You Don’t Want To Read This

Published on November 1, 2009 by CT in Blog, Kindling

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You Don't Want To Read This

When others’ words kindle my own flame:  Reflections on words by @JohnPiper.

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“WARNING Graphic. Don’t talk about the sovereignty of God in suffering without this reality in your mind. http://ow.ly/wGWv” (John Piper on Twitter)

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I realize the title of this post may actually make you want to read this, so I am in a sense being disingenuous by drawing you in by this method.  But if you’re anything like me, you may be sick to your stomach at the end of what you read, so know you have been warned.

We are in the middle of shooting videos to support chapter downloads of Crave (beginning next week), and one of the chapters we shot this weekend was called “Suffering.”  It’s an exploration of how God uses suffering in the lives of His people to sanctify them; specifically it focuses on what Paul means in calling suffering a gift (see Phil 1:29).  It asks us to go to war with our understanding of good, knowing God works together all things for our good, including suffering.

I mean to treat the subject boldly, to engage an issue that seems uncomfortable and bring hard, Biblical truth to bear on the matter.  But I now realize I treat the subject dismissively, writing from the whitest of ivory towers with not so much as a tear to shed in the global experience of suffering.

I realize this because of John Piper’s Tweet; more specifically, because of the picture to which he links.  He prefaces the picture with a warning and is right to do so.  I echo that warning.  I don’t do well with graphic pictures, but the topic caught my eye and I took a look.  And I’m sorry and glad I did.

This picture changes things for me.  I hope and pray it doesn’t change my theology.  I hope it changes the way I think about my theology, or rather, the way I think about this God I serve.  A God who works all things together for good, including the suffering I’ve experience in being laughed at for being a Christian, is a different God who works all things together for good, to include the suffering of a girl who has half her faced burned off.  I guess He’s not actually a different God; it’s my understanding of this God that’s different.

God is sovereign and good.  There’s a danger to believing in this kind of God when you live in a place like Afghanistan where suffering is a way of life.  But there’s perhaps more of a danger to believing in this kind of God when you live in a place where comfort is a way of life.  May God grant us grace to grow in our understanding of Him, and may His kind of mercy blow the doors off the kind of grace we think we might want.

Original Blog Posting:  http://twitter.com/JohnPiper/status/5184187095

Note:  A follow-up Tweet by @JohnPiper stated:  “Many have asked where the WARNING picture I posted came from.  Here:  http://ow.ly/wIDe.  She was burned in a helicopter attack.”

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Be Real For A Reason

Published on October 29, 2009 by CT in Blog, Twexplanation

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Be Real

Sometimes, 140 characters need more explanation…

Tweet:  It seems the more willing we are to admit what we don’t know, the more people will actually listen to what we do know.

We want our preachers and writers and teachers to be real these days.  If you are vulnerable, you are respected.  If you are transparent, you are admired.  In fact, the surest way to encounter closed ears and closed hearts today is to always talk rather than listen; specifically to always talk about someone else.

Donald Miller has experienced a lot of success in writing in the past few years, and it’s well deserved because he is a gifted story-teller and writes with urban elegance.  And I hope for every continued success for him.  But I think he’s striking a chord with so many today because he opens himself up on every page.  People respond to this kind of writing, because they feel welcomed to the conversation instead of stuck in front of a lectern.

I don’t know exactly why things are the way they are, but I suppose it is in part the ever-cyclical reaction of one generation against its predecessors.  We’ve probably seen too many hypocrites or too many self-assured preachers sharing three-point, alliterative, topical sermons that seem to touch on others more than themselves.  And I don’t want to go too far here:  preaching shouldn’t be about the preacher anyway; it should be about Jesus.  But it’s nice to hear a guy who wrestles like we do in living out our faith.

