I've been away from the blog for much of the past week, and the reasons for that are several. However, I'm getting back in the flow of things. Daily postings will once again become the nature of things around here.
I've already got a response from one reader concerning my upcoming book of poems. Actually, it's now two little chapbooks (publisher's decision). This project is quite literally a gift from Meghan to me. She's mounting my poems in two small books of her own design, and printing off 20 copies of each. This is a labor of love on her part, and she's doing it because she wants to bless me, which is of course something that just makes me feel great!
So: not that I expect a mad rush or anything, but I'm giving copies of these books in exchange for a financial donation of any size. The money would go to Meghan, who is soon to graduate from art school. I'm repeating the offer now because I'm sure many readers missed the previous announcement. For a sample of my verses, scroll way down the sidebar till you get to the section marked, "A Few Birds (and other small things)". If you're interested, send me an email with the necessary info. Write to: rspencer AT gmail DOT com
And that's enough of that.
"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton
- Name: Robert Spencer
November 30, 2004
I've been away from the blog for much of the past week, and the reasons for that are several. However, I'm getting back in the flow of things. Daily postings will once again become the nature of things around here.
November 27, 2004
The turkey was good. The pies were good (French apple and pumpkin). The company was good. Somehow we got to talking about The Never Ending Story, and so we wound up watching it in the evening, and after that Tuesdays with Morrie, which Nate had been kind enough to bring, knowing that I'd enjoyed the book. None of which should matter a single whit to anyone at all, of course, but there's a place even for incredibly trivial chit-chat here at Mr. Standfast.
My friend Meghan, who is an art student (here) majoring in print-making, has offered to create a book of my poems. Imagine that! So I've handed over to her a sheaf of my poems, and she will be running off an edition of 20 copies, to be ready in January. Isn't that wonderful? Meghan is a creative artist and I've given her free reign as to the book's look and feel. She will also be illustrating it. I don't know what I'm going to to do with these 20 copies (give some away to my special friends, no doubt), but if any of you out there would like a copy, I could send you one (autographed, of course) for a small donation that would go to Meghan, who is soon to become a real-life struggling artist (in other words, she'll be graduating in the Spring). Go to my Blogger profile to send me an email if you'd like one. We'll exchange snail-mail details that way. I just want to do something to bless Meghan.
When my son discovered the mandolin
it was as if he'd found his true timbre,
the vibrato of his very bones.
Soon the bright notes came in deft flurries.
He'd gaze at the ceiling -- all ears --
listening for what his fingers made
the strings accomplish, until the air
remembered the rhythms of Gypsies,
firelight and starlight, the odor
of horses. Days later,
any passing Traveler could tell
there'd been a fire there,
and see by the trampled dust
that it was dancing ground.
November 24, 2004
There will probably be light blogging for the rest of the week. I'm just stopping by to mention that. It's Thanksgiving in America tomorrow, of course, and there will be much feasting, and then afterward much groaning. That's just the way it seems to go. We will have our boys with us, and Megan, a friend of the family. I've spent the morning baking pies, and soon will start in pealing potatoes. Yahoo!
In the meantime, if you happen to visit while I'm away, why not have a thorough check of the blogroll. There are a couple of newbies on there. For example, Feeble Knees. She's a New Englander, she links to me, and she's a Red sox fan. What more do you need to know? Oh, and did I mention, the Red Sox are World Champions?
Promptings is another new kid on the blogroll. A Canadian, too. Does every Christian in Canada have a blog?
And of course there are the old-timers like Rebecca at Rebecca Writes (yes, another Canadian), Mike at To Be Least (formerly known as The Blogging Teen), and Susan at What a Beautiful Day, all of whom have been with me from nearly the beginning of this crazy enterprise.
Oh yes, and do check out the always interesting One Life. He doesn't post frequently, but he posts with clarity, which is even better.
Finally, imagine that the recent goings on at an NBA game in Detroit (surely you've heard and seen--no need to provide a link) had happened instead at the symphony? Well, actually, there's no need to imagine it. Better Living already has.
