A great talk about how being willing to think can lead to great discoveries!
Category Archives: Thoughts
A great talk about how being willing to think can lead to great discoveries!
Nothing is as sobering as seeing your sin and weakness and then marveling at the consuming beauty of grace. God has used a book over the past few weeks to do both in my life. I have had to put it down several times because the pain was too great and the worship so strong. Wrestling With an Angel is about a father’s experience with his special needs son and God. The subtitle of the book tells it all: A story of love, disability, and the lessons of grace.
It surprised me that it hit so hard. The chapters are short but the connection to what it means to be a fallen parent regardless of the child God has entrusted you to raise is sharp. I strongly recommend this for all parents. It will help you see your journey in a whole new light. Parenting is never for the faint of heart and some hearts grow through unimaginable pain. Here is an extended excerpt to provide a taste.
The alarm goes off inside my head usually a few moments before the clock on my nightstand sets in motion the events of the morning. It is amazing how the mind and body can sync to a schooled stimulus response, almost to the minute, each and every day.
It’s 5:58 a.m. and I have two minutes before my morning routine begins.
I watch the clock and wait for the alarm. It’s not a desire for more sleep that holds me in place. Nor is it the comfort of my blanket on this crisp, cold, dark morning. I take refuge in my bed for these few peaceful moments to think about my life.
I reflect on my weakness and inability to meet the demands that have been placed on me through the circumstances of my journey. I wonder why God’s plan for my life includes so much frustration and hurt. Then I question why God even has a plan for me at all as I contemplate my sin, self- centeredness, pride, and constant sense of failure.
Suffering seems to be the tool He uses to draw me close. But the very affliction of my soul and the anxious weariness of my heart, things that should force me to run to the light, often drive me furiously into the darkness.
I know He loves me and cares for me but sometimes I cannot understand this strange affection. What kind of love is it that brings so much pain into my life – especially from a sovereign being who has the power to make all things right. And so, by nature,I resist the One who ultimately has designed all these difficult conditions for my good and for His glory.
It’s 5:59 a.m. I want to turn off the alarm, go back to sleep, and wake up in a different place and time. I want to wake up a better man or in different circumstances, something other than what’s right here, right now. I am exhausted already, simply by anticipating the next twenty minutes. Guilt begins to disguise itself as conviction, and so I pray.
Father, forgive me for my sins – cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Make the cross of your Son visible for me this morning as I approach this day. Show me your greatness in the smallness of my life. Lord, I am helpless against what is before me this morning, and I do not know what to do. But my eyes are on you. Please wake my son gently and peacefully. Create in him a good mood and a cooperative spirit. Give him an understanding of your love. Give me an understanding of Your love. Ease his frustration and help me to get him out of bed, cleaned, dressed, and off to school. Create in me the heart of a father, that I might be the man my son needs me to be. Make me like Jesus. None of this will be possible unless you intervene in my life and my family this morning. Lord, before my feet touch the floor, give me strength and grace – especially grace. I am desperate for your grace…
The shrill tone of the alarm clock pierces my thoughts and brings an impromptu amen to my prayer. A bit startled, my heart begins to beat faster, pumping much-needed blood into my reluctant extremities, a slight injection of adrenaline to assure the job gets done.
I was talking to a homeless man at a laundry mat recently, and he said that when we reduce Christian spirituality to math we defile the Holy. I thought that was very beautiful and comforting because I have never been good at math. Many of our attempts to understand Christian faith have only cheapened it. I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me. The little we do understand, that grain of sand our minds are capable of grasping, those ideas such as God is good, God feels, God loves, God knows all, are enough to keep our hearts dwelling on His majesty and otherness forever.
What does love look like?
It could look like 50 bags.
50 jars of peanut butter
50 jars of jelly
50 loaves of bread
50 boxes of powered milk
50 boxes of cereal
50 notes to let people know, because of Jesus, that we care.
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
If you love me, keep my commands.
The communal character of the sacrament means that the communion is with each other as well as with God. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus bids us be reconciled with each other before we bring our gifts to the altar (5:23)….What role then to the gifts of the bread and wine have in all this? They are surely of great importance, but not in a manner that is detachable from the totality of what is going on. It seems to me of great significance that the bread and wine are not only gifts of created nature in that they derive from wheat and grapes, but are also the products of human labor. In liturgical words that are often used at the Offertory, the gifts are ‘what earth has given and human hands have made.’ They represent the drawing together, in the action of the Eucharist, of the fruits of nature and the fruits of human work and skill in the offering of creation.
I finished reading Rob Bell’s Love Wins last night. I enjoy reading Bell. He writes in what can best be called a “blog” style which for some reason I seem to connect with easily. I am not going to write a chapter by chapter review (Darrell Bock does a great job of that here) but I do want to share my positive and negative responses to Bell’s book.
The strongest positive impression I am left with from Love Wins is that heaven should not just be some ethereal idea but a concrete reality that those who know Christ are laying the foundation in our world today. Bell challenges the “heaven as an everlasting church service” image that many churched and un-churched people carry with them today. He does a good job of raising the need for Christians to be about alleviating the “hell” on earth by living out heaven (or kingdom) principles today. I am, as is Bell, also repulsed by the pride of those who claim to have a relationship with Christ and then clearly choose to not participate in helping to impact the world but instead continue to exploit and take advantage of others for their own comfort or gain.
I also appreciate how Bell pushes back on the “pray the prayer” approach to heaven. A prayer is a great way to demonstrate that you are placing your trust in Christ. But if your trust in Christ never results in tangible change in the way you live, the prayer and belief is pointless. The book of James makes the same point. Jesus often did challenge the heart issues of those He encountered to help highlight what trusting in Him would cost. The rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30 being one such case.
Bell seems to fluctuate between wanting judgment with consequences and then wanting judgment without consequences. He speaks clearly, and rightfully so, against the sin of this world and how that distorts many people’s understanding of God and the Gospel. But he also communicates that those who do not respond to God before death will be able to still be in process after death. I understand the concept but just don’t find Bell’s arguments successful. I see that he reads as much of his own view into the text of the Bible as he claims others have done.
I also struggled with the concept of God’s will that Bell talks about in Chapter 4 entitled, “Does God get what God wants?” I don’t see the concept of God’s love as a hindrance to consequences of the choices we make in our lives. Not to over simplify the concept, but I am a parent and my love for my children allows room for their disobedience and the resulting consequences of their actions. I don’t see God’s power or rule being comprised by man’s rebellion. I do believe that love will win in the end but that does not mean that all will experience it because they have chosen to not respond.
Because Bell is not writing a systemic approach to the issues of heaven and hell, there are many issues that are left either unsupported or unanswered. I appreciate the style for creating dialog and inviting others to investigate the issues. I would love for Bell to have written a more disciplined book that frames his understanding of the issues and how it would impact the way we should live. I feel like Love Wins is a good read even though it leaves one with more questions than answers.