Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And so Fulfill the Law of Christ...

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 16:25

In C.J. Mahaney's recent work "Humility" he likens his personal perception and his understanding of how he operates under the power of Christ to be as accurate as that of a Circus mirror. His point being that, he has an incredibly distorted and limited perspective on his spiritual life and the fruit that it produces. There exists within the fabric of his personality, demeanor, and temperament certain components that he has grown blind to over the years and no longer (if they ever did) strike him as so detrimental to his life, his ministry, and his faith. Thus ushers in his effectual understanding that he desperately needs men around him who will help, labor, and toil with him to root out these deeply ingrained habits, which are producing certain symptoms that reflect his flesh, not his master.

But "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Romans 11:33), that in his infinite and indescribable wisdom God foreordained the circuitry within us to operate in such a manner that through the assistance of our brothers and sisters we are able to more aptly approach the throne of God. We see this referenced specifically all throughout scripture as well as frequently alluded to through the indications that the "analogy of scripture" as a whole presents to us.

But before getting into the scriptural indicators perhaps I should preface all of this we the clear indictment scripture provides, that we are by our very nature in opposition to the law of the Lord (Eph. 2). The way of the cross is folly to us (1 cor. 1) and is by no means something that comes naturally. All throughout the proverbs we see clearly that "All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs his spirit"(Proverbs 16:25)(16:2), and that there is a way that seems right to him that inevitably leads to his death. Thus immediately we must acknowledge that we have a deep propensity imbedded inside our hearts that would incapacitate us from in humility pursuing or inviting the examination of our lives from our brothers or sisters, such an idea even seems wrong, or just not their place, or if nothing else just simply unnecessary. We are a complex race that is content watching our house burn down because we are afraid to confess to our neighbor that the magnificent marble well in our front yard has run dry, while at the same time our neighbor forgoes lending us the water from his well in order to avoid the insult that such an extension (in hopes preserving our life) would present. It is a dangerous and deathly game that we are found in, one that is deeply woven into the tapestry of our nationally American Self-reliance. The American dream is built upon it. But the echo Jesus in his sermon of the mount to his followers is clear: "Not so with you"

"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (Gal. 6:1-3.) Paul plainly spoke out against the idea of allowing things to "work themselves out", after displaying that in love holding one another accountable fulfills the law of Christ. He even speaks to the fact that the person who thinks he doesn't need the help of his brother "deceives himself". Christ gave the same teaching in Matthew chapter 18 when he gave instruction for how to approach a brother in sin, the scriptures constantly call us to "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." (James 5:16, Psalm 32). Here James tells us to pray and confess in hopes that the sickness of our depraved nature would move towards healing not further down a path of destruction. The scriptures tell us to "exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb 3:13). Here the author of Hebrews commands us that it is our duty not our right to "exhort" (gk. literally παρακαλετε: def. to intreat, to summon, desire, to call, to instruct) and so help our brothers and sisters escape the hardening process of sin. To not do so is a sin of omission and defies the law of Christ and Love.

We are called to not be slaves to anything (1 cor 6), and one way we pursue holiness is through community and accountability. Paul told us that “through speaking the truth in love, we grow up in every way into him” (Eph 4:15), we are to let our love be genuine, continue with affectionate brotherhood (Rom. 12:9).Solomon stated it plainly thousands of years ago when he said: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”, the first thing that God declared “not good” was man being alone (Gen 2:18). The scriptures have always infallibly taught that man needs and is wired for relationship, friendship, community, love, and accountability.

Sin desires to have its way with us (Gen 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8), its seeks to kill and destroy and among its most effective tools is that of isolation and pride. May we learn the way of the Cross and by his grace wage war against the flesh through the power of Christ and his gift of fellow workers in his kingdom.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Theology of Loneliness

"The Voice of Life in Me, cannot reach the ear of life in you; but let us talk that we may not feel lonely."-Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

I am convinced that no experience or emotion more closely resembles hell. C.S. Lewis described the existence of darkness, as attributed to the removal of all light, such an analogy would trickle into a proper understanding of hell. Being as the removal of God and his mercy leaving behind his flawless justice. But this would lead us further to speculate that his removal along with all forms of his Goodness (save his justice) would also remove any all forms of uplifting and hope fostering community. Thus a certainty it is safe to attribute to God's wrath is the prescence of loneliness. 

Now loneliness must be distinguished from isolation. These are in no way related. Perhaps the clearest indication of this is Western Civilization. Thomas Friedman wrote a work named "The World is Flat" , in this book Friedman discusses at length the globalization that continues to take place within our world. Simply put our world becomes more and more connected by ever increasing technological developments, yet within a simply national context suicide rates are higher in the USA than any other nation on the globe, ambien and sleep medicines are higher in the states than they are in any other nation in the world. Amidst the cell phones, parties, internet networking  (Facebook), television shows, movies, ipods, and densely populated metroplexes americans are lonely.

