Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Laying Aside

Dear Journal,

Therefore, lay aside

How often it is that the things we cling to as a means of survival, are actually pulling us beneath the waves.
\
"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings"
Laying aside all “badness,” that is, all depravity, all malignity, (the one, the root. The other, the fruit.)

Yeah, I get that there’s no life there. And we have more of both than we’d like to admit.

But the rest? These really hit close to home.

And all pretentions, all comparisons… (guile, hypocrisies, envies, evil speakings)
All omissions from the truth, pretending you aren’t what you are.
All additions to the truth, pretending you are what you aren’t.
All "envies”, as though you should be what someone else is.
All slanders, as though someone else should be what you are…

In short, any living for, or looking to, anybody except Him, is a snare.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why Can’t They Think Like Me? [Maybe it isn’t an Ordination Crisis after all…]


My thoughts are divided between Africa, Africa, Africa, and my blog series on First Peter. Probably in that order. Hence the silence. But here I am. Halfway through an evangelistic effort in a dusty corner of beautiful Zimbabwe, and deeply moved.

In the west we sometimes think these people, (this continent?) primitive. Backward. Opressive. Old fashioned. I mean, mud huts? Really?

If only they were more like us… You know, valued the things we value. Paid more heed to women’s rights. Were a bit more theologically progressive. A bit more advanced. More contemporary. If only...

Come on, you’ve thought it too.

Hear me, because I’m only going to say this once.

I actually don’t think we have a point. Um... at all.

When our dying church in the west so much as shows up for anything outside of the church service;
when we sing like this over new souls saved;
when we come to church early and stay all day, eating nothing till the sun is done and gone;
when the deaconesses on duty can be recognized within seconds of stepping into the tent, not just by their presence, but the glory of their joy at serving;
when the elders take their role so seriously they are stopping what seems like constantly to join hands and pray, again;
when we have shared with enough neighbors that pratically every third hotel employee, taxi driver, and business man on downtown main street is one of us...
In short, when our lukewarm western church is operating with half of the fire common in the primitive corners of the world,
then we might have a point; a voice.

Until then, perhaps we should be examining our own hearts.

A recent report (which you’ve probably seen, so I won’t send them any more traffic) observed that the parts of the world most resistant to contemporary renderings of doctrine, and hermeneutics with a bit more cultural gloss are also the parts of the world where women are most generally repressed.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the worldwide realities of womens’ opportunites. And while I may have some personal (and professional) questions about our ability to even gather accurate statistics on the subject, this essay isn’t about spreading any such doubts.

I do, however, think that the above mentioned line of reasoning overlooks a very key fact. Namely, that the selfsame regions of the world are the only regions where both the quality, and the quantity of church membership shows explosive growth. While in all of the more progressive and “culturally sensitive” regions, church growth is slow, or in extreme cases, moving in the negative...
Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

I do not mean to make light of the tragedy of failing to cherish either the lives, or the gifts of the women in our midst. It is strange fire that inspires a man to rise by crushing others underfoot— especially when that “other” (or “others”) is the only one (ones) capable of complimenting and completing His own work and service. It happens far, far too often. And truly, some cultures seem to blatantly sweep the issues under the rug. That it happens is not only unfortunately true, but also a testimony to the selfishness and pride of a race on course to destroy itself.

But I can honestly say, that while I certainly find myself in a “backwards corner” of the world, my evangelistic site cradled in a little villiage in the backcountry (with 400+ members in attendance, along with the visitors) shows no signs of such. Men and women serve together, and though their roles are distinct, they work with a harmony I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in the States. For what it’s worth...

But all that aside. I return to my former question.

Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

Maybe the “backward” have as much to teach, as to learn...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Because Love Lasts

Dear Journal,
Sweep past all the prepositions, and you’re left with this:
Since, then, you have purified yourselves through obedience, unto brotherly love,
Love.
Because love lasts.
Because [only] love lasts.

---
This morning, a clean but sparsely furnished room on the third floor overlooking a bustling street in Harare. (Bustling even at 0100, 0200, and 0300 in the morning. Yeah. Don’t ask me how I know.)
Yesterday, Most of the day in the clouds in an Emirates A340. Sleeping. (Yeah… Again, don’t ask.)

The day before that, an all-day, all-zones pass to the world’s longest metro in my pocket, a brother with big ideas at my side, and miles on foot through unutterable opulence, at 100 degrees.
And this moment?
And all along the silky-smooth metro track suspended above the endless construction zone that is a playground for the uberwealthy? And past 7 star hotel, and out to the end of the palm, and beside blue glass reaching up towards heaven, and surrounded by the mist of a fountain synchronized with song? (Perhaps the only cool spot outdoors in all of the emirates?)
This thought:
It’s all going to go. All of it. Either a hundred dessert summers will take their toll, and the luster will fade, or, (and much more likely) the world will wrap up before the building is even finished...
Only. Love. Lasts.
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:22-25


