Monday, July 29, 2013

"The modern habit of saying, 'This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,' is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that it is not my opinion.
The modern habit of saying, 'Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me:' the habit of saying this is mere weakmindedness.
A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon."

- G.K. Chesterton

Never Give Up

(Hi there! I'm sorry I haven't posted in quite a while. I've been on a wonderful beach vacation. And also just generally quite busy. I should be getting back to regular posting, though :))

On October 29, 1941, Winston Churchill visited Harrow School to deliver a commencement address. He arrived with his usual hat, cane and cigar. He was a great man and the students greeted him with wild applause. He quieted them and stood gazing at them for several moments. Then he took off his hat and placed it carefully on the podium. He removed the cigar from his lips. The students were hushed, waiting to hear what word of advice Churchill would have for them. And they were prepared to keep listening for a very long time - he was a man of many words. At last Churchill spoke in his confident, slightly gravelly voice.
        "Never give up," he said. He stood silently again for several seconds, watching them. "Never, ever give up," he said, louder this time, rising to his toes. His voice thundered. Then he leaned forward, both hands gripping the podium. In a voice barely audible, so that the students had to bend toward him to hear, he said with passion, "Never, ever, ever give up."
Then he straightened himself and reached for his hat. He clapped it on his head, and popped the cigar back into his mouth. He steadied himself with his cane and marched off the platform. The students sat in half-awe, half-bewilderment. Winston Churchill's commencement speech was finished.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Do not cry to me. I can only cry with you. I will not die for you. I am still too young in the meaning of love. Talk to the Fool, to the one who left a throne to enter an anthill. He will enter your shadow. It cannot taint Him. He has done it before. His holiness is not fragile... Touch His skin, put your hand in His side. He has kept His scars when He did not have to. Give Him your pain and watch it overwhelmed, burned away in the joy He takes in loving. In stooping..."

-N.D. Wilson, Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Time Is Now

'The Time Is Now' by Warren Barfield. You should look it up. It's pretty awesome. Very apt for our culture today

"This world's gonna' see what I'm standing for
I've held my tongue
But I can't hold it anymore.

You can't buy my silence.
You can't steal my voice.
You can't keep me quiet.
I will bring the noise.
Try to beat me down.
Tell me to shut my mouth.
But there's a time to speak and
The time is now."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The New Creation

I love this. Beautiful words about a beautiful concept. 

“All that has enriched and honored the life of all nations in history, will be brought in to enrich the new creation. The new creation will not be a blank page as if God will simply crumple up the whole of human historical life in this creation and toss it in the cosmic bin and then hand us a new sheet to start all over again. The new creation will start with the unimaginable reservoir of all that human civilization has accomplished in the old creation, but purged, cleansed, disinfected, sanctified, and blessed. And we shall have eternity to enjoy it and to build upon it in ways we cannot dream of now as we exercise the powers of creativity of our redeemed humanity. Think of the prospect: all human culture, language, literature, art, music, science, business, sport, technological achievement, actual and potential, available to us. All of it with the poison of evil and sin sucked out of it forever. All of it glorifying God. All of it under his loving and approving smile. All of it for us to enjoy with God, and indeed being enjoyed by God. And all eternity for us to explore it, understand it, appreciate it, and expand it.” 

-Christopher Wright 

Where the Evil Really Is

The temptation is to make rules --

"No PG-13, or above, movies."
"No tobacco."
"No alcohol."
"No pop music."
"No iPods."
"No dancing."

And so on, and so on. It's easier. We think that rules will make us safe and keep us moral.

That's all very well for pre-schoolers. Rules are a training tool. (Rather like spankings.) We have to learn that the stove is hot. But we can't just not touch the stove forever. Someday we're going to need to cook something, and we're going to need to open that oven. We need to understand what is hot in order to stay safe. But just because parts of it are hot, doesn't mean that we can hide from the stove forever.

Just because some music, some movies, some dancing, some smoking.... just because parts of our culture are perverted, that doesn't mean that we can hide from, or reject, every aspect of our culture forever.

Rules by themselves don't make us into mature men and women. We become mature, not when we have memorized a set of man's rules in our heads, but when we internalize God's standards in our hearts. We are mature when we love the standards.

