Archive for August 2007

Monotony or repeated delight?

August 31, 2007

The hardship that sidelined us for much of last week continues, so I’m still posting slower than I’d like. And this in a week when I’ve had so many visitors! Thanks for stopping by; I hope to pick up the pace towards normal by Monday.

As I was completing some “drudgerish” tasks today, I was grumbling a bit inside about the things that need doing day after day after day. And I remembered this quote from G. K. Chesterton, that has brought me much joy:

“The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game or joke that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again,” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun, and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.”

 

Unresolved:

August 28, 2007

I don’t really know who reads my blog, nor how many. I know of a handful; maybe there are more. So I don’t know if most of you are the type to have Brant Hansen’s Kamp Krusty in your Reader. You really should. He’s brilliant, humorous, and piercingly thoughtful. While I have seriously disagreed with him several times, I’ve never regretted reading his blog (except once, and we won’t go there). In fact, awaiting a new post is an anticipation to be savored.

And occasionally, he writes something like this, that should be seared into our souls as all the stories are told.

Go read it. Please.

Mother Teresa’s “Dark Night of the Soul”

August 28, 2007

I know far too little about Mother Teresa. I have no pronouncements to make about the state of her soul. I cannot see around or through or under or beyond her crises of faith. God surely can.

I do know that true, faithful saints can experience long dark nights. Though the cry “Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22) was ultimately owned and redeemed by Jesus Christ, it was a true Davidic expression.

But in all the discussion and debate I have read over the last few days I have two other concerns; both of which point, I believe, to our tendency towards self-righteousness or gracelessness. The first concern has already been discussed many times: there is the loud cry of many that Mother Teresa must have been a true Christian, because look at all the amazing self-sacrificing work she did.

Forget about how this relates to any particular individual, including Mother Teresa. Simply look with me at where that statement points. We are pointing at her work. Her labor. Her sacrifice. Her earnestness.

Her merit.

The Gospel points us to Christ’s work, Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s merit. There is a great difference.

Jesus told us to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good work and glorify your Father who is heaven”. So we do draw attention to our deeds (they see our good work). Well, then, how do they glorify our Father, and not us, for the good work? There must be words accompanying our workings, words full of the gospel, words full of how our work is a response to his work, how our faith is a response to his Promise, how our fruit is the fruit of the cross and the resurrection and the hope brought to birth and life in Jesus Christ. If, at the end of our lives people are amazed at our endless self-sacrifice and pouring out of ourselves for others, and this what they see and talk about… we will have failed the gospel.

The second concern is perhaps even more serious: there is a tendency in us — if we are honest — to rejoice in the weakness and failings of others. There are some that are quick to draw attention to this soul-struggle that is highlighted, and to say, “I told you so.” We spend our lives comparing and contrasting our standing with that of others. Pastors look at other pastors leading bigger churches and having a “more successful” ministry, and privately think “I’m actually better than he is, if only I had an opportunity to preach to thousands, they would know that. But I face evil opposition instead. My people don’t realize how blessed they are.” And with that mindset, we actually have inner rejoicing when that “more successful” pastor is caught in a scandal. “See, I knew I was better all along. Now maybe my people will appreciate me more.” Others must fall if we are to be raised. And our masks and robes must be carefully worn so that the status we have achieved is not defaced or lessened.

Our merit must be recognized.

I know all too well of what I speak.  It’s the idolatry that has run amok in my own life and soul, causing so much destruction; the idolatry that still visits far too often.

It is Pharisaism, pride, and self-righteousness.

Our people need to appreciate Jesus more. His merit. His grace. Not us, not me, not you…and not any other saint. And there is no joy in the sorrows of others. The fact that Mother Teresa struggled in her faith says nothing about the quality, for good or ill, of our own doctrine or the positioning of our ministry. Do those who encounter our ministry encounter the God of mighty works who defeats all our idols and draws all our love? This is the question for us.

Draw attention to the gospel, to the God who is with us in Jesus Christ. Draw out the redemption, the Rescue, that is achieved for souls in darkness when Christ calls from the cross, “Why are you so far from saving me?” and thus achieves for his people the sure hope that they are heard, they cannot be forsaken, they are transplanted into the kingdom of light.

Praise Jesus!

More “Total Church”

August 27, 2007

Two of my favorite bloggers, Darryl Dash and Dan Cruver, have encountered this book and are blogging about it. While I wait for my replacement copy to arrive, I’ll enjoy it vicariously. Check out Darryl’s first quotation here, and Dan’s here.

Without money and without price

August 26, 2007

I hope to get back to regular posting within a day or two more. In the meantime, here’s a must-listen opportunity for you: I heard, today, a great sermon upon this, one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Amazingly, I heard this text expounded by Spurgeon!

Well, by someone (Tony Reinke?) reading Spurgeon’s message.

It was glorious!

There’s a wince-worthy point about a half-hour in, but Spurgeon’s point is that we are all worthy of despising, and all equally in need, and all equally invited to eat.

“You believe there must be some special entrance for you, so proper and moral are you. But the gate is so narrow that you must rub shoulders with drunkards and with murderers and with thieves and harlots to enter…”

“…you are feeling in your pocket and you find nothing there; you don’t need anything, come without money! You look into your heart, and you find nothing there…you find nothing of redeeming character…come, you don’t need anything, the gospel is without price!”

“Everything for nothing, and Christ for the asking!”

Head on over to The Shepherd’s Scrapbook, and scroll down the right-hand side in the list “Now on my iPod.” You’ll see this sermon, available as a Flash recording.

Give it a listen, you won’t regret it. And God willing, I’ll be back soon.

Faith, miracles, and the Word of God

August 23, 2007

We’re going through some stuff here that has slowed me for a couple of days and will for a couple more.  In the meantime, a quote from Total Church, written down before I — ahem — lost it (still a trauma).  Still in the section “Why Gospel?”:

In John 2 the disciples put their faith in Jesus when they see his first miraculous sign — turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana (v. 11).  This story is followed by the cleansing of the temple and Jesus’ declaration that he is the temple.  John comments, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said.  They they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken” (v. 22).  There is a kind of faith that comes from seeing miraculous signs, but true faith comes through the words of Scripture and the words of Jesus.  John goes on:  “Now while he was in Jeruasalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.  But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men” (vv. 23-24).  Jesus does not trust the kind of faith that comes from seeing miraculous signs.  It is not difficult to imagine why.  Such faith is likely to be fair-weather faith.  It will believe when signs are performed, prayers are answered, things are going well.  But it is not the sort of faith that will survive the loss of a child, a period of illness or some other trauma.  Persevering faith comes through the word of God. 

The Holy Spirit doesn’t need our help

August 22, 2007

Nobody who has located the tiny outpost that is this blog needs any pointers to the vast metropolis that is iMonk (population: bazillions).

But he writes in such a way that, when he’s right, he makes you want to cheer and weep at the same time. He just wrote an example of such; find it here.

A favorite line:  “Wrong to believe the Holy Spirit needs all the help we moderns can give him in getting the attention of the bored.”  It’s the kind of thing we say all the time around here.  I need to say it more humbly, but it’s important to say.

“Wrong to think that the gospel is ever cool.” I agree with what he means, here. I do think that when we “get it”, sometimes our reaction will be, “That’s cool!”

No more nitpicking; head on over.

As if you haven’t been there a thousand times already.