Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent Reflection on Mary (for Protestants)

Click here for a .pdf article by Ruth Haley Barton of the Transforming Center on "The Courage to Say Yes."

I found it really encouraging.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Preparation, Waiting and Wonder

My Advent reflections have focused on three major themes:

1) Preparation - John the Baptizer's message of a cleansing baptism for the repentance of sins speaks to my need to make preparations for the coming Christ. Painful valleys to be lifted up and mountains of pride to be leveled, all by grace.

2) Waiting - Here the testimony of Mary in Luke 1:38, "Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (ESV), speaks to my need to wait with pregnant patience, for the coming Christ. The image of the Christ child developing in Mary's womb also speaks to my need to have Christ formed in me day by day.

3) Wonder - I have been imagining what it would be like to physically look upon the baby Jesus, knowing that this is the God who created all and holds it all together with his powerful word. What wonder is this?! That the great God of the universe would come to us in a stable and say in effect, "I entrust myself to you. Will you care for me?" What an approachable God! He enters our history in utter weakness and poverty so that, among other things, we would not be afraid of him.

May my heart not draw back this Christmas, but press in towards this kind of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

O, Come let us adore Him.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Showing Kindness to Those I Disagree With

Convicting thought from John Newton's "On Controversy":

“If you account [your opponent] a believer, though greatly mistaken in the subject of debate between you, the words of David to Joab concerning Absalom are very applicable: ‘Deal gently with him for my sake.’ The Lord loves him and bears with him; therefore you must not despise him, or treat him harshly. The Lord bears with you likewise, and expects that you should show tenderness to others, from a sense of the much forgiveness you need yourself. In a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts; and though you may find it necessary to oppose his errors, view him personally as a kindred soul, with whom you are to be happy in Christ forever.”

How Christmas and Easter interconnect

“The whole life of Christ was a continual Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr… His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.”

John Donne, opening his Christmas sermon (Dec 25, 1626).

Monday, December 07, 2009

Advent thought from Henri Nouwen

"A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him . . ." (Isa.11:1-2)

These words from last night's liturgy have stayed with me during the day. Our salvation comes from something small, tender, and vulnerable, something hardly noticeable. God, who is the Creator of the Universe, comes to us in smallness, weakness, and hiddenness.

I find this a hopeful message. Somehow, I keep expecting loud and impressive events to convince me and others of God's saving power; but over and over again I am reminded that spectacles, power plays, and big events are the ways of the world. Our temptation is to be distracted by them and made blind to the "shoot that shall sprout from the stump."

When I have no eyes for the small signs of God's presence - the smile of a baby, the carefree play of children, the words of encouragement and gestures of love offered by friends - I will always remain tempted to despair.

The small child of Bethlehem, the unknown young man of Nazareth, the rejected preacher, the naked man on the cross, he asks for my full attention. The work of our salvation takes place in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us with its claims and promises. But the promise is hidden in the shoot that sprouts from the stump, a shoot that hardly anyone notices.

(An excerpt from iGracias! by Henri J.M. Nouwen)

Thursday, December 03, 2009


I'm hoping I'll have time to post some short devotionals regarding the journey through the Advent season. This is my first week of readings, and I am being greatly encouraged by the Spirit in the Word. This Advent (lit., "coming") seems unique for me in terms of intentional preparation and devotion. We always do readings as a family, but this year seems to be touched by special measures of grace, at least for me personally.

Advent is useful in the hands of the Spirit to cleanse our hearts from idols, to debase pride and shower grace upon our wounds - all for the purpose of making room for the Word made flesh to take up deeper more familiar residence in us. By the work of the Word and Spirit, the Word made flesh becomes enfleshed in us. Advent is a special opportunity to take that year-long truth and more deeply apply it.

Jesus, make your home in me. Remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of our deepening communion and intimacy. Forgive and crucify my pride, lust and selfishness; clothe me in the new self that only you can give; fill me with resurrection life, with the fresh life giving water of the Spirit that never stops flowing.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gospel for the Broken

Rod Rosenbladt on Ligonier's blog has an interesting article on why many people leave the church, becoming the "sad alumni." It's partially due to the fact that there is a law-grace-law teaching that consistently discourages them by pointing to their failures as evidence of their lack of maturity which is shameful. Rosenbladt points out that the true gospel takes a very different view on our failures. We will walk into heaven as failures - not as mature, perfect disciples, but failures whose only claim to God's presence will be the perfection of Jesus.

Here is his conclusion:

But is the blood of Christ enough -- all by itself -- to save a still-sinful-Christian? Or isn't it? Is what Luther said about the Christian being simul justus et peccator biblical or not? Can Christ's righteousness imputed save a still-sinful Christian? And can it save him all by itself? Or not? I think the way we answer this question determines whether we have anything at all to say to the "sad alumni" of Christianity.

Has the Law done its killing work on these "sad ones?" Boy, has it ever. They need more of the Law like they need a hole in the head. For them, the gospel often got lost in a whole bunch of "Christian-life preaching." And it "did them in." So they left. And down deep there is a sadness in such people that defies description.

C.F.W. Walther said that as soon as the Law has done its crushing work, the gospel is to be instantly preached or said to such a man or woman. What the "sad alumni" need to hear (perhaps for the first time) is that Christian failures are going to walk into heaven, be welcomed into heaven, leap into heaven like a calf leaping out of its stall, laughing and laughing as if it's all too good to be true. It isn't just that we failures will get in. It's that we will get in like that. "You mean it was just Jesus' death for me, that's why I'm here?" But, of course. That's the point isn't it? As a believer in Jesus you won't be condemned! No believer in Jesus will be. Not a single one!

