Thursday, December 27, 2007

On Constant Conjunction and Trust

I was driving to work today (sometimes the most vivid insights come in the most commonplace of tasks) and I was struck most vividly with this thought - there is a staggering difference between what David Hume called "constant conjuction" and what God calls trust.

David Hume is the great Scottish naturalist philosopher who, by some accounts, undermined the whole foundation for a rational belief in the supernatural. Hume argued, quite persuasively, that there is nothing that actually holds the world together; for Him God was irrelevant and unnecessary. He colorfully recounts how there is no "reason" why the sun must rise tomorrow, we only assume it does because it has every other day of ours and others existence. The sentiment of the reliability of natures gives man a sense of security by which he can conduct the normal affairs of life, and without which he would most certainly plunge into utter despair. Man needs this sentiment and yet this sentiment is not based on reason. If man were to encounter the cosmos as Hume saw it, it would be a cosmos that furnished no hope for him of progress, growth, development, success. Those things may or may not happen, but there is no reason that they must. In this view reality is utterly out of the grasp of man's control, a control he so desperately needs so as to maintain a positive and healthy outlook on life. The sequencing of life in a manner that creates this situation Hume called "constant conjuction." If there is no rational, or Divine Mind to hold all things together, or if that Mind is hostile to man, then all man has is constant conjunction and its daughter sentiment, security.

It struck me that, because of constant conjuction, I do not need trust. The apparent constancy of life furnishes me with sufficient emotional gusto to believe that I can make life work on my own terms. But then thoughts come to me, "what if tragedy were to strike, and you were to lose your wife, son, or another close relation?" There is nothing I can do about that, and that thought then begins to plunge me deep into the reality of how out of reach it is to control my life. There is no reason why tragedy should not strike me; I work in a place where tragedy is part and parcel of the lives I work with, tragedy is no respecter of persons (rich/poor, strong/weak, wise/foolish). Yet, in my case, I trust in the constancy of life for my own personal well-being. But secretly in my heart I know how tenuous this position is, and I am afraid to confront a reality that I cannot control, and that no mere sentiment of mine will stand up to the overwhelming force of my true position. This position of mine, though happy in this moment, is based almost entirely on the security I have derived from the predictability of life. The sun rose yesterday, it will rise tomorrow. I rose with my wife this morning, I will rise with her tomorrow. But will I? Is there some metaphysical reason why I must?

So I peer into this dark reality and wonder is there hope? Is it as Hume says, simply constant conjunction? How would I rise in the morning if I knew this were to be true, and if that were all?

The whole of my life I have cultivated this trust in the constancy of life, it is the habit of my heart. That is partially why tragedy is so frightening, because it opens me deeply to the overwhelming insecurity that resides at my core. There is nothing secure about my life here. You name the reality, and I will name why it is not secure. But who can live with such fear, a fear that would strip a man of all his powers and cause him to curl in the corner like a fetus exposed to the elements?

I think the existentialists called this concept "dread."

Some would tell me to trust God. I hear that, but so often as a platitude, a mere defense from feeling this truth. It doesn't help me to think of it in the way I know many think of it. There is no reason in me that compels God to maintain the constancy that now marks my life. No goodness in me, no intelligence, no wisdom, no dignity that would force his hand. God gives, and God takes away. So don't give me the platitude "just trust God." I cannot trust him for that.

I think this is why many cannot trust God, will not trust God. Because of the double-edged sword of constant conjuction and in their view an unreliable God. It is easier to trust that life will continue to go as it has, and so we resist and defend against pain and tragedy because this only takes us deeper into dread. It's easier to write God off us untrustworthy, because, all know that they cannot trust God to act on their behalf for some reason in themselves. The self-righteous may have this thought, that God is obligated somehow to me, but is only a thin defense from feeling the truth in their hearts... that God is in no way obligated.

So trust resides in the constancy of circumstances. That is why the wealthy always appear happier, their circumstances appear secure. The more "secure" a persons circumstances the happier they will be. But even the most "secure" is radically insecure.

What then can you trust God to do, if he will not act on the behalf of your temporal happiness?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

On Preparing to Meet With God

I am wanting to let those close to me in.

I am leaving for three weeks to be alone with God. Just me and Him (and an hour a day with a sage named Bryan).

No distractions except the fragments of my own heart. No noise except the ceasless hum of white noise that plagues my post-modern mind.

I anticipate discovering how little of me there is to attend to Christ in me. I anticipate discovering how much of me attends to the many things that are my life. And this means I anticipate discovering and entering into the anxiety that lurks around the corner of all my joys.

