Saturday, October 30, 2010

Christ as the Center 2

So I did a post last week about Christ being the center of everything that we do rather than an attachment, which is a whole lot easier to say and think about as a concept than to actually live out.  I didn't feel, though, like I really fully and effectively communicated what I was thinking.  Last night I was talking about the post and came up with this perfect sentence, which is what I was looking for when I wrote it, that covered everything and made it so clear and wrapped it all up in one simple sentence.  And now I can't remember it....

So here's my best reconstruction, and hopefully this gives you something more to think about and chew on, and maybe even effects how you live your life in the future.

It's a matter of living all of our life in light of our relationship with Christ rather than fitting our relationship with Christ into all of our life.  Its living our life with Christ as the source, the headwaters, so that so that all of life flows from it, rather than living our life with Christ as the pipe through which everything else flows.  Does that make sense?  So instead of things of life coming about and then we take them and try to flow them through our "Christian filter" or think of them in terms of our relationship with Christ, our relationship with Christ should BE the originator of everything in our life. Instead of things flowing THROUGH it, they should flow FROM it.  Instead of trying to see how things fit into our Christian walk or even IF they fit into our Christian walk, they should be a result of our Christian walk.

So I don't know if that's actually helpful to anyone else.  It's just a different way of looking at it, but I know that for me sometimes I just need that different way to see or think about it.  And it can apply to anything that we do, jobs, the college we pick, books we read, friends we have, car we drive, how often we eat out, what we eat.  And this doesn't mean that we have to be a "super-Christian" and only talk to Christian people and read Christian books and go to Christian schools and have Christian friends.  In fact, I think that if we were to start to take our walk with Christ more seriously and live everything in light of Him, with Him as the source, we would look a whole lot LESS "Christian" than we do now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Review: Catch up...

50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood (1992) by John Piper & Wayne Grudem (10/27/10)

The Presence Based Church (2003) by Terry Teykl  (10/29/10)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Transformed and Transfixed - The Effects of Sin and The Effects of The Gospel

(Facebook Note - October 9, 2009)

Genesis 3 - 7Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked... 8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God

2 Corinthians 3 - 16But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The effect of sin on Adam and Eve is that their "eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked". When we sin, our eyes are opened to our flesh. We suddenly see things about us that we don't like, and we become focused on ourselves so that our vision is clouded by the things around us. In this way, a veil is placed over the eyes of our spirit so that we can no longer see God. After Adam and Eve's eyes were opened to their flesh they could no longer stand the presence of the Lord. They were afraid and hid. Lost in the flesh, unable to see anything but their nakedness and shame, they were separated from God. In the same way, every time that we allow ourselves, the affections of our hearts, to turn to anything but God, our eyes are opened to our flesh, we begin to see our humanness and lose focus on God. The power of the gospel is a power of transformation. As a result of the gospel we are now able to live in the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4) We were once walking in darkness, in the darkness of the flesh, with our eyes clouded and veiled to the King of light, but in His mercy the Lord tore the veil. In the greatest display of His character, he poured out His wrath upon himself, so that His justice could be fully satisfied, as he showed us His mercy and grace, and in this way the greatest expression of love that ever was or will be shown was displayed.
When we have allowed this message of the gospel to fully penetrate our souls, we will be transformed and transfixed. Transformed because the eyes of our soul will turn from the flesh and to the Spirit, and transfixed as we will be no longer capable to do anything but gaze upon the beauty of our Lord.
It is far better to live by the Spirit than to be able to tell right from wrong. I have friends that have asked me, "How can you know right from wrong unless you have first experienced wrong?" Basically, this was their excuse to sin, they were seeking right by experiencing wrong. They are absolutely right! You cannot know right from wrong without experiencing wrong, but, "20Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21In the Law it is written:
"Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people,
but even then they will not listen to me," (Isaiah 28:11-12) says the Lord." 1 Corinthians 14:20-21. And do you know what the rest of the passage in Isaiah says? "So then the Word of the Lord to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there - so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured." Isaiah 28:13. If we seek out evil in order to know what is right the, Word of the Lord will become veiled to us and we will lack understanding.
But we do not seek out evil! Right? It is not so blatant in our lives, many of us would never use the pursuit of what is right as an excuse to do what is wrong, but many of us are seeking to delineate right from wrong. We take areas of our lives and break them down to the smallest pieces to see if we are doing right or if we are doing wrong. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve didn't have to think about whether their actions were right or not, they simply were. As they walked in the Spirit, unaware of the flesh, perfectly focused on God, their actions were appropriate. But, as soon as their eyes were opened to the flesh, and to sin, they started to worry about everything, suddenly everything that had been right appeared slightly wrong. So often this is how we live our lives even as Christians. We become so focused on our flesh and on right and wrong that we forget that it is more important to God that we have a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17) (it is pride to think that we can discover for ourselves what is right and wrong, or that we can even walk these things out). We forget that to worship God is not to follow rules. To give glory to God is not to watch every little area of our life. ("These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish." Isaiah 29:13-14) Why do you come before God? Why do you read His Word? Why do you go to church or consider God in your devotions? Are you seeking to know right from wrong? Do you approach God in order to fashion a system of knowing when you are following or when you are straying? Your heart is veiled! You approach only with your lips and not with your heart! Open your heart to the Lord. Open your heart to His gospel. Consider His glory. Look at His works and be astounded. We should not approach the Bible, church, or devotions as a way of knowing right and wrong, we should approach them with a desire to SEE GOD. To have the veil of our hearts removed so that we can be transformed by his power, and transfixed by His glory. Our desire should be to gaze upon the beauty of our God until all other things become dim around us. Until it doesn't matter what the flesh looks like, all that matters is the Spirit and walking according to it. It is far better to walk in the Spirit than to know right from wrong. Gaze upon the beauty of our God and be transformed by His power and grace.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Christ as the Center