Holy Darkness

I heard this song this morning on my Pandora station. It's sung by John Michael Talbot and it's called "Holy Darkness." Click here to listen.

Here are the lyrics:
Holy Darkness

by Dan Schutte
Holy darkness, blessed night,
heaven's answer hidden from our sight.
As we await you, O God of silence,
we embrace your holy night.

1. I have tried you in fires of affliction;
I have taught your soul to grieve.
In the barren soil of your loneliness,
there I will plant my seed.

2. I have taught you the price of compassion;
you have stood before the grave.
Though my love can seem
like a raging storm,
this is the love that saves.

3. Were you there
when I raised up the mountains?
Can you guide the morning star?
Does the hawk take flight
when you give command?
Why do you doubt my pow'r?

4. In your deepest hour of darkness
I will give you wealth untold.
When the silence stills your spirit,
will my riches fill your soul.

5. As the watchman waits for morning,
and the bride awaits her groom,
so we wait to hear your footsteps
as we rest beneath your moon.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Traditional Church?

I'm feeling without hope these last few months in the idea of church being anything more than an organizational structure that assaults true intimacy and honest relationships. My experience of church is that it is a perfectionistic machine that must be maintained OR ELSE. It should be a family where everyone has a place, and where the vision that guides it is big enough for multiple levels of process.

Those who are broken always end up paying the highest price of this kind of church, as they easily fall through the cracks (more like gaping holes) or are encouraged to try harder to keep up. If they can't keep up, too bad, they need to find someplace (a more manageable machine).

I have hope in Jesus, but I don't know about the church.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Gift of Limits

Peter Scazzero talks about the gift of limits in his excellent book, The Emotionally Healthy Church. Basically his message is that we need to see the circumstances of our lives as God-given limits to be embraced, not chafed against. I've been meditating on this in the past few days because I really need to gain this perspective by faith. I resist and push against the limits God has place on my life.

I was reminded of David and how he embraced his limits with God in Psalm 16:5-6 -

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance (ESV)

For David, the image of God granting plots of "promised" land to different families and tribes in Israel provides him with an exquisite metaphor through which to understand his life and soul. The contours of his life have been lovingly determined by God, and he embraces these limits in faith as pure gift. Reading through Hosea, I am reminded that those who pushed against their limits by moving their boundary stones in Israel were worthy of judgment (Hosea 5:10).

David also says that the Lord is his inheritance, which calls to mind what God said to the Levites in Numbers 18:20, which says that the Levites won't have a portion of land because the Lord Himself will be their inheritance. To David, his circumstances are sweet because they are the gift of God, but God Himself is sweeter.

To put all this together, embracing the gift of providential limits on my life frees me from being bound and defined by those limits, and, more importantly, frees me to experientially know God as my "chosen portion and my cup." For He is our Promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey and rest. This is evident in the bookends to this Psalm, verse 2 and 16:

I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you." (v.2)

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (v.16)

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Father-Son Mentoring: A Letter to my Son

I wrote this for my son Samuel (11.04.09) who just turned 11 regarding whether or not he should continue into Boy Scouts, and the bigger issue of the journey to becoming a man.

John Eldredge (Way of the Wild Heart) tells the story of visiting an island on a cayak trip where there was a meadow/bog where Grizzlies would come regularly to feed. Their guide led them to the centuries old path the great bears had taken through the meadow. There were large lumbering footprints well-worn in the path. He said that the cubs literally step in the pawprints of the older bears to make sure they stay on the path. Eldredge saw this as a profound illustration of the path needed for boys to find their way to becoming men.

When we went to visit the Boy Scout troop the other night I was praying that it would become clear to us whether or not this was the right path for you to go, for the decision would impact your path to manhood.

Boy Scouts is indeed one way to become a man. There would be much value in continuing in Scouts, but I believe, also much danger. Let me explain. Boy Scouts is structured in such a way to develop boys into men by developing their skills in life and self-confidence. These skills are definitely important, but only one part of the picture. The gospel message of Jesus is all about finding grace, forgiveness, strength and power in our weakness and our inability to find our way through life on our own. In the gospel God does what we could never do for ourselves – pay for our sins and reveal himself to us.

Do you see the tension? If you become the type of man who thinks he knows how to handle every situation in life, you will likely think you have no more need for God. This is one of the most dangerous places to be in, one that the Bible calls being “lost.” Plus, continuing in Scouts would mean me, in some sense, stepping back and letting you find your own way and that is something I cannot do. I had many scout-like experiences when I was your age (backpacking, fishing, camping, etc.) but I would trade it all in in a second to have had a daddy that stayed with me to show me how to be a man!

You are heading into the years where it is very important for you to prove yourself in the face of challenges. I believe that there is a way to develop skills in the face of challenges that is in the context of a relationship of faith in God. It means doing what we can but realizing that all that we learn and do can never substitute for God’s presence in our lives. We will never be good enough or strong enough to be loved and forgiven – we must have Jesus. No amount of achievements or activities will ever be enough to fill your heart – that space is reserved for God. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) and Paul said that he can “do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). To become a real man begins and ends with knowing Jesus, not with developing skills. According to the Bible, real manhood and maturity have to do with knowing God and his will and living with Him at the center of your life (Proverbs 1:1-7).

