Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

February 28, 2005

Monday This-and-That

I had a wonderful Sunday. I gotta say, I truly love my church. I was an usher yesterday, but you know in our church the ushers seldom actually usher (show people to their seats). Most of the time we're standing in the back of the sanctuary, watching a crowd of people worship the Lord. We are an "enthusiastic" bunch (some might even say, "happy-clappy"), and I guess I mean that word both in its modern sense and the Greek sense (en theos) also. Watching from the back is almost like watching the leaves on a tree in order to see "which way the wind is blowing." But in this case, it's the wind of the Spirit.

Speaking of which, another thing I value is the Charismatic tradition, with all its faults, its mis-steps and excesses. I still believe that the gifts of the Spirit represent a Spiritual deposit for the sake of the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom in the world. God is sovereign, and yet He calls us to participate in His Kingdom work by a great variety of means, not excluding, in my opinion, the Spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 (among other places). My sense is that the burden of the Charismatic movement is to keep the Scriptures foremost, to test everything against them, and not to over-value any particular gift. I think that C. J. Mahaney's Sovereign Grace Ministries, for example, seems to get the balance right.

Last night my good friend, Todd, came over and we spent quite a bit of time praying for the church, as well as for many people we know. It was a sweet time, and it just sort of reminded me that prayer is really the heart and soul of the Christian life. The great Andrew Murray says it is the Christian's highest calling. To which I laconically reply, "No doubt."

Another fundamental piece of the Christian life is repentance. Without it, there is just no possibility of growth in Godliness. The call to repentance is simply missing from much preaching these days. I just said I love my church, and I also love and respect my pastor, but I've got to say that repentance is a word seldom heard there. If you stop and think about it, much of the Bible is in essence God's earnest cry to his people, "Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near." I only mention this because Mike at To Be Least is living it and blogging it. You should go over there right now and give that boy some encouragement.

Finally, you can't mention repentance without also mentioning forgiveness. And you can't mention either of these two things without coming back to "the one thing needful" . . . the cross of Christ. Milton at Transforming Sermons, quoting James White, brings all this together beautifully and succinctly. A valuable service. Thanks, Milton.

February 26, 2005

Thoughts on "Life-Changing"

"Life-changing." What a presumptuous word. How many times have I heard otherwise sensible Christians say, after they'd just finished reading the latest Christian bestseller, "This book has changed my life." I want to answer, "But how do you know?" Don't you need to wait a day or two, a week or two, a decade or two, before you can really look back and say with certitude, yes, that book really did change my life.

Christian publishing caters incessantly to this tendency in us, this inclination to spiritual fads, this incessant grasping for novelty. Christian merchandising assaults us with the same rank hyperbole so endemic to the mainstream culture. We no longer even consider it lying, because we've been inoculated with this particular brand of truth-stretching since childhood. Over-exposure has dulled our capacity for discernment. I wonder how many people, good and sincere people, who claimed their lives were forever changed by "The Prayer of Jabez," are still praying that prayer today. Relatively few, I suppose. They've moved on to being "wild at heart," or "purpose-driven," or whatever.

I don't mean to be harsh. I don't even mean to criticize those books, but to criticize the mindset that seems so eager to accept the self-promoting promises on their covers. We are grasping for a new revelation, for an over-night transformation, as if we're supposed to experience our own personal Pentecost every month or so -- and the marketing people at Zondervan and Baker and CBD, etc., know this all too well. Meanwhile, we go round and round on the carousel, grasping at each new shiny "spiritual" prize, yes, only to find that the supposed gold ring is just shoddy gimcrack. Our only choice is to go round again, hoping for another chance at what we hope might be, this time, the real thing.

Theolphilus at notes from the front line speaks powerfully to this issue (Hat-tip: Milton Stanley). And Phil at Another Man's Meat blogs on the very same matter. Money quote:

Evangelist Iverna Tompkins described a series of meetings she was speaking at somewhere in the southeastern United States. The meetings had gone well, or so it seemed. She’'d focused on the benefits that Jesus would bring to anyone who would embrace Him. “He’'ll heal your body, he’'ll take care of your finances, he'll fix your broken marriage.” I believe those are true statements. So did Iverna. But on a one day break from the meetings she had an “encounter.” Along with some friends she visited a historical site, some old slave markets in the city. She listened intently as a guide described the obscene language and transactions that once took place there. Human beings were sold into a life of bondage. Those who sold them would describe for prospective buyers the merits of a purchase. “Here'’s Joe...He’'s strong. He’'ll chop your wood... He'’ll pick your cotton…..Look at ‘'im...Look at these beautiful white teeth, the strong muscle...Does anybody here want to buy Joe?” Iverna recounted how as she listened she was transported and saw herself holding Jesus by a chain and proclaiming, “Here’'s Jesus...He's strong... Look at ‘'im...He'’ll heal your body, he'’ll fix your broken marriage, he’'ll take care of your finances...Anybody here wanna’ buy Jesus of Nazareth?”