"the soul of man...hath in it a raging and inextinguishable thirst!"- Henry Scougal 17th century theologian
Inside of man is a longing that cries out to be answered. There is a violent and reoccurring need to be known, to be apart of, and most importantly to be fulfilled. However, sin has crept in and impaired our vision of God as the supreme fulfillment of this need, incapacitating us from seeing and savoring him as beautiful (2 Cor. 3), or has simply placated our thirst for him by the hardening our hearts.(Heb. 3:13)

Loneliness is the inability to experience the presence and nearness of God. This often takes place by the hand of doubt fostered by the presence of a sinful nature. This nature, by virtue of itself hinders you from beholding the Lamb in all his beauty. Thus this nature gives birth to sin, sin birth to doubt, and doubt produces a lack of trust in the promise of God's nearness, his proximity to his people, and his grace that sustains us and comforts us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16,Isaiah 41, 45) . It is not however, to say that "distrust" would then be  the ultimate grounds for loneliness. Meaning that there exists no scale where distrust would prove the pinnacle location of loneliness and great trust as beyond the grips of loneliness. 
We must clarify that the ignorance of faith and its purposes would not be "distrust"(an extreme inability to trust God), but  "no trust" (no faith, one outside of the Lords covenant). This "no trust" however, does not necessarily breed a more intense form of loneliness, but does well to produce a loneliness that generally plays itself out in a form of worship of some idea, ambition, dream, or desire for worldly gain. And so the premise still stands that loneliness is birthed from the cataract that sin provides, disabling our vision of God and his presence in a world where his attributes have been clearly portrayed. (Romans 1)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Weight of Glory...

We are far too easily pleased...

Perhaps the most famous legacy Henry David Thoreau left us was a work described as "Walden". The name of the book comes from a pond near his makeshift home, which was fixed aptly on the property of the well known author and life long companion, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Thoreau utilized the home as an escape for the less than ideal world he found himself in. In "Walden" Thoreau rebukes and mourns over the dreariness that has befallen upon our existence. The biblical parallels that he addresses would likely astound and comfort these pains of dissastification. He pities the fact that all over our world men and women have devoted themselves to works and toils that numb themselves to truly living. 

Come, everyone who thirsts,
   come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
  come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
   without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
   and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
   and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live...  -Isaiah 55:1-3

Thoreau missed it, he called out for the people to reconcile with nature, not with their maker. He simply took one numbing fixation and replaced it with another. This as 18th century Puritan minister  Solomon Stoddard nobly proclaimed doing so "does them little good, for it simply draws them from the snare and leads them to the pit".

  The only fixation of which the objects fixed upon it shall find any rest, peace, or satisfaction would have to be one that has not fallen victim to the depravity that the aforementioned objects have. Reasonably there is only one infatuation, passion, and compulsion that is worth having. The infinitely sovereign maker and sustainer of all things.

Such a reality aligns wonderfully with C.S. lewis take on the discontent of man in his work "The Weight of Glory":
"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, then I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith..."

Lewis attacks the idea that joy, hope, pleasure is a terrible thing, pointing out that our joy in truth is not only
the desire of God for his people, but his commands (Phillipians 3)
Lewis continues: "it would seem that our Lord finds our desires (for joy, pleasure, happiness) not to strong, 
but to weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is 
offered to us, like an ignorant child who want to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine 
what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased".

But the human condition is not familiar with such an idea. We are quick to declare our disgust and discontent
with the creator of all things, expressing aggravation for not being satisfied with the trivial gifts that are mere expressions of his presence. 
Often times this disgust and aggravation leads to the remission and denial of even an existence of a sovereign 
presence in the universe.

The Gospel of Luke chapter 19 tells a story where Jesus is drawing near to the city and begins weeping 
over it, weeping over their inability to understand and their satisfaction with religion and the idolatry it has brought.
Perhaps such weeping continues as mankind continues to be content and satisfied with creation rather than
the creator.

We continue to savor dreams, selfish ambitions, wealth, comfort, 2 kids, a wife, and a two story home 
with a labrador, money, fame, prowess... Oh Lord help us, even in our purest desires we idolize treasures that 
are transient in the scope of true and abundant life...

Forgive us Lord, We really are Far too Easily Pleased...

Monday, May 4, 2009

We are beggars, this is True.

Luther's last written words
Throughout history there have been men and women whose devotion to the preservation and proclamation of truth have echoed from century to century. Martin Luther was such a man. By no stretch of the mind was he perfect but this formerly Augustinian monk would shake the foundations of organized religion, and cry out that the bride of Christ be reformed and purified. Luther would live 62 years, he would initiate protestantism, translate the bible, call for change within the Church, and help ignite a flame that continues to burn brilliantly to this day. 
His last written words came two days before his death. They are a clear summation of the protestant humility which he hoped to portray. Lying on his death bed he asked for a slip of paper, on it he wrote the words "Wir sind bettler. Hoc est verum": a mixture of tongues the first part written in German meaning "We are beggars" and the second written in Latin "this is true". Luther understood, that the greatest of man is as nothing before the throne of him who dwells in unapproachable light. That no matter the accomplishment or the prestige all of us are under his sovereign and merciful grace. Rescued and transferred from one kingdom to the next, made alive in Christ Jesus by no doings of our own. We are beggars, its true. But our begging has turned into dancing, laughing, and rejoicing. He has rescued us from sin and breaking the chains it held upon us. 
There is no more fitting title for this blog, the two of us proudly proclaim that "We are Beggars, This is True".