan of most things that claim my grandpa's affection, so I'm an Andy Griffith fan by default and I hope I still have some of those black and white videos around when I have kids. Griffith died today and this article seems a fitting tribute.
  • This past week I happened on this reflection, Meditate with Me on Isaiah 42:21, at Desiring God Ministries. “The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious.” (Isaiah 42:21). At first glance, we might only take away that God loves His law. But I am grateful that Piper dove in deeper and took us with him in his reflections.
  • There are over 5,000 students in New Orleans for the Challenge Conference right now. If you are not there (like me) but you want to hear some of the AMAZING teaching going on, take a look at this video from Bryan McWhite. http://vimeo.com/45113235

That's all I've got for now, other than the sweat dripping off my nose. I couldn't find a way to make that a bullet point.

o love that will not let me go

"How did Jesus have power to do miracles?" The question was like extracting one drop of water in a massive wave off the coast of El Salvador - marvelous and impossible.

I sat across from Anna and considered the fireworks in my heart. Oh, how I love my Jesus. I got flustered and stumbled over my words in excitement. My haphazard words fluttered out like they would if I was trying to explain that I'd found a key to a secret garden in the center of the city, where hydrangeas and peonies and lilies bloomed year-round. It's too good to be true and my heart knows it.

The more we study the life of Jesus, the more willing we are to stand in awe - to marvel at the mystery. Anna's question came from our summer Bible study, "Walking as Jesus Walked" by Dann Spader and my delight came from the response: digging deeper. My delight is not that I have answers, but that through the Spirit we have strength to comprehend the love that surpasses knowledge.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21 ESV)

As the weeks go by, my encouragement to these girls is to go digging - to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) over and over and over again. Nothing bad can come of studying the Word and asking God to give us insight. The Word never returns void. When we've uncovered verses that we think don't make sense, it means digging deeper to uncover why they do.

The more we read God's Word, the more we want to read God's Word. As we study the life of Jesus, I am holding on to the love that will not let me go - the love that allows me to grow in wisdom and stature, in favor of God and man (Luke 2:52), just like Jesus.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS3o_160OhE]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

Until the Dawn Appears

Well the man of sorrows walked the shores of Galilee And his eyes were cast with joy towards the crystal sea Well the shadows will be gone and all these bitter tears And my heart will hang on that until the dawn appears

Matthew Perryman Jones is one of those folk singers. He croons with a heart outside "mainstream" and his new album makes me emotional. Every time I hear, "Until the Dawn Appears," my heart hangs on the last verse because without it the song would be only sad. Jones has a way of singing sorrow. It kind of seeps out slowly and settles in deep. The last verse (above) transfers all the sorrows of this world onto the shoulders of one man. One man who will bring the dawn that banishes the shadows.

One man who will never let me go.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/40319898 w=500&h=281]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

on the hook: making disciples in non-vocational ministry

I met a woman today while I was running errands for work. We fell into small talk and she asked if I had anything "fun" planned today. I took the road most traveled with my bland reply, "Just work, I guess." I thought of all the stories I could weave about my complicated life and my unpredictable schedule... and then I heard her ask, "Where do you work?" I kept up with the North American charade and chose the job where I have an office, "I work at the E Free Church here in town."

Her eyes lit up. "Oh! The one on 24th street?"

Our conversation turned a corner and I arrived again at a crossroads. Though technically I'm employed by a church right now as an administrative assistant, I am growing into a stronger conviction about the power of non-vocational ministry. When Jesus spoke the commission over the disciples in Matthew 28, his directive was to make disciples - baptizing them in the name of the Father and teaching them to obey all His commands.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

What he did NOT say was this, "Go into all the world and find leaders that you can pay to be disciples and hopefully people will follow them."