God is calling me to mentor you toward becoming a man. I don’t think Scouts would allow me the opportunities to do this, so we will develop something together that is different and better. What is a mentor? It is someone who has experience, wisdom and skill that passes on what they know and who they are to someone less experienced. Many people can do this, but God has especially designed it for fathers and sons. Fathers used to “apprentice” their sons in their trade, or job: the sons would live and work with their fathers side-by-side and in doing so learn to be men. A mentor can say like Paul, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

There will be some structure to this mentoring, but the main point is you being by my side while we live life together in God’s presence. You will have greater responsibilities, but greater privileges too!

I see four elements of the structure, and every element will have a component of conversation where you have a voice in deciding how that element will look.

  1. Fun! Doing fun things like going to see a dollar movie together, riding go-karts, playing mini-golf, going out to dinner, taking short trips, etc.
  2. Teaching and instruction - about life, God, girls, money, relationships, Bible study, etc. This could also involve conversations with professionals you would want to learn from (filmmaker, inventor, policeman, etc.)
  3. Service – Learning the value of serving together. We could help Mommy around the house, clean up trash around the co-op, clean up someone’s yard, serve the homeless, etc.
  4. Outdoors – spending time together in God’s creation. Going on hikes, nature walks, exploring caves, going fishing, going to a gun range, having bonfires, etc.

I love you, Sam, and I want God’s best for your life. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, confused, and afraid by all this then it might help you to know that I am too! I’ve never done anything like this before, or even heard of it being done. God is calling me to grow in new ways too through this journey. I look forward to traveling it together.


  1. Physical maturity – eating healthy, exercising; devoting our bodies to God
  2. Spiritual maturity – Bible study, prayer; knowing God
  3. Emotional maturity – developing skill in handling emotions; bringing our emotions to God
  4. Relational maturity – learning to communicate (speak and listen) your heart to others and to care for others’ hearts; learning to relate our heart to God’s.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Transparent Lives

Here is a link to an article by Eugene Peterson, originally published in First Things in 2003. One can see that many of his seed thoughts are here that grew into fruition in his magnum opus series on Spiritual Theology beginning with Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

The word from this article that has captured me is "congruence." Congruence, Peterson comments, is at the heart of living a contemplative life, a gospel life, a Jesus life. There is congruence between what we say and do, who we are, what we do and the way we do it. We are authentic, transparent, when we are on the Jesus way.

Here's a sampling:

The words of Jesus that keep this in focus are "I am the way, the truth and the life"(John14:6). Only when we do the Jesus truth in the Jesus way do we get the Jesus life. But this isn’t easy. It is easier to talk about what Christians believe, the truth of the gospel formulated in creeds and doctrines. We have accumulated a magnificent roster of eloquent and learned theologians who have taught us to think carefully and well about the revelation of God In Christ through the Holy Spirit. It is easier to talk about what Christians do, life as performance, the behavior appropriate to followers of Jesus codified in moral commandments and formulated in vision statements and mission strategies. We never lack for teachers and preachers and parents who instruct us in the mores and manners of the kingdom of God. None of us here are likely to pretend perfection in these matters, but most of us are pretty well agreed on what’s involved.

But what counts on my agenda right now is the Christian life as lived, lived in this sense of congruence between who Christ is and who I am – being in Chicago right now at this busy heavily trafficked intersection of the kingdom of God, Christ playing in my limbs and my eyes.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Union with Christ

Reflect on this portion from:
—Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Christian Focus, 2009), pp. 166–167.

I tell you from Christ,
and under the hand of the Spirit,
that your person is accepted,
your sins are done away,
and you shall be saved;
and if an angel from heaven should tell you otherwise,
let him be accursed.

Therefore, you may (without doubt) conclude
that you are a happy man;
for by means of this your matching with Christ,
you are become one with him,
and one in him,
you ‘dwell in him, and he in you’ (1 John 4:13).

He is ‘your well beloved, and you are his’ (S. of S. 2:16).

So that the marriage union betwixt Christ and you
is more than a bare notion or apprehension of your mind;
for it is a
spiritual, and
real union:
it is an union betwixt the nature of Christ,
God and man,
and you;
it is a knitting and closing,
not only of your apprehension with a Saviour,
but also of your soul with a Saviour.

Whence it must needs follow that you cannot be condemned,
except Christ be condemned with you;
neither can Christ be saved,
except you be saved with him.

And as by means of corporeal marriage all things become common betwixt man and wife;
even so, by means of this spiritual marriage,
all things become common betwixt Christ and you;
for when Christ hath married his spouse unto himself,
he passeth over all his estate unto her;
so that whatsoever Christ is or hath,
you may boldly challenge as your own.

‘He is made unto you, of God,
and redemption’ (1 Cor. 1:30).

And surely,
by virtue of this near union it is,
that as Christ is called ‘the Lord our righteousness’ (Jer. 23:6),
even so is the church called, ‘the Lord our righteousness’ (33:16).

I tell you,
you may,
by virtue of this union,
boldly take upon yourself,
as your own,
Christ’s watching,
and slanders;
his tears,
his sweat,
his blood,
and all that ever he did
and suffered
in the space of three and thirty years,
with his
and ascension;
for they are all yours.

And as Christ passes over all his estate unto his spouse,
so does he require that she should pass over all unto him.
you being now married unto Christ,
you must give all that you have of your own unto him;
and truly you have nothing of your own
but sin,
and, therefore, you must give him that.