I haven't been able to see Dana much for the past several weeks because she's been busy with school and I've been working a lot and there's just been a lot of different things going on.  But my relationship with God has been great, like, He's just been calling me to sweet times of prayer and worship and seeing His hand moving in and through me.  Then the other night Dana and I got to hang out and it was really good, we drove up to Bethlehem so we had a total of two hours in the car, which always results in good conversation.  And throughout the night we were able to talk about our relationship with Christ and we prayed together (I don't want you to see us as super-spiritual, we talked about a lot of other things throughout the night too) and I left her house praising God, thanking Him for Dana and for the night that we had.

So then something struck me.  I know people who struggle in their relationship with God when their spouse is away.  Like, if their spouse leaves for a month or so (on good terms) and they don't have much contact, they just struggle spiritually to talk to God and walk with Him each day.  But then I've talked to other people who, when their spouse leaves for a time, find their relationship with God very much enhanced.  They have more time to spend with God and feel more committed to Him, and their relationship just grows so much.

Now, I'm not married, so that can play a huge part here, so I may come back in another 10 years and say this post was a bunch of huie, but that's to be seen.  But I realized last night driving home, I've been in a dating relationship before where I struggled spiritually when we had more intimate and heart-to-heart times, and when our relationship was more distant, I actually enjoyed sweeter times with Jesus.  And that was no fault of the other person, I've known that, the problem was my heart, but it made me wonder last night: What's different?  What made me struggle spiritually in that relationship but find with this relationship that it really seems to have no effect on my walk with Christ?

Here's what I realized.  I love Dana, and I only love Dana, because I feel that God has called me to her.  To a romantic that sounds really bad, in fact, it almost sounds "unloving", or like it isn't love.  I don't have space to clarify that issue here, so maybe that will be another blog post, but the point here is that I love Dana BECAUSE I love God.  And we've actually seen this in our relationship, where when my relationship with Christ is suffering, my relationship with Dana suffers.  But its not the other way around.

So basically I have this picture in my head that I'm trying to communicate and feel like I'm doing a really bad job at....or like its going to take me 5 pages to say it..... Basically, I've been at a place where I was trying to be in a relationship AND be a Christian, instead of being in that relationship BECAUSE I was a Christian.  This can relate to any area of life.  Work, school, friends, hobbies, vacations.  If we do this things BECAUSE we love God, then in them our relationship with God will flourish.  I've seen people work a job that they hate but do it because they have to, and the whole time they were wishing they could be "serving God" when if we would all just see that what we are doing COULD BE service to God, and then if we were to take a different perspective on it and go to work BECAUSE we love God, instead of loving God despite going to work, our Christian walks would be much more consistent and our love for Christ much more evident.