To be centered on Christ, to know as Paul that "it is no longer I who live but Christ living in me," that is the end toward which I am moving. Yet I know there is much of me that is still living, still much of me and little of Him, still much of me that needs to be slaughtered, mortified, upon the cross which I carry today. He must increase, and I must decrease.

This journey will mean going to the primordial roots of my chaotic existence. How did I become the "I" that I am? What are those forces which have shaped me and now drive me to be the man that all of you know, the man that much of me still is yet to be known by myself. Like David I must discover that "surely I was sinful from birth." I must discover that at my core there is an anti-god who is seeking to establish his rule in my inner cosmos... or is it chaos? This is the me who "cannot submit to the law of God." The self that prefers the praise of men to the love of God, because I can earn the praise of men, but the love of God is belittling. It tells me that I have nothing to offer, that I stand with prostitutes, and strung out crack whores before God. It tells me that the whole of creation had to be undone in the Son of God on a tree, so as to save a chief like me. The systematic theologians call this original sin, I call it misery.

It will mean plunging through the layers of un-feeling and cracking the walls of existential distance between the words I am now writing and my calloused heart.

I have always wanted to be a part of a great story; we all have. That's why I love Tolkien, he wakes me up to a desire to be a little bit Aragorn, a little bit Gandalf, Frodo, Gimli, and Legolas. Oh yes, and a little bit Sam-wise. But I also must sit under Tolkiens rebuke to say to myself that the most of me that is in that story is in the "eye wreathed in flames."

I must see that I was a "child of wrath" that has been redeemed. I must find myself in that Great Story, that I am brothers and companions with Noah and Abraham, Samuel and Elijah, Isaiah and Daniel, Peter and Paul; but also with Tamar, Rahab, Manasseh, and Judah. I must learn that I too play second fiddle to the Master, for he alone is the true Virtuoso. That the ladder of heaven descends and ascends on my world, because my world is their world and my God is their God.

These are all thoughts I have on the heels of my departure. I invite you to go with me in spirit, to be my friends and family who have your ear attuned to the movement of God, and would pray on my behalf that God would make himself known, and that I would be known truly. As Augustine said in his Soliloquies "'I desire to know nothing more than God and the soul.' 'Nothing at all?' 'Nothing whatsoever.'" And that I would return to the life and story I find myself in prepared to "not love my life unto death." Solo Dei Gloria!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Asked The Lord That I Might Grow by John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

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

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Spirituality of the Not-Yet

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together…
And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the
Firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait…
The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings
Too deep for words.”
~Romans 8:22,23, 26~

There is a piercing kind of pain that only those who belong to Christ know; it is an agony that is sharp as a sword “dividing soul and spirit.” It might perhaps be called anxiety if anxiety could be a godly disposition; it is the anxiety of the adopted sons of God who are temporally separated from their loving Father. His love is not always immediately present to the soul, nor is His manifest presence always experienced as pleasure (see Isaiah 6). Saint Paul said it was a groaning, the deepest sort of hunger longing to be satisfied. Only the saints know this hunger because only the saints have been given a hunger for God. It is a pang that the saint gradually comes to realize will not be satisfied even by the most ecstatic of earthly experiences. George Ladd, the evangelical theologian, brought into common parlance the term “already but not yet” in referring to the kingdom as described in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. If his articulation of this tension is accurate (which I believe it is), then this theological notion has profound implications regarding Christian spirituality. The saint then will experience, and often in a penetrating, not-of-this-world sort of way, the not-yet.
Throughout the history of the church this groaning has been expressed in a number of ways. Many have looked to the Beatitudes as Jesus’ faithful articulation of this tension. Perhaps what is most jolting about the Beatitudes is that the blessedness of the mourning, the meek, the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers, is a blessedness that will be but is not yet. The will be carves out vast caverns of longing, expectation, and hunger with the promise of being filled… but not yet. It is a hunger for the transcendent joy that is in Tolkien’s words “beyond the walls of the world.” This appetite is articulated by Kierkegaard and is immensely helpful, “that is what my soul longs after [the deeper significance of Christianity], as the African desert thirsts for water. That is what I lack, and that is why I am left standing like a man who has rented a house and gathered all the furniture and household things together, but has not yet found the beloved with whom to share the joys and sorrows of his life.” We can also see more popular expressions of this in U2’s famous song off of Joshua Tree;

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still runnin.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

