Thursday, February 25, 2010

Language Barrier

So I've been to some different countries where English is not the primary tongue. But in most countries, they can speak enough English to communicate with you, but you have to strain, struggle and really watch the mouth pretty intently to catch what they are saying to you in your own language.
Last night, I wasn't in a far-off land visiting people of strange customary dress and eating foods of exotic varieties. But I found myself watching mouths intently, struggling and straining to understand the particular dialect of English they were speaking. It was pure, authentic, unhindered appalachian speak--banter between heavy machinery operators and good country folk . I caught about 20% - enough to respond with appropriate mm-hm's and ahh's and yes's.
I love the mountains.

"That's ridiculous!"

I realize that this video is pretty unimpressive.

Trust me, in person, the size, sounds, and vibration through the ground is pretty awe-inspiring.

This tree was really tall.

video

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Forget the Story

We people, as a general rule, are quick to forget. I forget the big story constantly and live in my little story. When I stop for five or ten minutes at the beginning of the day and tell myself the big story again, it brings a lot of good perspective to the day. We should never get too 'advanced' for the basics...

God existed before time and was perfectly happy in Himself. Very happy, in fact. As an extension of His nature, creativity, and to bring more glory to Himself, He created the heavens, earth, and everything in them. Mankind was made in His image. That's big. Man rebelled, and continues to rebel. I rebel. God redeems, by grace. Much grace. He chooses as He pleases, though He is not obligated to. Abram was chosen out of a pagan family. Isaac was chosen over Ishmael. Jacob was chosen though he was a rascal. Israel was chosen though she was small. All these still rebelled. Grace was still extended, first for His glory and name's sake...second for their benefit. Sin is a debilitating problem. Redemption is an ongoing story. Human pride is always with us. Divine mercy stays His hand from rightfully crushing us. The Old Testament shadows Jesus and the New reveals Him in His meekness and majesty. He was perfect. He was snuffed out, but not. He is alive. He is alive. He is alive. Oh, how I forget this part of the story daily. He is alive. He is moving. He is intimate. He is involved. He is transforming. He is saving. He is molding. He is watching. He is waiting. He is building, building that glorious bride that He loves and we too often hate--His church. He is sending, sending that church to the tribes and nations, sending with a redeeming message of hope--God rescues sinners for His glory. Sinners like me. He rescues and then does not stop. He washes. He sanctifies. He grows. He trades our sin for His Son's righteousness. He changes our thinking from little story to big. He transplants from peon kingdoms to the Ultimate Kingdom. He displays the greatness of His God-ness as compared to the crumbling cigarette ash of our little replacement gods. He puts a new song in our mouths that sings of His glory and then lets our chorus be a witness to the world of His supremacy. He is supreme. The way things are now is not the way things will always be. His Kingdom shall reign forever and ever and ever. He is coming back. Yes, He is coming back. To rule. To love. To reign. To be seen for all time in His full radiance. We see now so very dimly what will be seen in stunning clarity--He will be great beyond our imaginings.

Oh, redeemed sinner, remember the bigger story with me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meet Bill

Say "hello" to Bill! Bill pushes dirt around on a big gnarly machine. He will push dirt around enough to make a nice little spot for a house. In this picture, he is pushing dirt to make a road to get to the spot. I like Bill.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So Very Exciting

I cleared about 9 or 10 books off of our bookshelf yesterday, upon which I took them to a 2nd-hand bookstore. I received about $19 worth of credit. Is this as exciting to you as it was to me (I mean, if it was YOUR credit in YOUR bookstore--I don't expect you to be that excited for me)? $19 to spend however I wanted in a gigantic bookstore. I can still smell the books. Unfortunately, I could not find my desired St. Augustine's City of God, but I ended up leaving with two very handsome books. Both matte finished softcovers that looked like brand new:




Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy



Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

Quote of the Weekend

My favorite by far, said in our church by a parishioner to the pastor:

"I suck at lent."

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Danger of McLaren

Brian McLaren is proposing surprisingly unorthodox conclusions in his newest book, A New Kind of Christianity.

A summary of McLaren's propositions and a sound and interesting critique is offered by Kevin DeYoung here. It is well worth the read.

McLaren has been popular for quite some time in emergent circles. The danger with McLaren is his call for action is very appealing (as it should be), but it is packaged in God-belittling theology. He frequently attacks the Church that Christ loves and brutally bled for.

I originally stumbled across this at Justin Taylor's blog here:
Christianity and McLarenism

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bankrupt

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Blessed = happy (deep sense)
Poor in spirit = spirit poor, or no funds in my spiritual account.