February 25, 2005

More on the Gospel Blogger Award

I've decided to wait another week before announcing Mr. Standfast's the winner of the next Gospel Blogger Award. The GBA is my way of acknowledging the most Christ-centered post I've come across in the past week. Since I've thrown the nominating process open to all, I should probably explain that my personal preference is toward a post that expressly states the eternal benefits of the Cross of Christ. You see, I am hungry for this. I am hungry to see bloggers demonstrating to the world the relevance of the Cross. And I'm hungry for plain-speaking on this issue. So I'm looking for posts that are explicit about the atoning work of the Cross, which to my mind is the very heart of the Good News.

I am not saying of course that every post should be about the Cross and nothing but the Cross. But I am reacting to a dearth, which reflects perhaps a similar dearth in our churches. The Cross has become peripheral. Just another doctrine. Mentioned "in season," perhaps, and then only in passing. I am looking for a post that forthrightly demonstrates the relevance of the Cross in our time. That answers the cynic's question, "But what does all that matter?"

Well, since I threw open the nominating process only two days ago, and since I've only just now stated clearly what I'm actually looking for, it seems right to hold off on the next award until more nominations come in. Many thanks to friend Milton Stanley of Transforming Sermons for his nomination. I look forward to droves and droves more!

February 24, 2005

GBA Call for Nominations

Almost time again for Mr. Standfast's Gospel Blogger Award (aka "The GBA"). The point of this "award" is to feature a post that best exemplifies the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christian bloggers tend to carry on a many-sided conversation, producing countless wonderful posts, prompting fascinating dialogue, investigating theological controversy, taking up one worthy cause or another, but with this "award" I'm trying to feature a post that is forthrightly Christ-founded. I have this notion that over time people will start to notice the "GBA" and let me know about likely candidates they have come across. Yes, NOMINATIONS, that's what I need! Because as it is I'm just scanning the blogroll at the last minute looking for something that just sort of jumps out at me. I think I've probably got this week's winner all picked out (to be announced tomorrow) but I want to change up the nominating procedure a little bit. I think it would be far more interesting if people were letting me know about the posts that jumped out at them! Posts that turned their eyes once again to Jesus and His Cross. Therefore:

If you have come across a recent blog-post that is centered on the Gospel of Jesus (John 3:16, if you must have it in a nutshell), by all means let me know. Drop your nominating ballot in the handy slot marked "comment" below, or go to my profile page and click email to reach me directly. I will post all nominations and announce the committee's choice (the committee, by the way, is made up of Me, Myself, and I) each Friday.

February 22, 2005

Morning Blog-finds

It's not Blogtalk Friday, but I just feel like cruising the blogosphere this morning. Here's some of what I've found:

Greg Burnett, besides showing us a totally "aw shucks" picture of himself and his two daughters, provides the following quote from Evelyn Underhill:

So, too, all who are sensitive to beauty know the almost agonizing sense of revelation its sudden impact brings - the abrupt disclosure of the mountain summit, the wild cherry-tree in blossom, the crowning moment of a great concerto, witnessing to another beauty beyond sense. And again, any mature person looking back on her or her own past life will be forced to recognize factors in that life which cannot be attributed to heredity, environment, opportunity, personal initiative or mere chance. The contact that proved decisive, the path unexpectedly opened, the other path closed, the thing we felt compelled to say, the letter we felt compelled to write. It is as if a hidden directive power, personal, living, free, were working through circumstances and often against our intention or desire, pressing us in a certain direction, and moulding us to a certain design.
There's a lot of truth in all that, but as much as I admire it, I fear it too, because I know that it is not enough. That is, beauty is not enough, and the love of beauty is not enough, and even that sense of "a hidden directive power" is not enough. I look through a quotation like this--which I value a good deal, mind you--and I long for something more certain than these inklings, more specific than mystical feelings.

So I blog on. Marilynn Griffith, who is wonderful, links to an article by David Crowder. David Crowder is a Christian "recording artist," I gather. All I know is, he's written an awesome article. Here's an excerpt:
The real message, the thing that is scribbled barely legible, the thing that's always there, underlying, is—we need rescue.

Things aren't as they should be. When your eyes focus and this becomes visible, you can't tear your eyes from it. And you start to see that there are those all around us who wait in begging wonder. "What is wrong? I am here. I am here, and I need you to notice. At times I'm waving my arms above my head, screaming it. At times I am too frightened to move, but always I am here, and I want you to notice. And in the dark I am afraid. I lie with my hand on my chest waiting for the tapping to come. Things aren't as they should be. There are symptoms. You see it in my eyes. I have seen it in your eyes, too.
Yes, this is getting closer, isn't it. Putting these two things together, we have the awesome beauty of creation surrounding us, and the directing hand of God in our lives (Underhill), but in the midst of all this we have what my mother used to call "crying need." (Crowder) A lack that even beauty, even mystical knowledge, cannot assuage. So what are we to do? Crowder has more to say:
This is what God has done for us. He has come into our condition. He has come to bring us back. He has come and embraced us. He has come and covered us in Himself. Watch this Christ. Watch as He is accused of being a drunkard, of associating with tax collectors. Watch as He brings healing to the afflicted, love to prostitutes, forgiveness to sinners. Watch as He climbs the hill bearing His destruction on His back. Watch as blood and water flow. Watch as salvation comes to us all. Watch as glory ascends to come again. Watch and fall in love with a God who does not resolve, whose rescue is never-ending. Whose prayer is that you would be that rescue. Who sends you to be that rescue.
Yes, so now we're getting to the core of things. People need rescue. And the Golgotha drama is the story of God addressing that crying need. Somehow my rescue, and yours, is wrapped up in that bloody scene, that tragedy and triumph. My lifeline, and yours, is anchored on the Cross.