We are not without those among us who have felt this, for it is the experience of all true saints who groan for their adoptions as sons.
There must be some clarification at this point; first the spirituality of the not-yet is often painful and no amount of cleverness, distraction, or denial can alleviate the pain. The temptation is often, when the darkness of this experience comes, to “figure it out,” or to watch television, or work harder, or just flat out deny the experience. Although at times, down right agonizing, the not-yet is a gift from God. He gives it to His beloved children to so that they would know that there is an appetite in their soul that cannot be filled by anything on the created order; this means that it is preparatory for love. The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. This gift prepares the saint to love God in that manner, to fulfill a command it could not without divine enablement. Though the pains are agonizing, they inform the soul of its need for the Living God and urge it to move toward Him in love.
Second the spirituality of the not yet is deeply mysterious. This is incredibly important, yet simultaneously incredibly difficult to understand. There are two distinctions that need to be made; first the mysteriousness signifies a hiddeness, and second the mysteriousness signifies a special kind of gift. The hiddeness of this spirituality is that the pains cannot be adequately expressed in words. This means that often the saints experience will be unknown to many, save for those who understand it themselves and who say nothing of it, save a knowing gaze (think here of Frodo and Sam after they have destroyed the ring of power, none know the pains they have experienced and those pains cannot be faithfully expressed to the others in the fellowship). The mysteriousness of the not-yet is also a gift, because it is a special language between the soul and God. Just as Sam could not fully comprehend Frodo’s burden, so we also cannot fully comprehend each others. It is a secret and hidden hunger that only God and the soul know and no others are privy to this language, for even if it were to be expressed it would not be understood. God knows the longings of the soul because He gave them to the soul in the beginning.
A few closing exhortations as to how to live in light of the not-yet. It is best, and most difficult, to open to the groanings of the heart. Giving oneself to prayer by opening the heart to God in the midst of the emptiness is the only place to turn. The hunger is for God, so go to God… though perhaps you will not experience the hunger joyfully, they are hunger pains after all. Second, I will let C.S. Lewis, speaking through the demon Uncle Screwtape, instruct us on where to go, as he so often does:
“Sooner or later he withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs – to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish…He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away his hand… Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our enemy’s [God] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
Let us then live in the light of the not-yet and long for the will be.

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Do You Kill A Dead Man... Or Overcoming the War on Terror