Finally (#2), I want to leave you with something valuable, since I may not be back till next week. How 'bout a quotation from Nouwen:
If we do not wait patiently in expectation for God's coming in glory, we start wandering around, going from one little sensation to another. Our lives get stuffed with newspaper items, television stories, and gossip. Then our minds lose the discipline of discerning between what leads us closer to God and what doesn't, and our hearts gradually lose their spiritual sensitivity.
Without waiting for the second coming of Christ, we will stagnate quickly and become tempted to indulge in whatever gives us a moment of pleasure. When Paul asks us to wake from sleep, he says: "Let us live decently, as in the light of day; with no orgies or drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop worrying about how your disordered natural inclinations may be fulfilled" (Romans 13:13-14). When we have the Lord to look forward to, we can already experience him in the waiting.
When we have the Lord to look forward to we can already experience him in the waiting.
November 23, 2004
Unto this very moment, unto the right here right now, unto the particular intersection of time and place in which you presently have your being, unto this you have been called by God. There is no other now like quite it. There will never be another. It is yours. God, in his great generosity, gives you one now after the other, and no one else can live them but you.
Perhaps you don't find your here and now particularly satisfying. Perhaps you dream of another, a more spacious one, more blooming with opportunity. If you are an American, you were born into a culture that feeds on this dissatisfaction, and stirs it up incessantly. Ours is an economy that is essentially an engine fueled by human aspiration to a life, a here and now, other than the one we have actually been given. And so the American Siren-song is something like this: change your life by changing your wardrobe, your hair, your car, your medication. Anything is possible. Dreams can come true. Go West, young man!
I am not immune. I am a small-scale Oddyseus, always dreaming of the next horizon. Thus the moment, the right here right now, takes on a character of deadly ordinariness, while all others we can imagine for ourselves seem to glow and pulse with possibility. The present is truly the most undesired, the most under-appreciated, and therefore the most un-experienced gift that God has given us.
And yet, I repeat, into this this very here and now, this intersection of place and time, you have been called by God for His own kingdom purposes. You are called to be right where you are in the name of Jesus Christ. I am called to be right where I am in the name of Jesus Christ. If I am not being there in His name, I am not redeeming the time, making the most of it, living it to the fullest, keeping in step with the Spirit all the way, nor fulfilling the commission that Christ issued before he left the earth.
Don't let petty dissatisfactions rob you of your here and now. Forgive us, Father, for overlooking your great gift of the right here right now. May we live each one to You.
November 22, 2004
Keeping in a "poetetic" frame of mind. Blogging, you know, is about self-expression. Reading blogs is like visiting people in their homes. You find out something about them. You discover what interests them. You note what hangs on their walls, and it may not be what you'd put on yours, but that's what makes people worth visiting in the first place. My little poetic excursions don't often prompt comment. My readers generally politely ignore them, waiting for me to move on to something of a more common interest. In my experience Christian bloggers, if they get poetic at all, seem to prefer the 19th century ballad or something, with lots of nice rhymes and a consistent meter. Me, I've got a taste for modern poetry, even "prose poems," so like it or not, and cognizant of the fact that if I do this kind of thing too often you'll probably quit coming to visit, here's my latest effort:
Certain Small Birds in November
they spring suddenly from the dry grass
in twittering flurries,
weaving their ribbons of frantic flight
among stems and hedges.
little visitors, skittish friends, travelers,
I'll not forget you.
November 20, 2004
At this very moment there are people out on the roads, pushing rackety bikes loaded down with everything they own, while a line of ragged children clings to their skirts. Together they stumble across shattered fields, toward places they cannot begin to imagine, from places they do not dare to remember. Friends, these people have seen the earth crack open at their feet, and loved ones tumbling into the void. For them the sky has truly fallen--its jagged shards lie all around them, the bewildering wreckage of someone else's war. And these people, these bereft, they wish never to be reminded again of the good things that have been. Of sweetness on the tongue, the gift of a flower, love-making, quiet talks, long peaceful mornings, warm nights. Even now, even as you read this, even as you grope instinctively for the mouse, even as the cursor seems to skim of its own volition toward "Back," and you begin to anticipate the next shining window, the next view, the beautiful illusion of travel though you never leave your chair, still these people stagger under their heaven of lead, crossing their valley of bone.
November 19, 2004
George MacDonald on "the careless soul":
For the good that comes to him, he gives no thanks—who is there to thank? At the disappointments that befall him he grumbles—there must be someone to blame!