A lot of times, parents let their young children run wild. They don't have standards -- or if they do, the standards are rarely enforced. When little kids sin, it's sometimes kind of "cute". Or funny. And so the parents laugh and tell the children "no, no". But the kids know they don't really mean it. Then as the children get older, the sins have bigger and more apparent consequences. And the parents freak out and lock down. Then, they realize that rebelliousness really isn't all that funny. It can wreck lives, get girls pregnant, change innocence into corruption. So the parents begin heaping on the restrictions and the children resent that.

Of course that's all done the opposite of how it should be done. When children are little they need to be restrained. Like saplings, they are supple when they're young. And it's then that they're shaped into the kind of adults they will be for always. As they get older, restrictions should be taken off, not heaped on. The goal is to love the standards in the end. The goal is that you don't have to tell your 16 year old what he can't watch, because he won't even want to watch anything that is displeasing to God. (Do notice I said that's the goal.....Not necessarily the reality.)

We have to get it into our heads that the evil is not in the stuff. Of course, it goes without saying, that some things are inherently sinful -- Like lying, stealing, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy, etc. But your iPod is not evil. A movie is not evil because it is rated PG-13... (It's evil if it promotes or wrongfully portrays sin.) Smoking a pipe is not evil. We shouldn't be so ready to point fingers at everything around us - "That's a sin." "That's a sin." "That's a sin." Instead we need to think: "My use of that could potentially be a sin." 

The evil is really in us.

That's why it matters so much how we handle the stuff. It's not a sin to smoke a pipe or have a drink. It is a sin to drink or smoke excessively.  Dancing is not a sin (Actually, the Bible tells us to dance! :)). But it is a sin to dance in ways that violate any standards God's given us. It's not a sin to have an iPod. It is a sin to put ungodly songs on your iPod.

There's no way we'd be able to make an inexhaustive list of do's and don'ts, even if we spent all our lives adding to it and revising it. And besides, living off a list would make us into a bunch of stressed out teetotalers. . . not Heaven-minded Kingdom builders.

The real, and truly effective, way to deal with our culture and all its temptations, is to get our hearts right. Once we have the right standards written inside, we will be able to discern what is evil and what is good.  Whatever is in our hearts will come out in what we do and say. If we truly seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God, then the evil won't have a chance to bewilder us. If we live loving the truth and goodness of beauty, the world can give us all it's got and we won't be fazed.


Monday, July 15, 2013

"Hearts taken by the beauty of Jesus will yield beautiful words." —Scott Sauls

Whatever is in our hearts will come out....whether beautiful or ugly. When ugly words burst out, we need to worry about what they're coming from. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Forever and Ever

"The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever."
(Psalm 37:29)

I had always been told that Heaven would be wonderful; better than the best thing I could even imagine. And I've always believed that. . . in a way. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I had this nagging, worried feeling about it all. I mean, yeah, of course Heaven would be amazing. But I couldn't get rid of the thought of everything I'd have to leave behind. The things I had always heard about Heaven made me think of a spirit world --- a perfect world, yes, but also a surreal sort of world. And I loved the earth. I love the real things that I could touch and smell and taste and hear. Picnic lunches when it's almost too hot outside, driving with the windows down, walking barefoot on the beach, piles of books, thunder, the smell of brownies in the oven, roller coasters, grass under my toes. . . There's a lot of bad in the world, but I just didn't want to lose the good parts.

And I was worried because I didn't know whether it was right to feel that way.

So I resigned myself to the fact that one day I would have to leave all the realness behind.

Then one day a man preached a sermon. And it changed all that. He talked about what the world would be like, and what our lives would be like, in the new heaven and new earth. And he said that all the work we're doing right here, right now, isn't going to just be left behind and forgotten. What we do here matters because --- good or bad --- it will carry on into eternity. That's why Martin Luther said that even if he knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, he would still plant his apple tree today.

We'll have real physical bodies. And real physical lives. But perfect lives.

Revelation talks about the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. That purified city will be our new home. The home we were created for. "Behold, I am making all things new." (Revelation 21:4). 

I don't believe God's going to destroy the world. He won't simply crumple up the current creation and throw it into the garbage. We are all a part of this current creation. And if we believe God's promises, then we know without a doubt that His chosen ones will not end up in the garbage. Instead of destruction, Christ will work redemption. To redeem is to transform what is, instead of coming up with something else, entirely. Redemption will involve cutting off bad branches. . . But God will preserve His own. Christ is not looking to find a different bride; He is bringing back the same one who has betrayed Him, because He is faithful. God is not letting go of the earth; He is reclaiming this one, because He keeps His word.