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death - that is the devil - and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14-15
It struck me some time ago, though now I am just beginning to write about it, that the community of Jesus Christ is truly the only people who can win the War on Terror. We must ponder first the nature of the War, and especially the oddity of the phrase War on Terror. It is strange that we don't say The War on Terrorists or The War on Al Qaida or something of the like, but rather we are waging a war on terror itself it seems... at least according to this phrasing. If we were to be honest, the War on Terror if we wished to be consistent would be a total war, for to wage war on terror is to engage in a conflict that is trans-national, inter-continental, and global (or any other way you would like to say total). This war would mean discovering not only a way to liberate humanity from the scourge of terrorists, but liberate humanity from terror itself. In observing it in this manner, we would also discover that the War on Terror would be a war that must discover a means to rid terror from the human heart.
If we understand the War on Terror in terms of the human heart, it would mean not only removing the object of fear (such as terrorists, or natural disasters, or murderers, etc...) but discovering and somehow eliminating the subjective heart of fear. What is the internal reasoning or rationale for fear (read - terror)? Is there something intrinsically terrifying about suicide bombers, or is there something the suicide bomber knows intrinsically (albeit unconsciously) about the human heart that gives him power, that merits him the title of terrorist? Is there an inherent terror that resides in the human heart, that lies dormant until provoked by danger or threat? Is the response of terror to the terrorist inordinate, i.e. is the terror greater than the threat?
The proud American heart pacified (or perhaps tranquilized) by its creature comforts has lived without a sense of dread, but when that dread is awakened, it also seems to awaken great wrath. Dread is a dreadful thing to live with, and we would prefer to sleep in a slumber of tranquility, though perhaps it is an ignorant tranquility or a naivete. This wrath moves quickly against the objects of fear (as does any creature that is afraid), but I fear moves blindly. The American people have not stopped to ask the question, why am I afraid to die? What truly is being threatened by these terrorists? It seems to me that what is manifestly true is that a way of life is being threatened (no controversy here). But why are we so terrified of losing that way of life? I believe that to lose that way of life causes us to confront our most basic reality, a reality described by Jean-Paul Sartre in which we are "rejected, abandoned by our very nature in an indifferent, hostile, and stubborn world." We would prefer to remain in our slumber of luxury, than be woken up the nightmare that our lives truly are.
The Scriptures put this reality of a hostile world in these terms, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men (Romans 1:18)." To be awoken to the nightmare that heaven is against us in our wickedness, that our basic existential disposition is toward a cosmos that is continually telling us that it is hostile to us. Sartre did not need the Scriptures to tell him this, all he had to do was to observe the world and his own experience to discover this truth. Humankind, whether we articulate it or not, is absolutely petrified of the wrath of God as revealed to their conscious experience of the cosmos. We will build whole cultures so as not to experience the cosmos as against us. Our American culture is perhaps the most successful in human history at creating a way of life that enables man to evade this most basic reality. Yet we cannot evade it completely, we are not impervious. The terrorists, although wicked and evil, are messengers, harbingers of doom. They bear witness to what in our worst nightmares is true, all that is is against me... omnipotently against me. And that is the heart of terror.
Terror is not the end of the story. Terrorists have already lost the war. Terror is no longer terrifying... to those who have already died. The dead fear nothing for they have lost everything. There is no way of life to protect, no possessions to secure, no community to defend, for all has been lost. Terror is the experience of the living, but not the dead. The dead have faced the wrath of God. To be clear, there are two types of dead. There are the dead who ever die but ever wish for death (see Keirkegaard's The Sickness Unto Death), and there are the dead who died and now live. It is the latter whom have overcome and are victorious, the former are the defeated. The dead who died and now live are not zombies, they are the resurrected, the living ones... the holy ones... the saints. The zombies are the dead who ever die yet ever wish for death, they are the sons of disobedience, the sons of wrath.
The saints who have died and yet live, these overcomers, these who are more than conquerers are those who will overcome the terrorists. The community of holy ones who have lost all things for the sake of Jesus Christ, who have been buried with Christ, are those for whom there is nothing to fear. For just as they were buried with Christ, they will be raised with Him (see Romans 6). For these there is no longer any fear of death, there is no fear for who can bring a charge against God's elect... If God is for us who can be against us? The wrath of God being revealed from heaven was propitiated by the eternal Son of God on the cross. The cosmos is no longer against those who have died with Christ. For these to live is Christ and to die is gain.
What threat can a terrorist bring against those whose way of life has already been lost? What fear can Al Qaida provoke if those it seeks to kill welcome death as gain? These holy ones have robbed the terrorists of their greatest weapon... terror. These saints are called to send wave after wave of souls to devour the bombs of fear and death with their eternal life. The indestructible life of Jesus Christ is the possession of his saints, this life will swallow up death, and thus the saying will come true "O Death where is your victory? O Death where is your sting?" These saints have not loved their lives, even unto death, and thus have both inherited the crown of life and have triumphed in the War on Terror. The War on Terror was overcome by Jesus Christ on the cross and His victory has become the victory of the saints. Terror is no more.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Francis Schaeffer on Hospitality

"Don't start with a big program. Don't suddenly think you can add to your church budget and begin. Start personally and start in your home. I dare you. I dare you in the name of Jesus Christ. Do what I am going to suggest. Begin by opening your home for community…
How many times in the past year have you risked having a drunk vomit on your carpeted floor? How in the world, then, can you talk about compassion and about community - about the church's job in the inner city?

L'Abri is costly. If you think what God has done here is easy, you don't understand. It's a costly business to have a sense of community. L'Abri cannot be explained merely by the clear doctrine that is preached; it cannot be explained by the fact that God has here been giving intellectual answers to intellectual questions. I think those two things are important, but L'Abri cannot be explained if you remove the third. And that is there has been some community here. And it has been costly.

In about the first three years of L'Abri all our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Indeed once a whole curtain almost burned up from somebody smoking in our living room. Blacks came to our table. Orientals came to our table. Everybody came to our table. It couldn't happen any other way. Drugs came to our place. People vomited in our rooms, in the rooms of Chalet Les Melezes which was our home, and now in the rest of the chalets of L'Abri.

How many times has this happened to you? You see, you don't need a big program. You don't have to convince your session or board. All you have to do is open your home and begin. And there is no place in God's world where there are no people who will come and share a home as long as it is a real home."

