The Outlandish Desire for Home

Quote

Corcovado jesus

Corcovado jesus (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”― Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

 

During this Christmas season, I love to be reminded that we are “outlandish creatures” who are all longing for home.  The reality though can only be found in the One in whom we’ve been made, and in whom we also “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Home, in other words, is found in Jesus Christ alone. That is the meaning of Christmas – God making His home with us, so we can find our way back home again with Him.

No Surprises, Please!

No surprises

No surprises (Photo credit: Pincel3d / Daniel)

I had the privilege the other week of assisting with a friend’s wedding in a Catholic wedding service.  One of the many surprises and joys of that experience was meeting and serving alongside Father Pablo Migone. He is a great guy.  I’ve enjoyed following some of his blog posts and found this one in particular to be very illuminating (Link to the whole article below).

On the nature of being surprised by God:

“I am convinced that God loves surprises…Unfortunately we oftentimes dislike surprises because they tend to destabilize things.  We want everything to be under control.  We get flustered and aggravated when things do not go exactly according to plan.  Yet consider this, had the Virgin Mary not been open to surprise and had she wanted to retain control over her life, she probably would have said “no” to the archangel.  The more open we become to the presence of God in our lives, the more He will surprise us through ordinary and extraordinary events.  The more we trust Jesus Christ has truly overcome the world, the more moldable we will become, gladly allowing His surprises to mold our will according to His own.

via Labyrinthine Mind: God of surprises.

» The Affection of Christ Alone Keller Quotes

» The Affection of Christ Alone Keller Quotes.

This is a great one from Tim Keller.  Enjoy!

What makes us safe with God? Or, the Blessed Assurance of a Basic Theology

What makes us “safe” with God?

I was thinking of this after reading one of Spurgeon’s devotionals the other day from Morning and Evening.  Assuming that someone cares that they are (or are not) safe with God, its a pretty important question.

“Pleasant it is to the believer to know that God’s eye is thus tenderly observant of that work of grace which he has begun. He never loses sight of the treasure which he has placed in our earthen vessels. Sometimes we cannot see the light, but God always sees the light, and that is much better than our seeing it. Better for the judge to see my innocence than for me to think I see it. It is very comfortable for me to know that I am one of God’s people–but whether I know it or not, if the Lord knows it, I am still safe.”

Now don’t hear what Spurgeon is not saying.  He’s not saying that, “You have no response to Him to make,” or “There’s nothing you can know about God, and what He is up to in your life.”  Read the quote below for his thoughts on that.

But what he is saying is something I have adopted as a basic, underlying philosophy to life.  Its actually the starting point of all theological explorations for me and I encourage others to adopt it as well.

God is God, and I am not

It really is just that simple.  If God is God, then there are going to be things that He not only does, but even knows – about the world, life, and even myself – that I am not only unaware, but unable to estimate in the same regard as He does.  When doubt creeps in for whatever reason, I can still and always trust that God is God, and I am not.

 “You may be sighing and groaning because of inbred sin, and mourning over your darkness, yet the Lord sees “light” in your heart, for he has put it there, and all the cloudiness and gloom of your soul cannot conceal your light from his gracious eye. You may have sunk low in despondency, and even despair; but if your soul has any longing towards Christ, and if you are seeking to rest in his finished work, God sees the “light.” He not only sees it, but he also preserves it in you. “I, the Lord, do keep it.” This is a precious thought to those who, after anxious watching and guarding of themselves, feel their own powerlessness to do so. The light thus preserved by his grace, he will one day develop into the splendour of noonday, and the fulness of glory. The light within is the dawn of the eternal day.”

C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Day 5

Megamind: The Line Between Hero and Villain, Blurred in Blue

Megamind: Bad Guy Gone Good?

Megamind

What happens when your dreams come true?

At  Christ Church Santa Fe, we began a intermittent ministry of hosting movie nights during the summer.  I would put together a brief write up (called REEL Conversations) to help people think through the movie with discernment in order to see the redemption offered in it, which is a true reality for any movie. This is the write up for the movie Megamind.

I admit that I love animated movies like Megamind. This movie might just be in my Top 10 of all time. This movie-story is one where the lines between hero and villain are blurred, albeit in blue, but blurred nonetheless.  Who is the “bad-guy” (antagonist) and who is the “good-guy” (protagonist), anyway?

 Central to the story is the theme of identity and hope, and what happens when your wildest dreams finally come true.  Will it be enough?  Will your ultimate hope – the thing that drives all that you do – satisfy you in the end?

Most of us tend to live with the functional philosophy coined by the Neal McCoy country song, that “If you can’t be good, be good at it.”  You can’t escape who you are, so just be the best you that you can be.  It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do; just be the best that you can be.  Megamind comes into this early in his life and bases his life on being the best bad guy he can be.

Until one day he reaches the end.  He has accomplished all his goals.  He has reached all his dreams.  He has become the best at being bad.  And the reality sets in that there not only might, but must, be something more.

At the end of the day, we have the story about how a bad guy becomes a good guy, and the journey he takes to get there.  And that sometimes, what we thought we were all along and what we thought we wanted, might not turn out to be the total truth after all.

Questions to consider:

  1. Who is the good guy, and who is the bad guy?  What makes them so?
  2. What led to Megamind’s conclusion that his destiny was to become the best bad guy ever?
  3. When did things start to change for Megamind? What happened to make him become something he was not previously (consider the quote below)
  4. How did Megamind end up, and is there something you can take-away from this story for your life?