In yesterday's comments Jared shares a thought from N. T. Wright regarding the Gospel of Mark: "N.T. Wright says that Mark, compared to the other Gospels, reads like a revolutionary tract. Mark is the Gospel you read with your co-conspirators in the secrecy of a cave by torchlight." I like that, too, Jared.
A couple of days ago I mentioned a CD I've been listening to, Chris Thile's Deceiver. Thile was a child prodigy on the mandolin and put out his first album back when he was 12 or 13 years old, I think. It was a traditional bluegrass project with renditions of several Gospel songs. My son once went to a Nickel Creek concert (Thile's band) and some time after the show happened to be passing the band bus on his way home. This was well after midnight, I suppose, and Thile (who would have been about 20 years old then) was standing outside the bus talking with a crowd of mostly teenage kids. They were peppering him with questions, and one of these questions had something to do with sex. Thile's answer was that he was engaged to be married and was keeping himself pure for his wife.
This answer may have come as a bit of a shock to some of these young fans, and may even have seemed like utter foolishness to others, but my son was impressed by his demeanour, the ease with which he seemed to wear his faith. Unfortunately, though, this new project, Deceiver, does seem to contain a loss-of-faith subtext. Or at least Thile is giving vent to some hard questions. One of the songs includes this rather biting commentary on Christian moralism:
"The neighbor's gay / he shouldn't be that way / I'm gonna treat him like a person but not today / when I'm old and gray / and he's dying of AIDS / I'm gonna stop by his bed and remind him to pray."
November 18, 2004
I love the Gospel of Mark. I’m not sure why I love it more than the others, but I do. This morning I read chapter 9. There’s so much in this chapter: first of all, the “transfiguation” of Jesus. Next, the heart-rending cry of the father of a demon-possessed boy, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” That’s a prayer, by the way, that no Christian should ever think himself above. But the passage that really touched me this morning is where Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”
The disciples had been bickering among themselves about who would be first in the kingdom of God. Now Jesus is illustrating to them a singular point: whoever would be first must be the very last, and the servant of all. Even, emphasizing the point, the servant of a little child. For to welcome is, in one sense, to serve. The host at the banquet must serve the guests. Although in another sense he is first, he makes himself last. His will is that his guests have peace and joy at his expense.
In terms of authority, that child is last in the pecking order. To welcome a child is not like welcoming, say, a prince, whom one may be obligated to honor, and from whom one might even receive favor in return. People are often impressed by the “quality” of the guests at a party. High-rollers, bigwigs, VIPs. It is supposed that such guests reflect honor back on the host. But to welcome a child is to welcome “the least.” To welcome a child is make oneself a servant of the one who can do nothing in return. It reminds me of the parable of the wedding feast, in which the host instructs his servants to go into the roads and invite even the homeless to come in and party with him.
To welcome is to offer peace. To welcome is to say, "I am at your disposal. I wish to serve your interests. I wish to give you joy." At the end of his time on earth Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” That was in the upper room, where the disciples were gathered in great trepidation about the future. And Jesus is suddenly and miraculously among them, and he says, “Peace be with you,” and he shows them the scars by which He'd purchased that very peace. And then He says, "Now you go into the world, as my ambassadors, offering what I have offered. Serving as I have served. Welcoming as I have welcomed."
I want to enter into this day with an attitude of welcome to all I meet. I want the attitude of my heart to be, “I welcome you in the name of Jesus.” And the Father will be there, and peace, the peace of the Lord, will be with us.
November 16, 2004
I don't have anything deeply profound to offer today (what a surprise!), so I thought I'd do one of those "What I'm Listening To" posts that bloggers seem so fond of. The truth is, I'm not really a dedicated music buff, and the only time I'm likely to listen to a CD is if someone happens to give me one. Well, that's happened twice lately. First, a Gospel CD from Joe Pace, called Shake the Foundation. This is high energy Gospel choir music, and I just love it.
Second, my mandolin-playing son brought over the latest from his musical hero Chris Thile, called Deceiver. Very, very different than his work with Nickel Creek, and it's definitely going to take some getting used to, but this is fascinating stuff from a musician who seems determined to break new ground with each record he puts out. He is a marvelous craftsman with a wide-ranging musical imagination that is at once experimental and yet respectful of tradition. Deceiver features more vocals than usual (8 of 10 tracks), and lyrics that reveal the sensibility of a Christian who is (it seems to me) at a point of inner-conflict with regard to his faith.