We are settling for a powerless Christianity when we rely on paid ministry workers to carry all the weight of the Body of Christ. We have an amateur complex - an idea that we aren't qualified or capable of reading and understanding the Word of God unless it is unpacked by an "expert" of the faith. We have elevated individuals in the church because of their knowledge or charisma or firm Sunday handshake and, in the process, given ourselves a ready excuse in the face of spiritual failure. "Well, I know I messed up again... but I'm no Pastor John. I wonder if there's, like, a program where someone would help me with my addiction." We make excuses (and we accept others' excuses) for skipping devotions, church responsibilities, and Bible studies because we're not "in the ministry" and there's a lot more than Bible going on in our lives.

What?

Again, when God gave the direction to go and make disciples he was talking about regular people living like Jesus and inviting other regular people to do the same.

Do you know that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52)? He grew into more knowledge of the Lord just like he grew into size 28 jeans (or robe). Every day he found out more about His Father and every day He obeyed with more joy and every day Jesus found more favor with God and man. This was his vocation. He was expert at loving the Lord, growing in knowledge of Him, and serving others.

No one is off the hook. Not a pastor? You're qualified if you are born again. Don't have a degree in women's ministry? You are adequate in Christ. Not confident in your less-than-perfect Christian journey? Jesus wants you, too.

Here's the catch (wink): you WANT to be on the hook. For all the squirming and protesting Christians do to get out of ministry and outreach and loving neighbors, they don't realize that a worm on a hook is how you catch a fish. Jesus has qualified us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God is making His appeal through us to the world so that they might come to know the saving work of Christ.

WHOA.

No one is off the hook, but no true Christian should want to be anywhere else.

God has called, redeemed, and equipped regular people to take His message of redemption to the world in our everyday, regular encounters with regular people. So, why is it so much easier for people in vocational ministry to have conversations about the Lord?

We are all in ministry. We are all on "staff." We are all called to make disciples.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the Priest who sat down

I was doing arithmetic to the rhythm of the running path tonight...And things were adding up like this:

3 weeks 1 summer camp 1 missions conference 4 states 5 jobs 5 different beds 1 parent meeting 3 days of family reunion hundreds of smiles, sighs, and near-tears _____________________________

Arithmetic is not my thing, so I shook the numbers out of my head and thought about Old Testament priests. I thought back to their days full to brimming with activity - with messy, bloody, smelly activity. A priest's job was never done. He would never get home at night and know that any real progress had been made. He would always, always have work and it would always, always be blood-drenched.

The entire vocation of "priest" was set up (in grace) because of man's sin revealed through the law given to Moses. The people in Nehemiah 8 wept as they understood how far they had fallen from right relationship with the Lord. The distance was so far that there was no hope of recovery. The people listened to the Book of Law and looked at the chasm created by their sin and they knew - there was no way to reach right relationship with the Lord again. So they wept ... and the priests worked overtime with blood-soaked hands because the chasm was so great.

The system was intricate and difficult to maintain, but the priests returned to work every day after blood-filled day because it was the only way that sin would find atonement.

And then there was Jesus. Oh, I love my Jesus.

Jesus, the great High Priest, stepped into the chasm that couldn't be filled for thousands of years to accomplish what could never be bought by thousands of sacrifices. All those trips to the temple - all those long voyages - came to an end when Christ set his face toward Jerusalem.

He was the sacrifice that ended all other sacrifices because His was sufficient.

The temple no longer needed to bustle with bloody activity and the work of the priests changed overnight... and Jesus sat down. Though Jesus is the great High Priest (a vocation that would mean work without end), He sat down at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19).

There is something about the Truth of what Christ accomplished on the cross that can be claimed when mornings look menacing and when minutes refuse to stretch a moment further.

Jesus accomplished what nothing else could to offer what nothing else can and there's not a single shred of doubt about it. The weight of His confidence is measured in His sure, seated posture next to His Father.

And that is why all my numbers smashed in to all my days inside of weeks point to One blood-soaked sacrifice and all the peace of a seated King.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

I asked the Lord

Oh, friends. What happens when you reach the end of your rope? What's after the end - another rope?

