Monday, December 31, 2012

Half Hearted Creature

"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are too easily pleased." ~ C. S. Lewis

"Nothing makes God more supreme and more central than when people are utterly persuaded that nothing -  not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends - is going to bring satisfaction to their aching hearts besides God . . . God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." ~J. Piper

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Our Gauchely God

I'm in a war zone this Christmas and seeing the celebration as more gritty than ever before. N. D. Wilson is helping . . .

"But Christmas - to the Greeks, Christmas was filth, a vulgarity in the extreme. They were right. And thus the beauty. If the Maker of the world were to descend to earth, how would you expect Him? If you heard that the Infinite, the Spirit Creator was entering His own Art, wouldn't you look to the clouds? Wouldn't you look to the cherubim in their storms; wouldn't you expect a tornado chariot? I would, and in my defense, I think my sensibilities are good and entirely in the right place. It is God who is gauche. And thus the surprise.

The Jews were waiting on a Messiah. They were waiting on a man to throw off the oppressor, someone like Judah Maccabee, someone like the King David. The Messiah came, and not just to the Jews. He did come like Judah, like David, but not how expected.

He came to be humbled. He came to die.

Plan the event. Arrange the reception. The King of kings is coming. He will shoulder governments. He will be called the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor.

Plato, no covering your eyes, no throwing up in indignation, no offended boycotts of the crucifix set in urine. The Lord of all reality is coming to your hemisphere. And He, the pure Spirit, will take on flesh and need to eat and breathe and move His bowels, and have His diapers changed. Don't look at me. I had plenty of glorious ideas. The blasphemy isn't mine.

He will be a carpenter, with splintered and blistered hands and cracking nails. One of His grandmothers was a whore of Jericho. He will enter the womb of a virgin and expand in the normal way. He will exit her womb in the normal way. And then she will suckle Him as the cows do their calves. Besides, well, He will be mammal.

These days, we dress the whole thing up and hum until it all seems holy. We set up little plastic scenes in our yards and then we backlight them. If God is pleased it is because they are trite and silly - entirely in keeping with the whole event.

He was born in a barn and slept in a food trough. Maybe the livestock all took gentle knees, cognizant and pious, like in the back page of a children's Christmas book. Maybe they smacked on their cuds and continued to lift their tails and muck in the stalls.

"The reversals in the story didn't stop at Christ's birth. Rather than being celebrated, one of the first plot elements was Herod's declaration of genocide. The King of kings is here, you say? Bathe the land in infant blood. Slaughter, Rachel weeping for her children lost . . . these things are part of the Christmas story. For some reason, we leave the soldiers, dead babies, and weeping mothers out of the plastic figurine collection.

". . . With whom did He sit and eat? Whores. Thieves. The unclean. From birth to the end, He never left the trough. Christ walked from insult to insult, from filth to filth."

The Joy and Gravity of Adoption

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas As War

It's not about the War on Christmas. It's about Christmas as war.

Dr. Russell Moore posted on the Newtown shooting as it relates to Christmas. The entire post is worth reading. He shattered my "Silent Night" image of the Luke 2 story held for most of my life describing the King's birth in the context of conflict.

I will never sing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" the same way. Maranantha in the cold and dark places!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Vomit Dog

Killing me softly with His Words: Selections from 1 & 2 Peter.

Punishment . . . This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority . . . they are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures . . . they never stop sinning . . . they have left the straight way and wondered off . . . These men are springs without water and mists driven by the storm. . . Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words . . . they are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than at the beginning. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit”. . .

How close am I to such men? How often do I plunge into the same flood of dissipation (1 Pet. 4: 4) given to be deluged and destroyed (2 Pet. 3: 6). What separates me from them? Grace, calling, glory – enabling strength, firmness . . . restoration (1 Pet. 5: 10). A Price paid – redemption from the empty way (1 Pet. 1: 18). As the result (of Christ’s sufferings at the Cross) I will not live this earthly life for my evil desires (1 Pet. 4: 1-2), but as a stranger in reverent fear (1 Pet. 1: 17), shielded by faith (1 Pet. 1: 5), divinely empowered (2 Pet. 1: 3), on guard, growing in grace, to His glory! (2 Pet. 3: 17-18). Mercy, Lord – plead grace and mercy.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Calling Not Potential

Two mind shakers, heart rattlers, and soul rollers from the Resurgence:

A question that could change your life.