Credits to Schaeffer for his obvious and convicting insight... Credits to for posting this quote originally.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Loneliness is the silent death,
It creeps up on you
While you're unaware.
Tip-toes up your spine,
It's a dangerous drug
Twisting thoughts,
sinking like a lump in the throat.
It washes out vitality,
Emptying your heart,
All along unsuspecting.
Working, toiling, spinning,
You move throughout you're day
Til you lay your head on your pillow.
Yet it does not give way;
You have no substance,
Your only form is decay,
But a shadow in the silent death.

The Anti-Christ

On the brink of madness
Further and further I sink.
My mind is stirring,
Brewing and boiling.
It begins to melt
No; it evaporates
Vapor vanishing
Now I run...
And yet He chases.

I shall strike
My hammer to that spike.
I will flee that talisman,
Break free of His curse;
To the deep dark void,
Yes, to the night!

My life's the maiden
Wrought with iron.
Fists are bloody,
Eyes crimson red,
I rage!

He shall be slain
And I will reign.
I must rise,
He must fall.

I twist my lie,
Contort the truth,
I'm insane...
He is dead.

Finally rest, finally sleep,
Then He awoke,
Then He rose,
Now I am slain!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Reflections on Softball and Self-Centeredness

Tonight I saw myself. Tonight my true self was to revealed to me by the Spirit of God... at a softball game. I arrived at a playoff game for a community league, where without my knowledge I was required to have some form of picture identification. I had lost my wallet a few days before (here perhaps could be another meditation on providence), and thus had no picture ID on my person. For this reason they would not let me play (apparently cheating by having better players come and pretend to be another less skilled player is quite common in a community league... strange). So I had to drive all the way home to get my passport just to play.

As I was driving home I felt the anger and outrage surge within my core. It is the overwhelming kind of anger in which you mentally project all kinds of way to vindicate this obvious injustice, you try to fantasize about ways in which you will exact revenge on the sixty year old grandma for not budging on a stupid rule for a community softball game. I mean seriously... what the hell? I imagined myself throwing my passport at her, concoted all sorts of parables to express this outrage such as comparing this softball game to an airport during a level orange terror alert. Of course the inevitable happened too, as I was driving home I got stuck at seemingly every light and every single person who was not in a rush was placed providentially in front of me. Oh the outrage... Oh the injustice...

Yet, ever so quietly the Spirit began to work upon me. I began to think that something about how I felt was inordinate and excessive. So the Spirit, doing His job, turned me to Christ and convicted me of the outrageous sin that was in my heart. I asked Jesus to reveal to me the truth, to show me my heart. And here's what I saw; a young man so unbelievably wrapped up in himself that he feels as if he has been done a grave injustice by being forced to get an ID. I felt a deep sense of anger and outrage at a very small thing. And yet Christ showed me in a moment images of the many serious and grievous true injustices that happen in the world each day, and those injustices do not even raise an ounce of outrage or anger.

It turned out in this case that justice was unbelievably and ashamedly self-centered. I, in my heart, was the judge, jury, and executioner. I felt so wronged by this sweet old grandma, by these moseying drivers, by the stop lights because they were impeding my project, my plans... and that to me felt powerfully like injustice. I was amazed, in feeling this, at how often these kinds of experiences happen; an inconvenient red light, an unforseen interruption, an inoportune phone call, a mindless driver who pulls in front of me, all provoke in me a deep frustration and anger.

God showed me in just one moment, at one of the red lights I was waiting at, "this is my sign to you that the world does not revolve around you, look at the light, it is about others, not just you." I was amazed at all the Lord was showing me, and then I began to feel pride surge within me. "Look how insightful of a person I am... look how spiritual... look how knowledgeable about the matters of the heart he is." Absolutely staggering, I was experiencing what Jeremiah spoke of in his prophecies that the "heart is decietful above all things." My heart is a labyrynth of wickedness, every new turn bringing another besetting sin.

As I was arriving back at the softball game this final thought struck me, I was going to recieve salvation. I am going to inherit the new heavens and the new earth and dwell with God himself forever. A heart so turned in on itself, so often unmoved by God's great promises was going to recieve a gift so magnificent that words fall short of describing it. And all I could see in this moment was that it was for a heart like mine that Jesus suffered, was punished, and perished. I deserved the worst chambers of hell for me insiduous pride and overwhelminly blind ignorance of what justice really was. Yet God is going to show me "grace upon grace" in Jesus Christ. This is grace abounding to the chief of sinners.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thomas Merton on the Spiritual Life

Although I cannot wholly endorse Merton or all of his writings, I can learn from one who quite beautifully wrote of life in Christ. His prose is both simple and stunning, and in my opinion says quite a bit more than many of our contemporary authors on matters of the heart. Although in my heart I am quite devoted to reformed theology, there is something in this Catholic monk that draws me in and calls me to the lived reality of life in Christ and not just theological astuteness. I came across this quote today as I was going back over Merton's No Man Is An Island, I hope it opens you as it did me.