November 15, 2004
Ten years ago Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind was first published. Noll indicted the evangelical world generally for its intellectual flabbiness. Now Noll has written a retrospective on the ten years since Scandal, (in a recent issue of First Things) in an attempt to answer the question, how much has changed? What follows is an extended quotation that I found quite interesting and would subscribe to whole heartedly:
we who are in pietistic, generically evangelical, Baptist, fundamentalist, Restorationist, holiness, "Bible church," megachurch, or Pentecostal traditions face special difficulties when putting the mind to use. Taken together, American evangelicals display many virtues and do many things well, but built-in barriers to careful and constructive thinking remain substantial.But Noll is not completely pessimistic. Read on:
These barriers include an immediatism that insists on action, decision, and even perfection right now, a populism that confuses winning supporters with mastering actually existing situations, an anti-traditionalism that privileges one’s own current judgments on biblical, theological, and ethical issues (however hastily formed) over insight from the past (however hard won and carefully stated), and a nearly gnostic dualism that rushes to spiritualize all manner of bodily, terrestrial, physical, and material realities (despite the origin and providential maintenance of these realities in God). In addition, we evangelicals as a rule still prefer to put our money into programs offering immediate results, whether evangelistic or humanitarian, instead of into institutions promoting intellectual development over the long term.
These evangelical habits continue to hamper evangelical thinking. We remain inordinately susceptible to enervating apocalyptic speculation, and we produce and consume oceans of bathetic End Times literature while sponsoring only a trickle of serious geopolitical analysis. We are consistently drawn to so-called "American Christianities"—occasionally of the left, more often of the right—that subordinate principled reasoning rooted in the gospel to partisanship in which opponents are demonized and deficiencies in our friends are excused.
For evangelicals (as for other Christians) the greatest hope for learning in any age lies not primarily in heightened activity, nor in better funding, nor in sounder strategizing—though all of these exertions have an important role to play. Rather, the great hope for Christian learning lies in the Christian faith itself, which in the end means in Jesus Christ. Thus, if evangelicals are the people of the gospel we claim to be, our intellectual rescue is close at hand.The greater part of this article is then taken up with the many signs, throughout the Evangelical world, of increasing seriousness where learning, scholarship, rigorous thinking are concerned.
But how will evangelicals pursue goals defined by phrases like "first-rate Christian scholarship" or "the Christian use of the mind," when these phrases sound like a call to backsliding for some in the churches and like a simple oxymoron for many in the broader world? For a Christian in the evangelical tradition, the only enduring answer must come from considering Jesus Christ as sustaining the world and all that is in it. In the light of Christ, we can undertake a whole-hearted, unabashed, and unembarrassed effort to understand this world. In a mind fixed on him, there is intrinsic hope for the development of intellectual seriousness, intellectual integrity, and intellectual gravity.
November 14, 2004
There has been much consideration lately, in the media generally but perhaps especially among bloggers, of the role of Christians in the "public square" in America. Several things I've read in the past few days have highlighted that topic in interesting ways.
The latest issue of Cutting Edge came in the mail yesterday. Cutting Edge is a magazine published by the Association of Vineyard Churches/USA. This latest edition includes a very interesting interview with Alan Wolfe, who is a sociologist at Boston College, and who has written a book called The Tranformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith. Now, Wolfe is not a Christian, but has taken a very hard and (it seems to me) unbiased look at the church in America. His thesis seems to be that the church is more shaped by the culture than perhaps it cares to admit. Here's a quote from the article:
He [Wolfe] candidly admits that his deepest commitments lie with the American ideals of liberal democracy (ideals that, in a post-Christian society, seem increasingly less hospitable to religiously-grounded public truth claims). The book, therefore, is a carefully researched, extended plea to two groups of people: Wolfe wants evangelicals to realize just how deeply American culture has shaped them—far more so than the distinctives of their faith—and he admonishes them to celebrate instead of lament that fact. ... At the same time, he pleads for greater tolerance of evangelicals from his secular friends—suggesting that when it comes down to how they actually live, the lifestyles, concerns, and aspirations of evangelicals are remarkably similar to those of their secular counterparts.The interview is very interesting, and makes me want to have a closer look at the book (ah, the benefits of library-work).