We move on now to Ragamuffin Diva. Her cry is Luther's. "Jesus, I am yours. Save me." Diva, writes:
We like to think once we read that Jack T. Chick tract "This is Your Life" and it literally scared the hell out of us, or we read and actually understood the 4 spiritual laws, and God has a wonderful plan for our lives, and we prayed the prayer on the back, or we responded to the altar call, or we filled out the little card, we are saved. And saved is good, so let's just going on about the business of being His, and not deal with delicate matters like asking God to save us on a regular basis.
Because you see the world is not divided between those who do not know Jesus, and so need saving, and those who do know Him, and thus are confortably ensconced on the deck of the ship, sipping lemonade and admiring the sunset. No, we're all still in the water, in the churning sea, and some have grabbed onto the lifeline--they're "being saved"--while others haven't yet trusted the lifeline. All, you see, are crying, "Save me!" But only some are crying, with Luther, with Ragamuffin Diva, "Jesus, I am yours! Save me!"

Which leads me, finally, to The Upward Call. She quotes a Puritan Prayer called "Paradoxes." Read on:
Oh changeless God,
Under the conviction of thy Spirit
I learn that the more I do, the worse I am,
the more I know, the less I know,
the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,
the more I love, the more there is to love.
O wretched man that I am!
Oh Lord, I have a wild heart,
and cannot stand before thee;
I am like a bird before a man,
How little I love thy truth and ways!
I neglect prayer, by thinking I have
prayed enough and earnestly,
by knowing thou has saved my soul.
Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be
an evangelical hypocrite,
who sins more safely because grace abounds,
who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood
cleanseth them,
who reasons that God cannot cast him into
hell, for he is saved,
who loves evangelical preaching, churches,
Christians, but lives unholily.
My mind is a bucket without a bottom,
with no spiritual understanding,
no desire for the Lord’s Day,
ever learning but never reaching the truth,
always at the gospel-well
but never holding water.
My conscience is without conviction or contrition,
with nothing to repent of.
My will is without power of
decision or resolution.
My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.
My memory has no retention,
so I forget easily lessons learned,
and thy truths seep away.
Give me a broken heart that yet carries home
the water of grace
I could go on. I could go on and on, for the Christian blogosphere is a rich vein, but I'm running out of time. Check out Testimony and Truth. She writes, "We fall down. We get up. We hold on. We release. But we must first understand what is truth. We must understand that it has nothing to do with how we feel, what we think, what others are doing or what seems to satisfy.

Struggle if you must, but press on. You are nearer to triumph than you think."

Enough said.

February 21, 2005

Book Report

One of the pleasures of libraries is that, unlike bookstores, their holdings are not confined only to current titles. In fact, most of the books on a library's shelves have been out of print for years! The purpose of a library, at its most fundamental level, is to provide shelf-space for just such no-longer marketable books. Many of them sit there for years without being checked-out. A bookstore, on the other hand, operates according to a different imperative. The point is to "move" books, not to provide a home for them. That's why a library's books are called its "collection" or its "holdings," but the books in a bookstore are merely "stock." There's just no point in holding onto a title that will not sell. If we think of a bookstore as a lens through which we peer into the world of books, well, even the largest bookstores provide a very narrowly-defined perspective. But the lens of the library gives a broader view that includes within its range centuries of writing and publishing.

These days I'm reading a library book by John Stott, called The Cross of Christ. It's not particularly old (1986), and it's not out of print, but it's also not likely to be on the shelf of your local Borders. I discovered this book by hunting through an online library catalog that combines most of the academic libraries in my state, including that of a local seminary. I instructed the catalog to find me all its books that included the words "Christian" and "atonement" as its subject.

I had to sort through quite a few books, most of them of an overly-academic nature (for my tastes) or from a theological perspective that I wanted nothing to do with. But then I landed on Stott's book and knew it was just what I'd been looking for.

The CBD description of this book is:

A major study of the cross in Christian theology, life and mission, this book enters into a dialogue with Scripture, tradition and the world today. Beginning with the centrality of the cross, Stott goes on to examine the apparent and underlying reasons for Christ's death. He then defends the substitutionary view of the atonement and explores the achievement of Christ on the cross. Finally, he discusses the implications of the cross for Christian worship, self-understanding, life and hope.
And, by the way, it's a marvelous book. I will be reporting back on it here at Mr. Standfast, I hope. In the meantime, why don't you take a trip to your local library. Explore its shelves. Learn to use its online catalog. There are riches waiting there that no "Barnes & Noble" can ever match.