I beseech you, then,
say unto Christ with bold confidence,
I give unto thee, my dear husband,
my unbelief,
my mistrust,
my pride,
my arrogancy,
my ambition,
my wrath,
and anger,
my envy,
my covetousness,
my evil thoughts,
and desires;
I make one bundle of these and all my other offences,
and give them unto thee.

And thus was Christ made ‘sin for us, that knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him’ (2 Cor. 5:21).

‘Now then,’
says Luther,
‘let us compare these things together,
and we shall find inestimable treasure.

Christ is full of
and saving health;
and the soul is freight-full of all
and damnation;
but let faith come betwixt these two,
and it shall come to pass,
that Christ shall be laden with
and hell;
and unto the soul shall be imputed
and salvation.

Who then is able to value the royalty of this marriage accordingly?

Who is able to comprehend the glorious riches of his grace,
where this rich and righteous husband,
doth take unto wife this poor and wicked harlot,
redeeming her from all devils,
and garnishing her with all his own jewels?

So that you,
through the assuredness of your faith in Christ, your husband,
are delivered from all sins,
made safe from death,
guarded from hell,
and endowed with the
everlasting righteousness,
and saving health
of this your husband Christ.’”

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Monday, October 26, 2009

The Test for True Christianity

J.I. Packer offers these beautiful words:

You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator.

In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father.

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.

If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.

For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up I the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God.

Evangelical Magazine 7, pp. 19-20, cited in Knowing God, p. 201. Packer says on p. 202:

Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Some Thoughts on a "Theology of the City"

I have been hearing a lot of preaching and teaching on the role of the church in "seeking the peace and welfare of the city." It has become a major distortion of the mission of the church, in my opinion, especially in those who consider themselves "young, restless and reformed."

What generally happens is that the OT is used to support the direction and mission of the church in ways that cannot be sustained by the NT, which has more direct relevance to this question.

A favorite text to support this is Jeremiah 29. It is said that we, like Israel in exile, are to seek the welfare (peace, renewal, etc.) of our cities. Not that there is anything wrong, in themselves, of such ideas, but they should never be taught and practiced as the primary mission of the church. Israel was a theocratic society, whose role in culture and the world don't automatically translate to the church.

Bottom line: without understanding the biblical/theological purposes behind Israel's exile, there will be misunderstandings & misapplications galore. For example, the fact that they are there for 70 years is decided by God as the period of punishment/exile justified by their continual neglect of Sabbath years (2 Chr 36:20-21), and in just a few chapters later (Jeremiah 50-51) God speaks a harsh prophecy of judgment against Babylon.

Two of the primary questions that the Israelites were agonizing over during and after the exile was:
  1. what has happened to the promises to Abraham? God had promised land, descendants and relationship to Abraham and his descendants. Israel's ejection from the promised land seems to threaten these promises (esp. promise of land).
  2. Further, what has happened to the promises to David? God promised David a son to reign perpetually over Israel. The exile of David's descendants put these promises in jeopardy.
To be sure, Israel's exile put these promises at great risk. But all the post-exilic writings were written to address these questions in some form (e.g., why Chronicles is different than Samuel-Kings; it's working to answer these questions), to remind Israel of God's faithfulness despite their exile, to teach them to let go of their idols once and for all (there is good evidence to think that after Israel's exile they never struggled with national idolatry again), etc.

Also, Psalm 137 is written from the perspective of an exile who definitely does not pray for Babylon's peace, but rather prays for its destruction:

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock! (v.8-9 ESV)

If our view of Israel's exile cannot reconcile the reality of faithful Israel's prayers for its peace and its destruction, then we have a faulty view. It was for Israel's sake that God said to "pray for the peace of the city," not for the cities' sake. It was to keep the promises to Abraham and David alive.

But, all these arguments to address the problem do it without bringing in one of the strongest arguments: the NT knows nothing of this kind of theology. Cities are useful hubs to spread the gospel to the surrounding areas, not God's "preferred method of culture building." That idea can only be supported with presuppositions from theocracy (specifically a city, Jerusalem, from which God rules his people).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Music for the Broken

My wife and I have come to love the music and lyrics of Jill Phillips. We have the album "Nobody's Got it All Together" (2006) and are wanting to get more. Here are a couple of songs I love from that album:

Nobody's Got It All Together

Working hard to tie up the loose ends
So hard to decide who you let in
Put your best foot forward with a grin

I can see the fear behind your eyes
Wondering if someone will recognize
You’ve grown tired of keeping up the lies

Don’t whitewash the truth about yourself ‘cause
Nobody’s got it all together
If you want to be like everyone else well
Nobody’s got it all together

I have seen the darkness of my heart
And found a love that taught me its too hard
To walk through life and not let down my guard

What good is it to say please savior come
If there is nothing you need rescue from
Life is something no one has a corner on

Don’t whitewash the truth about yourself ‘cause
Nobody’s got it all together
If you want to be like everyone else well
Nobody’s got it all together

When the parts that are self righteous
Start to disappear
Every other life is
Just another mirror
And life is way too short to run and hide

Don’t whitewash the truth about yourself ‘cause
Nobody’s got it all together
If you want to be like everyone else well
Nobody’s got it all together

Square Peg

Like a square peg in a round hole
I can’t seem to fit their mold
And make my way past the entrance
I have had my turn to play
But never understood their game
And much less how someone wins it

Always looking in
Never seem to fit
But you’ve been there before
Do you have a place
For losers in this race
Cause I can’t run it anymore

It is said that the rain will fall
Equally upon us all
And there is no rhyme or reason
Still I find myself surprised
When it seems like its my time
To walk in that rainy season

