Monday, May 31, 2010

Hard sayings

Last night someone preached on Revelation. And this was the conversation going on in my head.

Me: I believe the Bible.

Unbelieving Friend who loves and accepts everyone but finds my beliefs a little silly: What about Revelation? Scorpions, really? So many different plagues poured out at once that I will be trying to commit suicide?... Pretty sure God's not like that.

Me: (who is not very good on my feet, even in imaginary conversations) um...

It feels good to be the Christian who teaches that we are to love everybody, pray for everyone... you know, the Deitrich Bonhoeffer quoting Christian who says that we are to give up our lives for each other. It's easy to say those things, at least.

But its not easy to say that I believe in Revelation. Revelation is hard to believe.

One Buddhist-ish acquaintance told me that he read the whole Bible and liked it but Revelation was 'like bad acid trip.' Believing in Revelation is a little embarrassing, to be honest.

Then almost like clockwork God gives me the story about 'hard sayings' this morning in John 6. I say like clockwork because I've been given this answer before.

So I'm reading John 6, where Jesus says he is the bread of life. And as I was reading Christ's words were basically striking me like this: 'you have to decide whether I am the Christ or not. I came from the Father, and this is what the Father wants you to do. Believe me. Believe that I am the Christ. Believe my words.'

Now to me that sounds hard - make a decision now. Is this man Jesus false or true? But the next part is infinitely harder and easier all at once.

'Just kidding, you don't have to decide. If God wills it, and if you love God, you will automatically know that I am from God.'

That statement is, in a sense easier, because it removes a responsibility to somehow research Christ's claims and make a decision based on our intellect. It is not easier because it asks our sinful minds to accept God's sovereign choice. Christ's words are still hard; hard to understand and hard to swallow.

So disciples, I am right there with ya when you say to Jesus after that: 'This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?'

Then my answer for today came. Some left because Jesus' sayings were so hard. And Jesus said to his disciples 'are you going to go away too?' And Peter said: 'There's no place else to go, you are the one who has eternal life. And we have believed, and have come to know (I like that because it denotes that there is another level of knowledge far superior to the initial belief) that you are the Holy One of God.'

Why do we stick with Jesus? Because the story of redemption is a cute story? Definitely not. We are Christians because the story of redemption is a true story. We are Christians because we need eternal life, and Jesus has it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Christ's humbling and loneliness for others' guilt

I hardly ever do singspirations with hymnals in school because kids don't know that many hymns. I was tired and a struggling with sickness yesterday and decided to give it a try. Some joker picked this song because they thought it was about an olive. (If you grew up Christian you know the drill.) But God knew I needed this focus. Thinking of Christ's humility made me want to go out and kiss the first homeless person I saw. Ok I know that's weird and doesn't go with the song. Whatever.

'Tis midnight and on olive's brow
The star is dimmed that lately shown
'Tis midnight in the garden now
The suffering Savior prays alone.

'Tis midnight and from all removed
Emmanuel wrestles lone with fears
E'en the disciple whom he loved
Heeds not his Master's grief and tears.

'Tis midnight and for others' guilt
The Man of Sorrows weeps in blood;
Yet he who hath in anguish knelt
Is not forsaken by his God.

'Tis midnight and from ether plains
Is borne the song that angels know;
Unheard by mortals are the strains
That sweetly soothe the Savior's woe.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Takes one to know one.

I've been thinking about pride a lot this week, mostly because I am dealing with an issue in my heart that stems from pride. I was trying to explain some of my thoughts to my sister, but I couldn't, and all the while i was thinking: if C.S. Lewis was here he would know what I was talking about. So, I return to the pride chapter of Mere Christianity: I read it in high school but still remember it.

...Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

Does this seem to you exaggerated? If so, think it over. I pointed out a moment ago that the more pride one had, the more one disliked pride in others.

Ouch. I am so good at spotting proud people.

In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, 'How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off? The point is that each person's pride is in competition with everyone else's pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise. Two of a trade never agree. Now what you want to get clear is that pride is essentially competitive - is competitive by its very nature - while the other vices are competitive, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone. That is why I say that pride is essentially competitive in a way the other vices are not. The sexual impulse may drive two men into competition if they both want the same girl. But that is only by accident; they might just as likely have wanted two different girls. But a proud man will take your girl from you, not because he wants her, but just to prove that he is better than you. Greed may drive men into competition if there is not enough to go round; but the proud man, even when he has got more than he could possibly want, will try to get still more just to assert his power.

I am at my core competitive. I want to be better than other people. And that's disgusting. I hate myself for that. How can I fix the problem? Read the rest of the chapter, and the Bible, to find out. But here is a taste:

...He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble - delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.

To get even near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Must-read lyrics

Some sick kind of music snobbery makes me avoid compound meter hymns like the plague. Why do I think 17th and 18th century Christians are cooler than other Christians? This 6/8 hymn, which we sung Sunday night, blew me out of the water. I like how it incorporates Biblical narrative, which is not necessarily common except in kid's Sunday School songs.