"Now anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity. It is the fruit of unanswered questions. But questions cannot go unanswered unless they first be asked. And there is a far worse anxiety, a far worse insecurity, which comes from being afraid to ask the right questions - because they might turn out to have no answer. One of the moral diseases we communicate to one another in society comes from huddling together in the pale light of an insufficient answer to a question we are afraid to ask.
But there are other diseases also. There is laziness that pretends to dignify itself by the name of despair, and that teaches us to ignore both the question and the answer. And there is the despair which dresses itself up as science or philosophy and amuses itself with clever answers to clever questions - none of which have anything to do with the problems of life."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Joshua Harris?

I had never been a fan of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and sinfully had dismissed Joshua Harris. Reading this article on evangelism, community, and the ever burgeoning young cynics who have written off the local church, has led me to repent of my dismissal and open up deeply to what God has to say through this young pastor.

Bill Watterson, Keith Green, and The Crucified Christ

Imagine the crucified Christ, bloody, bleeding, bruised, and broken looking down on an observer at Golgotha. Imagine that observer wearing a "HESAVES" t-shirt that is intentionally designed to look an awful lot like the "HERSHEY'S" logo, with the cutely emblazoned words beneath "taste and see that the Lord is good." I have a hard time reconciling those to images; especially since there is a well-intentioned but unwittingly satanic mockery happening by one who claims to be a follower of the crucified and risen Christ. The unfathomable agony and inestimable cost of being forsaken by the Father of Glory has, before the very face of Jesus, reduced to offensive and trivial sloganeering. Satan is ever at work to reduce the worth and the work of the eternal Son of God, it was his defeat, and though his head was crushed, his tail still sweeps to and fro to demean, mock, and destroy the most precious and prized message that the world will ever hear. I read today a modern parable of one man's (Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame) unwillingness to compromise his message by dabbling with his medium, and saw it as a great witness to the Christian community regarding their message and its the only medium it belongs in. There was a quote from Keith Green in there that was stunning:
"It pains me to see the beautiful truths of Scripture being plastered about like beer advertisements. Many think it is wise to “get the word out” in this way but, believe that we are really just inoculating the world with bits and pieces of truth - giving them their “gospel shots.” (And we’re making it hard for them to “catch” the real thing!) People become numb to the truth when we splash our gaudy sayings in their eyes at every opportunity. Do you really think this is “opening them up to the Gospel”? Or is it really just another way for us to get smiles, waves, and approval from others in the “born-again club” out in the supermarket parking lot, who blow their horns with glee when they see your “Honk if you love Jesus!” bumper sticker?"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on Man as God's Natural Enemies

"They value one of their equals much more than God, and are ten times more afraid of offending such, than displeasing the God that made them... a morsel of meat, or a few pence of worldly gain is preferred before Him."

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


The inspectors lens surveys home
His light stings the walls
He peeks in corners and closets
It's for the good
But i can't tell the difference
Between benevolence and bad

The perceptive eyes
Are deceptively wise
The look of the law
Betrays His art
His intuition into flaw
Give way to a matchless heart

Home is barren these days
Visitors frequent neighbors now
Friends can't come over
When doors are locked
And the furnace is cold
It's obvious, but i can't see

The call was placed yesterday
He came over today
I didn't welcome Him
He didn't ask to come in
He knows
His light in all my rooms

The perceptive eyes
Are deceptively wise
The look of the law
Betrays His art
His intuition into flaw
Give way to a matchless heart

Thursday, July 12, 2007

At the Intersection of Brokenness and Beauty

I taught myself how to grow
Without any love and there was poison in the rain
I taught myself how to grow
Now I'm crooked on the outside and the insides broke
~ Ryan Adams