What Wolfe means to be reassuring, however, some evangelicals have taken as an indictment. A recent article in Christianity Today suggested that Wolfe says to evangelicals, in essence, “People like me can live with people like you because you do not truly take yourselves seriously.”
The issues of concern to Wolfe are also, very often, the issues of concern to David at Jollyblogger, although obviously he comes at them from a very different perspective. In a recent post, for example, David notes the re-emergence of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority (only this version is called the "Faith and Values Coalition"). Falwell is a bit of an icon, in the eyes of some, for all that is problematic about Christian political activism. But Wolfe says,
Finally, another blogger who's been pondering the intersection of faith and politics [BTW, pondering the intersection is far safer than pondering IN the intersection, especially during rush hour!] is Phil at Another Man's Meat, who says:
Based on my research, the days in which there is an automatic identification of evangelicals with Jerry Falwell are over. I’m not saying that evangelicals will suddenly vote Democratic or swing to the Left, but I wonder if they will change the Republican party, and the compassionate side of conservative politics will be forced to become much more prevalent if they are going to hang onto evangelicals instead of just taking them for granted.
Read the whole post here.
In the aftermath of the election there is, unfortunately, a militancy rising up. It may be the flush of victory, a way of flexing muscles that have been long dormant. I suppose that’s understandable. I just don’t know if it’s entirely wise. Christians will never legislate the Kingdom of God in through political institutions. We’ll never be able to legislate sin out of society. And we’ll never be able to legislate righteousness in.
November 13, 2004
How 'bout I just quote another blogger today. And how 'bout that other blogger be the inestimable Jared of Mysterium Tremendum. Jared has been reading George Eldon Ladd's The Gospel of the Kingdom. This book has been as important to me as any I have ever read (barring the Bible itself, of course). When I read Ladd, it was as if a light came on. Ladd set me on a path of understanding Scripture, and life, in the light of the reality of the Kingdom's presence. I think I might go so far as to use the very over-used phrase, it changed my life. Jared writes:
This is a call for a theocratic discipleship. Following Jesus is not about adapting His ways to our lives; it is about living our lives with the quality of His ways. It’s about living incarnationally, with the reality of Christ’s Lordship ever-present and bursting in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Theocratic discipleship is about living the kingdom life now, not making do until the kingdom comes.Read the whole post here.
We do still await the consummation of the kingdom, that glorious day still to come. But we live now in the day of the kingdom’s inauguration. Believers are members of God’s kingdom now.
Embracing the yoke of God’s sovereignty means abandoning all that hinders or hurts our relationship with God. It means having no other gods but God. It means that God is in control and we are not and we like that just fine – no, not that we are just fine with that, but that we really, really want it that way, would not have it any other way. Christianity is not effective tools for spiritual growth; Christianity is new life.
Embracing the yoke of God’s sovereignty means praying “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” not just with hope that it will be true, but with faith that it is somehow true already and the love of it being so. It means not just praying that God will do that, but living like God is doing it in you.
November 11, 2004
I think that when the Kingdom comes we will find out how wrong we were about many things in this life. God will show us our hasty and thoughtless judgements, our faulty presumptions, and our mistaken conclusions about many more things than any of us can even suspect. This is one reason we need to walk gently in this life. This is why tolerance and patience are virtues. Friends, God has been tolerant and patient with each of you. Romans 2:4 tells us that this very patience is the means by which He draws us into repentance. Let us also be tolerant, patient, slow to judge, fearful of our own tendency to pride, understanding that in all things we do see as if through a smeared window. Take care. Have patience. Be very kind. For these are attributes of love. Every Christian is called to be a shining example of these things. By these, not by judgement or shaming, are many brought to the knowledge of the Father.
November 10, 2004
Paul wrote to the Romans: "I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong--that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith."
This is my vision for Mr. Standfast. Although I will probably never "see" you, I can impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong. Yes, that would be wonderful. And you in turn, by the comments you post and through your own blogs, can also encourage me. Then we are mutually built up, imparting to one another such encouragement and hope as to defy the world's claims on us. We become connected on a spiritual level that is quite literally "heavenly."