February 20, 2005

Christ-centered Blogging

I spent all day yesterday at a "leadership conference." This kind of thing doesn't usually interest me, but I am a great admirer of the man who conducted the seminar. He's a retired Baptist preacher, Dr. Bob Frederich. Sort of the preeminent Evangelical of our region.

Bob was inspiring as usual. I'm really glad I went, but I'm also more sure than ever that leadership, like "purpose," represents a potentially dangerous misdirection of our attention. Of course we must talk about and understand these things, but have you noticed that they have a tendency to move Jesus from the center of our attention?

I confess that Mr. Standfast has not been all that Christ-centered in the past week. When that happens, the fire seems to go out of things, and I begin to cast about for something to write, wondering where my "groove" has gone.

But I want to renew my goal to investigate the possibilities of a Christ-centered weblog. I say "goal" because I clearly have not achieved that yet. I say "invetigate" because I'm not even sure exactly what Christ-centered means in this context.

It was Paul's forthright detirmination to know only Christ, and Him crucified, while living with his beloved and yet troubling Corinthian brethren. What an amazing statement that is! And Paul clearly saw this kind of living and knowing in strictly relational terms. That's why he put "among you." As if to say:As a model and a demonstration of the the power of the Cross, I was detirmined to live it out in your midst, for your sake.

Father, may this blog be an ongoing exploration of the depths and the riches of the Cross of Christ. Amen.

February 18, 2005

Gospel Blogger Award #5

Time again for Mr. Standfast's Gospel Blogger Award #5, awarded to the blogpost that best exemplifies the Gospel of Christ. What, you may well ask, do you mean by "the Gospel"? A good question. One that I may answer in depth someday. But for now let me just say, the winning post should be a cross-centesred post, for the cross is truly the essense of the Gospel.

So, after a "thoroughly un-exhaustive" search, this week's winner is Rusty Peterman of Believer Blog. Rusty happens also to be the first repeat-winner, making him a veritable Barry Bonds of Christian bloggers (but definitely without the 'roids). His recent post, When I'm Tempted to Sin, is truly all about the cross of Christ.

Oh, and by the way, here are the 4 previous winners of the Gospel Blogger award:

#4. RazorsKiss
#3. Believer Blog
#2. The Irvins
#1. Jollyblogger

New Christian Blogger Showcase

Nick Queen at Patriot Paradox has begun a new "carnival," this one dedicated to the discovery and promotion of new Christian bloggers. He calls it the New Christian Blogger Showcase. The inaugural edition features three such whippersnappers: A Nutt's View, A Circle of Quiet, and Reed's Blogged Arteries. Pay a visit, and drop a word of encouragement, to one or more of these fine blogs.

It is A Circle of Quiet that I'm most intrigued by. This blogger likes poetry, but has a problem with William's Carlos William's famous red wheel barrow in the rain. Hey, Circle, didn't you ever look at something homely and ordinary, something that until then you'd always managed to overlook, and suddenly you recognized its beauty, and even had the feeling that this simple thing was not only beautiful but important? I mean, that's the essense of the art of someone like Andrew Wyeth (scroll to bottom picture), after all. It might almost seem, at that moment of recognition, that everything depends on this homely thing. Sure, that's an exageration. Poet's exagerate. The world will go on whether we stop to notice or not. Whether, in fact, the object of our perception had ever existed or not. And yet, yes, there is something important going on when we simply look. When we simply perceive! I'm quite convinced that much does indeed depend on this. So give William Carlos another opportunity to tell you once more about the red wheel barrow and the chickens in the rain.

February 16, 2005


At my wife's work everyone was asking the ladies what they'd received for Valentine's Day. Chocolate? Flowers? A night out? My wife's answer was utterly unique, and everyone seemed to agree that she'd received the best Valentine's Day present of all. What was it? A poem, of course.

Poem for Today


My lover is like a farmer,
and her love is the seed she sows,
and the field in which she sows it is today.
With energy and patience she tends her garden,
With prayer she waits upon the sun and rain,
and with singing, yes with singing,
she brings the harvest in.


I am like one who walks the shore,
and love, that Great Sea, that turbulent showing-forth,
casts at my feet its broken shells,
its ground and polished granite pebbles,
and though these are but dust,
the sifted fringe of an awesome power,
with prayers I glean the glistening shards,
and with my pockets full I come,
I come singing to my lover.

February 15, 2005


We don't have to go far to find the treasure we are seeking. There is beauty and goodness right where we are. And only when we can see the beauty and goodness that are close by can we recognize beauty and goodness on our travels far and wide. There are trees and flowers to enjoy, paintings and sculptures to admire; most of all there are people who smile, play, and show kindness and gentleness. They are all around us, to be recognized as free gifts to receive in gratitude.

Our temptation is to collect all the beauty and goodness surrounding us as helpful information we can use for our projects. But then we cannot enjoy it, and we soon find that we need a vacation to restore ourselves. Let's try to see the beauty and goodness in front of us before we go elsewhere to look for it.
Henri Nouwen

February 14, 2005

Greek to Me

I don't know what's come over me, but I've decided to dabble in teaching myself a little New Testament Greek. I'm worried that the whole process may be an unnecessary distraction, an intellectual exercise that consumes more time than it's worth, but today I've gone and purchased a little book called Teach Your New Testament Greek by Gavin Betts. Perhaps this is just one of those brief flings, a kind of passing fancy, but then that's what I expected blogging to be, and look at me now!