But before we trumpet transparency as the new king of characteristics, it’s useful to probe into why there is so much power in identifying with someone.  I’m sure there are many reasons, but one of them must be because it makes us feel normal.  If you’re like me at all, you spend much of your day thinking about yourself.  And you’re probably self-critical, understanding to some degree how selfish and judgmental your thoughts can be.  So it’s nice to know someone we respect and admire has similar thoughts and feelings.

Ultimately, I think we’re responding to humility in a person.  When people are humble, they imply that the distance between them and us is quite small in relation to the distance between man and God.  And there’s good reason to be humble:  we get more grace (James 4:6).  And grace rightly received deepens true humility.

So it’s good to be humble, because it gives us an audience for people who want to hear what we do know.  But this audience is best served when our normalcy points to Christ’s superiority.

Original Tweet:  http://twitter.com/christomlinson_/status/5132513071

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When God Seems Distant

Published on October 21, 2009 by CT in Blog, Prayers

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When God Seems Distant

A prayer when praying to a seemingly distant God…

Father:

Forgive, that I may be restored.

Receive, that I may honor you with rightful praise.

Hear, that I may enter your presence.

Listen, that I may speak my heart.

Speak, that I may hear your voice and follow.

Reach, that my desire might be for you.

Touch, that my confidence may be restored.

Heal, that my brokenness may be made whole.

Move, that I might believe you are within me.

Act, that I may learn to trust you with all I am.

Love, that I may be known by you.

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In The Beginning

Published on October 15, 2009 by CT in Blog, Poetry

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In The Beginning

A meditation in poem on John 1:1

Our lives are governed by countless seconds
That form into minutes which bleed into hours
That move into days and weeks and months
And years that speed quickly downhill
So that time becomes like gravity on our lives.

We fight against time with hopes and dreams
And all manner of science and striving,
But the fountain of youth has run dry,
Because there was never a fountain to begin with;
Only time ticking quickly in an empty well.

Were we to climb aboard these seconds
Like a ship and turn their bow to the east,
To travel back against the current of time
And make headway against the headwind of ages,
We would come to the horizon where time first flowed
Like a river filled by an explosion of water,
Bursting at its banks by the sheer power and force
Of a spring which has no limit to its depth.

But our ship would sail no more,
As the winds which had carried time for countless generations
Found the limit to their strength at time’s edge.
So we would rest at this precipice, oars to the water,
Unable to go further but unwilling to drift back to the west.

The veil we would stare into for night and day,
Though night and day would become only now,
Would not reveal what lay just beyond
In the outer reaches of everything there was
Before time began.

We would search in vain with our eyes
For a glimpse of anything outside of time
And beat our breasts in misery at the gnawing question
That lay on our hearts and our tongues:
Where does the beginning begin?

As we bowed our heads, crying tears of acceptance
That we had traveled as far as time would allow,
A voice would come softly through the veil
And dry our tears with the sweetness of its sound:
“I was there at the beginning.”

“Who are you, my Lord,” we might say,
Not intending deity but knowing no other title
To befit such a voice as this.
And silence would wait with us in anticipation to hear:
“I am the eternal Word.”

“I was there before the beginning,
When the love I shared with the Father
Was deep enough to be shared with the Spirit
That always existed between us,
And time never ticked as we enjoyed one another.”

“I was there at the beginning before words were spoken,
Then burst forth in light and glorious speed
When the Father’s mouth first took form
To say to nothing, ‘Become everything’
And nothing obeyed and did our bidding.”

“I was there at your beginning,
Which began well before you began
As I hung on the cross in the mind of the Father
With you in mind, to bring you to us
To share in the love we’ve always had.”

“And I will be there at the beginning
Of the real beginning we will share,
Enjoying the fullness of joy that will come
As you bask in the glory of my presence,
And time will be no more; only love.”

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A Jew, a Muslim, an Agnostic, and Pizza

Published on October 14, 2009 by CT in Blog, Theology

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A Jew, a Muslim, and Agnostic, and Pizza

I had dinner with a Jew, a Muslim, and an Agnostic last night.  Three sons of Abraham, and one who wasn’t sure, all sharing Italian food.  Good times.