Always looking in
Never seem to fit
But you’ve been there before
Do you have a place
For losers in this race
Cause I can’t run it anymore

Nothing has turned out as planned
And all I have left is to throw up my hands
You never led me the safe way
And this time’s no different
I’ll walk it again, again

Like a square peg in a round hole
I will never fit that mold
So why even try
Why even try
Always looking in
Never seem to fit
But you’ve been there before
Do you have a place
For losers in this race
Cause I can’t run it anymore

Resentful Envy

I took Samuel to Cub Scouts last night, and I had a conversation with one of the leaders that rattled me. He was describing some of the "struggles" in finding a house for his family for around $200,000. As I let him talk, I grew in resentment and anger - not toward him, but toward God and the providential limits (financial, relational, to name a couple) he has placed on us.

I took a walk after I got home from Scouts, and felt furious. I vented my anger toward God, and I sensed his care and attentive listening. Slowly his acceptance began to melt my hard heart. I realized a "hypothetical" choice was before me: would I rather have a deeper understanding and experience of God or have a successful career, material goodies and popularity? Not that I can make a choice like that, but it shook me to think I would choose (heartily!) the successful life in that moment. I began to realize how foolish such a choice would be, and how such a choice would ruin me and break the heart of God.

This morning I was reading in Allender & Longman's book The Cry of the Soul, and my reflections were confirmed as I began to read their chapter on "resentful envy/jealousy." They pointed to Psalm 73, which I took the rest of my morning time meditating on. Particularly verses 21-26:

  When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
  I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
  You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
  Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
  My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I want to want God more than anything else, and his mercy is bringing me closer to that reality. I don't really have a choice about what limits his providence determines for me; the choice I have is whether or not I will, within those limits, know and love God.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

John Owen on Beholding Christ

I don't read much Puritans anymore, as it tends too much towards a perfectionism to which I cannot relate or find strength in. But I found this quote from John Owen encouraging:

It is by beholding the glory of Christ by faith that we are spiritually edified and built up in this world, for as we behold his glory, the life and power of faith grow stronger and stronger. It is by faith that we grow to love Christ. So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them by diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith. In this duty I desire to live and to die. On Christ’s glory I would fix all my thoughts and desires, and the more I see of the glory of Christ, the more the painted beauties of this world will wither in my eyes and I will be more and more crucified to this world. It will become to me like something dead and putrid, impossible for me to enjoy.

The Glory of Christ (1684)

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The Lie Behind Pornography

Last night in Recovery group a brother posed a great question, "Assuming that behind every sin there is a lie, what is the lie behind the sin of pornography?"

As we discussed it, I realized that the lie behind pornography (at least in my experience) is the lie of control in the realm of manufacturing counterfeit intimacy. The lie is that I refuse to accept (or wait for) the love of God to satisfy my deepest soul, so I create my own experience of intimacy. Further, I accept the lie about myself in thinking that such an encounter can truly satisfy my heart, and that I am unworthy of any real love, and thus I must accept this as my best option ("no one will ever really love the real me; this counterfeit is all I have"). There is also the lie about the goodness of God that doesn't think it worth waiting for or seeking after.

So it is a lie (or better, a complex set of lies) about God and myself.

I should also note that there is also a wound behind the sin, the wounded heart that did not receive sufficient love from others (esp. in childhood, e.g., parental love) to gain a solid sense of self.

For God to bring freedom from pornography, his love must heal our wounded hearts and his truth must confront the lies we believe about him and about ourselves, and we with deepening patterns of repentance and faith, embrace our new identities in Christ.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Things

I heard a preacher comment on this passage from Proverbs 30:7-9 (ESV):

Two things I ask of you;
deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

The biblical author here is asking for no more than provision for daily needs since he is so aware of how easily his heart can turn against God with both too much and too little. It was a profound reminder to me today, as I was agonizing over the fact that I can't afford to put anything into any kind of retirement plan. Our needs are always met, but we are kept at such a level of minimum provision that I'm always questioning God's care and my worth (of course bringing in the sin of comparison here).

I was also made aware, as I reflected further, that I often pray the opposite: "God, grant me more because I don't trust you." I don't pray these words, of course, that would be too honest. I pray it with my actions, with my worry, anxiety and stress.

Side note: the preacher who brought this text to my attention is fairly well known and I'm sure well compensated; I thought it was a bit hypocritical to challenge his hearers to pray this prayer knowing that by no means would he give up his 401K and book and speaking perks for the sake of this prayer (I'm assuming of course).

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luke 15

Taking our recovery group class through a guided meditation of Luke 15 tonight using The Message:

 1-3By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, "He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends." Their grumbling triggered this story.

 4-7"Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, 'Celebrate with me! I've found my lost sheep!' Count on it—there's more joy in heaven over one sinner's rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

The Story of the Lost Coin
8-10"Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won't she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she'll call her friends and neighbors: 'Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!' Count on it—that's the kind of party God's angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God."
The Story of the Lost Son
 11-12Then he said, "There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, 'Father, I want right now what's coming to me.'

 12-16"So the father divided the property between them. It wasn't long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had. After he had gone through all his money, there was a bad famine all through that country and he began to hurt. He signed on with a citizen there who assigned him to his fields to slop the pigs. He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.

 17-20"That brought him to his senses. He said, 'All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.' He got right up and went home to his father.

 20-21"When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: 'Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your son ever again.'