So if it's a foolish notion, Lord let me find that out quickly. Still, many have testified as to the benefit of this kind of study, and at the very least it will test my mental fiber a bit, which is never a bad thing. Onward, eternal students of the world!

February 13, 2005

Testimony of His Absence

I have known for some weeks now that I would have to write this poem. Just as it is good to recount the story of your walk with God, it is also good to remember the times you strayed away from him. In this case, I had done something I knew to be despised by God. This poem depicts the moment after, when He seemed to withdraw his presence from me. I do not say that he deserted me. It was I who had turned away, and now, as lesson and as rebuke, He gave me a small taste of His absence. As painful as that was, I don't ever want to forget it. This too is "testimony."

A Bronze Sky

Do you remember your bronze sky?
And how you cried out,
and how your voice was swallowed up
in that great vacancy, that personless house,
swallowed up, lost, meaningless,
so that it reminded you of nothing at all, and no one,
the words neither pleasing nor shameful,
unrecognized, unanswerable,
and there you were, yes, there you were,
not yet repentant,
but only wondering if anyone lived here,
if anyone could possibly survive
this doing without,
these faces turned away,
this closing cell.


Meet my friend Ting. I just wanted to be able to say to him today, "Hey, Ting, saw you on the Internet!" So here he is. Ting. On the Internet. Posted by Hello

February 12, 2005

Silly So-and-So

If you go back far enough in the etymology of the word "silly," which as everybody knows means foolish or even in a some cases feeble-minded, you will find that it originally meant happy or fortunate or even blessed. Now, you can probably guess why this word made the transit from happy to foolish. It's because happiness makes us foolish, don't you think? Joy is very closely-related to a kind of childish giddiness. You dance a little jig on your way to the car in the morning, and your less-blessed neighbor harrumphs, "What a silly so-and-so!"

If you don't believe me, think back to that moment when you first knew that someone that you loved also loved you in return. Didn't it make you flutter just a little? Didn't it make you want to spread your arms and run in circles making airplane sounds, or go skipping down the street shouting, "She loves me!"

Silly, that's what you were then. Fortunate. Oh, how fortunate. More precisely, you were blessed. And the blessing made you foolish. It made you act like a kid again. People said, "What's gotten into him?" "Must be the silly season!" "High as a kite, that one!"

Now think back to Matthew 5, the "blessed are" verses. I mentioned in a recent post that the happiness of these poor, these mournful, these hungering and thirsting, these merciful and pure-hearted peacemakers, these persecuted ones, was entirely dependent on certain triumphant facts about their future, rather than on the circumstances of their present. Since they are bound for a Kingdom, you see, where they are destined to receive a crown . . . well, however far from now that glorious moment may seem, nevertheless they're blessed, they're happy, right now. One might even suggest that at times they're downright giddy. People call them foolish. Wrong in the head. Silly. But the secret is, they're just blessed.

I don't know, but I think if we really ingested this truth about our future, if we were Kingdom-oriented in our thinking, in our relating with people, in our speaking and living, it would show itself sometimes with a not inappropriate goofiness. If we really get it into our heads that God, the Father of Lights who is pure love through and through, actually does love us, and that he tells us he loves us in all sorts of ways again and again and again, well, it just might make us, every now and then, a little bit silly.

February 11, 2005

Friday Blogtalk

A busy day today, so not much time for posting. But it is Friday, and so I will just point out a few new residents on my blogroll. I've chosen to put them all in the "Apoligists" category, although that could change after I grow more familiar with their work. They are Allthings2all, the blog of Catez Stevens of Middle Earth (I mean, New Zealand). Catez, my question for you: is it really paradise there? Cuz that's sure how it seems from here? For a representative post, see Under the Pohutakawa.

Next, have a look at Crossroads. This is the blog of Diane in Southern California. She is serious, eloquent, and studious. Read her post on apostles in the modern church for a good example of her work.

Finally, check out B. J. Hewitt's wonderfully titled blog, God Is Good All the Time. Here's another Californian, and this one actually says that Mr. Standfast is one of his three favorite blogs. Wow! Despite this evidence to the contrary, he seems to be a person of sound judgement. Sample: It Starts With a Thought.

One think left to do: announce the latest recipient of the most "under the radar" blogging accolade in the blogosphere. This week's winner of Mr. Standfast's Gospel Blogger Award, for the post that best represents the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is none other than RazorsKiss, for his recent post, What Really Matters? Real good stuff!

February 10, 2005

Destiny is Identity

I think it was Winston Churchill who once said, "Character is destiny." There’s a lot of truth in that, of course, but (loath as I am to fiddle with any Churchillian maxim) I want to reverse the equation. I think that the Bible actually teaches that destiny is character. Of course we live it out in Churchill’s order–character unto destiny. That’s how we experience it. But in the spiritual realm our destiny is changed, and only then, gradually, our character. But I choose to use a different word than "character." It is our very identity that is changed. We take on a new name. Destiny is identity.