The conversation focused on the different faith’s beliefs about God, Jesus, and salvation.  And it was a really great discussion—I even got to try out the Kingdom Circles approach.  Each guy articulated his beliefs well, and there was respectful listening and solid questions from all parties.

My Muslim friend talked about his pursuit of the Way, following the Five Pillars of Islam and relying on the mercy of Allah at the end.  My Jewish friend talked about the Mosaic Law and the Talmudic traditions and the growth that happens along the way of remaining God’s people.  When my Agnostic friend stated his belief that all religions were helpful because they all promoted adherence to a moral code, I had the opportunity to talk about the breathtaking uniqueness of following Jesus:  we enter the Kingdom by what He did for us rather than what we do for Him.

At this point, my Agnostic friend posed a very difficult question:  why do Christians do good things then?  Was it not to follow the teachings of the Bible and Jesus?  Was it not to enter into heaven?

I knew the reasons Christians don’t do good things, but I struggled a little more with the reasons we do them.  For the reasons we don’t:  we don’t do good works to earn God’s favor (works-based salvation); we don’t do them to pay God back for what He did for us (debtor’s ethic); we don’t do them to atone for our sins or to be justified.  But as I tried to articulate the reason we do good deeds, all I could come up with was that we do them because we love Jesus, and Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey His commandments.

I think that is right, but it’s also not complete.  There are broader reasons we are to be doers of the Word (Jas 1:22):

To follow the Greatest Commandment(s) (Mt 22:37-9)
To bear fruit and glorify God (Jn 15:8)
To complete our faith (Jas 2:22)
To secure our reward (1 Cor 3:14)
To obey God (Num 16:28)
To fulfill God’s plan for our lives (Eph 2:10)
To provoke praise to God from others (Mt 5:16)
To show our works are carried out in God (Jn 3:21)
To store up treasure and take hold of true life (1 Tim 6:18-19)

How would you have answered?

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Are Science and Religion At Odds?

Published on October 11, 2009 by CT in Blog, Questions

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Are Science and Religion At Odds

Non-exhaustive answers to hard and relevant questions—From the Ask a Smart Guy or Gal Series…

Question:  Are Science and Religion At Odds?

A friend asked for my thoughts on “God, the Big Bang, Creation, Age of the Earth, and Genesis,” all minor questions, right?  I sent him a quick response, outlining three things to think about:  1) The ultimate question to address is first cause, 2) Creationists need not fear science, and 3) Creationists and Naturalists both apply bias to the facts they observe.

But there’s more to say on this subject.  Much more.  And I’m not the one to say it, because I haven’t studied this issue like I should.  So I found someone who has (my brother), and I asked him to share his thoughts.  And I think you’ll find it to be a worthwhile read:

For starters, it’s important to note the limits of knowledge and the limits of science.  People who describe themselves as scientists are not always forthcoming about what science really is.  Science can mean simply knowledge or, in more modern times, it can mean knowledge gained through use of the scientific method.

You may remember this from high school, but the scientific method starts with a hypothesis to explain phenomena, then tests that hypothesis in ways that are repeatable and verifiable.  When we ask questions about the universe’s origins, it’s worth noting that modern science cannot, by definition, tell us anything about it.  The reason is simple:  we can’t repeat and verify how the universe began.  What this kind of science can do is make speculations based on available information, which is what the philosopher or theologian does as well.  This is why the war between Religion and Science is really a false war; the competition is actually between Theism and Naturalism.