Just something about knowing this makes me feel at peace. The realization that the realness of living won't end, that it's actually not even fully begun yet, gives me hope. And vision. Who we are now matters immensely, not just because it's good to do right, but also because we will be who we are through all eternity. 

Now I know that the sadness I felt was not wrong. God loves all beautiful, true, and good things, even if they are partly marred. For us to love the earth makes Him happy. There is an important distinction between the "earth", which is part of God's city, and the "world", which is man's city.

It is good to love what God loves.

He showed the greatest love there has ever been when Jesus died, when God turned His back on the ugliness. And He showed that love to this earth.

I won't believe that after the torment of love He gave us, that He would turn away and give up on it all. His nature is to keep on loving and to never, never let go.

"Behold I am making all things new." This doesn't mean that as the story's end is quickly approaching, He's decided to start things over. It just means that we have a while longer until it all really does begin.

"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind." (C.S. Lewis).


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bring Him Home

One of my favorite songs from the movie. This is so amazingly beautiful.

Enjoy :))

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Being Radical

"...Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands..." 
(1 Thessalonians 4:11)

There's a push these days to be radical. It's a response to all the apathy and laziness. A well-meant response, I'm sure. Well-meant, but dangerous. 

Don't get me wrong. Sometimes God calls his children to very real pain. The martyrs. The Colosseum. Missionaries. Prison. Torture. "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." (Bonhoffer.) 

But the crucial point is that we don't have to suffer in order to be faithful.

We don't have to search out hardships. 

We are not failures just because we don't live an extreme life. 

This pressure to be "radical", in the David Platt sense of the word, is making young people today feel ashamed to get married and have children early, to work an average job, to save and invest. In order to be virtuous, you have to go and love the people on the other side of the planet. Loving your neighbor doesn't count anymore. 

Radical, they say. We want to be radical Christians. We want to do big things. Missional things. Things that mean up-rooting ourselves, because there's no way we can be meaningful Christians when we live in the suburbs. That ordinary kind of life is just so utterly. . . un-glamourous. 

The point we miss is that sometimes the "ordinary" things are radical. 

When marriage is under assault, love is radical,
When all around us people are unhappily trying to be extraordinary, ordinary is radical.
When the world is noisy, quiet living is radical. 
When people are fragmented and individualistic, family is radical. 

Simple deeds of ordinary people - Sometimes that's what it takes to keep the darkness at bay. "He who'd walk a mile just to hold an empty hand, knows what it means to be a wealthy man." (And So It Goes). 

In our culture, living quiet lives, working with our hands, and raising God-lovers, are some of the most extraordinary things we can do. It's just being faithful. To God. To people. Faithfulness is radical. 

"Pray for those who persecute you." 

"The last shall be first." 

"The humble shall be exalted." 

"Love your neighbor."

"Deny yourself."

Be that kind of radical.


Monday, July 8, 2013

The Baby Box

Four years ago, a man in South Korea made a box.

It is built into the wall of his church in a ragged, low-class neighborhood. The inside is lined with soft blankets and when the little door is opened, a bell rings. It's a drop box. But not for books or letters. It's a box for babies --- the unwanted ones.

They bring the children to this soft, heated box. In the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, they bring them. Some come with a note, others without a word. Many of them have disabilities --- Crooked bodies, slow minds. Too much trouble to give everything for someone who can't give anything back.

Others are there because people say they really shouldn't have been born. . . Mistakes, momentary lapses of sanity, accidents.

Mothers bring their children here because there's literally nowhere else, in this country that worships physical perfection, that will keep them. They bring them because the other ways were too horrible for them to carry out; because the other ways involve poison, or abandonment, or worse.
"I'm asking you to take my son," one mother wrote. "Please don't try to find me. And I am sorry."
They don't want to be found. They want to come, and then go away again. And forget.

But no matter why they are there, or where they've come from, Pastor Lee Jong-rak picks up every child. And he works to find them a family who loves. Each one is beautiful, and each one cherished, when they are brought into his doors. “They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world," says Pastor Lee. "God sent them to the earth to use them.”

His love, and this tremendous mission, are both painfully personal. Almost thirty years ago Lee and his wife had a baby. This child was so deformed, so crooked and disfigured, that Lee would not let his wife see their baby for over a month, as he groped for reasons, for explanations. Doctors said the child would die before he was a year old.
But today he lies on a bed in his father's home, his feet turned backward and inward, his only sound is an occasional grunt. His parents feed him, clothe him, clean him, love him. His name is Eun-man. It means 'full of God's grace'.