Abide in the vine, for without Him you can do NOTHING.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I was meditating on Philippians 4:4-7, and specifically on the difference between prayer and petition (supplication) and why both are spoken of. Through this study I ended up in Ephesians 6, specifically verses 17-18. I started to get into the Greek and found that there really isn't any reason (that I have found yet) to divide verses 17 and 18, which is huge if you start to think about it, because it really could (and possibly should??) be translated:

"And take up the helmet of salvation, and the spirit's sword, which is God's word, through (by means of, this word indicates the instrument of an action) all prayer and petition (specifically stated needs) praying in every season (singular noun that denotes location) in spirit (again, location)"

Now to make it a little more clear I'm going to simplify what is said, this is not a true translation because I'm removing some phrases, but it is not really a paraphrase either, I'm simply trying to bring some things to light by emphasizing things in the Greek that are lost in our typical English translations.

"And take up the spirit's sword, which is God's word, by means of all prayer and petition praying in every season in spirit"

There are so many points that I would love to make here, but I don't have time, so I may come back to further dissect this later, but for now...

1) We often emphasize in modern evangelical circles the need to take up the Word of God (i.e. the Bible), but how often to we emphasize taking up God's word through the instrument of prayer and petition? This can be taken in two ways:
a) I have always been a strong advocate of praying Scripture. I have never had a strong Scriptural reason for doing this, but I just saw that it had power in my life, and that it was the strongest weapon we have in prayer. (see all verses about God's word and it's power) If we are to pray according to the will of God, what better way than by praying God's Word (Scripture)?
b) There is no textual reason to understand "God's word" to mean the Bible alone. (There is a whole study we could do here on the fact that the Greek word "rhema" is used instead of the word "logos", but that will be for another day.) In fact, I think that textually speaking, we should NOT confine God's word to the Bible in this context, BECAUSE it specifically says that the means by which we take up the word of God is through prayer and petition. When we pray, God speaks! We are to take hold of "word of God" through prayer, I think of all the references in Acts where believers did just this, seeking God's face in prayer and then doing what He said WHEN HE SPOKE (one specific instance on my mind now is Acts 13:1-3, read it).

2) I have often heard this verse used as a proponent of "praying all the time" or "at all times". Now, while I think that this practice of praying all the time, or keeping a constant stream or prayer to God, is important, it's not what this verse is talking about! How can I say that? Well:
a) The Greek word translated "at" is "en" and the words "all times" are "panti kairo". First, these words are in the dative (which can also be locative (think location)) and when "en" is used with the dative form it ALWAYS MEANS LOCATION and should therefore be translated "in" NOT "at" (this may seem small, but it's actually a huge deal when you get into it).
b) "Panti" can mean "all" or "every". I'm honestly not sure if there is an indication from the context which it means here, but its not that important, which is why I didn't take the time to find out.
c) There are three Greek words for "time". Without getting into all of it, the word used here is "kairo" and has the specific connotations of a season. Its not a specific length of time, but is rather the characteristics of a period. In fact, its not even referring to "time" as we think of it with a clock, but its rather talking about opportunities or seasons of life. So what its saying, no matter where you find yourself in life, be praying. Oh, and this noun is in the singular, which is why I translated it "every season" rather than "all seasons".
(so you don't think I'm making this up see here and here)
d) So what can be learned here? I think that we have too often emphasized the fact that we can "pray all the time" and therefore implied that we don't need to have a "time of prayer". However, I think that to understand properly what is being spoken of here, we are actually to have a specific time where we stop to "take up" our sword by praying. And this is to happen in all seasons, whether we are spiritually healthy or spiritually weak, whether we see a need for a sword or feel like the battle is slowing or has waned for the moment. No matter the season we find ourselves in we are to be taking time to pray in spirit, so that we might not ever be found without a word of God.
I think it also teaches us about how we should approach prayer. We should approach God in prayer with the active expectation that he will give us a word. Whatever that means or looks like, we should be receiving (the word for "take up" can also be translated "receive") or "taking up" words of God through prayer. Whether this be through the Word that we already have, or words that God will speak, we should approach prayer with the expectation that we will receive a response from the One who hears.

(I must put this note at the bottom. I am fairly confident of the Scriptural accuracy and consistency with the Greek text in the things I have put forth here. However, I am both young in the faith and in my study of Greek and the Bible, so it is very possible I have overlooked something in my Greek analysis or Biblical interpretation. If you think that there are any errors contained within this post feel free to comment. Also, the Greek text I used was obtained from this website, so I hope that it is sound, I did not compare it to the hard copy Greek text that I have.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Writing and Thought

This blog entry was in my Google Reader today (which I haven't checked for a few months...) and I found it to be worth sharing. The entire thing is very well done and worth reading, but this one thesis stuck out to me specifically.