The other day, a friend of mine said, "We need to walk in our identity as children of God." She said it with a tone of gentle frustration, because she could see clearly that this is often not the case. We are a new creation, the Bible says, but so often we look just like the old one. We’re walking in the old way, speaking the old words, thinking the old thoughts, enslaved it seems to the same old passions. What are we to do? Is the very newness of the new creation entirely reserved for the future Kingdom? Or can we experience a foretaste, a "down-payment," even now?

If you’ve been reading Mr. Standfast for very long, you will have anticipated my answer. I am convinced that God wants us to be happy now. Today. And I’m also convinced that all our happiness, our "fountains," are in God. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, We seek Him, and what we get is both Him and happiness. He reigns. He blesses. He provides. He is trustworthy. He loves us. He is working out his will for his pleasure in his time, and it is all good.

I said the other day that I believe that the devil brings to bear his biggest guns against our joy. That’s because our joy is our testimony. When you walk in joy, you are the very embodiment of the Good News. When you walk in joy, you are a light shining in the dark. You are the manifested promise of God, and people will want to know the source of your confidence and strength. That’s why the enemy will do everything he can to undermine your joy. And that’s why I do not hesitate to say that depression is one of the biggest issues facing the body of Christ in our day.

Imagine a man who has spent his entire life in a prison cell. He knows no other reality. As for his future, there is no chance of parole, it seems. He is awaiting the execution of a sentence of death. His life is merely a slow wasting away, and he can do nothing about it. His destiny is the grave, and his life is a kind of living hell.

But now a powerful Advocate has come to his defense. The verdict is miraculously reversed. The guards come and open the cell door. He’s free to go. This is the position in which every man woman and child on earth finds himself (since Christ died for all). The question is, does our hypothetical prisoner trust the new verdict? Does he put his confidence in the Advocate and walk out of that cell and into freedom and joy?

The tragedy is, many do not. They suspect a trick. It just can’t be true, they think. So they remain in the cell. Wasting away. And the further tragedy is that even those that have put their trust in the new verdict, who know that their Advocate has accomplished what no one else could, still linger in the cell, fearful of freedom. They do not "reckon themselves" free, alive to God. Instead they reckon themselves prisoners still. Though their eternal destiny has been changed, and by that means their present reality is potentially transformed, yet they remain in their chains. For them, it seems, there is no experiential difference between being in the cell and being outside the cell. There is no difference between bondage and freedom. And yet, all they have to do is stand and walk!

Destiny, you see, is identity. And identity is character. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus counts certain people as blessed. Now the word in Greek, scholars tell me, might better be translated, "happy." Jesus says, for example, that people who know their spiritual poverty are happy. Not that they "will be" happy someday. He says they’re happy now. Why? Because, he says, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Take a moment to notice how many of these "blessed are" statements depict people who are lacking something (they’re poor in spirit, they’re hungry, thirsty, meek, they suffer persecution), and yet they’re "happy." And notice also that the second half of each verse, the consolation, has something to do with their Kingdom-inheritance or destiny. In other words, their present happiness hinges on their future destiny. Because they have this destiny, they are happy. It is not their present circumstances that shape their identity, but their future destiny. Destiny is identity.

Now, this is not merely a matter of positive thinking. It’s a matter of accepting what God declares. Sometimes it’s hard, because it happens that our up close may look about the same as before we believed; but our far off, our destiny, is radically different. Our trajectory, our roadmap, our path, our way, our destination, is radically transformed. And furthermore, God pours out His Spirit in us to guide and equip us along this way, so that we will be able to overcome every single obstacle that stands in the path. He goes with us. He will never desert us. He has promised this, and He is a promise-keeping God.

To walk out of the cell is to trust the verdict. People talk about strongholds of the mind, but the truth is that God is our stronghold, and no other stronghold can stand therein. There is truly nothing hindering us from walking out of that cell except lack of trust. So my message today is, if you lack trust, if you’re fearful, if joy seems an illusion, if happiness seems far off, go to God. Rediscover that the Advocate who has affected your release is none other than Jesus Christ; that he did so by means of the Cross; and that that sacrifice is totally sufficient to cover your situation. You are who God now says you are, because when he looks at you, he sees the righteousness of Christ. Once you know this, once you really get it, it will set you free. Get up and walk!

February 09, 2005

Morning Prayer

Lord, I pray that You would fill my seedbag this morning with seeds of righteousness, and that I would be a ready sower.

And if in my carelessness and weakness I should sow seeds of sin, I pray that You would wither them, so that they would never put forth root or bear fruit.

But prosper the good seed, Father, as only You can do.

I pray all this in the strong name of Jesus, the True Vine. Amen.

February 08, 2005


In the Lord there is joy and peace and rest from the carrying of the burdens of guilt and shame.

These are complicated things, guilt and shame. Not easily laid down. These burdens weigh us down and make walking impossible, make progress seem like a foolish daydream. All of us at some point must sympathize with the man who said, "“Lord, I believe, but do something about my unbelief."” Lord, we do trust your promises, and yet there remains in us, so often, an inability to walk in that trust, to take real steps of faith unhindered by fear. To be joyful in hope. To be confident in you for all things.