I have been doing this for over a year now, and as the months have passed this purpose has clarified itself. What started as a whim has become a mission. Through Mr. Standfast I want to offer a testimony of the goodness of God, I want to build up my brothers and sisters, I want to be a light in the darkness, an intimation of the Spirit, even a conduit of Kingdom power. I want to be a haven of blessings. Lord, let me not stray from this purpose, but always follow on where you lead. May Jesus Christ be praised in all that I write here. If you are suffering now, go to Him. He is willing to heal you and cleanse you even now. (Mark 1:41) He reigns!
November 09, 2004
A little something different today. A poem by one of America's greatest poets, Richard Wilbur. It's called "Love Calls Us to the Things of the World":
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;
Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks
From all that is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
"Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."
Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world's hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
"Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance."
November 08, 2004
God's Self-Disclosure Does not Necessarily Wait Upon Our Righteousness
As I've mentioned before, I'm using D. A. Carson's For the Love of God as a devotional these days. Carson's book is keyed to the reading schedule of the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. This morning's reading included Genesis 28, which includes the story of Jacob's night vision of the "angelic stairway" between earth and heaven. Carson first makes the point that Jacob was not a particularly reputable character. Even in his response to the vision he attempts to negotiate with God: "If God will do this and that and the other, if I get all that I want and hope for out of this deal, then the Lord will be my God." (Gen 28:20-21). Carson sums up today's reading with this perceptive remark:
One of the great themes of Scripture is how God meets us where we are: in our insecurities, in our conditional obedience, in our mixture of faith and doubt, in our fusion of awe and self-interest, in our understanding and foolishness. God does not disclose himself only to the greatest and most stalwart, but to us, at our Bethel, the house of God.
November 07, 2004
I’ve been thinking about “purpose” lately. No, no, not about “the purpose driven life.” But about, well, mission. Or perhaps we might call it “destiny.” Oh, I can tell you what my destiny and purpose is in good theological parlance. I can quote the Westminster Catechism about the “chief end of man,” or relevant Bible passages like Mark 12:30, but the issue in question for me is not so much the what but the how. Oh yes, I know that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, or that my ultimate calling in life is to love God with all my heart and all my mind and all my strength, but the difficult part, it seems to me, is in the application.
So then: How do I glorify and enjoy God and love Him with all my heart/mind/strength in my job, in my blog, in my relationships, in my ups and downs, comings and goings, political conversations, parenting, etc. In all of these matters we tend–or at least I do–to plow on through in a relatively unthinking way, never actually asking the questions, Does this really magnify the Lord? Will these words or that action prosper the Kingdom of God? Am I being salt and light in this particular situation? Or am I just plowing through?
Well, that’s what I’m thinking about these days. I want to work out in concrete terms, as best I can, my salvation. In fear ands trembling. Or, as the Amplified version of Philippians 2:13 says, “with self-distrust, serious caution, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ.”
November 06, 2004
Prayer Meeting, and Practicing the Fear of the Lord
Last night I went to a prayer meeting at our church. The agenda was: "Prayer for the Nations." It was pretty awesome. We spent quite a bit of time praying for Israel, especially since the Arafat era seems to be coming to an end, and this may just be a potentially historic turning-point. We also prayed long for Africa, and for SE Asia. A totally refreshing way to spend the evening!
Here's something from Aron Gahagan, who is owner/operator of the blog, ONELIFE. It's about "practicing" the fear of the Lord:
Picture all the ideas and activities of your life as a desk full of drawers (here's my 'social' drawer, my 'employment' drawer, my 'physical fitness' drawer, my 'personal finances' drawer, etc.). What is marked "Christianity"? Is it one of the many drawers in the desk, or is it the desk itself? If it’s just a drawer, you’ve been deceived. Christianity is no mere ‘religion drawer;’ it is either the desk itself (into which all other drawers go), or it is not Christianity at all—despite its label.