O how sweet the glorious message
simple faith may claim;
Yesterday, today, forever,
Jesus is the same!
Still he loves to save the sinful,
heal the sick and lame,
cheer the mourner, calm the tempest -
Glory to his name!

Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name, Glory to His name, Glory to His name; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name!

He who pardoned erring Peter
Never need'st thou fear
He who came to faithless Thomas
All thy doubt will clear;
He who let the loved disciple On His bosom rest
Bids the still, with love as tender,
Lean upon His breast.

Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name, Glory to His name, Glory to His name; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name!

He who 'mid the raging billows
walked upon the sea
Still can hush our wildest tempest
as on Galilee;
He who wept and prayed in anguish
in Gethsemene
Drinks with us each cup of trembling,
in our agony.

Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name, Glory to His name, Glory to His name; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name!

As of old He walked to Emmaus,
with them to abide,
So thru all life's way He walketh,
ever near our side;
Soon again shall we behold Him,
Hasten, Lord, the day!
But 'twill still be "this same Jesus"
as He went away.

Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name, Glory to His name, Glory to His name; All may change but Jesus never - Glory to His name!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This is my town na na naa naa na

Tonight I holed up in the Dunkin Donuts next to my church, trying to get some schoolwork done while waiting for my children's ministry bus route.

An old guy blew in and ordered a coffee w/ cream and two sugars (I think it was - I am not a good storyteller because I am a little obsessive compulsive about honesty and details) Whatever it was he ordered, he was very commanding as he called his order over to the worker who was at the drive-thru window. Then before I knew what was happening he was over at my table getting me to key in a pin number for his track phone. He had been having trouble because usually his kids did it for him. He has eight kids, living as far away as Seattle and as close as North Jersey.

Joe, as I found his name out later, had a youngest son who was trying to move back in with him. Joe wouldn't let him because he had already overused Joe's credit card.

Joe showed me a picture of a ten-year old granddaughter. This granddaughter has brain damage from shaken baby syndrome, and Joe will never know if it was from his own daughter or from a foster family. Joe got to take care of the granddaughter for a period of time, and he still remembers sleeping with her on his chest. She woke up at the same time every night and laughed, and now he knows it was because his chest hairs were tickling her. He said he really missed her. She is with her real father right now, and Joe trusts him.

Joe referred several times to starting a business. Something about he was bored so he started another business. He is moving to Egg Harbor from Atlantic City because Egg Harbor is quieter. I told him I was born and raised here, and I went to church "over there." Joe is going to visit church on Sunday.

I sat there listening, and I loved listening. This guy was from a totally different world than I. I'm not saying that there's anything exotic about a rambling old guy from Pacific Avenue; but you still have to admit his world was different. Whereas my friends and associates work with foster agencies; this man's daughter went to the hospital to deliver, completely intoxicated. I'm young, he's old; I live in the country and he lives in the city. So I like the exposure. We are different yet we both are created in God's image, and we both have eternity to deal with. I was listening, wondering if we could get a chance to talk about eternity, but all of a sudden he was thanking me for listening and going to finish his laundry. And he was gone quickly, but not before he promised again to show up at church.

I wish I could meet someone new every day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Little Spurgeon, or Unbelief, Part 1

How long will it be ere they believe me?
-Numbers 14:11

Strive with all diligence to keep out that monster unbelief. It so dishonours Christ, that He will withdraw His visible presence if we insult Him by indulging it. It is true it is a weed, the seeds of which we can never entirely extract from the soil, but we must aim at its root with zeal and perseverance. Among hateful things it is the most to be abhorred. Its injurious nature is so venomous that he that exerciseth it and he upon whom it is exercised are both hurt thereby. In thy case, O believer! it is most wicked, for the mercies of thy Lord in the past, increase thy guilt in doubting Him now. When thou dost distrust the Lord Jesus, He may well cry out, "Behold I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves." This is crowning His head with thorns of the sharpest kind. It is very cruel for a well-beloved wife to mistrust a kind and faithful husband. The sin is needless, foolish, and unwarranted. Jesus has never given the slightest ground for suspicion, and it is hard to be doubted by those to whom our conduct is uniformly affectionate and true. Jesus is the Son of the Highest, and has unbounded wealth; it is shameful to doubt Omnipotence and distrust with all-sufficiency. The cattle on a thousand hills will suffice for our hungry feeding, and the granaries of heaven are not likely to be emptied by our eating. If Christ were only a cistern, we might soon exhaust His fulness, but who can drain a fountain? Myriads of spirits have drawn their supplies from Him, and not one of them has murmured at the scantiness of His resources. Away, then, with this lying traitor unbelief, for his only errand is to cut the bonds of communion and make us mourn an absent Saviour. Bunyan tells us that unbelief has "as many lives as a cat:" if so, let us kill one life now, and continue the work till the whole nine are gone. Down with thee, thou traitor, my heart abhors thee.

Morning and Evening, Spurgeon