Today, I'm asking the Lord. Actually, I just kind of sat for a few minutes and let space pass between me and the Lord. I let this song do all the asking, because it seems to write the kind of lyric my heart is singing. Hymns pack a pretty hearty punch when it comes to expressing what feels hidden too deep for language. John Newton first penned these words in 1879, so their strength does not surprise me. What does surprise me is how accurate his description is (after 133 years) of the woeful condition of my heart. Even as I seek the Lord in earnest prayer, I often ask for what most benefits me - what most quickly satisfies or appeases or quiets or calms. I am earnest, but I am disappointed when what He gives is abundant in every opposite way.

I hoped that in some favored hour At once He’d answer my request And by His love’s constraining power Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel The hidden evils of my heart And let the angry powers of Hell Assault my soul in every part

My conversation in quiet moments with the Lord that started with an honest desire to grow in grace and faith ends with frustrated confusion. God must not have understood - I wanted to grow in grace and faith. 

And here I feel, again, the guilt and weight of my sin - the hidden evils of my heart that lead even my prayer life away from the Lord. O, how gracious to set me free from self and pride - again and again so that I might seek my all in Him.

Lord why is this, I trembling cried Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death? “Tis in this way” The Lord replied “I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ From self and pride to set thee free And break thy schemes of earthly joy That thou mayest seek thy all in me, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

[bandcamp track=1751705126 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

longing for a home

On my 15 hour trip across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, I finally had time to process Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. The lyrics to the new Matthew Perryman Jones song, "O Theo" have accompanied many of my night runs, but I hadn't realized they were so old. They date back to intimate correspondence between Van Gogh and his brother and one such letter inspired this especially earnest and confessional song. There's something magnetic about the words - something that pulls you in and makes you listen to what was painfully penned from a brother to a brother of a dreadful waywardness.

Under the silence of water, Into a sky full of birds Out from the land of our fathers, I am falling on your words, Oh...

Dark as the night of a preacher, I made a bed out of hay They paid me a handful of money, I gave it all away... All away...

And the righteous raised their stones And the devil threw his arrow That was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...

In the half-life of the city, She took off all of her clothes I flew from the height of the mountains Into a valley of dry bones All alone

Then my heart was still unknown I was drunk and full of sorrows I was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...

So, I set fires of starlight, To burn up against the despair I was caught in the tangles of midnight's Long, unanswered prayer: 'Are you there?'

And the light of morning grows On a field of fallen sparrows I was longing for a home With nowhere to go, Oh, Theo...

Are you pulled in to Van Gogh's plea for a home? Does something deep inside turn over when you read about his waywardness?

Van Gogh describes his desperate and failed attempts to cure himself of loneliness. He reaches out and lays all things bare, longing for a home.

In a phone conversation the other night, I heard the same longing - a beautiful soul captured by grace who longed for the security of "home" without the fear of abandonment. I heard her confession of sin and her fragile hope of new life. I heard fear drip from every excuse as she listed reasons why now is a hard time to turn from sin.

And right there we called spades "spades." We agreed about her sin and the fear that made her cling to it. We agreed that her life looked like Jesus hadn't accomplished anything on the cross - that He wasn't capable of holding her up when her world crashed.

We agreed that Jesus wanted a complete turn from sin so that she could look Him fully in the face and hear the words, "Child, you are mine."

I remember sitting on my friend's porch a cool, August night in high school. I remember trying desperately to convince my friend that I had sin to deal with. I remember my friend saying, "That's it?"

We all get desperate and blinded by sin. The only hope of redemption we have is to believe that Christ willingly stood in the place of that sin (because it is sin) and continually sits at the right hand of God interceding for us, not that we would continue in sin but that we would enjoy the freedom that comes through repentance.

And it is with this honest, repentant heart that we do find a home that is secure.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XQGU0LMJLQ]

doing what we ought = freedom

More than a little ink spilled recently in Iowa over an administrator's questionable email etiquette. That's a nice way of saying she used her work email to do some pretty dirty things. In fact, her behavior motivated the powers that be in Des Moines public schools to implement a morality clause. Morality clause? Aren't we living in a relativistic culture? Who has the right to implement a moral standard?