What would you be willing to attempt for God if you knew you could not fail?

How to live for God's glory.

Pursue your calling, not your potential.

. . . you were redeemed from the empty way of life . . . 
(1 Pet. 1:18)


 Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity . . . 
(Eph. 5: 15)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Life Changer

Be forewarned this is the best sermon on missions you will ever hear. For some of you, it will mean leaving where you are to go where you are called. Soak it in, then let it gnaw on your soul - be radically moved. Let the One who holds the fate of the world in His hand have your life as well.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dylan On Work & Calling

All credit to Margie Haack (at her blog: Toads Drink Coffee) for the following re-post. If you aren't familiar with her and her husband, Denis (who I've had the pleasure of hearing preach), they lead the ministry, Ransom Fellowship. Denis wrote a book that influenced me in earlier years, entitled "The Rest of Success". Read a sampling of the unique, thought-provoking, Biblically-informed writing that comes out of their ministry.

The re-purposed post "Dylan On Work & Calling":

Rolling Stone: So live performance is a purpose you find fulfilling?

Dylan: If you’re not fulfilled in other ways, performing can never make you happy. Performing is something you have to learn how to do it. You do it, you get better at it, you keep going. And if you don’t get better at it, you have to give it up. Is it a fulfilling way of life? What kind of way of life is fulfilling? No kind of life is fulfilling if your soul hasn’t been redeemed. 

You’ve described what you do not as a career but as a calling.

Everybody has a calling, don’t they? Some have a high calling, some have a low calling. Everybody is called but few are chosen. There is a lot of distraction for people, so you might not never find the real you. A lot of people don’t. 

How would you describe your calling?

Mine? Not any different than anybody else’s. Some people are called to be a good sailor. Some people have a calling to be a good tiller of the land. Some people are called to be a good friend. You have to be the best at whatever you’re called at. Whatever you do. You ought to be the best at it – highly skilled. It’s about confidence – not arrogance.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

By It I See

C. S. Lewis:

We believe that the sun is in the sky at midday in summer not because we can clearly see the sun (in fact, we cannot) but because we can see everything else. . . 

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

Friday, November 16, 2012

To Sacrifice A Higher For A Lower?

John Piper in 1977:
 The only reason for living is the achievement of what you value. Nobody should ever sacrifice a higher value to a lower one. You should always aspire to deciding what you value. Until that happens you cannot make any reasonable steps toward choosing a vocation (or anything else). My highest value is to see God glorified. The way God has guided me to realize that value is through ____________ .

Stop. Think. The only reason for living ... Never a higher value for a lower value ... Always aspire ... My highest value ...

Now fill in the blank.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
~Wendell Berry

But one thing I do:
Forgetting what is behind and straining
toward what is ahead,
I press on . . .
~St. Paul

Monday, October 22, 2012

All Head No Heart?

Psalm 63: 1-5 ~ Beautiful words ~ Your love is better than life!

Blaise Pascal was a 17th century Frenchman, who at age 31 experienced the presence of the God and wrote his memoriam that he then sewed inside his coat as a reminder. He was a mathematician and theologian (what a combination!), a real smart and heady guy; an academic, a thinker. Read what this man of the mind wrote:

In the year of grace 1654, Monday 23 November . . .
From about half-past ten in the evening till about half an hour after midnight.

God of Abraham. God of Isaac. God of Jacob.
Not of the philosophers and the learned.
Certainty. Joy. Certainty. Emotion. Sight. Joy.
Forgetfulness of the world and of all outside of God . . .
Joy! Joy! Joy! Tears of joy . . .
My God, will you leave me? Let me not ever be separated from you.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Thought

I heard this said the other day: "The universe is one of God's thoughts."

What does that mean? In light of Colossians 1: 15-20? Do share.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Glory Story

From "Counsel From The Cross":
Living for the glory story is like chasing a mirage: it looks so good out there in the distance, but once we attain the sought-after accomplishment, transformation, or acclamation, we see another on the horizon, and the pool we're standing in is not the refreshing spring we thought it would be; it is only a putrid mud hole or another stretch of bone-dry sand.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shame, Guilt & Hope

"Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?" ~Ps. 42:11

Ours is often a journey of shadows.