When I relinquish the pressure to be something or someone super spiritual, I find deep happiness, because it is then that I am most in sync with the kingdom of heaven (living in the fullness of God's rule/reign/fullness/joy/control/...). The key to relinquishing that pressure is to realize that I am already fundamentally poor in spirit.
I have nothing to offer God. No good works to impress Him. No gift that He didn't first give. No righteousness of my own to be acceptable. I am morally bankrupt before Him, the perfect and holy God. That takes a lot of pressure off, no? Coming to God with the mutual understanding between Him and myself that I will not be bringing Him anything is relieving. Pressure gone, for in the full counsel of Scripture, I understand that only when I realize my absolute ruin before God will I understand my need for His funds to fill my account, namely Christ.

Come empty before God, and then find yourself deeply happy and satisfied as your realize that the pressure to perform for Him is gone...the only way to step out of your kingdom and into His is with nothing to bring as an offering. If I bring my own moral offerings to get in, Christ's death was stupid and frivolous. This is most assuredly not the case.

I find myself bathing in the delights of His kingdom and therefore deeply happy when I acknowledge and embrace my spiritual poverty.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rock Climbing, Sort of

Last night I went rock climbing on an indoor wall built in one of the residence halls at Montreat College. The wall was fantastically built, a challenging wall with pretty diverse routes that range in difficulty. As I attempted to scale the mild route with large holds and not-so-intense or thought-provoking maneuvers, I realized a few things:

1. I am fatter, older, and more out of shape than I've ever been.
2. Two of the above predicaments are avoidable (that would be fatter and out of shape).
3. Quivering, jello-like muscles do not respond the way you hope they might.
4. I hate young and skinny college males who climb well.

As my posts usually have some element of contemplating God and my life with Him...

1. Jesus, help me not to hate college students.
2. Jesus, why couldn't ice cream have been created to build muscle rather than create fat cells?
3. Jesus, what is the point of climbing rocks? I mean, really?

In actuality, last night was a sober reminder that I'm also a steward of my earthly tent (i.e. wobbly body), which I've neglected/abused for too long.
I grew up in a church culture that didn't flinch at ingesting mass amounts of pizza and sweets, but would roar at the thought of drinking a beer.

As someone who now partakes in all of the above, I'm positive that the pizza and sweets are much more of a sin issue in my life than the beer.

Friday, February 12, 2010

John the Baptist - from the Top Ropes

In Matthew 3, Pharisees and Sadducees came to John for baptism, and he subsequently called them names and commanded them to "bear fruit in keeping with repentance." My guess is they did not end up wet that day.
A few things:
1. John was not concerned with his ministry popularity - he kept mission over popularity/doctrine over doting
2. John knew they were coming for the pomp and circumstance, not the symbol and act of repentance
3. John recognized that God doesn't need people to join religious movements ("God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham..."), so he doesn't push for more numbers to join his ranks

In thinking on 'those Pharisees' I was challenged. Do I hold to appearances and forms of religious activities more than their actual power?

- Do I read Scripture without believing God will speak?
- Do I attend corporate worship gatherings not expecting God's Spirit to move in community?
- Do I pray without believing God is actively and passionately listening?

Yes, I do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Coalescence of Frustration

The dissatisfaction with the current state of my soul has grown from a distant hum to a nagging racket. I'm hoping to intervene before it rises to a cacophony of life-debilitating chaos. Several factors have converged to bring this to the forefront of my consciousness:

1. The noticeable pattern of mindless TV watching...turning it on without anything in particular to watch
2. Reading Francis Chan's "The Forgotten God." He didn't have anything revolutionary as far as content, but his taking God's Spirit seriously, good questions, and personal radical living made it poignantly incisive.
3. A sermon delivered at our church on Satan and his demons: the question was asked if we take them seriously...which led me to question how seriously I take God.
4. Simply desiring more and more of Christ.

Steps I am currently taking to remedy the situation:

1. Reading through the New Testament from start to finish, but approaching the text differently by asking God (pleading, really) before I open it - "Do not let me walk away from this book without really hearing from you." And then resolving to not walk away from the text without receiving real gospel counsel from it/Him.
2. Turning off or walking away from the TV if I'm not watching for a specific purpose.
3. Resolving to tangibly and actively encourage someone weekly (beyond a simple verbal compliment)
4. Reading good books - currently The Pleasures of God by John Piper
5. Praying and believing that God change me

Peace to you.