Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Tragic Refutation


The real tragedy of this tweet is that apparently enough people assumed such a project to be possible that the suggestion had to be publicly refuted.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Morning Light


Overnight we received about 4" of snow. Temp this morning was -4. Decided to enjoy an invigorating walk through the frozen tundra to the church study. Got all the way here. Reached into my pocket. No keys.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Resolved...

I recently did a simple search of the bible on the two words “joy” and “God.” Here is an excerpt of the results:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy! - Psalm 68:3

...yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. - Habakkuk 3:18

My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. - Psalm 84:2

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. - Romans 14:7

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. - Jeremiah 15:16

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. - Romans 15:13

The bible makes the huge point throughout that our joy is made complete in God, and that in order to maximize the joy we all desire in our hearts, we need to be in pursuit of the only Being in the universe that can fulfill that joy. Jesus Christ came to save sinners and to grant to them the fullness of joy in God. He said this to His disciples:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. - John 15:10-11

The old Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes this well:

Q1 What is Man’s chief end? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. - Westminster Shorter Catechism

In light of the overwhelming witness of the Bible, perhaps you would join with me in the making the following resolution.

RESOLVED: To enjoy God as much as possible in the years to come!

As John Piper puts it: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Happy New Year!

Do I dare start this thing up again? Sure! Why not? Full speed ahead!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Listening to God's Word

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/finden/472411804/">Findo</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

A wonderful quote from Mark Galli at Christianity Today:
Whenever the Bible is read, a hush should come over us. We should be inching toward the edge of our seats, leaning forward, turning our best ear toward the speaker, fearful we'll miss a single word—the deeds and words and character of Almighty and Merciful God are being revealed! In a world of suffering and pain, of doubt and despair, of questions about the meaning and purpose of existence, we are about to hear of God's glory, forgiveness, mercy and love, of his intention for the world, of his promise to make it all good in the end, of the way to join his people, of the means to abide with him forever! And there we sit, tapping our feet, mentally telling the preacher to get on with it.
photo credit: Findo via photopin cc 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

QOTD - C.S. Lewis on "The Crude Monosyllable"


From the wonderful compilation of C.S. Lewis essays entitled The Weight of Glory:
I spoke just now of fiddling while Rome burns. But to a Christian the true tragedy of Nero must be not that he fiddled while the city was on fire but that he fiddled while on the brink of hell. You must forgive me for the crude monosyllable. I know that many wiser and better Christians than I in these days do not like to mention Heaven or hell even in a pulpit. I know, too, that nearly all the references to this subject in the New Testament come from a single source. But then that source is Our Lord Himself. People will tell you it is St. Paul, but that is untrue. These overwhelming doctrines are dominical. They are not really removable from the teaching of Christ or of His Church. If we do not believe them, our presence in this church is great tom-foolery. If we do, we must overcome our spiritual prudery and mention them.
C.S. Lewis. "Learning in War-Time." The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses. HarperCollins: New York, 2001. Page 48.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Reclaiming the Gift



Have you ever stopped to seriously consider the question: "What is a gift?" The New Oxford American Dictionary defines "gift" this way: a thing given willingly to someone without payment. I think that's a pretty good definition, but probably not for the reasons employed by the editors of the The New Oxford American Dictionary.

How should gifts be viewed by Christians? Have you ever thought much about that? I think we need to reform our understanding of what a gift is, because our culture's definition of "gift" is, in actuality, nothing like the dictionary definition and undermines the very thing Christmas is about - the stunning incarnational wonder of the gospel.

In our society, gift giving at Christmas is generally viewed through the lens of social obligation. We each have a carefully crafted list of recipients. Then we create sublists of gift ideas for each recipient. These sublists contain things we hope our recipients will enjoy. Alongside each entry on the sublist, in invisible ink, is our anxiety estimate. We rate each idea not only in terms of how much we think the recipient will enjoy the gift, but we also take note of how much anxiety each idea gives us, should that particular gift idea be received poorly by the recipient. Ultimately, what we choose as a gift for a particular recipient will hopefully maximize the enjoyment of the recipient, while minimizing our perceived anxiety should the gift, for whatever reason, be rejected.

We are, of course, able to judge whether a gift recipient has enjoyed our selection almost instantly based on verbal and nonverbal cues which are, frankly, impossible to conceal. How we formulate our gracious, socially acceptable gift rejection cues will have to wait for another blog post.

In my view, we have largely lost the meaning of the word "gift" in our culture. We actually kill off the wonder of giving gifts because we have become a people consumed with meeting all of the social norms and requirements for a proper "gift exchange." Note that "gift exchange" is a contradiction in terms, at least if you accept the dictionary definition of gift that I cited earlier.

As a result, Christmas can become an insufferable pot of anxiety. We spend weeks worrying about making others happy (which are really worries about making ourselves happy). In fact, gift giving has become, as everything has in contemporary culture, ultimately about “me.” The exchange of gifts has taken on attributes of the contract - both parties must benefit. And that's the opposite of what it means to actually give a gift, because a gift is given without regard to mutual beneficence.

This point was made apparent to me in a recent Wall Street Journal article "The Science Behind Gifting." That word "science" in the headline is a giveaway. The premise of the article is that gift giving can be reduced into measurable categories regarding our perception of the recipient's satisfaction with our gift, as well as our own feelings of warmth and closeness with the recipient. In short, "gifting" as science makes it about the giver rather than the receiver!

This explains why we are always at a loss, and feel guilty, whenever we receive an actual gift. Real gifts give us the heebie jeebies because we are stuck in the only model too many people know - the gift exchange. When we receive an actual gift, what is our response? Part of it is usually spot on: Heck, I didn't deserve this! You shouldn't have! Amen! That's why it's a gift! But then what happens right after that? Guilt drives us back to the model we know ("But, I didn't get you anything"), which gets us plotting a quick response that will somehow get us square with the one who so audaciously broke the social conventions of the gift exchange.

Isn't this an exhausting way to live? How can we ever recover the wonder and joy associated with gifts that are given the way the dictionary, and the Bible, describes?

There is only one way to reclaim our understanding of a gift, and it is cruciform. Christian, you have received the perfect gift (the Father), by the perfect purchaser (the crucifixion of the Son), by means of the perfect giver (the Holy Spirit). We are the utterly undeserving recipients who can in no way reciprocate. The wonder of the incarnational gift of God is that we are cornered and left with only one possible response - joyous praise and worship.

Gospel means good news, and here it is: The utterly unworthy and undeserving have received the perfect gift, God, from God, for the glory of God. Once you understand and believe that, then your own giving will be freed from slavery to social duty and pride, and your receiving will be freed from guilt and inadequacy. Doesn't that sound like more fun than the treadmill of the exchange?
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (Romans 3:23-25 ESV)