Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Doctor on the Test of a Preacher

“There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. That is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Tilted Tree

There is a tree in my front yard half of which has been eaten from the inside out by termites. The tree leans to one side because of this and at least one half of its roots are no longer able to soak up nourishment from the ground. This deadness will never be recovered, the tree will always lean, and will always be partly dead. But the tree still grows, spreads, and provides shade. Death and life are often inseparably joined on this side of things - and yet life prevails.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


C.S. Lewis once said to an old friend...

"During my afternoon "meditations,"—which I at least attempt quite regularly now—I have found out ludicrous and terrible things about my own character. Sitting by, watching the rising thoughts to break their necks as they pop up, one learns to know the sort of thoughts that do come.

And, will you believe it, one out of every three is the thought of self-admiration: when everything else fails, having had its neck broken, up comes the thought "what an admirable fellow I am to have broken their necks!" I catch myself posturing before the mirror, so to speak, all day long. I pretend I am carefully thinking out what to say to the next pupil (for his good, of course) and then suddenly realize I am really thinking how frightfully clever I'm going to be and how he will admire me...

And then when you force yourself to stop it, you admire yourself for doing that. It is like fighting the hydra... There seems to be no end to it. Depth under depths of self-love and self-admiration."

I was driving in the car today and this thought fell on me like Thor's hammer - I am more evil than I ever dared think, and yet loved greater than even my grandest dreams could put forth. I am loved with an affection so penetrating that it would plunge through the cold hard grip of the grave and with unspeakable power bring a man out of its grasp so teeming with life that death itself would be deemed forever defeated.

Grace abounds.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Learning to Love and Self Death

"I will do these things inside your love
However fragile is how broken it becomes
If I don't tell you how I'm feeling it's because
I'm still learning, but I will learn to love

Thanks Ryan Adams (again). I thought when I got into this that the gratification would be immediate, permanent, and complete. It was what I was "passionate" about. We talk about that so much, "follow your passions" they say, "don't give up on your dreams." But now well into it, having pursued my passions I have found much pain. What I didn't know was that following my "heart" wasn't really that at all - it was ego-gratification. All of it was to pump fulfillment and meaning into my ever inflating self. God is a relentless teacher, and profoundly interested in deflating and ultimately killing of my self. Dang.

I have found myself dying quite often these days, and death is quite painful. I am just glad Jesus didn't say "if any man would come after me he must take up his pen and paper." That would have been a lot less painful. Turn out the cross is brutal and I feel the weight of it every day. It is only now that a new thought begins to emerge - perhaps the pain isn't God's absence, but perhaps its the pain of a lesson perfectly taught. I am starting to realize that I am not to do what I do for the gratification it brings but rather because it is the will of God (not the hyper-spiritualized voodoo-esque will of God, but the clear-cut black and white, written will of God). So to learn to do His will, to really love, I must first learn that love isn't about self-indulgence. The best way for me to learn that is to love without gratification, to serve without joy, to give without pleasure. I do this because it is right, not because it feels good. Then perhaps one day, in the words of Rilke, "I will live my way into the answer." Once my soul is sufficiently trained in this, is completely convinced that "there is only love," and once my ego is shrunk enough, then there will be joy, oh there will be joy. But not yet, I'm not ready yet because - "I'm still learning, but I will learn to love."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Seven Stanzas at Easter ~ John Updike

Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell's dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That--pierced--died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Redemptive Community and Homosexuality

I found this article incredibly insightful, a great challenge to the Christian church, and a breath of fresh air to those in our congregations whose experience of Christianity is as a stifling coffin which the church has constructed for their souls.

Can the church rise to the challenge and be a redemptive community that mediates the love of God to those whose cross to bear is heavier than our own?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Does God Get Disappointed?

Here's a quote from Obama on disappointment and motivation:

"I'm not a shouter. I find that what was always effective with me as a kid, and Michelle and I find it effective with our kids, is just making people feel really guilty. Like 'Boy, I am disappointed in you. I expected so much more.' And I think people generally want to do the right thing, and if you're clear to them about what that right thing is, and if they see you doing the right thing, then that gives you some leverage. Hollering at people isn't usually that effective. Now, there are exceptions. There are times where guilt doesn't work, and then you have to use fear."

Does God motivate us with guilt and disappointment? Disappointment generally has a lot to do with failed expectations. Do we fail to meet God's expectations? Are commandments and expectations the same thing, because obviously we fail to obey his commands? Disappointment in our culture is viewed as a positive thing (as exemplified by our President), but is it really a creative force that enables people to fulfill their purpose?