I believe that the enemy brings all the firepower in his arsenal to bear against our joy. Have you noticed that depression is more of a curse, more of a scourge on the lives even of the saints, than ever before? Our joy and confidence should be our testimony, but he knows that if he can rob us of these things, he thereby undermines our effectiveness as bringers of good news for the world.

You cannot live this joy by reading books about it. You don'’t get it from others. You can'’t manufacture it, and neither is it God’'s gift to us once we have performed the requisite religious services or good deeds. We get it only by going to the source. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. "Christ in you is the hope [the sure and certain expectation] of glory." The presence of God is a place of joy-filled praise. Such is our destiny, stored up for us in eternity, but also available to us now as a foretaste of the splendor to come. Fear drops away, and confident assurance fills us. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Shout for joy, all you saints. For the battle over your very destiny has already been won by the Lord. He reigns.

February 07, 2005

Just Checking In

After a weekend away from blogging, it’s good to be back. The last few days have been full of a variety of pleasures for me. It began on Friday night, when as usual I went to church to pray with a group of folks. This has been our Friday evening practice for some time, and it has been an incredible blessing. But this Friday was probably the richest and most satisfying time of prayer since I began meeting with this group back in, oh, November.

Then, on Saturday night, I went to the local 60s-throwback coffeehouse, Acoustic Coffee, to see my son’s band, Touching Ground. This was just an incredible evening. The opeing act was a young country singer by the name of Liz Carlisle. For an example of her work, try going here and playing her rendition of the wonderful traditional ballad, The Water is Wide. Then came Vannessa Torres and Touching Ground. Not only was Touching Ground at their very best, and not only was Nate’s mandolin sounding better than ever, but then came the "headliner" of the night, Kaki King. Kaki was quite simply a revelation of excellence. If you happen to love, as I do, to see and hear true guitar mastery, Kaki King is not to be missed. A marvel.

Then came Sunday. Wonderful testimony at church. A sense of real excitement and anticipation seems to be bubbling up in and among this assembly of saints. Or maybe that was just the excitement of being a sports fan in New England! In the afternoon the church held its annual Super Bowl bash. My, what a rowdy bunch these Patriots fans can be. We watched the game on a huge screen, served up some incredible food (the gumbo was magnifique!), and a rousing time was had by all. But I have to say, two Super Bowls and a World Series in the span of a single year is a little much. This normally rather dour and long-suffering region is giddy with victory now. Are we ready for the inevitable fall?

My hope and intention is to post something later about Biblical "rest." Back soon.

February 04, 2005

Friday Blogtalk

Man, I just love the Christian blogosphere. It has really become a significant part of my life, and I'm not sorry for it either. I love all my regular visitors and commenters, for one. They really bless me. The funny thing is, I began Mr. Standfast on a whim, not realizing how richly I would be blessed by the discipline of blogging. Yes, I do think of it as, at its best, a spiritual discipline. Although of course blogging can be and often is an indulgence of the flesh, it can also be a means by which we offer ourselves as servants to our Master, saying, in essence, "Use me, Lord, and use this weblog, to your praise and honor." It is a place to stand in the flow of God's wonderful grace, pouring out what we have received. Another place, you might say, for grace to abound.

I also love the Christian blogging community. I am amazed by the richness, by the abundance, of this electronic garden. And that's why I want to be true to my purpose of setting aside the Friday post as a time to applaud some of these blogging saints. In that spirit, I want to point you to some new residents of my ever-changing blogroll.

Stones Cry Out. I don't know why it took me so long to discover this group blog. I really enjoy the diversity that becomes possible in group-blogging, and Stones Cry Out is really a demonstration of that. Very well done.

BeliverBlog. This is the weblog of Rusty Peterman, another fine Texas blogger. Read How Not to Use the Old Testament, for starters. Rusty speaks wisdom here, which should be important to any believer.

Scotwise. Scot is devoted to exercising the gift of encouragement in the blogosphere. I'm with you there, Scot. Read his The Need for Encouragement for an example of one who is pouring out what he has received via blogging. Awesome!

And now it's time for Mr. Standfast's 3rd ever Gospel-blogger Award. This is my completely subjective award to the blogpost which seems to me to best represent the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I guess what I'm getting at here is a way to honor those posts which really keep Christ most plainly at the center of things.

The first winner was Jollyblogger. The second, The Irvins. Joining them in the winner's circle this week is the aforementioned BelieverBlog, for his wonderful post, When Christ Really Gets Ahold of You. Check it out. Money quote:

Our lives will never be dull. Our worship will never seem merely a predictable set of motions we go through. We'll never again see our interaction with other lives as somewhat routine or accidental. We'll never think of a single day as uneventful.

Instead, when Christ really gets a hold on our lives, they will be RADICALLY TRANSFORMED.

The way we think about Jesus. The way we read our Bibles. How we worship and serve and obey will be charged with energy and power and meaning and purpose and direction that comes straight from our very radical Lord Jesus Christ.

