erase the ways of our orphanhood

I already ordered the book by Rose Marie Miller that Christine Hoover talks about in her blog post, “No Longer an Orphan” because there’s something about the disconnect between knowing and doing that strikes a chord. Yes, it’s a chord that strikes over and over in my life – as I study biographies and as I study the Word. There is too often a great chasm between what we know about who God is and how we act as a result of that knowledge.

For some reason, knowledge translated into a transformed daily grind is the exception and not the rule for most Christians. The oh-so-unfortunate truth about these lives lived on one side of the great chasm is that we miss out. We miss out big time.

Hoover writes of God,

He invites us into the family, gives us His name, dresses us with righteousness fitting of His family, and erases the ways of our orphanhood, especially our self-reliance and self-justification.

You can’t get any more big time then saying He “erases the ways of our orphanhood.” Wow. If you’ve ever hung out with orphans, this should sit pretty heavy – especially this bit about self-reliance and self-justification. Hoover cites Rose Marie Miller’s list of orphan characteristics and each one reveals just how important “self” is – it’s all you’ve got. As an orphan, self is elevated above all else. And living in the ways of our orphanhood is like climbing up a crumbling tower. The more heavily one depends on the mountain of self, the faster one realizes the rock crumbling underfoot… which leads to a more frenzied climb.

The take-your-breath-away-beauty of the Gospel is the freedom from climbing at all. Absolutely nothing is dependent on self when Christ is Savior. Protection, identity, worth, and future are all wrapped up in one man who gave us His family name. One man who is seated, not striving, in heaven and guaranteeing us both an already and not yet inheritance. We don’t wonder about how high we will climb as the tower crumbles beneath us today.

We are free from climbing at all, from striving to preserve self because Christ has done more than preserve us. He has perfected us at the cross.

He is perfect for us.
And daily He is inviting us to let Him erase the ways of our orphanhood.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

treasuring Christ means sharing the treasure

If I was to write letters to the people who have heard the gospel from my lips, I wonder if I could say what Paul said.

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

(1 Thessalonians 2:5-8 ESV)

As I read from Paul’s pen, I imagine what it must have felt like to know he and his little missionary band were “affectionately desirous” of me – ready to share the Gospel and their very lives because I was so dear to them.

Hm. These words come to mind: treasured, valued, loved.

Though I’m sure you would make assumptions about my extrovertedness if we met, relationships aren’t something I instinctually sacrifice to develop. Often (ahem, too often) I would rather choose a book or a journal or precious time writing over developing relationships.

I remember moving to Austin, Texas after I graduated from college. After living with college friends for four years, renting a room from a nice couple in the suburbs was quite the adjustment. I read a lot of books those first few months. Sometimes, I would go to BORDERS to see how many books I could finish on the overstuffed chair in the biography section (I was on a bit of a budget). But, I’ll never forget the phone calls I would receive from my new Austin friends. It would be 6 pm on a Thursday night – prime time to dig in to my newest biography on Blaise Pascal – and I would get a call from Katelin or Stephanie or Christine.

Selfishly, I knew Blaise Pascal was safe – that he wouldn’t make drama or ask much of me. There was something else, though, that stirred me to say, “…Sure! I’ll meet you there in 15 minutes.” That something else was hidden in my DNA, woven into my identity by the hand of God while I was still in my mom’s tummy.

We were made for relationship.
We were designed to enjoy and share and give life in relationship.

Christ Himself proved it was a good design when He became flesh – intentionally walking into humanity as a human who reached out to serve, love, give, and bless. He did not stoop to walk in a flawed design. No, He lived life showing us how it was truly designed to be lived.

Being human is not an unfortunate mistake. God’s design is good and the life of Jesus reveals it to be beautifully so.

And how is it that Paul can write with such deep love and sacrifice for the people with whom he shared the Gospel? Because Paul had experienced being treasured and valued and loved by God. Paul was overwhelmed by the amount of grace and mercy he’d received and wanted nothing more than to be spent living as Christ.

Treasuring Christ above all else means sharing the treasure.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

believing the gospel is beautiful means sitting in the theatre

There is a way of sharing the gospel that makes people wish it was true, even if they believe it’s not. At least, Tim Keller thinks so (The Faith to Doubt Christianity).