It begins with a limping harmonica, and you slowly are drawn in by the fragile tenor's voice wrapping around lyrics that seep in to the bones like the slow chill of morning. This fragile prophet calls to us in a whisper to remember our broken insides. In a world whole-heartedly pursuing and creating a culture that is an El Capitan sized monolithic defense against seeing our real fragility were are ever so subltely yet profoundly reminded "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."
I think we need artists like Ryan Adams. I think there is a touch of gospel in his voice. I don't know anything about his spirituality but I do know that the gospel is the great undercurrent of his musical genre and that the gospel finds its way into culture even when the church fails. I don't want to read too much into his lyrics or make him say more than he is saying, but I do believe that writers (be it authors, lyricists, journalists, etc...) sometimes do say more than they intend. Their words fit within a context. Adams words fit into the American Popular Culture context in a way that are salt and light (albeit unintentional). When you listen to most popular music, the undiscerning listener often imbibes non-reality, in the same way a person buys Budweiser because they think it will get them the hot girlfriend. There is a stream of music in popular culture that is realist in its disposition, and Adams stands in that stream. He stands at the intersection of brokenness and beauty and reminds us that there is a touch of grace to be found in entering the broke-down palace of our souls.

And maybe, just maybe we will weep in our dilapidated temple and look out its windows to find the grace that comes from without and erupts like a fountain within.

"The world is saved by blood, not Gore"

Here is a wonderful article on a very well thought out articulation of Global Warming and its relevance to faith, activism, and beauraucracy.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Benevolent Nihilism

This is a brief response to a prior post... I knew it was coming, but when it does it doesn't sit any easier. It was a little under two months ago that a maniacal gunmen dropped over thirty people at Virginia Tech with his malice and madness. Our nation was so "shocked" by this tragedy that it struggled to find ways of expressing this, and yet we have proved our own benevolent nihilism and moved in a little over two monts from broadcasting about serious and tragic stories to spending the majority our our news casts talking about Paris Hilton's recent sojourn in county jail. What the hell is wrong with us? I am absolutely stunned about this. Yet we continue to broadcast banality talking about someones life who in the grand scheme of things is pathetically insignificant, and we forget tragedy by filling our minds with empty stories that tease and tantalize the palates of our dead souls. Is anyone else bothered by this?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thoughts on Transcendent Joy

Sometimes in life there are moments of inexplicable beauty, of heart-rending joy. When these moments come a small doubt arises within the soul, “if I were to fully open up to this would I be lost for all time?” This power of this joy threatens to tear your soul in two it is so magnificent. It is a joy you feel way down deep, right there at the ground of your being and it floods the body with a rush of endorphins. It is well nigh the experience of standing atop the summit of half-dome, right there at the edge, and sensing for one brief moment that there is nothing preventing you from being completely absorbed into the transcendent heights from where you are perched, it is almost frightening how powerful this joy is. You become so absorbed in the beauty which you perceive that you fear being completely lost to it. It is a joy so completely compelling that you collapse to your knees in utter reverence for you-know-not-what. Here within the grasp of joy you forget yourself, you lose all that you are in that beauty which is beholden to you, and it is therein that you are found.
This joy is no petty porneia, no silly neon emblazoned appeal to your baser sensibilities, it is rather not of this world. It is not a voyeur’s attempt at seizing and controlling the beauty it desires, no this joy seizes you with omnipotent might and directs your heart as the winds direct the sands of the Sahara. It is no cheap print of a masterpiece, robbed of its original artistry by pop culture, but is the real thing, unfettered and staggering in its presentation of itself. It is not a flippant and wasted one-night stand, but is all the magic of the first night of marriage mixed with all the fidelity of a weather-worn fifty years.
The kind of joy which I speak is what mankind was made for. It is what the subscriber to Playboy, the auto-erotic voyeur, the pop-culture thief, and the prostitutes employer all grasp for in vain. It is not something that is far off that one needs cross a sea, or a galaxy for that matter, to find, but stares us in the eye each day and brushes against our cheek each warm evening, yet it is nearer than that. It is in us all.
The tragedy of all tragedies is that though it is alive to us, most are dead to it, and ultimately will die to it. Sometimes, as from a dark and forgotten fire, it erupts into flame in even the most deadened of souls. Its voice calls in the dark “wake up O sleeper and rise from the dead!” Its joy courses through the pavilions of the soul, only to leave the spirit of the departed groping as if it could hold on to the wind. This joy is its own master, and leaves traces of itself outside the soul, and within it. When a deadened soul is but for one brief moment illumined with its light it transcends itself, only to collapse like a dying star. These moments are for the sleeper a sign, and it points to what is beyond itself, outside of itself, and inexhaustibly good, true, and beautiful. The soul that heeds not these flickers is to be greatly pitied, and whose condemnation is just.
Yet to those who are aroused from their nightmare are carried upon it as the wings of the great eagles. It gives flight to their wearied souls, and carries them to heights ever unknown and ever longed for. It carries them to the source of light and life ere they are ever renewed and ever reborn in its beauty. This Flame Imperishable which is hidden deep in the mines of the mind of the Living One, and is that from which He made us. It is Divine and Holy Wisdom, the Word from which all life issues forth, and the Life which though it tasted death shall ever live. Give heed to Him all you who long for joy, for it is He to whom you must be lost, and it is in His transcendent joy that you shall be found.