Seems like our culture's digging her own grave, though we hate to admit it. If we all make our own moral standard, how can we say someone else's is inferior?

C.S. Lewis differentiates moral law from the law of nature in that it is what we "ought" to do, not what we simply do. Trees fall when cut and grass grows in response to rain and sunshine. Nature does those things, but there is not another layer of "ought." Trees aren't looked down on if they don't fall at the feller's ax. Grass isn't more supremely regarded if it grows than if it wilts. Nature simply does things and we observe these characteristics.

People, on the other hand, get angry when someone steps in front of the shopping line or if someone steals the family car. We get angry because they "ought" not do such a thing. It's wrong.

Everyone has their own version of "ought" - the place they draw the line in the sand where relativity fades and objectivity says, "you can't do that to me."

I struggle with the controversy in Des Moines because we are clamoring to say this woman "ought not" do what she did, yet we told her all along (as she gained experience and degrees in our system) that she needn't bother with someone else's morality. We told her that hers would do just fine.

How many people implementing the city's new 'morality clause' could stand under its inspection? Are some positions more 'moral' than others because they are more public?

I race around these questions in my head and wish that C.S. Lewis was giving a lecture next week on a public campus. Jesus would obviously be the first choice, but C.S. Lewis seems more within reach (is that bad?). Honestly, I imagine the same response following a lecture by Lewis and a sermon by Jesus - a bunch of people filing out of a sterile auditorium mumbling their disagreement or support as they walk to their next engagement.

It hurts to hear the high-browed arguments about what should or shouldn't be done in the public eye. Moral rules outside of divine wisdom are like walking on railroad tracks to an unknown destination.

The excitement and joy of doing what we "ought" is in knowing that in doing so we are free. It is not a morality clause that keeps us behaving as we ought, but a love that can't imagine behaving any other way.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zKx45wKC3FY]

let us never grow weary of God

Paul Tripp shared his frustration in this post, "No Longer Amazed by Grace" after hearing the director of a national ministry claim nothing excites him anymore. He shared something from B.B. Warfield that has my heart all in rumbles with agreement. Read the whole thing, but here's the last bit where Warfield sums up his warning to the seminarian who has become numb to divine things due to his constant contact with divine things.

Think of what your privilege is when your greatest danger is that the great things of religion may become common to you! Other men, oppressed by the hard conditions of life, sunk in the daily struggle for bread perhaps, distracted at any rate by the dreadful drag of the world upon them and the awful rush of the world's work, find it hard to get time and opportunity so much as to pause and consider whether there be such things as God, and religion, and salvation from the sin that compasses them about and holds them captive. The very atmosphere of your life is these things; you breathe them in at every pore: they surround you, encompass you, press in upon you from every side. It is all in danger of becoming common to you! God forgive you, you are in danger of becoming weary of God!

O, that we would never lose our awe of God. No matter how many books, studies, conferences, or personal devotions at sunrise - may we never get bored of meeting with the Creator of the universe. May we always hold this gift of communion with tender gratitude, knowing we have no right to know anything of His mysteries. Every little bit revealed is pure gift.

Several weeks ago, I was babysitting a 6-year-old and his 4-year-old sister. Moments after their parents left, Connor found his sister and I in the middle of a stuffed animal introduction. He picked up some silver Mardi Gras beads and said, "Let's play a game. Here's what we do: I drop the beads on the ground and then we see what shapes we make." He let the beads fall to the carpet and then we all just looked at the squiggles until shapes emerged. Our observations overlapped, "I see a heart!" and "Oh, there's a butterfly" and "Do you see the snake?"

Once we'd exhausted the shapes, it was someone else's turn to throw the beads to the carpet. The whole time, I was absolutely giddy with excitement. How many adults would think of such a game? This 6-year-old is brilliant! I loved how matter-of-fact he was about the game and about spotting shapes and about including his sister. I mostly loved the rasp in their voices right before they found something wonderful "..Oh, oh! Look at this flower!" The shapes came alive in those silver dots in a mess on the floor.