There is a way of sharing the gospel that draws people in first because it’s beautiful. Not at first because it’s reasonable or socially responsible or sweet sounding, but because it is simply beautiful.

I know we can do battle about beauty – what it is and who decides – but that’s for another day (and a day that’s already been).

Today, I’m trying to be a student of this kind of gospel sharing. I’m trying to understand what it means to put the beauty of redemption on display – to draw back the curtain on the glorious story acted out on the living stage. I’m trying to remember what it felt like to see the hero die for the villain… and the horrible knot in my gut when I realized the villain was me.

To share a beautiful story, one must believe the story is beautiful.

And for that, I must go and sit in the theatre. I must watch wide-eyed and remember every interaction and every awe-inspiring stage direction. I must hang on every word because every time I know the villain is doomed, but every time the story plays out opposite what I am sure I know. And it is beautiful.

To share a beautiful story, one must first believe the story is beautiful.

There is a way to share the gospel that makes a person sit on the edge of their seat and hang on every word. There is a way to share the gospel that makes one appreciate and even wonder at the beauty so much that one wishes it was true.

I want to learn this way.
And so I must go again to the theatre.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the destruction of dillydally

“Don’t dillydally, don’t load up on video clips and music, don’t trust the power of your community service programs, don’t rely on marketing. Preach not yourselves, or you will veil the gospel.

Preach what, then? The word. What word? The gospel word in the Bible word. Get your Bibles out and share the message of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is amazing the lengths some preachers will go in order not to preach the Bible! We labor week in and week out for years and years to craft the most dynamic, most exciting, most relevant, most creative messages, fitting in some Bible verses into the points we think are really important, and then we wonder why we’ve gotten loads of decisions but made no disciples.” (Jared C. Wilson, p. 193 in Gospel Wakefulness)

Wow.

What an altogether perfect word for what we’re doing in Christian circles these days: dillydally.

We eat up the facebook snippets, read the books, tweet the deets, post the newest viral explosion and search for songs with the most emotional moving typeface. No one is immune. We all seem to love knowing the good news. We love the controversies created by differing doctrines and debating the color of the carpet in the fellowship hall. We love to throw down the name of the newest book or sermon or method of sharing the gospel to prove we’re keeping up with the Christian Joneses. I don’t know why we do it, but I do know that dillydally is an altogether perfect word for all the acrobatics we use to get around preaching the gospel.

Wilson quotes 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (emphasis mine) before the excerpt above,

For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

Paul writes about the way the gospel came to the people in Thessalonica – in word, in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction. I can’t speak to what kind of theatrics surrounded their speech, but it’s pretty clear that the gospel was explicitly shared with the people. Paul makes it sound like this is obvious – to preach the gospel in word – but we are not so sure these days (the shorter the Sunday sermon the better – seriously, what newcomer wants to listen to a stranger ramble on and on and on about blood and sacrifice and propitiation?).

But how can people believe the gospel unless they’ve heard the gospel? Explicitly, unashamedly preached with full conviction. The conviction piece is important because our role is not to convince another of the gospel’s merit, but to fan the flame of our own conviction that gospel is true. Wilson writes, “My brother, pastor, don’t worry about bringing the heat. Just be hot. Fan the flame in yourself to full conviction.” I like that: just be hot.

Yesterday, I was reading Gospel Wakefulness poolside and a man asked, “What are you reading? Like, what’s it about?”

A little sun-weary and caught off-guard, I fumbled before I found, “It’s a book about the gospel… about waking up to the reality of what Christ did on the cross for those who believe.”

“Oh, yeah, I believe that,” he said, “I used to be really bad, like drinking and smoking and s—, but it was f—– up. I mean, I was hospitalized and I been sober since I got out. They gave me these new meds and I’m like s— this is living. I mean, I can go out to the forest and be like, that’s a f—— tree. It’s like what I thought was normal was really screwed up. I mean, I feel like I’m finally awake after a life of hearing voices and s—. Like schizophrenia and all that s—. So, yeah I got out on Monday and it’s been f—– awesome.”

“Wow, that’s really crazy.” I didn’t really know where this was going, but I was stationary on a lounge chair and it seemed like as good a place as any to discuss what is/isn’t the gospel and how it relates to his hospitalization. “So, do you think it’s the medication or something spiritual that happened?”