The Boy and the Golden Coin

The kingdom of heaven is like a boy who lived in a run-down old house, in a run-down old town. He never knew of anything greater than where he lived and so had come to believe that life was generally a run-down experience. His father had left him and his mom when he was just a baby, and his mom was a waitress at the local diner. She worked a lot and he was home alone as often as she was at work. One day, beneath a creaky old floorboard he discovered a golden coin. It was dusty and all scratched up, but he could tell that on one side was some symbol and on the other was a face. He hid the coin under his bed and would look at it every night before going to sleep, he was delighted in its golden shimmer, and tried to make out the symbol on the back and the face on the front, but couldn’t understand what the symbol meant or see whose face was on the front. This coin he cherished above all things, and hid it from even his mom.
One day a good man came and knocked on the door while the boy’s mom was at work, and the boy was sitting on the floor looking at his coin. The boy hid the coin and opened the door. The boy was surprised at the man, who looked unlike any man he had seen before, people always looked sad and run-down in his town but this man’s face shone like a bright star.
The man spoke to the boy and said “I have come to find the one who has found my coin.”
The boy’s eyes darted across the room to the place where he hid his coin, then he looked to the man and said “there is no coin here.”
The man replied “perhaps not, but I seek the one who found the coin.”
The boy, overcome by his own conscience, said to the man “I was the one who found the coin, come in and I will show it to you.” Sadly the boy pulled out the coin from its hidden place and handed it to the man.
Then the man said, “young boy, I have come to seek you and not the coin.”
With an excited tremble the boy reached for the coin. Leaving his hand open for the snatch, the man looked round the run-down house, and looked at the boy whose clothes had obviously not been changed for some time. Then he said to the boy, “my child, turn the coin over and look at the face.” The boy did. “Whose face do you see?” said the man.
“I do not know” the boy whispered.
“Look closer.”
Suddenly the boys face lit up, “why its yours mister!”
With a smile the man said, “you are right my child. I left it here so that when it was found it would help the person who found it recognize me, and now you have found it and so I have a question to ask you.”
“Yes, ask anything you wish sir.”
“I ask you this child, to come and follow me, but to follow me you must leave the coin behind, or to say it again, do you wish for the coin of the King or the King of the coin?”
Immediately the boy lept up and ran to the old creaky floorboard, put the coin back, and said to the good man “I will follow you wherever you lead.”
The good man smiled at the boy, took his hand, and told him that what he had given up would be given back to him ten-thousand times more because he had chosen the King and not the Kings coin.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Baptist Preacher and a News Anchor

Murder, mass murder.
"Pastor what have you learned about people in the past 24 hours?"
"People are good"
"What about the murderer?"
"We don't know anything about him"
If you are a Christian, you of all people, should be able to say what is true about the murderer. But once again this pastor proves what Kierkegaard said, "When I look at a number of particular phenomena in the Christian life it seems to me that Christianity, instead of giving men strength -- yes, that compared to the pagans such individuals are bereft of their manhood by Christianity and are as geldings to the stallion.” We live in a day of an emasculated Christianity, it cannot maintain its own truth claims in light of the overwhelming force of popular culture. We also live in a day where in the face of horrific evil man has lost his nerve and has no capacity to understand it. Perhaps some might dare to call it "evil" but to speak of its origins or its ultimate meaning is a project that is swiftly marginalized under the weight of pop culture. It is in this respect that Nietzsche was right, God, for all practical purposes in this civilization, is dead. It seems the church at one point used to claim to "represent" God to humanity, but the Church now seems to represent man to man, and God, well we all know what happened to Him. And here's the absurd thing, two weeks from tragedy the news will be back to broadcasting banality, and popular culture will rush over tragedy like the wind does the desert sands. Ours is a silly world. We cannot accept the terms of our own implicit philosophies, for if we accepted them we would not truly be able to speak to tragedy, because if God is dead all that would be left would be the will to power. We don't even have that though, we have a sort of benevolent nihilism, that is because, in the end, we are all like Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, and our own cultural conscience is making us sick.