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Friday, June 28, 2013

Once a Mighty Army. . .

"A pastor stands before his congregation, 
Once a mighty army for the Lord. 
But now he stares into the lifeless eyes, 
Believers leading carnal lives. 
He wonders what they're fighting for..."
(-Casting Crowns, Spirit Wind.)


       Sometimes it's tempting to be very nostalgic and dewy-eyed about the past. If only we could get back to the days when things were good and men were moral. If only we could rewind to the pre-Enlightenment days. If only we lived in the simple time of the early Church. If only. . . We seem to have a very idealistic --- and rather unrealistic --- theory that "back then" life was just good.

Well, not to burst anyone's bubble. But it wasn't.

Actually, the descent began way back in Genesis 3: "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, an they knew that they were naked." That was when things started to get bad. That was when we had to leave the Garden. And the rest of the story is about God bringing us back. Sometimes it gets pretty messy.

The early Church, contrary to wishful thinking, was full of divisive, adulterous, jealous, deceitful, quarrelsome, selfish people. Just like it is today.

But still, despite everything I've just said, there was something different about them. We look back at them as men and women whom we should imitate. But, they were just desperate, fallen people. Like us. And they sinned. Like us. So where's the difference?

Well, I think the difference was, not in the sin itself, but in the response to sin. Earlier on, closer to Jesus's life on earth, closer to the Garden, closer to how life should be, they fought sin. "Watch and pray," Jesus told them. "So that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41.)

Now, sadly, I don't think that verse is true at all for the majority of typical American "Christians". Nowadays, the spirit isn't so willing. And the flesh is weaker than ever. We've been tricked into believing that we can be passive and Christ-followers, at the same time. If you follow God, you'll be healthy, wealthy, and wise, the preachers say, preaching the prosperity gospel. No matter what you do, God won't get angry with you. Because God loves you,  just the way you are. 

. . . I'd like to know what those prosperity gospel proclaimers have to say about Job.

Yes, He does love His children. He loves us so much that He won't let us stay the way we are. And we shouldn't want to stay the way we are. That's like wanting to act like a baby forever, only drinking milk, crying to get what you want, making messes and not cleaning them up. I think that's what we have on our hands today - many, many grown-up people who want to pretend that they're babies.

Whereas, in the early Church, they sinned, but they also resisted the sin. They knew temptations would come, but they believed that God is faithful. They believed that He would never let them be tempted beyond what they could bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). They grew up in their faith, instead of sitting there, stagnant. Part of this maturing had to do with trials. In America we have it so easy that we don't even know how easy we have it. In one way, I'm extremely thankful. But at the same time --- we don't have any guarantee that things will always stay easy. And I sometimes wonder what would happen if we did go through some real tests on our faith. How would I respond? . . . How would you respond?

Have we become a multitude of lifeless eyes? What's happened to the army? Well, all that's really left now is the remains; the skeletons; people who aren't motivated enough to resist.

That's why it might be the most important job in the world to raise up the next generations in the way that they should go. That training can be the ultimate evangelism. Fill them to the brim with Truth, Goodness, Beauty. . . and laughter.  Remind them over and over and over again what they're fighting for. Make them dangerous.

~allie

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Modern Habit



“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 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 weak-mindedness. 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

Monday, June 24, 2013

In My Enemies' Presence

My parents recently had the opportunity to attend a couple's camp where RC Sproul Jr taught. The story/idea of the two armies is one of the many incredible illustrations he used. This one's about the Lord's Supper. . . I thought it was really powerful. So I borrowed that picture, told it in my own words (even though they're not nearly as eloquent as his ;P), and expanded on it a bit :)


"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." (Psalm 23:5)


Two armies. They survey each other from the tops of opposite grassy slopes. At some unspoken command, the armies both begin to advance.

The one army --- Lucifer's army --- is polished and they march in perfect, trained precision. Their dark, glistening armor clanks at each step. Closer, they come. And closer, trampling the fresh grass under heavy feet. Their faces are hidden behind expressionless visors and helmets. Spears glint, banners ripple, horses nicker. 