For years Lee has operated this baby box --- this pain-filled, beautiful vision --- undercover. He has no license, no formal training. He only has love. Compassion. For no reason but grace, he accepts, he invites, these unwanted ones to fill his life.

Just like us. We are crooked, messy people; hopeless people; unwanted people. But Christ. He loved us when we were something absolutely unlovable.
 "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us..."

"Bring them here," says Lee. Bring them here.

You only live life one time. And Pastor Lee is making his one time count. "As you did to the least of these, you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40.) His reward will be great in heaven. "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Would we have the strength to say it? - Bring them here. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Country Tis of Thee.

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord..." 
(Psalm 33:12)

Did you know that on the tip-top of the Washington Monument there are two words inscribed?  Laus Deo, it says. Not many people know it's there. And even less would care. Two little words, only a total of seven letters. They are out of sight, seemingly out of mind. And yet. . . this phrase was engraved onto the highest point overlooking the most powerful city in the country. And it means "Praise be to God." I'm sure that if the government had its way today, those words wouldn't be there. 

But they can't get rid of this inscription made in metal as easily as they ripped out the words "under God" from our pledge of allegiance. 

So they just pretend its not there. And nobody's the wiser. 

"If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under," said Reagan. Well now we have forgotten. Or we pretend to forget. (And that might be even worse.)

We have changed so much. Enlightenment, modernism, post-modernism. We are always ready with the big words, that really don't mean a thing. We are progressive-minded people; tolerant, modern, average people. We are the most advanced society in the history of the world, constantly evolving; always getting better. . . Or are we? 

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. 

Instead of changing the world to fit the vision, in the words of Chesterton, we have changed the vision, itself. Instead of seeking justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God we are living the American Dream. 

That switch of purpose: Our country is hurling itself down the wrong way --- an act of national suicide --- and pulling others with it. If they say there is no God, then there is no standard for morality. If there is no standard for morality, then anything is acceptable. If anything is acceptable. . . then they cannot say abortion is wrong. They cannot say gay marriage is wrong. They cannot say euthanasia is wrong. They can't. And they don't care to, either.

"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." (Thomas Jefferson.) That was in 1871. What would he say today?

Even Lynyrd Skynyrd got this much right - 

God and guns
Keep us strong
That's what this country
Was founded on
Well we might as well give up and run
If we let them take our God and guns. 

In light of all this: what our Nation used to be, and then what it has become today. . . knowing that His justice cannot sleep forever. . . When I read the news and think about all the mess, it's tempting to
embrace the extreme, and to feel very un-patriotic. It's always easier to swing your pendulum all the way to one extreme or the other. What's hard is to find the middle ground. 

Tomorrow is Independence Day. We celebrate our liberty. And we should celebrate. We should love our country. We are so blessed. 

And we should mourn too. So much has been lost. So much has been thrown away. So much has been burnt up.

But out of these ashes, beauty will rise. 

He makes everything beautiful in its time. Even His runaway bride. Even a cowardly army. Even a Nation with no room for its King.


Monday, July 1, 2013

For the First of July.

This poem makes me really see and feel what summer is like. . . especially in the south ;). 
It's sort of long, but very pretty.

July already, and the land is soon to burn, the sun at midday casting
its least shadow. Across the road, the unmown pasture will whiten
under its glare, and the world goes brittle with heat.
The land loves the light, and suffers from the light, and lets it go
when the day is done. The illuminated air has a density, and I feel
as though I should part it with my hands when I step from the shade.
You don't have to look hard to see that the light is always leaving ---
even rising towards you, taking its lowest angle down the countryside,
it is passing. The days should be getting shorter but I can't sense it
in the slow coursing of this one. . . A mocking bird lands on a post and has more to say
about what will bear us skyward than I do. The day is without music ---
or any that is organized in a way that I can hear. It is easy to forget
the words you've read in books and all you've been told is true
with the world this bright and close at hand. I am learning to look
with a new kind of wanting. There are a few minutes as the day dims
when the details in the distant line of trees becomes clarified,
the tree forms taking on greater depth, their lobed leaves individuated
as the light releases them, the rich texturing of each tree
suddenly present, rendered with painstaking draftsmanship,
then they blacken and solidify, emptied of every last particular,
a jagged line backed by a sky which will stay brilliant for some time
to come, as though the light that once lay in the weeds now waits
in the air above, wondering, I suppose, why it is we do not follow.

-Bobby Rogers