Have you ever had dark questions trembling within you? Maybe not in those terms; using dated words like O, despair, disturbed, or soul. Probably not using words at all, but instead with groans only inwardly audible. Yet, the essence of the questions sat heavy in your gut making you nauseous. Maybe those questions were heard in the hangover after a night of succumbing to peer pressure partying where drunkenness and lustful indiscretions happened. Or maybe you've felt the rough undertone of interrogation after being consumed in the online fantasy world of triple X deceit. All so easily justified beforehand. To be sure, we never find in sin what we go to sin to find.

Shame and Guilt: A two headed shadow monster of the past and present. They are different from one another, but share the common characteristic of being the heart aching, soul crippling, and faith shrinking afterbirth of a sinful consummation. Guilt applies to things you have done. But, the root of our soul's despair is in our shame - the person we are. Shame ambushes you in the still darkness of the pre-bedtime meditations, the early morning quiet times, and in the stifling doubts that accompany a new venture for God. It echoes, "Will I ever change?" Shame says, "This is the real you: damaged, dirty, and broken beyond repair." Condemnation and accusations in true Satanic style: There is no hope. Using the Garden mixture of overpowering truth with subtle lie concocted to convince you that your not-yet completeness in Christ is evidence of your non-salvation and orphaned reality. Yet, as it was in Eden it is so in your mind; a glass of pure water with a drop of poison makes the entire mixture undrinkable. Do not drink the lies that Shame is serving. You are His. You are His Beloved. You are His Beloved Child. Martin L. was right, all of life is (continual/perpetual/never-ending) repentance. And repentance is stronger proof than guilt and shame that the Spirit is in you and since it is in you - you are in Christ! The despairing psalmist provides the sign that points us onto the path of righteousness away from guilt and shame and toward God. Written on that sign is the declaration and demand - HOPE. There is now, right now, no condemnation for you (or me) in Christ Jesus. Preach it to yourself when temptation lurks and shame slithers near. Let the light of the Gospel burn brighter than the dim arguments of the Flesh and the Serpent.

Submit every competing hope, putting it in God alone, for this properly placed hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out and into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. So then, we will yet praise him, our Savior and our God. (Ps. 42: 11, Rom 5: 5)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Beauty Surrounding Duty

The latest book I am reading, "Counsel from the Cross", has me pausing and pondering and I thought I would process out loud; listen in if you'd like.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. ~Eph. 5:1

When you read that verse what words really stuck out to you. Be honest. Your initial thought; place it in your mind. If you're like me be imitators got there first (which quickly translated to just imitate, and then must imitate).

I am afraid that we are designed to process in such a way as to filter out the familiar. All too often we hasten through life. Yes, in our haste we waste. Our senses are dulled: we myopically look without really seeing, experience busily bifurcated hearing without listening, rush to eat without tasting, necessarily breathe without smelling, and customarily touch without feeling. We load shed the familiar in our frenzy and it all fades while we focus on our litany of functions.

Our faith, our very relationship with the living God, the lover of our souls, is no different. If we spend anytime in the Word or prayer (and that is a big IF), we will likely leave each block-checking session with a tidy little take-away list of do's and don'ts. And so the Gospel goes. It just fades; relegated to the white noise of the "already known" and "fully understood". After all we have important things to do.

But, back to our verse. Take another look: what do you see? what do you hear? Ah, did you catch those words - "as beloved children"? Our identity! The very thing that informs every other thing. Look again. There is that easily forgotten, but immensely important "Therefore" (when you see the word therefore always ask what is it there for ;-). In the context of the first few chapters of the book of Ephesians it is a reminder informing us that in light of our justification, having been fully forgiven . . . Amazing, huh? The "therefore" guides the kind of imitating we are to be about. Not just some generic Godly-character-building evolution, but forgiving others as we have been forgiven in Christ. Do you see how easy it is to miss such important things as "therefore" in our filtering frenzy? Metaphorically, we ate our daily bread, but failed to taste. We distilled the Gospel in our desire to create a to-do. When the Gospel goes, what is left is the bitter (like that "poor man's espresso" left in the wardroom coffee pot that was simmering all night) self-awareness of us, our short-comings and the things that must be done to compensate. And so the challenge: take an operational pause; listen, see, taste, smell and feel the Gospel beauty surrounding duty.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Destroyed By Duplicity

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. ~Proverbs 11: 3

Duplicity: the contradictory doubleness of thought, speech, or action. Integrity (the antonym of duplicity): the quality or state of being complete, whole or undivided.