The other army is made up of former barbarians. Every man of them once served Lucifer; each one is now recruited by Christ. He only enlists men from the enemy army. He calls them "out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). Their eyes are savage and many of their bodies are still be-smeared with blue paint, hinting of their past. Their work-roughened hands clutch pitchforks, dented swords, rocks tied to strips of leather, anything that can cut down enemies. These wild men used to be naked. They are dressed now, but not in armor. They don't march --- they walk, many with their arms swinging by their sides. They eye their majestic enemy and some of them shift their weight anxiously, the sweat standing out on their faces. But the surety of their companions keeps them from despairing. These men gaze their enemy in the eye. Without flinching. 

Soon --- too soon, really --- they are meeting in the deepest part of the valley. Weapons are ready, bodies tense. The place already smells of death.

But then . . . there in the very center of that valley, in the midst of sweaty men and sharp steel, there is a Table. A plain, wooden Table, spread with bread and wine. 

It is the heat of battle; we are on our bellies, dodging trials. Men are falling fast beside us, and evil is thick. Babies die and marriages collapse. Little boys want to be little girls. And little girls want to be little boys. Men are lusting. Women are tempting. Christians are doubting. Satan is laughing. 

And right then you say to yourself, "What I really want right now is a table. I'm feeling hungry." 

Am I right??

Ehhh....Maybe not so much. 

It does not come naturally to sit down at Table, when we think that we should be fighting for all we're worth. It takes true courage to set down our defenses and to take up bread. But that's what we have to be willing to do. 

And the ones who are brave enough (or desperate enough) to come forward in crazy, beautiful faith --- they find out that His Table is safe. 

The battles we fight in everyday have trained us to cling to our weapons, but there's one day of the week when He strips those away. It is only when we come to Communion truly vulnerable that He will fully bless us. It is only after we have fallen to our knees that He will pick us up. 

The Meal is for hungry, dirty, wretched people. It is the only way that we can ever have the strength to keep going . . . And to keep going . . . And to keep going. Because it's at that Table, that He reminds us who we are and what we're fighting for. 

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." (Chesterton). 

~allie


"If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."

G.K. Chesterton

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thankful

God blessed me with such a wonderful dad. I certainly didn't do anything to deserve him. . . (In case you hadn't noticed, we can't choose our fathers ;)) It's all up to Providence. And all I can say is that I certainly got a great end of the bargain.

Every day should really be Father's Day, if you think about it. Everyday my dad is doing the things that good dads have to do. Hard things. . . dirty things. . . things that you have to be strong for.

I'm so thankful for my dad. Especially when I look around at the "typical" dad in our world today. I see so many losers who are "fathers", but are never really fathers. . . And I see the damage this irresponsibility causes. That neglect is growing up a generation of hurt people --- boys who don't know how to be men; girls who don't know how to trust men.

I'm so thankful to be a part of the tiny, blessed minority who have dads that try to honor God; dads that spend their lives doing the hardest things, because they're the right things.

I hope I never ever take this for granted. . . because it's most definitely not granted.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy!! I love you so much.


<3 allie





Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reading the Classics

Some of the most powerful writings in the world were penned by absolute pagans; men who lived and died with their backs turned toward God, and with their faces turned toward human philosophy. They believed that the light of human reason was the true Light. That's what they taught, that's what they wrote, that's what they lived.

And then they died --- those moral pagans --- they died and went to Hell.

So, should we, Christians, even bother with the stuff they wrote, classics or no? Or is it too dangerous?

Well, many do argue that we should only read and study Scripture; that we must avoid the pagan classics altogether.

BUT. I would disagree with them there. Actually I think that in order to read Scripture in the context that God intended, we have to learn about the world, present and past. And what better way to learn about the past, then to read books written by contemporaries of those days? Scripture is the Light but sometimes, the pagan literature can be the matchbox you strike. When we read both the Bible and the Great Books, we begin to see the harmonious ties between the two. If we know what the world was like during the ancient days then we will understand the Bible even better than before. And we will realize that God's Word and the Great Books are consistent with and correlate directly with each other.