Writing and thought.
I write not because I know but because I want to know. Among scholars today, there is no error more pervasive than writerly Docetism. The Docetic heresy divides idea from style; it is the belief that one can have clear thoughts regardless of the clarity of their expression, or that one first has an idea which is subsequently communicated through the neutral medium of prose. But between idea and form there is a mystical union of natures; to write well is to think well. Language is not the external adornment of thought. It is thought itself, the blood and tissue of the idea.

This is something that I have noticed in my own personal life that has bothered me recently. It seems that when I sit down to write everything is very scattered and I often find it difficult to express myself. Also, when I am talking a lot of times I struggle to come up with the words or to express what I am "thinking". What I have begun to realize, however, is that its not so much a that I am struggling to express myself, but that I am really struggling to think. I find my thoughts very scattered, as scattered as my writing and sentences, as scattered as the schedule of my life.
Actually, this ties back into his fourth thesis, Writing and Discipline, very well. I have found that there was a certain level of discipline inherent in the education system I have been a part of thus far in my life, but without the presence of that system my level of personal discipline has greatly decreased. And without the level of discipline that I have had in my life thus far, I have found that my ability to think and process information and therefore to communicate with other individuals has greatly decreased.
So I find myself with a great need for enough discipline to think.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Excitement and Praise

In the past month or so I have been getting feedback from people that the music in our worship services has been too slow. They say that we need more upbeat music and excitement. I agree with them that things have been slow, more reflective and contemplative, somewhat because I think that's needed and somewhat because that's just where I've been at. But just because that's what I'm experiencing doesn't mean that everyone else is and that doesn't mean that its the right place to be. So I'm torn between this place of understanding that praise is a joyful thing, something that I have experienced, but also knowing that it can be a very fake thing. I'm struggling to really know where the congregation is at and how to lead them to a place of true excitement and praise of our Lord and Savior rather than conjured up energy from a song or short experience.

I guess I look at the congregation and my question is, where are all of them at? What are they praising God for? Are they excited about God and I am not? Am I leading them in or to a place where they aren't or aren't prepared to go? Or am I keeping them in a place that they are already past and need to move past? Or are these people who are requesting faster music just bored by God on a Sunday morning and looking for something to enthrall them?

I guess what it comes down to is this:
We have a desire to be excited, we have a drive for something that will get us so caught up that we forget ourselves and just get lost in that thing. So some turn to sports for that excitement that they desire, yelling and cheering and getting all caught up. Some turn to nature, taking long hikes and seeing awe inspiring views. Some turn to music, looking for a bass or drums that will just make your heart pound and raise your blood pressure. Some people look to drugs, or to sex, or to work, or to recreation, or to TV, or to friendship after friendship. But my desire is to be excited and enthralled and awed by God. I want God to raise my blood pressure and amaze me with the thing He has done. I want God to excite me and make me want to get up and sing. I don't want to get excited because of a moving story, powerful music, or an amazing picture. And therefore I don't want to lead the congregation to excitement based on these things. Instead, I want us to be excited by the hand of God moving, to see the hand of God moving and to praise Him for THAT. To actually be willing to dance before Him, because if we're seeking excitement in a worship service but we aren't willing to dance then we aren't actually seeking God or godly excitement.

So, I don't think its wrong to be excited, in fact I think that we should be excited. But, quite frankly, I haven't been super excited recently over God, which I think is wrong and I am working on. But I just see it as being easy to force excitement rather than waiting on God, seeking His face, and then when He shows up falling on the floor in awe and then jumping up and dancing. I would rather take the real thing 10 times in my life than to force it 52 Sundays a year for the rest of my life and never actually feel the excitement and energy that comes from getting a glimpse, however small, of what God has done and is doing.

I think that the heart of our excitement should be the Gospel, so I need to dig into the Gospel more and understand it more fully until I find myself at the place that I am excited and rejoicing over what God did. But I am left wondering how I can, in a 5 minute call to worship on a Sunday morning, bring everyone else in on all of this and encourage them to be excited about the most exciting thing in the universe rather than settling for the blood pulsing result of fast paced, energizing music.

May you be called by our Father to a place of pure joy and excitement from Him. May you not get caught up in all that this world has to offer, missing the real goal of God honoring, Christ exalting, Spirit initiated praise of our God that makes you at the same moment want to dance on a table and bow on your knees. May you not seek excitement, energy, an experience, joy, or even love, but instead seek our God in all of His glorious radiance, and seek to better know and love Him who came to die in your place so that you might live.