This means that every idea or action in our life (or every drawer in our desk), must be reshaped (or even discarded) in order to fit into the 'desk' of Christianity. Everything must be 'held' or 'stored' or even 'hidden' within the context and the restrictions of our 'desk' of Christianity. Some drawers won't hold some items. Some drawers, we might find, are bottomless (like the 'joy' drawer). Sometimes an entire drawer won't fit in the desk (like a 'sex life' drawer if one is not married), and must be utterly discarded. Instead, it is an all-encompassing, uncompromising, and exclusive view of every aspect of reality. It is a total world- and life-view.
Renovating our lives to this model is a process; usually a life-long one. If we are to succeed, we must be continually testing the drawers (our ideas and actions) to see if they still open and close smoothly in the desk. If not, they’ll need reshaping; and Scripture is our sandpaper (and our table saw, and our fire to burn the remnants). This is how we practice the fear of the Lord: by being doers of the word, and not hearers only: and that means application.
November 05, 2004
A Night Out
Last night a friend called and offered L and me two free tickets to an Avalon concert. Now, I'm not a great fan of CCM (too "youthy" for my old foagy tastes) but I jumped at the chance to see a show. The last concert I'd seen was the decidedly "un-youthy" Bob Dylan, a couple of years ago, so this was, as they say, very different. Along with Avalon, we saw Mark Schultz and newcomer (I take it) Matthew West.
Anyway, here's what I found out: I'm too old for this. The music is too . . . how shall I say this . . . LOUD! There's too much leaping and shouting and clapping your hands above your head like a crowd of performing seals. These people are apparently on fire for Jesus, and the Gospel message came through loud and clear during the talky parts between the songs, but as for the songs, well, most of the time I couldn't make out the lyrics for the life of me.
Still, Mark Schultz sang Letters from War, a very moving song, and Avalon sang Testify to Love as a finale.
All the colors of the rainbow
All the voices of the wind
Every dream that reaches out
That reaches out to find where love begins
Every word of every story
Every star in every sky
Every corner of creation lives to testify
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
I'll be a witness in the silences when words are not enough
With every breath I take
I will give thanks to God above
For as long as I shall live
I will testify to love
From the mountains to the valleys
From the rivers to the sea
Every hand that reaches out
Every hand that reaches out to offer peace
Every simple act of mercy
Every step to kingdom come
All the hope in every heart will speak what love has done
November 04, 2004
I've been a little off kilter lately, when it comes to spiritual things. The recent election grabbed my attention for a few days, and essentially I could think of nothing else. This is probably not as it should be, but an improvement over my old political junkie days.
Which reminds me: pundits keep talking about how this is a divided nation, about the need to "come together." It's silly talk, in my opinion. Politics is, by its very nature, devisive. A landslide in presidential elections is when the winner gets 60% of the vote. That means 40% are disaffected, angry, embittered, whatever. But here's my point, the root cause of all "disunity" is the Fall, and the solution has nothing whatsoever to do with politics.
This is important to remember. Sin is the fundamental problem. The only unity known to man is the unity of sinners. All men, all women -- whether Democrat, Republican, or other -- are sinners in need of a Savior. The line of demarcation is not, in other words, political. The line of demarcation has to do instead with how people answer a question something like this: Where does your hope come from?
Just a thought
"Instruments of redemption." I heard Jack Hayford use that phrase. We're to be God's instruments of redemption in the world. This is what Paul is getting at in Romans 6, right? When we go to work, when we go to lunch, when we vote, when we pray -- instruments of redemption.
November 03, 2004
In the Aftermath (plus a few pics)
November 02, 2004
Hello, everyone. I have to admit that election fever has finally got me. This is almost bigger than the World Series! Well, okay, maybe even bigger than that! BTW, if you want to read wise words before going to vote, check out today's post from George Grant at King's Meadow.
So now I'm headed off to the polls, then to work, and tonight will probably camp out in front of the TV with hot dogs (Nathan's World Famous, of course) and popcorn. I'm praying not for the victory of one candidate or the other, but for a clean election, without lawsuits! Stones Cry Out posts an electoral prayer that is simply choice. Read it, pray it, and I'll see you when the dust settles.
November 01, 2004
Found at CowPi Journal:
A Cherokee elder sitting with his grandchildren told them, “In every life there is a terrible fight—a fight between two wolves. One is evil: he is fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is good: joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion.” A child asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?” The elder looked him in the eye. “The one you feed.”