And if we can get excited - even giddy - about silver dots, then how much more should our excitement soar at the wonder of creation? How can we be amused by far lesser (yet still wonderful) things, and bored with the greatest and most wonderful things?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

ransomed from futility

The Lord's faithfulness does not depend on me. What a mess I'd be in if that weren't true! Somehow, I eased out of my daily Word-drenched routine and into a more me-saturated schedule. I took my eyes off eternity and set my gaze much... lower. It wasn't noticeable in bold-lettered ways, but the pages I've written in life the past week are missing the main character - the voice of the Writer, Narrator, and Hero - you could say I'm missing the red letters. It's probably that weaselly Wormwood character doing his work in the trenches to make me think I'm "just fine" when I really need to deal with sin.

Today was the glorious antidote, though I shouldn't be surprised. Truth is a powerful serum. It gets inside the blood stream and awakens all the right sensors to alert the body of all the "false" that has taken over.

As I was reading Proverbs 1, Truth seemed to seep in and spread over all that sin that was crowding His story in my life. Specifically, the call of wisdom in verses 20-33. The call to turn from simple, foolish whims to deep, mysterious wisdom seems an easy sell (who wants to be simple and foolish?). But, as I read the words of the wayward, I realized that wisdom would mean the pages of my life would be filled to full with red letters - those would be the words I breathed in and lived out.

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes about how things will run amuck in the last days - about people who will be completely conformed to the world and calling others to join them. In his caution, "Avoid such people" (v. 5), he explains that they are "burdened with sins and have been led astray by passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth" (v. 6 -7).

What maddening futility! To always learn and never arrive at a knowledge of the truth - this sounds like what gives a scientist the "mad" prefix. And what joy that we've been rescued from futility!

...knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21 ESV)

Today, I am sad for my wandering. Today, I am amazed that God allows me to learn and arrive at a knowledge of the Truth through the work of Christ. Today, I am blessed by the call to wisdom and for ears to hear. Today, I know I can dwell secure, without dread of disaster.

but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Proverbs 1:32-33 ESV)

Because when I am faithless, the Lord is faithful.

practice resurrection

So, friends, every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord. Love the world. Work for nothing. Take all that you have and be poor. Love someone who does not deserve it.

. .

Practice resurrection.

(snippets from Wendell Berry's 1973 poem, "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front"from The Country of Marriage)

I've been meaning to read more of Wendell Berry and summer seems like a good time to "get around to it." The vibrant green leaves and the smell of blooming peonies seem a fitting backdrop to his poetry. I map my runs to intentionally include the rowdy peony bushes on S. 3rd Street. I always "stretch" long enough to fill my lungs with peony air before putting my race face on again.

The smell of peony makes me sad for people who don't lean over to breathe in their beauty.

And that's why Wendell Berry's advice to, "practice resurrection" is nestling nicely somewhere deep in my soul. We are so forgetful. We live like we don't know we're resurrected. We live like we're not sure how this day will end. We live like Christ's resurrection was too long ago to rearrange my daily toil. We live like all the wonder in the wind moving through the trees is something not everyone has the time to admire.

We live like we've forgotten how to practice resurrection.

We were dead in our trespasses and sins. Dead. Gone. Lost. Limp. Lifeless. Stuck. Trapped. Suffocated. Dead.

There's no way to make that sound nice or easy. But if that were the end, I would have a hard time getting you to stop and smell the peonies.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

(Ephesians 2:4-10 ESV)

But, God...

What a beautiful interjection! What an altogether unexpected and undeserved display of mercy! What glorious gratitude is birthed when life displaces death!

This is our resurrection. We are made alive together with Christ. We are raised up from the grave to sit with Him, to search out the immeasurable riches of His grace, to seek all the beauty of His face reflected in the glory of creation. This is our resurrection.

Practice resurrection today, friends. Practice resurrection and do not forget. Practice resurrection because, in Christ, life has displaced death.