Quote to consider:

Thomas Chalmers, an 18th century pastor preached a sermon titled “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”, where he argues that lasting change can only be found not by the denial of a desire, but by replacing it with a new one. He begins by saying:

There are two ways in which [one] may attempt to displace from the human heart its love of the world; either by a demonstration of the world’s vanity, so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon simply to withdraw its regards from an object that is not worthy of it; or, by setting forth another object, even God, as more worthy of its attachment; so as that the heart shall be prevailed upon, not to resign an old affection which shall have nothing to succeed it, but to exchange an old affection for a new one. My purpose is to show, that from the constitution of our nature, the former method is altogether incompetent and ineffectual and that the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart from the wrong affection that domineers over it.

In Christianity, what is it we’re really after?

A mixed media piece by Jason Edmond Beaird, reflecting on his personal reading of the Book of Job

This is a question that has popped up in my mind from time to time.  Its also a question I find helpful in thinking through many issues we can face – from household arguments to denominational/theological differences.

Its the simple question of “What are we really after?”

As Christians, we can sometimes take it for granted that we are doing what we are doing “for the glory of God”, when instead what we are doing is pursuing some other agenda, some other end, and merely slapping a “God-approved” label on it.  This is dangerous.  Just look at several GOP Presidential candidates who all felt “called” to be the next President, only to bow out months later.

Job’s answer to the question (though it wasn’t put to him quite the same way) is convincting:

“In my flesh shall I see God.” – Job 19:26

 

This came up from my reading C.H. Spurgeon’s devotional reading for today in Morning and Evening as he reflected on the cry of Job’s heart after suffering immensely.  I found it informative and challenging, and share it here with you.

 “Mark the subject of Job’s devout anticipation “I shall see God.” He does not say, “I shall see the saints”–though doubtless that will be untold felicity–but, “I shall see God.” It is not–“I shall see the pearly gates, I shall behold the walls of jasper, I shall gaze upon the crowns of gold,” but “I shall see God.” This is the sum and substance of heaven, this is the joyful hope of all believers. It is their delight to see him now in the ordinances by faith. They love to behold him in communion and in prayer; but there in heaven they shall have an open and unclouded vision, and thus seeing “him as he is,” shall be made completely like him. Likeness to God–what can we wish for more? And a sight of God–what can we desire better?”

C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Day 10

*The graphic image is from Jason Edmond Beaird, who created the work with mixed media reflecting on his reading of the book of Job.  I found it through a Google search and found his piece both visually stunning, beautifully simple and right at the heart, emotively, of what I hoped to convey in this post.  You can see more of his work at: http://v5.jasongraphix.com/

Why I get excited about teaching the gospel…no matter what I’m teaching on specifically

Herman Bavinck

In case you ever wondered why I get so excited about the gospel, and particularly, teaching the gospel from any book, theme or issue from the Bible, here’s why:

“The essence of the Christian religion consists in this, that the creation of the Father, devastated by sin, is restored in the death of the Son of God, and recreated by the Holy Spirit into the kingdom of God.”

Herman Bavinck

Always time to begin again

Prince of Preachers, C.H. Spurgeon

Read today’s first reading in the C.H. Spurgeon classic devotional Morning and Evening, and this quote stuck out to me.  It reminds me of the misnomer of thinking that “eternal life” means “later” when in fact it means something much more profound.  Its a quality of life, over and above a time-stamp.  In a way, its more like a vintage wine where the “born on date” is significant, but only serves as a factor in the overall flavor and experience of the wine itself.

In other words, today is yet another great time to begin again with God, because we have the hope of beginning our life “forever with the Lord” now through the person and work of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“They did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”

– Joshua 5:12

“Israel’s weary wanderings were all over, and the promised rest was attained. No more moving tents, fiery serpents, fierce Amalekites, and howling wildernesses: they came to the land which flowed with milk and honey, and they ate the old corn of the land. Perhaps this year, beloved Christian reader, this may be thy case or mine. Joyful is the prospect, and if faith be in active exercise, it will yield unalloyed delight. To be with Jesus in the rest which remaineth for the people of God, is a cheering hope indeed, and to expect this glory so soon is a double bliss. Unbelief shudders at the Jordan which still rolls between us and the goodly land, but let us rest assured that we have already experienced more ills than death at its worst can cause us. Let us banish every fearful thought, and rejoice with exceeding great joy, in the prospect that this year we shall begin to be “forever with the Lord.”

C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Day 1

Deeper grace from before the dawn of time

Found this quote over at Of First Importance (Deeper grace from before the dawn of time | Of First Importance) and wanted to share it here.  This is why, I believe, you should study the Trinity.  It is not a mere theological topic to be discussed in a sterile, academic environment, or only for theology nerds who read obscure and obtuse authors.  It is foundational for understanding the Gospel, and the Gospel affects your life.  In a later post, I will add some thoughts and recommendations for books to study on this topic, but for now, enjoy this quote by Sinclair Ferguson:

 

Before all time; prior to all worlds; when there was nothing ‘outside of’ God Himself; when the Father, Son, and Spirit found eternal, absolute, and unimaginable blessing, pleasure, and joy in Their holy triunity — it was Their agreed purpose to create a world. That world would fall. But in unison — and at infinitely great cost — this glorious triune God planned to bring you (if you are a believer) grace and salvation.

This is deeper grace from before the dawn of time. It was pictured in the rituals, the leaders, and the experiences of the Old Testament saints, all of whom longed to see what we see. All this is now ours. Our salvation depends on God’s covenant, rooted in eternity, foreshadowed in the Mosaic liturgy, fulfilled in Christ, enduring forever. No wonder Hebrews calls it ‘so great a salvation’ (Heb. 2:3).

Sinclair B. Ferguson, In Christ Alone, (136)