“Oh, yeah, totally that medication. It’s crazy – the doctors had me on all kinds of s— growing up and I was f—– up bad, but I just thought it was normal. But, seriously, there’s no side effects to this drug I’m on. I sleep for 5 hours and I’m like gettin’ s— done before I go to work at 9 am!”

“Well, what this book is really talking about is the gospel (the good news) that we read about in the Bible. Jesus suffered the punishment that we deserve for our sins so that we can be free. He took on all our messes on the cross and gave us relief and joy in this life and forever in eternity with Him–”

“Yeah, I believe that.”

At this point, I’m thinking 1) I should really brush up on my ‘how to share the gospel when caught off guard in a lounge chair’ skills and 2) does he really believe that?

“Yeah, it’s like everyone believes,” he went on, “You know, in a higher power. I mean, I believe Jesus is in all of us. Don’t you believe that?”

I won’t give you our whole conversation, but this guy was persistent, inquisitive, and interested. Granted, the situation was less than ideal – laying on sweaty plastic lounge chairs in bathing suits – but I suppose this is what it means to “always be prepared to give an answer.”

I asked him some hard questions, mentally thanking Tim Keller for all those chapters in Reason for God that wrestle with doubts. We bantered back and forth and I was careful to not blink an eye with all his cursing. I’ll confess I got kind of casual with my language, as we talked about who would populate heaven. He told me, “Well, I mean the good people. Like I believe we all put out vibes. I mean, if you’re a b—- you’re not going to be in heaven, but if you’re good you will.”

“But who determines who is good and who is a b—-? I mean I might think I’m good according to my standards, but someone else might think I’m a b—-… so who’s going to heaven?”

More than ever in that conversation I needed explicit words. I did not need games or videos or pictures. I needed to speak the good news of the gospel into the chaos of crowded beliefs Joseph had assembled. And even when I spelled it out in all it’s offensive glory, Joseph persisted with more questions and stories about his life.

I told Joseph about church on Sunday and he said he would come. He said it didn’t even matter how early because the medication has him up by 5 am.

I pray he does come and I pray my pastor preaches the gospel because I need it just as much as Joseph.

Because we are all on the verge of destruction by dillydally… the painful beat around the bush game of kind of the gospel. We are all in danger of believing and speaking and hearing a gospel that is less than Jesus’ words on the cross, “It is finished” and less than the glorious result of his work.

teach them to obey

“… and teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.”

As I sat soaking up the the last minutes of lecture in Perspectives today, I almost didn’t hear these words, “We don’t teach to learn, we teach to obey.” My mind rewound and replayed and something clicked.

I don’t think obsessive is too strong a word to describe the fascination the West has with education. We are greedy about our learning. I’m smack dab in the thick of things, too. I want more in my brain, sometimes just so I can come up with something in conversation to trump the thing someone else said. It’s ugly, really. If you’ve ever seen that clip from Portlandia, it’s something like this and I’m not a bit proud of it.

We want knowledge because there’s something elite about it, something powerful.

and this was never how God intended knowledge

It was not a bad thing for Adam and Eve to know things about the Lord, about the garden, about their place in it. In fact, It delighted God for humans to grow in understanding because it produced praise – the lifestyle kind – where their knowledge resulted in actions full of love. The more they knew of God, the more they wanted to know of Him and please Him. We all know that came to a bad end, but it’s important to remember that our pursuit of knowledge hasn’t always been bittersweet. It was once only beautiful.

“… and teach them to obey all that I commanded you.” These are Jesus’ well-known words from Matthew 28. He is not asking the disciples to go out and form institutions where they teach people to learn. Learning for the sake of learning is a lame movement. The only thing contagious about it is our own greed for more. Learning to obey means letting knowledge sink down deep where it won’t grow stale – where it turns into obedient actions full of love.

When we learn to obey, we know our Master in such a way that our greatest delight is to please Him. When we teach to obey we are teaching that following Christ means conforming to His image (not knowing about conforming to His image).

How dismal the Gospel would be if it was only about knowing. How glorious that, through our obedience, God sanctifies us. I don’t want to just learn the Gospel and I don’t want to teach others to just learn the Gospel.