February 03, 2005

Discerning Love

Funny how these things happen. I had never intended to spend several days blogging about Paul’s prayer for the Philippians (see 1:9-11). But so be it. Before I go on, though, I just want to say that these musings are just that: these are not considered and crafted thoughts and conclusions. They are simply the verbal "bubbling up" that comes of my dwelling with these verses, or allowing these verses to dwell in me.

Just to recap: Paul prays that the love of the Philippians may abound in knowledge and depth of insight. So the first point is to note that love, the kind of love Paul speaks of, can actually lead to knowledge. As I've said already, by knowledge Paul had in mind a kind of spiritual insight or discernment. And this discernment has two stated purposes or goals. Paul wants the Philippians to be able to "discern what is best." Gordon Fee, paraphrasing, says, "approve those things that really matter." And the second goal–and here’s where I left off yesterday–is that the Philippians would remain "pure and blameless" until Christ returns.

This second goal is, in a word, holiness. It is the goal, in fact, of all creation; the goal toward which the Father of Lights is drawing us "with gentle cords." And it is the desire of every believers heart, or should be. It is that after which we hunger and thirst, that from which we always fall woefully short. This falling short is what we call sin. Sin is heart-damaging, person-damaging, world-damaging. Sometimes it seems like a trap, like the giant spider-web that Frodo was caught in (remember?), and sometimes we are hopeless to escape. That's how we feel sometimes, that's how Paul felt sometimes (see Romans 7 if you don’t believe me), and that’s how, I'm quite sure, the Philippians felt sometimes. This feeling of helplessness with regard to sin is in some ways the background truth of our lives. And yet . . .

Paul prays for holiness. And he does not pray in hopelessness, but in great hope. Our hope is in the Lord, and our hope is that we do not hunger and thirst for a pipedream but for something attainable. Paul does not pray for something that he really believes in his heart cannot be given except in heaven. He prays for purity for the Philippians now, and continuing on until the day Christ returns.

Righteousness. Purity of heart. Remember what Kierckegaard said: "Purity of heart is to will one thing." But remember, this holiness for which Paul prays, it comes of love. Love abounding in knowledge. Or, what I am calling "discerning love." Paul, like Jesus, has a sense of urgency about love. He see love as the high-road to holiness, and it results in "the fruit of righteousness."

Oh, but wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to have a closer look at that phrase, "the fruit of righteousness," but before I do, I want to say a little more about Paul's concept of love. That’s coming next. Thanks for sticking with me!

February 02, 2005

More on Love & Knowledge

Yesterday I wrote about knowledge and love, and specifically the relationship between the two as suggested by in Phil. 1:9. Looking up this word knowledge in the always useful Vine’s Expository Dictionary, I find that the Greek word used by Paul here is epignosis, which denotes "exact or full knowledge, discernment, recognition . . . expressing a greater participation by the knower [in this case, the Philippian Christians] with the object known, thus more powerfully influencing him."

Isn’t that interesting? Clearly there’s a purpose to this sort of knowing; no hint here of knowledge for its own sake. This is knowledge serving the interests of its object. Knowledge, we might say, with its taproot deeply grounded in love.

Paul is always praying that the churches under his care would grow in knowledge. The idea appears in the opening prayer of the four letters written during his first Roman imprisonment (Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon). But have a mind for the purpose of it all. In fact, Paul makes that purpose quite clear. Continuing along from verse 9 we read, "so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God."

Ah, there’s that idea of righteousness again. I find it all over the Scriptures, first to last. More on this tomorrow, perhaps, but for now let's just sum up. I see that out of my love will grow a discerning kind of knowledge, a knowledge that will help me to influence, as Vine says, the one known--and all for the glory and praise of God. Finally, notice the growth metaphor again. We’ve already seen that our knowledge grows from love, but out of this whole complex of love and discernment we will see also the growth of "the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ." We will see, I’m inclined to say, growing from it, the salvation of the ones who are the objects of our love and discerning service; they will be drawn into the great circle of praise that is "the company of heaven."


NDB Alert ("Newly Discovered Blog"): Testimony and Truth. Take a good look! A nice devotional-type blog.

February 01, 2005

Love & Knowledge

Paul writes to the Philippians, "I pray that your love may abound more and more with knowledge and depth of insight." It's quite striking, is it not, that all this knowledge and depth of insight flows from love. Love is the fertile soil from which knowledge springs.

This, quite obviously, is a different kind of knowledge than that acquired at university. It is spiritual discernment. It is the ready understanding of God’s will, God’s heart, in whatever situation. If you love your co-worker, say, and if you’re praying for him, you will abound in discernment concerning his needs, his issues, his spiritual condition. And you will become a powerful intercessor on his behalf.

But knowledge without love produces nothing but a quibbling kind of pride. In truth, it is not knowledge at all, in Paul’s sense of the word. It is merely a collection of mental trinkets. But love is the thing. Without it, we are, as Paul so memorably put it, nothing more than clanging symbols. A racket.

Thank God that through Jesus Christ He has awakened in us a potential to love people "aboundingly." Let us pursue His mission of love; let us be His instruments of reconciliation; His vessels of grace. Yes, let us love one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.