I've had this conversation with a number of people lately and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Something to Ponder About Our Economy

This quote caught me off guard today, it was a part of a larger article that I tended to disagree with not because of the facts, but rather because of what to do about the facts. But never-the-less the reality is stunning and the question comes to us, "has the American economic juggernaut finally exhuasted itself?" I am not sure the answer is to give away free money, but when people are working more and more for less and less money we will inevitably end up in the crisis that we find ourselves in.

"The bursting of the housing bubble caused the current crisis, but the underlying problem began much earlier -- in the late 1970s, when median U.S. incomes began to stall. Because wages got hit then by the double-whammy of global competition and new technologies, the typical American family was able to maintain its living standard only if women went into the workforce in larger numbers, and later, only if everyone worked longer hours.

When even these coping mechanisms were exhausted, families went into debt -- a strategy that was viable as long as home values continued to rise. But when the housing bubble burst, families were no longer able to easily refinance and take out home-equity loans. The result: Americans no longer have the money to keep consuming. When you consider that consumers make up 70 percent of the economy, the magnitude of the problem becomes apparent.

What happened to the money? According to researchers Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, since the late 1970s, a greater and greater share of national income has gone to people at the top of the earnings ladder. As late as 1976, the richest 1 percent of the country took home about 9 percent of the total national income. By 2006, they were pocketing more than 20 percent. But the rich don't spend as much of their income as the middle class and the poor do -- after all, being rich means that you already have most of what you need. That's why the concentration of income at the top can lead to a big shortfall in overall demand and send the economy into a tailspin. (It's not coincidental that 1928 was the last time that the top 1 percent took home more than 20 percent of the nation's income.)"

The question I pose to you is, "how do we ethically and responsibly create an economy that tends away from the concentration of wealth in the top eschelons of society, without creating an excessively powerful or cumbersome government to enforce those standards?"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Having Our Needs Met By the Lord of Glory

The eucharist is a proclamation of salvation in which we consume Christ who truly meets our needs while simultaneously proclaiming Him Lord. The goods and services in our market saturated society function as a false eucharist which has the embedded proclamtion that we consume to meet our needs while we remain Lord.

There is a delightful article in this month's Christianity Today by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson titled "Jesus Is Not a Brand." I encourage your to read it. Here's a couple of my favorite quotes:

"But the choice for Christ is not arbitrary. If a disgruntled Chevy man switches to Ford, Chevy loses and Ford gains; if we desert Christ in favor of another god, he is not diminished. Brand superiority is in the mind of the consumer, but Christ's divinity and worth are his own, regardless of what we think of him. He does not need our bumper stickers or T-shirts. These tell the world far more about who we are and what we like than they do about him."

"Because niche segmentation enables marketers to target their messages to narrower audiences, it is reflected in our advertising. Moreover, it has allowed us to live lives that are increasingly tailor-made to our personal preferences. We live in neighborhoods of single-family homes populated by people like us, go to church with people like us, consume media targeted at people like us, and shop with people like us. All of this makes us more reluctant to inhabit a world with people who are not like us."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Nights at Home

When I was younger and single there was nothing to be avoided more than a night at home. Not because my family was unbearable or because home was a bad place but rather because there was so much in me that wanted out - opportunity meant freedom. There was so much that could happen, so many little adventures to go on. One time we started at Viejas and ended up in TJ. Another time I ended up riding a train in the snow. There were some great nights at Cafe Bassam (which I just discovered is now in Hillcrest and not downtown). The guys at Churchill's fast became acquainted with us as our crew swelled from 3 or 4 thirsty 22 year olds to a mess of youthful vigor and foolishness. Yup, I spent a lot of nights out, and I loved it for what it was.

But when I laid my head down to sleep I was all alone.

Now I usually get home from work and don't leave until the next morning. But what blessed hours those are. I open the door and sometimes Manoah runs to me and gives me a hug then grabs my hand and leads me on a journey he has traced and retraced a number of times that day with mommy. Sometimes I open the door and Manoah barely notices because his attention is captivated by the dirt he is meticulously transferring from one pile to the other. Anjuli is always glad to see me, I think, partly I am sure because I can relieve her of some of her parental duties. But I believe also because she genuinely misses me... I know this because nearly every day she tells me that she wants me to stay home from work to hang out. I also know this because every day she tells me that she loves me.

I don't go out much at all anymore. But when I lay my head down to sleep my heart is full and my cup it overflows.