I want to obey and teach others to obey, that God would be glorified and that our supreme delight would be in Him.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

like diamonds

diamonds are attention-getting

Sometimes, it’s the only thing you remember when you walk away from a conversation. Somehow, a diamond can make everything else seem insignificant and dull.

This is the GOSPEL to me. I want to wear it like diamonds, so that everything else is its backdrop. I want the Gospel to be the first and last impression I leave with every conversation. I want the Gospel I’m wearing to sparkle with mystery and throw off a curious reflection.

Last night, in a conversation with a self-proclaimed “agnostic, buddhist, Indian scientist,” I hope he noticed the Gospel above all else.

I hope Truth shone like diamonds, because there is nothing more beautiful.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

the greatest story that ever was

I wrote this entire post yesterday and then cyberspace stole it. It took me awhile to cool off and find time to try it again (because I had a 15 minute window between work and work), but if Vince is right – this should be better anyway.

This morning I woke up remembering. My mind was heavy with it and I didn’t want to shake free. A deep sadness chased after rose-petaled joy in the wide expanse of slight slumber and I soaked it all in with my head smooshed to the pillow. Remembering.

I know the words to a beautiful tale of trial and tragedy and triumph. I know the beginning and ending of the greatest story that ever was. I carry around the chapters in thought bubbles above my head and feel them in the work of my hands. It’s a living kind of story that is both finished and in process. It’s the kind of story that everyone wants to believe is true, but only some have eyes to see.

It’s a story where we are the characters and we live the plot.

This story is the Gospel.
God’s plan for humankind to live as we were designed – for worship.

The Gospel is the greatest story that ever was, penned by the Creator with great care – from the moment the first light broke into the furthest reaches of black void.

In the beginning, God. Forever before and forever after this little blip called human existence, God lives – Perfect, Holy, and Blameless. Our failure to reflect Him (in His perfection) required a hero – a Perfect Savior who would stand in our place to take on everything imperfect, unholy, and blame-filled. Christ is that Savior. 

And today my heart is heavy with the weight of this story – to receive it with joy and to tell it with abandon; to preach it with my feet and to sing it with laughter. This is the story of deliverance from death to life, from lost to found.

This is the story that changes everything. And so deep sadness plays with great joy in my soul as I turn over this blessing in my sleepy mind. This is the story that changes everything.

What have I imagined to be more important than this story? What have I elevated to get more fame than this true tale? What has taken my gaze from the One who redeemed me from the pit and restored my soul?

Today, the act opens on the greatest story that ever was and sets the stage for the greatest party that ever was

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

what scene are you making tonight? we are bound to make a scene – like fools in love.

“Occupy Wall Street” ruffles my feathers

Occupy Wall Street is quite the buzz lately.

Social media is on cyber fire with it.
Talk radio either worships or attacks it.
Conservative news networks can’t figure it out.
Liberal news networks can’t see any flaws.

Prompted by this article, “Why I Don’t Protest” by Pete Wilson (Pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville), I decided to join the milieu.

I guess what ruffles my feathers has something to do with the bottomline (another buzzword).

I’ll go ahead and make this personal. If I am passionate about something, I would hope it is something that has three qualities 1) truth 2) significance and 3) possibility.

Let me break it down.

1) Truth
I’m not going to protest a point that has been proven false. Neil Armstrong did walk on the moon, the Holocaust did unfortunately happen, and Al Gore did not create the internet. I like to think we can use the brains God gave us to decipher fact from fiction. There’s a lot that doesn’t get into the news headlines that might or might not be worthy of a protest (personal or otherwise) and that’s where 1 Thessalonians 5 comes in oh-so-handy.

Paul reminds his brothers and sisters of their secure salvation and identity as children of the light. He encourages them to live peacefully with one another, rejoice always, and pray continually. Then he says in verses 20-22, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.”

Not everything we hear is true.

I know, it sounds crazy. Paul wanted his brothers and sisters to be discerning about everything and holding firmly ONLY to what is good (This begs a more lengthy discussion for what we determine to be good). In Galatians 1, Paul cautioned the people against “other gospels” preached by angels or even himself. We must have a discerning filter, even with people we trust.

Only with a serious pursuit of the Lord (Creator and Living Word) can we have the type of discernment that will allow us to know what is good/evil and true/false. In the same way we can discern spiritual matters of the heart, we are able to discern matters of society.