We can take cosmology (study of the universe) as an example.  Most people believe in the Big Bang or creation by some sort of God.  But it’s misleading to really call Big Bang cosmology science in the same way we call Biology or Chemistry science.  It’s actually more akin to philosophy or metaphysics.  Cosmology states beliefs, not facts.  But don’t take my word for it.  George F.R. Ellis, a Fellow of the Royal Society, co-author with Stephen Hawking of Cambridge of The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, and a physicist considered to be one of the world’s leading theorists in cosmology, states:

“People need to be aware that there is a range of models that could explain the observations….For instance, I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observations….You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds.  In my view there is absolutely nothing wrong in that.  What I want to bring into the open is the fact that we are using philosophical criteria in choosing our models. A lot of cosmology tries to hide that.” (W. Wayt Gibbs, “Profile: George F. R. Ellis,” Scientific American, October 1995, Vol. 273, No.4, p. 55., as quoted on www.big-bang-theory.com)

But cosmology is no outlier.  Much of modern science tells the same tale.  When we hear there is broad consensus from leading scientists, we tend to believe them, because they seem a lot smarter than we are.  But consensus isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  In years past, there was consensus that the earth was the center of the solar system; that one didn’t work out too well.  In the early 20th Century, there was consensus that an invisible “aether” filled space; we now know this is nonsense.  Ultimately, if you look back 200 years, very little of what we knew to be true scientifically was actually right. Theories are discarded or replaced over time as more discoveries are made.  This should give us pause today as we examine scientific evidence and make conclusions that are pronounced as gospel truth.

The dirty little secret about evolution is that it is a theory like many of those that have come and gone throughout history.  Again, we can go to the theory’s leading voices to make the point.  You have probably heard of Richard Dawkins, a renowned Oxford zoologist and well-known apologist for Darwinian evolution.  Dr. Dawkins has openly stated both on film and in writing that “nobody knows how life got started on earth. We know what kind of event it was:  the origin of the first self-replicating molecule…”  When the lead apologist says nobody knows how the most important event to evolutionary theory happened, that should trigger a flag for us:  we’re no longer in the realm of science.  We’re now dealing with philosophy or metaphysics, where presupposition, not evidence, is the key driver.

If the scientific community that studies origins is comprised largely of Naturalists rather than Theists, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find their conclusions have natural, rather than supernatural, explanations.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t in their own right to observe the evidence and make calculated speculation about questions about origins; it just means we critique their conclusions, even consensus-driven ones, on philosophical grounds.

Ultimately, if we treat the science that says the earth is 4.5 billion years old like the science that gives us the ability to make a rocket that can go to the moon, we do a disservice to both science and philosophy.  This should raise many questions, and we’ll address some of them here in the future.  In fact, if you have any big ones you’d like to see discussed, you can share them here.  But as you consider these thoughts, realize science will take us to the point where faith must begin, and this is true whether you believe in God or not.

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Are You Ready For Some Football?

Published on October 10, 2009 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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Are You Ready For Some Football?

This may be a post that I pull down later. Or maybe it will strike a chord.  I guess we’ll see.

I just scanned my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and I noticed scores and scores of posts about football.  It must be Saturday in the fall.  It’s good to see college pride extending 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.  And I can relate—I have a great affinity for my college (Air Force Academy), although I can’t say it’s because of football.  Football is great.  It brings people together, it provides athletes with a place to use their talents, it provides jobs for thousands of people.

But I wonder if there’s a danger here too.  Not just with football, but with anything that captures our time and energy and excitement week after week.

I suppose part of the question is about our identity.  We think of ourselves as teachers, or engineers, or writers, or stay-at-home moms, or whatever it may be.  And maybe part of how we see ourselves is as an Ohio State fan, or a USC fan, or a UT fan, or a Texas fan, or an Air Force fan.  And it’s good and fine to be a fan.

But there’s some danger in misplaced identity.  Identity breeds purpose, and purpose gives way to priorities, and priorities guide our use of time.  Which is short, and a gift, and meant to be used in ways that shock our imagination and awaken wonder within us, as well as in ways that quietly evidence a life on a mission.