Duplicity/Destruction: these two words have been ringing in my ears for days. I am a duplicitous creature; I know this. And if you are honest with yourself you do too. We all do. In those quiet moments in the dark, as you lie awake, you know that your are not truly what you pretend to be all day in front of others. My life, all of me, lacks complete wholeness; an integrity without divide. So does yours. Are you afraid? I am. Of being found out. Of being caught in the lie. I do not desire duplicity, but I am incapable of . . . integrity . . . completely. Is there hope for wholeness?

And this wisdom word from Proverbs proves true as evidenced by the leadership failures of some of our Navy's Commanding Officers. But, I don't want to go there, at least not for too long. Because duplicity is my problem as well. So I wonder, will it destroy me (or you)?

Integrity or Duplicity: choose today. Will you be guided uprightly or digress a bit closer toward destruction?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Any Want

"Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God."

That TV show.
That amount of drink.
That website.
That music.
That view of the work culture.
That ambition.
That position.
That "to do" list.
That mirror.
That people-praise.
That reputation.

My heart . . . an idol factory!

"Son, whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things; in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the Spirit, then that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself." ~Susanna Wesley (Mother of Charles and John)

"My identity as a sinner daily confronts me with how deep and pervasive my need actually is. My identity as a child of grace confronts me with how expansive my potential actually is." ~ P. D. Tripp

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Junk In The Trunk

Matthew 6: 19-34 contains some very revealing and convicting words from Jesus. The Word is a mirror. Jesus talks about treasure. We all have a metaphorical treasure box that we daily place things in. Jesus ask me what treasure is in my trunk? I'm in a bad place lately where I've been pursuing the wrong treasure for the wrong person and the wrong kingdom.

Paul Tripp's comments on the passage:

"Christ's words alert us to the fact that either we are living for the physical treasures of the created world, which have a very short shelf-life, or we are living for the eternal satisfaction that can only be found in the treasures of God's Kingdom. This is why we cannot afford to live mindlessly, oblivious to the war of desire that rages in our hearts. God's accepting grace and transforming love are eternal treasures that will never pass away. They really are the only things in life worth living for. (Do I believe that?) When you live for the Kingdom of God, when God's purposes on earth become more precious and important to you than your purposes, you live for something that will never end. . . You see life always involves worship. Our lives revolve around the thing that has captured our attention and desire. We make continual offerings to it, sacrifices of time and energy and focus and resources, celebrating and holding up this thing to which we have ascribed such life-dominating value. This is true no matter what it is we worship: career (check) or wealth or comfort (check) or entertainment or reputation (check) or relationships or self-protection . . . or Christ (downcheck) . Whatever it is,we celebrate it."

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Great Tragedy

“One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves. On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practice the very antithesis of these principles. How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds! We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man's earthly pilgrimage.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Path to Glory

Still borrowing from JT, who borrowed from Powlison, who borrowed from Warfield.

Read the below with your leadership lenses on. Imagine if more leaders fit the description. What would happen if you (or I) did?

. . . . . on to GLORY . . . . .

David Powlison says that the last page or so of B. B. Warfield’s sermon “Imitating the Incarnation” “offers the most riveting description of the goal of Christian living that I’ve ever read.”

Here is an excerpt:
It is not to this that Christ’s example calls us.
He did not cultivate self, even His divine self: He took no account of self.
He was not led by His divine impulse out of the world, driven back into the recesses of His own soul to brood morbidly over His own needs, until to gain His own seemed worth all sacrifice to Him.
He was led by His love for others into the world, to forget Himself in the needs of others, to sacrifice self once for all upon the altar of sympathy.
Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men.
Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort.
Wherever men strive, there will we be to help.
Wherever men fail, there will be we to uplift.
Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice.
Self-sacrifice means not indifference to our times and our fellows: it means absorption in them.
It means forgetfulness of self in others.
It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means manysidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies.
It means richness of development.
It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives,—binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours.
It means that all the experiences of men shall smite our souls and shall beat and batter these stubborn hearts of ours into fitness for their heavenly home.
It is, after all, then, the path to the highest possible development, by which alone we can be made truly men. Not that we shall undertake it with this end in view. This were to dry up its springs at their source. We cannot be self-consciously self-forgetful, selfishly unselfish.
Only, when we humbly walk this path, seeking truly in it not our own things but those of others, we shall find the promise true, that he who loses his life shall find it.
Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: “Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.”
The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory.