God’s New Thing

Came across this quote while doing some research work this week and thought it

Courtesy of Jonathan Grassmick

worthwhile to share.

The God who remained apparently silent on Good Friday is having the last word. He is answering the unspoken questions of Jesus’ followers, and the spoken question of Jesus himself on the cross. And what God is doing is not just an extraordinary miracle, a display of supernatural power for its own sake, or a special favour to Jesus. What God is doing is starting something new, beginning the new world promised long ago, sending the disciples to Galilee in the first place but then, as we shall see, on to the ends of the earth and the close of the age with the news of what has happened. A whole new world was opening up in front of them.”

N.T. Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Vol 2, (198-199), on the Great Commission in Matthew 28.

Can You Hear Jimi?

I hate myself.

Yeah, I said it.  I hate myself.

I came across this epiphany while sitting in my newfound favorite spot for self-loathing; Starbucks.  As I sit here, I witness business people collaborating on projects, soccer moms just coming back from their grueling morning walk, and dudes (young and old) that have better fashion sense and physical health then myself.

Me.  I look like I will be that guy who will be 50 years old trying to dress like he did in his late teens to early 20’s, without much sense or purpose.  No pressing, important or urgent activity, but to come to a coffee-shop and sip on his drink, because, well, I look like I did when I was irresponsible, haphazard and sloppy.

I hate myself because I can’t fit into the clothes I own, let alone the ones I would like to own.  I shop at Old Navy, occasionally the Gap.  These are the Banana Republic for “bigger” people.

The clothes make the man.  This is what Starbucks, indirectly, tells me.

I hate myself because I have let myself go too far down the road I’m on and I don’t know if I can make my way back to a healthy place.   I’ve always been on the heavier side.  In high school I weighed as much as a Freshman as I would later come to weigh in college – 190lbs.  In college this was healthy.  I was active, hitting the gym several times a week.  I also was on the Rowing team and on weekends would play flag football.  I could run 4-5 miles with no problem.

In high school I lost the weight by not eating for a summer.  Sure I worked out (a ton) and played basketball (religiously for hours a day, ever day, 7 days a week), but the real difference maker was refusing food.  The food I would eat was bad, not even healthy.  I subsisted on 1 meal a day for the better part of a summer.  After that, I would eat lunch and dinner, ocassionaly skipping one of those meals.

Now, I eat.

I eat alot.

I eat regular meals, and sometimes I squeeze in an extra snack or two.  Or three.  Call it stress, call it middle age, call it metabolic slow down.  I call it pathetic.  I don’t monitor what I eat, let alone how much.  And I know better!

Now, I weigh 252 lbs.  This is 20 lbs. less than what it was 2 months ago.

Progress, right?  So why do I still hate myself?

Because its not enough.  I want to weight a healthy weight.  I want to look attractive, especially to my wife.  Not only has she had to put with me (a feat in and of itself) but she’s had to put up with a fat me.  Not cool.

I want to buy clothes that fit, and are from Banana Republic, without having to go into emotional meltdown each time I try to put a shirt on and stuff down the feelings of insecurity that well up inside like a tsunami, with no forewarned reverberations from the earthquake that is getting dressed in the morning.

I want to like me.  Instead I hate the me that I have become.

And I have become what I have eaten.

In a backwards way, the old yarn about “You are what you eat” is actually a stones throw away from a theological truth – “you become what you worship.”  This is idolatry.  It wasn’t necessarily that it was wrong to fashion something out of wood, to have it in ones home or even to sell it to a neighbor.  What was wrong was that you looked to it to satisfy you.

When the bible talks in cryptic language about “hearing, but not understanding” or “seeing but not perceiving” (Luke 8:10; cf. Isaiah 6:9), it isn’t merely providing one of the better dialogues between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump. Its pointing to the ultimate and sad reality that, “What you revere you resemble, whether for your ruin or your restoration.” (G.K. Beale, You Become What You Worship).

“Oh I can hear Jimi, you say?”  No, you’re just listening.  You’re not hearing.

Self-fulfilment through personal effort is self-destruction.  This is the insatiable law of human life.  We all are seeking to carve out the life we think we want.  But in the end it turns around the carving knife we’re fashioning our idol out of   and chips away at us until there’s nothing left.

We are destroyed by the work of our own hands.

Why do I launch into a discussion on idolatry after having cathartically cleansed my consciousness of self-loathing thoughts of angst against myself and expressions of envy towards others?

Because if I’m not careful, I’ll just trade one idolatry of comfort, ease, emotional security and gluttony through food, for another one of status, discipline, arrogance and pride through “the culture of cool.”

This is how sin works.  It promises us something, and we work to fashion something in our life to provide meaning, satisfaction and fulfillment, and before we know it, we’re “seeing, but not perceiving”, “hearing but not understanding”, “eating, but not being satisfied.”  “Living life, but hating the life you’re living.”

What’s funny is this is how Paul the Apostle felt too.  In a weird way, he may have been able to write this little blog post (of course, he would have different details), but he said something very similar to my own opening line.

“Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ!” (Romans 7:24-25)

That’s who!

The answer to the problem of my self-destructive behavior is not to jump out of  my Starbucks-pot of self-loathing only to land in the fire of the “culture of cool”.  The answer is found in someone who lived the life I should have lived (but didn’t) and who died the death I should have died (but won’t – now).

Can you hear Jimi now?  Or are you just listening?

Thoughts on Thursday – How do you share the gospel with someone who hates you?

Watch this to get an idea of how the gospel can transform the way we retaliate towards others.

Former Ku Klux Klan leader Johnny Lee Clary (Youtube – Watch this in its entirety)

How does the gospel transform the way we relate to those who would be our enemies?

This is enmity towards enmity at its best.

Thoughts on Thursday: Whatever presses upon them…

Today’s thought (or, quote) comes from John Owen, in his book Communion with the Triune God, a book well worth owning and digesting slowly.  Here it is:

“‘His banner over me was love’ (Song 2:4).  The banner is an emblem of safety and protection – a sign of the presence of a host.  Persons belonging to an army do encamp under their banner in security.  So did the children of Israel in the wilderness’ every tribe kept their camps under their own standard. It is also a token of success and victory (Ps. 20:5).  Christ has a banner for his saints; and that is love.  All their protection is from his love; and they shall have the protection his love can give them.  This safeguards them from hell, death – all their enemies.  Whatever presses on them, it must pass through the banner of the love of the Lord Jesus. they have, then, great spiritual safety; which is another ornament or excellency of their communion with him.”

From John Owen, Communion with the Triune God, 141.

Thoughts on Thursday: Prodigal Worship leads to Extravagant Care

This quote comes from Marva Dawn in her book, A Royal “Waste” of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World. Here it is:

It may seem stange ot begin with observations concerning the fulture, but if we think about all that God is, we recognize the immesnity of his love for the world.  If by our worship we want to immerse our neighbors in the lavish splendor of God, then we must understand them more deeply than we often do.  Many of the bad decisions that are made about worship touch only the surface needs of our socitey and not hte hiden influences or powerful forces that make true worship both difficult and essential.

If we understand the genuine needs of our neighbors, we will see that the best gift we could offer them is our faithfulness in royally wasting our time in worship.  To be immersed in the prodigal splendor of God will lead us, in turn, to lavish extravagant care of the world.

Live from New York, its…Thoughts on Thursday (On “Excellence”)?

Well, I just wrapped up my half-week in New York attending the Dwell Conference, and I hope to post some thoughts and refelctions from that time. In the meantime, here is a excellent and challenging quote I just read off of Tullian Tchividjian’s blog (someone I saw at the Conference, but didn’t happen to connect with, unfortunately – as I have been really enjoying his blog lately.  You should check it out here).  

This quote comes from a longer quote dealing with the question of Educational Excellence” in our American Educational system.  I found it extremely challenging and provocative, especially as we, the church, need to think very long and hard about what it will take to gain an influential hearing with the world around us.   As always, thoughts, comments and other provocations are greatly welcomed and encouraged.

“If the evangelical church is to have any meaningful voice in the circles of elite global influence, then it will need to do more than address its latent anti-intellectualism. It will have to make the life of the mind a spiritual responsibility of faithful apprenticeship to Jesus.”

Thoughts on Thursday: Gospel-Centered Scandal

The Prodigal Son by RembrandtToday’s thought & quote comes from Miroslov Volf. I’ve recently begun reading his book Exclusion & Embrace and am being challenged greatly by many of the things he writes.

This thought has to do with the scandal of the cross, against the backdrop of the world as we know and often experience it – less than perfect!

After reading the quote, tell me: What do you think?

Is self-donation a viable expression of the Gospel? If so, how should we identify with the concept of self-donation, when in this life we will experience more exploitation, than reciprocity?

“A genuinely Christian reflection on social issues must be rooted in the self-giving love of the divine Trinity as manifested on the cross of Christ; all the central themes of such reflection will have to be thought through from the perspective of the self-giving love of God…

Exclusion & Embrace by Miroslav Volf“Would not a world of reciprocal self-donation…be a ‘world that which none better can be conceived’ because it would be a world of perfect love? The response is good, provided the condition of reciprocity is fulfilled. But one of the reasons we can conceive of a much better world than the one we inhabit is that the condition of reciprocity is so rarely fulfilled. Self-giving is not met with self-giving, but with exploitation & brutality…

“The ultimate scandal of the cross is the all too frequent failure of self-donation to bear positive fruit: you give yourself for the other – and violence does not stop but destroys you; you sacrifice your life – and stabilize the power of the perpetrator. Though self-donation often issues in the joy of reciprocity, it must reckon with the pain of failure and violence. When violence strikes, the very act of self-donation becomes a cry before the dark face of God. This dark face confronting the act of self-donation is a scandal.”

– Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, 25-26.

Thoughts on Thursday (on Friday) – Geerhardus Vos Quote

Ok, its a day late, but here is a great quote to ponder and meditate on.  It comes from Geerhardus Vos – the father of Biblical Theology – by way of the blog Of First Importance:

“In a broad sense the Old Testament was the economy of conviction of sin. The law revealed the moral helplessness of man, placed him under a curse, worked death. There was, of course, gospel under and in the Old Covenant, but it was for its expression largely dependent on the silent symbolic language of alter and sacrifice and lustration. Under it the glory which speaks of righteousness was in hiding.

In the New Covenant all this has been changed. The veil has been rent, and through it an unobstructed view is obtained of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. And with this vision comes the assurance of atonement, satisfaction, acces to God, peace of conscience, liberty, eternal life.”

– Geerhardus Vos, Grace & Glory (Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 96-97

Thoughts on Thursday: Planting Gospel-Centered Churches – Confessional (pt. 3)

R. Scott ClarkLet me first apologize for the lack of activity lately. I’ve been in a week long class that pretty intensive on Pastoral Leadership. I hope to post some thoughts from the class some time next week (I take a little while to process – forgive me!) – because it is some really great stuff!

Here’s something to chew on in the meantime:

Part 3 of R. Scott Clark’s posts on … (full post here). Would you: agree, disagree, modify?

“We recognize that our confessions form a charter, a covenant with the past, with God, with ourselves and with our children, which summarizes our understanding of Scripture, to which we have voluntarily agreed, which we confess together publicly, and to which we have solemnly sworn allegiance before Christ and the church, then our confessions must form our ministry and they must provide our definition of mission and missional.”

Thoughts on Thursday – Dealing with Human Slavery today

I don’t have stats…I don’t have figures…I don’t even have long, complicated drawn out arguments.I just have a casual observation, and a simple point.  The observation:  human slavery exists today. If you want to question it, just ask yourself what makes movies like Blood Diamond or television shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit so compelling and painful to watch?  They’re based on real stories and circumstances that happen every single day.

The point?  Do something!  If you’re a Christian – pray!  Pray that God’s will would be on earth as it is in heaven.  And don’t over theologize it – just do it.  Its God’s desire that His creation reflect His intended purpose, and human abduction and slavery was not part of  it!  But don’t just pray generally; get somewhat informed.  Sign up for some newsletters, or subscribe to some good blogs feeds that help you get connected (Anthony Bradley does a pretty good job of this).  Visit several websites frequently (Polaris Project, International Justice Mission).

Maybe you can do more than pray and be informed. Perhaps you can actually give some money to some worthwhile cause.  Here’s something you could check out.

Click here