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tremble

Dear Journal:
Is it possible to hope and tremble at once?
Or maybe they’re actually inseparable. Maybe hope is what brave souls do [anyway] when they feel the trembling. They lift their faces, and smile even in dark so deep a hand can’t be seen 6 inches from the face.
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
Or: If you claim God as your Father, then let your time on earth be marked by a constant trembling...
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Trembling that you might "live up to" your purchase price. That you might honor the sacrifice. Because it wasn’t paid in silver or gold…
It was paid in blood. God’s. Own. Flesh and blood.
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
Who was ordained before the foundation of the world, but manifested now, for you. To secure your faith, and inform your hope.
Mhm.
Tremble.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By Which We Obtain…

Dear Journal:
Hope keeps coming up. This magnificent obsession. This marvel searched out by generations of prophets, never fully understood. This mark that sets the winners apart from the losers. The rich from the poor, the bond from the free. This means by which we obtain the impossible. Indeed, itself our very grip on that impossible. Hope.
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;..."
Ready your mind for work. Dig in your toes, and set for the gunshot. When it goes off, leap. Surge. Fly. And stay the course. And whatever you do, keep hoping. Even if you’re 10 yards from the finish, and appear to be in last place. (I watched an Olympic speed skating race like that once. Yeah. The guy in the back won.)
“...As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy"
Not simply dabbling (once again) in the ignorant lusts of yesterday. Or the guy in the next lane. Or the distraction at the starting line. Only preoccupied with Him. Hanging on to Him.
So that as He is, (read: glorious and strong, swift, certain, and obiously triumphant) So might I be. That’s what it says to me.
He is, therefore, I can be.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hope for Today, Inheritance for Tomorrow

Dear Journal:
Observation #2 regarding Peter: He uses long sentences. Long. And it takes a bit of time to restate his point in fewer words. But this is gold...
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [to] an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
Or: Blessed is the God Who gives us this gift— The lively hope of an incorruptible inheritance, grounded on the resurrection of Christ, and reserved for those kept by His power.
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
In which hope we greatly rejoice (even in the midst of heaviness), and which Christ we love, believe, and rejoice in, even though we have not seen Him. So that the trial of our faith today might result in praise, honor, glory and salvation tomorrow.
"Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into…"
And which hope, (and which inheritance) is a miracle. Searched out by prophets, and marveled over by angels themselves...
I have always held that it is the way we relate to the unseen that makes Christians different than the rest of the teeming masses. Because we believe Him, rejoice in Him, though we haven’t seen him. Because we joyfully lay down today, in favor of tomorrow. Because we count the testimony of ancient writers sufficient to fasten our contemporary confidence.
And because we believe in the invisible, we have access to the power of the eternal.
I suppose it is a miracle. A miracle twice over.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Identity Before Activity

1st and 2nd Peter loom large on my horizon, thanks to the next GYC Memorization Challenge. And since that which is understood is better remembered, I’ve set out on a study of the same. What follows are some of my reflections, by section...
_________________________________________________________________________________________

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied…” I Peter 1:1, 2

Before he’s said the first word of exhortation, or revealed the first of his agenda, he fixes this— his identity. And quite the identity it is.

Chosen by the Eternal God, long before he was,
Sanctified through the work of the Spirit,
Anointed and Obedient in and to Jesus Christ…

It is for this, and through this, and to these, that he writes, this “Apostle of Hope.” Because it is most significantly who he is, that informs and inspires what he does. Remember. And if the fruit is good, if his identity is worthy to be grasped, then hear his words...



Monday, April 20, 2015

No Fear Of Gethsemane

That place where the sun never rises, where sorrow never sleeps, where the trees watch somber as the grave;

That place where the rocks are rent from the struggle, where the earth soaks salt and red,
where the dew lays crystal blankets over bowed and fervent head;


That place where the songbird never warbles, where faithful friends nod off, where trembling hand takes bitter, burning cup, and one swallows. And where a kiss doesn't mean what it ought...

That place is called Gethsemane.

I know, dread horror.

But oh, wait. Before you follow instinct, wait. If you're brought here... do not flee away. Clutch the cold ground and take the cup. Whatever. bitter. cup. Yours can't end in death, only in morning.

This garden is no longer an eternal grave.
If you've been invited here, it's to find His company. This is the only place in the universe where one can be alone, together. Because He's “alone" here too...



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Emptiness

I ache.

Over emptiness.



Not my emptiness, no. I have life, mercy of mercies.

Partly, I ache because there is emptiness. Because as I move through life at a trot, I often feel like the landscape is littered by people I love, scattered out like spent shells. Because where there should be life, and love, and liberty, there is just this horror of stillness...

But mostly, I ache because there are too many 60 second stretches in a day, when I do nothing about it. 
The emptiness, I mean.
I won't even run down all of why...

Just this, tonight:

The entirety of my life is to be spent doing one of two things:

Gaining strength,

or giving it.


All else breeds emptiness. Is emptiness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

He Loves Too Much

Freedom comes at a price, they say.

For a million battered israelite slaves, Moses' first moves made things worse, not better. Until they cried out against their deliverer, and Whoever he was getting his marching orders from.

Better to die in bondage, than to face the same old brick quotas, only now, while also having to hunt up their own straw...



I'm glad God loved too much to listen to their requests that He forbear.

I'm glad He still does.

May it not be said of us that while God was working for our salvation, we were clinging to our destroyer.

"For oh! He loves thee far too well 
To leave thee in thy self-made hell, 
A Savior is thy Lord!"




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