 22-24"But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and roast it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My son is here—given up for dead and now alive! Given up for lost and now found!' And they began to have a wonderful time.

 25-27"All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day's work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, 'Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.'

 28-30"The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't listen. The son said, 'Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!'

 31-32"His father said, 'Son, you don't understand. You're with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours—but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he's alive! He was lost, and he's found!'"

two of my favorite resources on this:

Henri Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

Kenneth Bailey resources page on the Prodigal story; he is a Bible scholar with intimate familiarity with the Middle Eastern culture and provides amazing insight into the text.

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Spirit of "Phariseeism"

My friend and mentor, Eric Johnson, has some thoughts on sanctification that I've been meditating on in recent weeks (as far as I know, unpublished paper on Baptist sanctification):

"Were Christians thoroughly grounded in justification, there would be no defensiveness/hurt/anger when their sins/limitations are exposed (perhaps through criticism). This is because when one would confront such a person about some inconsistency (sinful or otherwise), they would be knowingly grounded in a perfect goodness established in Christ through justification. (Such a deep grounding will only fully happen in heaven.) Therefore, there are only two possibilities regarding the alleged inconsistency: 1) the accuser is wrong and the accused does not have the inconsistency (so there’s no need to be hurt/angry, etc.), or even better: 2) the accuser is right, but since the inconsistency is already taken care of in Christ and the accused is already perfect in Christ, the identification of the inconsistency can be received as a pure gift from God, to help the believer release that pattern that is inconsistent with their justification (thus furthering their sanctification).
Sanctification Alert: emotions of hurt/anger/anxiety in response to criticism are nonetheless very good! Because they signal to Christians their unknown (unconscious) self-deception regarding the independent establishment of their perfect goodness. To grow in grace Christians must develop and maintain an openness to these emotions regarding such matters. These emotions are the best signs of a remaining “spirit of Phariseeism.”

I'm trying to apply this to an at-times-crippling sense of failure as a parent, husband and father. I often feel immobilized by the overwhelming shame of my failure. When looked at objectively, it is rarely anything big. It is usually an awareness of my limitations, my inabilities, my failings, especially when comparing myself to others (I know, I know, foolish!). I am trying to learn to bring this entire dark cycle to Jesus, accept my failures/limitations and weaknesses as real, but not defining. They can be opportunities for the power of God's grace to be displayed (2 Cor 12).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stop Being a Pleaser

I have been looking for this quote from Henri Nouwen for a while, after a friend brought it to my attention a few months ago when I desperately needed encouragement. It's entitled, "Stop Being a Pleaser," and it's from his book of journal reflections: The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom, p.5):

You have to let your father and father figures go. You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying to make them proud of you.

For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these
self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.
This feels like blessed fatherly wisdom for my soul right now. I am coming out of a month of deep depression where specific events and people completely dominated how I saw myself, and the message was clear: I am rejected.

I am fighting and clawing my way out of it, by God's grace. Reminders of my identity can be the most violent acts in the realm of my soul.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beautiful Word

Moses prophesied over the tribe of Benjamin saying:

       "Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him,
       for he shields him all day long,
       and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders." (Deut 33:12 NIV)

I have been living far too much of my days estranged from God, as a practical orphan and atheist. In this text I find my home, between the shoulders of God: in his lap and over his heart. All this because of Jesus.

I can rest secure in the Lord, for all day long he is my shield and fortress. Why do I hide from him??

Friday, September 18, 2009

Foundational Truths of My Life With God

I came across this again as I was preparing for our "Recovery Group" at church. I was teaching on the practice of the presence of God, and remembered this gem.

  1. God is always present and active in my life, whether or not I see him.
  2. Coming to recognize and experience God's presence is learned behavior; I can cultivate it.
  3. My task is to meet God in this moment.
  4. I am always tempted to live "outside" this moment. When I do that, I lose my sense of God's presence.
  5. Sometimes God seems far away for reasons I do not understand. Those moments, too, are opportunities to learn.
  6. Whenever I fail, I can always start again right away.
  7. No one knows the full extent to which a human being can experience God's presence.
  8. My desire for God ebbs and flows, but his desire for me is constant.
  9. Every thought carries a "spiritual charge" that moves me a little closer to or a little farther from God.
  10. Every aspect of my life - work, relationships, hobbies, errands - is of immense and genuine interest to God.
  11. My path to experiencing God's presence will not look quite like anyone else's.
  12. Straining and trying too hard do not help.
Review these truths once a day for two weeks as you cultivate the practice of God's presence.

[from John Ortberg, God is Closer Than You Think, p. 27]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Long?

Psalm 13 (NLT)
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
      How long will you look the other way?
 2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
      with sorrow in my heart every day?

      How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

 3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
      Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
      Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

 5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
      I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
 6 I will sing to the Lord
      because he is good to me.

Living in verse 2, would like to be in verse 5-6.

Elect Exiles

After my poor teaching performance last night in our Recovery group (a new effort in my church to reach out to the brokenhearted among us - it's pretty exciting!) I need some strong grace reminders of who I am, and that who I am in Jesus is not touched by my performance.

I came across these verses this morning in my reading guide:

1 Peter 1:1-2, "To those who are elect exiles . . . according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood . . . " (ESV).

I too am an elect exile, chosen by God yet in a world not my home. My chosenness should be enough to help me make it home without having my identity in Christ shipwrecked. An elect exile is a chosen and cherished ragamuffin.