However ---- and this should go without saying --- whenever we read anything, whether ancient or modern, the first thing to have in the forefront of our minds should be the scripture. If anything we ever read goes against God's Word, we should have a red warning light going off in our hearts. Discernment is a necessary key if we want to unlock the doors of this classical Christian way of learning. As we read things that contradict what the Lord says, we should know that it contradicts what the Lord says. And we should know, too, what he does say. It is our response to sin that matters. We need to come away from reading Aristotle or Plato with a keen sense of the war between Christ and the devil.

The Great Books also prepares us for learning the rest of our lives. . . unlike modern education. In the modern classroom, students read textbooks printed full of whatever they decide is "tolerant" enough for everyone to read without getting their feelings hurt. (Well, except for Christians, that is). That kind of learning encourages helplessness. We are reading whatever they tell us to read. We don't know if it's accurate. I don't know about you, but I'd rather delve into the truth of a matter, no matter how dirty or painful, or even false, it might be. The Great Books teach us to teach ourselves. We are reading what the authors actually wrote hundreds, even thousands, of years ago, not some buttered-up, revised version. We need to learn to think that, yes, this is truly what Aristotle believed. And this is what is wrong with that belief. We should not settle in a shelter. Instead, learning should be like boot camp.

We need to learn to use our shields, and our swords, if we want to further God's kingdom. The world has a terrible shortage of Christians who know how to protect and defend their faith from attacks on all sides.

Through the classics, through the good, the bad. . . and the ugly, we gain a greater depth of wisdom about the God who created us and our world. And we learn about the people who have lived in our world. We understand more and more about why our culture has turned its back on its Creator. We learn through the wisdom of some men; and through the mistakes of others. It gives us an incredible advantage because we are able to look at all of history, up until now, and we can see how it all fits together.

This knowledge gained from the ancient, pagan classics has made me, if possible, even more exceedingly grateful to Christ than ever before, because it has helped to understand more potently what it would be like without him.

Sheltering ourselves from these books and worldviews is false protection, false defense. We should not, in the words of N.D. Wilson, try to make this R rated world into a G world by hiding forever. In the end, that denial leaves us defenseless, like a soldier without weapons on the field of battle. Instead we need to make ourselves dangerous so that we can "pollute the shadows" (Wilson).

~allie

Monday, June 10, 2013

This is George....

Haah. Yes :D



To Come and Die


       "When Jesus calls a man, He bids him come and die." (Dietrich Bonhoffer)
        
That's what it costs: Death to self everyday.  
        
When we choose to follow Christ it requires all of us. He doesn't want so much of our money, or so much of our time, or so much of our work (Lewis).  He wants us. And that may sound simple. . . non-commital. . . safe. Like we don't really have do anything except say the words. But, think again.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal." (John 12:24-25)

I'm realizing more and more that beauty really does come out of ashes. The most wonderful things in the world take sacrifice. 

Seeds are small and plain and apparently useless. But when you put them in the ground, something incredible happens. That little round seed dies --- it splits open; it gives itself. And bursting out, comes life. 

My heart wants to be that seed. But many times my mind, my life, my sin, get in the way. It's hard to want to sacrifice. Our natural selves tell us to look out for number one. The world says that inside of us we're all "good" people. Believe in yourself, they say. Follow your heart, they say. 

"The heart is deceitful above all things" He says. "And desperately sick."

Nothing in us that does not die will ever come to life. 

God is so full of glorious paradoxes. 

~allie



Friday, June 7, 2013

Three Years Old

Today my baby sister turned three! I can hardly believe how the time has flown by.

I'll never forget the beautiful day that she was born.

She has been such a sweet blessing to our whole family. 

And she definitely keeps us all on our toes. . .

. . . Come to think of it, I don't know what we even did all the time before Isabelle came along :)

Happy birthday to my little cutie! I love you bunches. 


~allie