From a simple study in household income demographics, one can conclude that people living in the United States are easily part of the 1 and not 99 percent.

2) Significance
You might say that the second naturally follows the first. If something is true, it is significant by default. Hm. Maybe some things that are true are not significant.

I am sitting on a sofa right now.

Is this truth significant?
(Please don’t answer that it implies such and such about who I am and where I come from… it happens to be raining in the Midwest right now, which means the tractors are in their sheds and we are praying against snow.)

There are certain truths that are significant because they reflect our relationship with our Creator and with others. God has been so good to give us His Word, by which we can grasp (Ephesians 5) His glorious and mysterious redemption story. Significance, I believe, starts there.

Then, we’ve got to take that beautiful gem called discernment into taxi cabs and general stores and news headlines to understand what God would call significant in our everyday lives. What would He say is worth our energy, time, and treasure?

Is the truth that some people in the world make a lot more money than other people in the world significant?
I would say it
could be.

3) Possibility
That leads us to quality numero tres: possibility. It would seem pretty silly for me to protest the idea that everyone should sit on refrigerator boxes instead of furniture. Silly because it is not significant, but also because there is slim to none chance that I could ever recruit people to think furniture is a bad idea (apart from the hipster crowd who might jump on the trend wagon until they find something irresistible at a thrift store that would almost be evil to NOT sit on).

Here’s an example (to throw another hot-button issue in them mix): I’m not going to protest abortion clinics and I’ll tell you why (after I give you time to throw up your hands or furrow you brow or decide whether to read on…. done?).

I’m not saying I support the practice of abortion. What I am saying is that the presence of abortion clinics and women who use them reveals an issue deeper than any legislative reform could ever reach. It reveals an issue of the heart. It reveals the way we view the sanctity of human life.

David P. Gushee writes in his article “The Sanctity of Human Life,”

The belief that each and every human being has an inviolable dignity and immeasurable worth is one of the most precious legacies of biblical faith to the world.

It profoundly elevates the way human beings view and treat one another.

It restrains the darkest impulses that course within our fallen nature.

Every day for millennia it has both saved lives and enriched their quality.

Indeed, it provides the bedrock upon which the moral and legal codes of our culture and much of the world have been built.

He goes on to explain why the sanctity of life is worth protecting – apart from politics and debates. Gushee looks at the history of human dignity from the pages of the Old Testament. It is something oh-so-wonderful to be made in the image of God!

What I am getting at here is this: One does not fix a broken chair by getting a new chair (equally susceptible to breaking). The possibility for fixing the chair greatly increases by admitting the chair is broken and that there can be a solution.

The real Wall Street problem is not a few people with big money. The real Wall Street problem is people. The possibility for fixing the Wall Street problem greatly increases if we admit people are sinful. This is a heart issue.

And this, friends, is what ruffles my feathers. We spend a whole lot of time, energy, and perfectly good posterboard to protest … well, sin.

We may not recognize it, but what rumbles up inside of us when someone has what we want… that’s called coveting. A rich man can covet as easily as a poor man. A socialite can envy someone as easily as a nobody. A prosperous businessman can offer a bribe as easily as a shady used car salesman. A millionaire can misuse his money as easily as a beggar.

I’m into bottomlines. Here’s one that is true and significant:

we are of the 100%
we are all sinners

Where’s the possibility?

We can be saved by grace.
And, yes, I can get passionate about that.

UPDATE: Just in case you don’t catch the comments on this post, my friend Scot Hekman at Slow Sand posted this article from the Economist, “Leaderless, consensus-based participatory democracy and its discontents.”

Also check out my series called Occupy Life where I start to unpack some of the ways we choose to occupy every single day.
Occupy Life: Lunch Hour
Occupy Life: Ale
Occupy Life: Roland and Delaney

Our True Size

I’m just reposting this quote because it is such a beautiful reflection of the cross as we prepare for Semana Santa. I love how he says, “all of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.” If I’m finding myself in an inflated place, maybe I should see about a visit to Calvary once again.

So good to remember the words of the saints who have gone before!

“Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’  Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross.  All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary.  It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”   John R. W. Stott The Message of Galatians (London, 1968), page 179.

(HT: Ray Ortlund)

via Our True Size.