Other descriptors from this text that arm me for identity:
  • God the Father knows me and chooses me before anything was made; He lovingly, savingly knows me before I could do anything good or bad; I am Beloved and becoming Beloved.
  • God the Spirit sanctifies me, sets me apart for Him, in a lost and lonely world; I am holy and becoming holy.
  • God the Son calls me to obedience and sprinkles me with his healing blood for every disobedience. I am an apprentice to Jesus, learning to live life as he did: truly human, filled with God.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Had another retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani this past weekend (my last one was at the end of July this year). It was a short one (Fri night to Sat night), and was largely overshadowed by an incident that happened at work on Friday that I couldn't shake. I was able to work on it though, as well as get some writing done.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

God's Grace Best Displayed in Human Weakness

[Blog post published on the Society for Christian Psychology website 9/5/09]

2 Cor. 12:7-9, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (ESV).

Paul had been blessed with spectacular revelations of God. These blessings could have become the foundation of his ministry. He could have held crusades throughout Asia Minor, purporting to share his awesome revelations with anyone who would listen (and pay) to hear them. To undermine prideful conceit in Paul, God sent another blessing, which Paul didn’t recognize as blessing at first sight, second sight or even third sight. It was, as Eugene Peterson paraphrases in The Message, “the gift of a handicap.” This gift was weakness, specifically a “thorn in the flesh,” which could have been one or a combination of the following:

1) Paul’s inner psychological struggles, such as sorrow over Israel’s unbelief, painful regret over his past persecution, of the church, etc.
2) Paul’s persecutors who continued to malign him.
3) A recurring, potentially debilitating physical ailment, such as issues with his eyesight, headaches, malaria, etc.
4) Some other form of demonic harassment.

The fact that Paul calls it his “thorn in the flesh” speaks most likely to some version of #3, though it is easy to see how the others could also be involved as well. Regarding what these “weaknesses” are in our lives, John Piper comments that “They are circumstances and situations and experiences and wounds that make us look weak; things we would probably get rid of if we had the human strength” (sermon dated July 14, 1991).

Whatever it was, it caused Paul a great deal of discomfort and torment. There was urgency to his requests to have it removed. Paul pleaded three times for the Lord to take this thorn away. He desperately wanted deliverance, and he knew only God could grant it. But God had something better in mind for Paul and for us. God’s answer to Paul’s prayer challenged his desires to be sure. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (v.9). God’s unmerited favor and unfailing love are sufficient for Paul to live the Christian life and to minister in Jesus’ name. It is the same for us.

God’s response to Paul is his response to our weaknesses too – his grace, his unmerited favor, his unconditional love, is enough, sufficient for us in the midst of weakness. God’s goodness, greatness and glory are best displayed against the backdrop of human weakness. This implies that the removal of weakness, albeit the “messenger of Satan,” would somehow detract from God’s glory, the display of his power. In fact, God’s power becomes enfleshed in our weakness - 2 Cor. 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (ESV). Indeed, 1 and 2 Corinthians are full of references to weakness being God’s way in the world, as opposed to the ways of beauty and worldly power (1 Cor. 1:25,27; 2:3,5; 15:43; 2 Cor. 12:9; 13:3,4,9).

We should further note that there could have been significant periods of time between Paul’s three requests, maybe days, weeks or years. There could also have been a significant period of time that Paul mulled over God’s response, taking it into the depths of his soul through meditative prayer until it became his genuine response to it as well. We are not told what the process looked like, but we are told that Paul concluded that his ministry, or rather, God’s ministry through him, was not to be based on displays of human strength, power, or having-it-all-together, but on human weakness. His boast was to be in his weaknesses because when he is weak he is strong in Christ.

There is no evidence that Paul ever received the answer to his original prayer. All evidence suggests that he continued to carry this thorn for the rest of his life. But the thorn had been transformed from a curse into a blessing by the word of God’s love. Many of our weaknesses and wounds are first received as a curse; they are painful reminders of the lies we have believed about our identity and serve to torment us of the same. But when brought to the Lord, and kept under the message of his sufficient grace, they can become messengers of truth, light and love, not only to us but to those around us.

Frodo Baggins received a fatal wound from the Witch-King on Weathertop in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Although he was healed by the efforts of Gandalf and Elrond, the wound remained throughout the rest of his life in Middle Earth. It was no longer fatal, but served to remind him of an earlier, darker time when Hobbits were subject to attacks from creatures of darkness. Our wounds, our weaknesses also will likely remain with us throughout this life. What never happened for Frodo in his life can happen for us in the gospel. Our wounds can become the very basis of blessing for us and for others. What purpose our weaknesses and wounds serve for us and for others depends upon how much we believe and rely on the sure word of God’s sufficient grace. As C.S. Lewis wisely said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world” (The Problem of Pain. HarperCollins: New York, 2001, p. 93).

Are we listening?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Spiritual Apartheid

Re-reading Judith Hougen's book Transformed Into Fire, and came across this idea this morning. The phrase is taken from William Shannon's book Silence on Fire, and it is "the mentality that sets God apart from creation" (quoting Shannon). Hougen adds, "Spiritual apartheid is the belief that God is more present and active in certain times and places than in others. We shut God out of our consciousness during those moments that we label as nonspiritual, which constitute the majority of our day" (p.188).

Her point is that we think of "sacred times" when God is present and active and "secular times" when he is not. Thus, we relegate whatever is mundane, earthy and boring to the "secular" and miss God. Since each moment is truly God-saturated and there is in reality no separation, what makes the "sacred" times different from the "secular" ones? "The difference," she says, "is our openness to his presence and our willingness to walk in awareness of God" (p.188-9).