[bandcamp track=4184450343 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

parody, tarp surfing, learning to teach, and open heaven

It's been awhile since a "this & that" post. There's plenty to look at, click on, hear, watch, and do. Do as little or as lot as you wish, but whatever you do - let knowledge be something that produces action. It's my hope that the more I know, the more I can translate that knowledge into love actions in a way that pleases my Lord. Just like all Truth is God's, all knowledge is possible only because He's allowed it to be so.

  • Andrée Seu is a woman I'd love to meet. This piece, "Under an Open Heaven," seems to be a page right out of my heart. Here's a taste, now please go read the rest!

My lover is the fresh wind of the Spirit, blowing through the rafters of my melancholy. My lover speaks of God "in season and out of season," like Jesus at the well in Sychar, in his fatigue and hunger. There is no difference between his "religious" talk and his regular talk. He does not sound one way in church and another at the mall.

Walking with him I feel no sides, no floor, no ceiling, and everything all new: No past, no future. No rules but God's. No servitude but to Him. No man-made impossibilities. We do the adventure called "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Let me be blunt: This is fun!

  • Wanna know what makes a great story? Seems like this post would answer it, "1+1=3 Ken Burn on what makes a great story" but it may not answer your math questions.
  • If I could choose a conference to go to this summer (in addition to the Muslim Missions Conference in Dearborn, Michigan), it would be the gem of a conference in Florida - The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. The next best thing, of course, is to read/listen to everything. Carrie Sandom, hailing from the UK, will be speaking and here's an introduction that makes me excited to hear more from her. "Learn the Bible to Teach the Bible" makes a bunch of sense.
  • Do you doubt that a landlocked country could surf waves? Doubt no more. This is really sweet. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/17298096 w=500&h=369]
  • Not to be "that kind of fan," but Metaxas has proved himself as a brilliant writer and historian (Amazing Grace and Bonhoeffer). This article, "Spirituality as Parody" is definitely worth the read as well (and a lot shorter than Bonhoeffer).
  • What does your view of Scripture have to do with your view of God? See what J.I. Packer has to say about that, "Your View of Scripture and Your View of God."
  • If you haven't noticed, I've been grooving to the new band Citizen. They're cool enough to spend $3 on, for sure. [bandcamp album=2679071235 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Okay, friends. That's all for now. Click, read, listen, watch, and... then DO something.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

to wait and to hope

It's like finding the door to secret garden or discovering a hidden cave or tapping on the right rock in an Indiana Jones movie. No matter how many times my pride tries to convince me otherwise, studying the Word never gets old. Sure, I have my seasons where the words look like black text on a white page and little more. But, go ahead and tell a child that there is no cave or secret garden or hidden passage while they are inside it and see what kind of response you get. Laughter seems most fitting. This is the joy of the Scripture - to be inside a mystery that never grows old.

As I was reading Psalm 130, I crawled inside this mystery and stared out in wonder. The urgency leaps from the misery and clings to the Lord's forgiveness as the only hope against His righteous standard. My thoughts drifted toward Spanish again and the word, "esperar." It means both "to wait" and "to hope" and, though I don't know the original text, the interchange in verses 5-8 makes all kinds of sense.

1,2 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3,4 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5,6 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 7,8 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities. (Psalm 130 ESV)

Our waiting is hoping and our hoping is waiting. And it all rests on the Lord - the waiting and the hoping - not on our willpower to do it. The Psalmist makes certain we understand the intensity of his waiting. I'm sure watchmen assume the highest form of vigilance, filled with the gravest kind of hope. Twice the Psalmist says his soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning. How closely a watchman must hope for the dawn to break the darkness, for the sun to shed its light on the sky. Even more than a person whose purpose it is to wait and hope - he waits even more than him. What great expectation!

What a rush of beauty, to wait and hope in the One who offers steadfast love and plentiful redemption! Redeemed, restored, renewed... and we find these things in abundance!

Fo what else could we hope, my friends? For what else should we wait?

go ahead, dive in to the mystery and

let LOVE fly like cRaZy