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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Simplify


I'm sure there are many ways you and I need to simplify our lives. Perhaps this is a way you have not considered. I like the way John the Baptist is simply described and I like the clear and simple statements he makes. 
John 1:6–7 (ESV)  There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
I want to be sent by God. I want to actually be a witness. I don't want to talk about it, though I guess i'm doing that here. I have always been a little put off by the word and by those who throw around the word. I just want to be one. I want to do this simple task, come as a witness, bear witness about the light, and toward the end that all might believe through the light, Jesus.

Then I want to be able to make simple statements. John neither stuttered nor muttered, He knew who he was, he knew who Jesus was, and he knew how to express such things in unmistakable ways. 
John 1:15 (ESV)  (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”)
Later in the same chapter John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." 

This is part of my prayer to simplify as i begin a new year and a new work. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Right means for wrong ends

I am reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis at the encouragement of my daughter. Though I am not qualified to say so, I believe that it is brilliant and thought provoking, though since I have not yet completed it, I cannot yet offer final impressions. Adler would not be pleased with such premature conclusions.

It's fun to be reading a book and discover quotes that you've heard previously and think, "So this is is the source of that!" But the most staggering statement I've seen in the book so far is the following paragraph, which I don't recall hearing quoted, but I am very familiar with the ailment it exposes.
“There have been men before now who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God Himself . . . as if the good Lord had nothing to do but exist!  There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.  Man!  Ye see it in smaller matters.  Did ye ever know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them?  Or an organizer of charities that had lost all love for the poor?  It is the subtlest of all the snares.”  (C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, [New York: MacMillan], 71-72)
 This "subtlest" of all the snares" I think, is a prideful and tragic missing of the point of any activity, that in the doing of it get's lost in the activity itself and forgets its real object. For me, my greatest danger of getting caught in this "snare" is in engaging in my morning disciplines for the sake of being able to say that I have taken care of my most important responsibility first, rather than actually longing for and seeking a real encounter with God. How silly it would be if I added to my task list, "tell Kat I love her," or "give the kids a hug." and then mechanically see those actions as little more than boxes to be checked. It's an encouragement to do something good. But something about the need to schedule it in such a manner, messes up the real experience.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Expectations

This morning reflecting on some verses from Luke's version of the Christmas event, provoked the following the thoughts. Here's the verse:
Luke 2:15 (ESV) 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”  
Is there something more that God should do for us to make known to us that something huge has taken place that warrants an investigation? Do we suffer from being jaded so that we have no expectation that anything would ever be different than it has ever been before? Most of us live our lives with the practical understanding expressed in 2 Peter 3:3-4, that everything is just as it was from the beginning of time, but when we think like that we deliberately forget Peter says that everything is not as it has always been in the creation. Do we ever have any expectation that anything new, anything remarkable is going to take place? Our lack of faith in the reality that there is a God who created everything that exists, but who then invaded that world in dramatic fashion, and that angels filled the night sky and sang to shepherds, our lack of practical every day belief that this God is real and alive and moving and working in this life, in some respects blinds us to be able to see when he does work, and may, and I want to be careful here, may affect what God will or won't do through us, because we don't ask and we don't expect.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Healing and Pride

I listened to an excellent sermon yesterday by John Ortberg called Healing . . . All My Soul. In it he speaks about three kinds of sin that infect us. There are individual sins we commit at the most superficial level. Second, and deeper is that we don't just commit sins, we are sinful; we are prone to sin. Third, and deeper still we have all inherited, what some theologians call, original sin which traces back to Adam and Eve. Ortberg speaks of our tendency to not be willing to confess our sin at an honest level, perhaps not even between us and God. He then spoke of our need to be healed at a deeply profound level. It led me after listening into a time of confession that provoked me toward confessing pride. C.S. Lewis speaks of pride as the worst of all sins, perhaps even the root of all other sin. I realized while praying, not for the first time, that one of the reasons I crave being successful is so I will feel better about myself. This is opposed to resting in the love and the grace of God and knowing that I am loved and accepted by God right now, whether i am "successful" or not. That led me to this thought. I have often thought about how much pride and boasting are a part of much of the sports we see on TV and so I said this about myself. "I am as full of pride as a 350 pound defensive lineman strutting around the backfield after sacking the quarterback on a third down late in a close game."