I'm trying to fight the tendency today to settle for a workday devoid of God. I'm going to try to see each moment as sacrament, and to practice the presence of God.

Soul Bifurcation

Healing deep soul wounds and fragmentation comes from spending time in the healing presence of Jesus. The gospel makes this possible.

Going backward from this truth, we can see how damaging it is to form a defensive posture that bifurcates the soul to protect one's wounds. This usually happens automatically in us when we are young and need to survive early wounding, but we do it as adults too. We deem it dangerous to let our hearts "hang out there" and pull back from relationality and retreat into an enclave of functionality. We develop false selves of functionality that we can put forth to the world to earn acceptance, as our relational souls wither from the self-protective coffin we've created.

God calls us back to relationality, to come before Him and others and be healed in community, where our functionalities fall away as devices to define ourselves, and we embrace our identity as God's beloved. Over a lifetime, God "restores our souls" - he puts back together what has been separated and alienated, puts us right with him in Jesus, where we learn to become what we are in him.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sabbath Keeping

After my last retreat at the Abbey at Gethsemani at the end of July, I felt led by the Lord to begin establishing Sabbath keeping each week for our family. For the last three weeks, we have attempted to "keep Sabbath" from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday. We have had mixed success, but generally the weekends have felt a little more purposeful. We seemed to find a key ingredient with this past Sunday, as we ventured out of our normal Sunday routine for a hike in Jefferson Memorial Forest. Even though the hike was tiring (labeled "moderate" on the map and definitely a challenge in places, especially for the kids - it took us almost two hours to go 2 miles), we came back feeling refreshed in spirit having been in God's creation wilderness.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Community starts with the Trinity and extends out through our broken lives into the lives of others, with winsome power for loving change.

(all NIV)
1 Corinthians 1:8-9, "He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful."

2 Corinthians 13:14, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."

Philippians 2:1-2, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."

Philippians 3:10-11, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."

1 John 1:3, 6-7, "We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

"If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

I have been trying to meditate on these texts since a negative church experience on Sunday left me reeling and in doubt that "community" will ever happen. Particularly the ones from 1 John 1. I felt the Lord calling me first to Himself, before I give myself to others (always the healthy way to do it). My hope is kindled again. If I can remember that community and fellowship don't depend on how I'm perceived, how well I'm loving others or being loved, but on God's promises in Jesus, my new identity as His beloved, then I can stay hopeful despite messy community experiences.

a hope and a calling?

Very often it seems these days I am overwhelmed with sadness as I look at what used to be my "calling," (my gifted purpose in the world and in the church) which now sits in rubble. I felt strongly called to teach theology, church history and Bible with a pastoral emphasis. That all came crashing down with my soul's apparent collapse in 2002-2003. Since then I've been trying to pick up the pieces, trying desperately to make sense of it all, to see some sort of plan that would make sense of my inner anguish.

Now all I have is phantom feelings, like an amputee who has lost a limb but whose brain still registers occasional sensation. I am haunted by these phantoms as I look as I look at my library collecting dust, hear of "pastor's schools" going on, try to have fellowship with others, etc. I still feel strong desires for leading others, but no internal energy to see it come to fruition; desire to exegete and proclaim Scripture, a desire to read good theology and history, a desire to help people see God's glory in Jesus, etc.

I sometimes doubt that there will ever be that sense of calling again within me - where "my deepest desires and the world's great need meet." I doubt that synergy will happen, where my gifts and passions will find their home in me and in the church.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some Thoughts on "The Shack"

This interview with William Young, the author of "The Shack," was pointed out to me by a friend recently.

The Shack has been one of the most life-changing books I've ever read. But it seems that almost everyone from my confessional camp (reformed baptist evangelical) only sees heresy. I admit the book pushes the boundaries of the doctrines of the Fatherhood of God and the Trinity. In my opinion, he stays within biblical boundaries as he imaginatively crafts a view of God that shakes our traditional religious formulations. For example, he maintains the Fatherhood of God while imaging him in a way that beautifully accommodates Himself to our pain.

In this interview, however, Young denies the penal substitution view of the atonement of Christ, which teaches that Jesus was punished by the Father for our sins (in our place). This saddens me, because Young so eagerly champions the intimate relationship with the Father that this atonement yields.

I wish he could see that it doesn't have to be one OR the other. That God is indeed Love, and he butchered his own son for me to prove it. This understanding of the atonement is not the end or goal though, which is the mistake many of those in my confessional camp fall into (e.g., Al Mohler, Mark Driscoll as examples). It is like they get the sacrifices perfect at the entrance of the temple, but never dwell in the holiest place just communing with God who is Love above all else.

We need both truths to really live as human before God:
1) God is HOLY Love, who judged our sins in Christ, and
2) God is holy LOVE, who did it all just to be with us and have us with Him.

If I had to choose which of these two is ultimate and which is secondary, I would say #2 is ultimate because it is the goal or end of #1.

Ultimately, my concern is for those like myself who are hurting and need healing, who have been burned by "traditional church," and a "fundamentalist Jesus." Is the emerging church and liberal church the only option for people like us? For those of us convinced of evangelical truth, who want to ground everything on Scripture to the glory of God, where do we take our pain when our leaders shut us out?

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Grieving pain has been a common theme of late in my life. A pattern has emerged of heightened emotional misery, leading me to release it in desperation and grief. I usually own something of my past that haunts me and release it to God, listening to his healing words.