However we see ourselves, our greatest identity is in Jesus. God is making us into the image of Christ.  We are His beloved, His chosen, His sheep, His friends, His brothers and sisters.  I guess I would ask myself this question, and you as well if you think it fits:  what does my heart say about my identity, and what does my use of time say about my identity?

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with watching football or pulling for your team, so long as you don’t love it more than Jesus.

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The Orphan on the Jetliner

Published on October 6, 2009 by CT in Blog, Stories

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The Orphan on the Jetliner

I am about to trade places on an airplane with the girl in the middle seat.  If you must know, I actually do have a preference:  window seat, right side of the airplane.  Exit seats and bulkhead seats are nice, and first class is even nicer.  But I don’t mind the back of the airplane so long as I sit beside the right window.

I like to prop my right leg up on the back of the armrest right in front of me.  Doing so is comfortable, and it makes my back feel better on long flights.  However, I do run into problems sometimes, because occasionally the guy in front of me actually wants to use his armrest.  And my foot is sitting right there.  Which can be awkward.

For the most part, though, I have had a great deal of satisfaction with my seat preference.  Even when the right side, window seat is unavailable, I can usually swing a left side window or even an aisle.  They don’t allow me the same foot-propping flexibility as the right side, window seat, but they are satisfactory nonetheless.

However, after thirty-one years of flying, hundreds if not thousands of flights, I have never once, not once, requested a middle seat.

Middle seats are the orphan children of the world.  Most people would rather not deal with them at all, and many feel it is far better to ignore them.  Being with one gives people this really uncomfortable feeling, as if they don’t really know what to do or say.  People make jokes about them.  They talk about them at parties, laughing at them over crumbs from a lemon tart and a bottle of Pinot.  The bottom line is that nobody likes a middle seat.

And there is good reason for it.  People don’t follow rules of good conduct when it comes to middle seats.  Assume you are sitting on the left side of the airplane with two other people.  You would think that the three of you would develop your own unwritten standards of conduct—say, Lean Left or Lean Out.  Mr. A by the window uses the left armrest, Ms. C by the aisle uses the left armrest, leaving the left armrest open for Mr. B in the middle.  Similarly, Mr. A leans left, Ms. C leans right, leaving both armrests open for Mr. B.

But this never happens, does it? The outer seat occupants always occupy the inside armrests, leaving the passengers in the middle to pin their elbows against their sides.  What is interesting about this phenomenon is that it is not done out of ignorance.  Most passengers have experienced the horrors of middle seats, so you would think that people in general would be sympathetic to this predicament, showing compassion and grace upon their unfortunate neighbor whenever the opportunity presented itself.  Sadly, it quickly becomes a case of every man, and every armrest, for himself.

Like most people, I have occupied my fair share of middle seats. I have never been very happy about it.  I try not to make a fuss, and I pretend like everything is fine, but what I am really thinking about is all of the people who are taking up the seats along the right side of the aircraft, wasting their God-given foot propping opportunities.

So why am I about to ask this girl, and plead if I must, if I can trade her my beloved window seat for her middle seat?

I am trying to figure out what it means to love with the kind of love that Jesus talked about.  The kind of love that is a sacrificial love.  If I hate the middle seat, then I am guessing that she does too, and if I were sitting in the middle seat, then I would want to move, so I am guessing she does too.  If she is at least as important to me as I am, then I would be showing her love by giving her what she cannot gain on her own, which sounds a lot like grace.

It occurs to me that giving up my seat for the purpose of trying to love without an agenda means I have an agenda.  I realize that I am not there yet, and that I may never really get there, but I figured that I might as well try in the meantime.

Middle seats, then, are no longer something I avoid.  Now they give me the chance to love an orphan, or as much of an orphan as I can find on an airplane.  I know there are real orphans in this world, and God means for us to care for them, but this is a small step is opening my eyes to a world that is full of people who need to be loved.  I wish I could feed every hungry mouth in the world, but in the meantime, I want to consider everyone I meet as more important than myself, and simply do to them whatever I would have them do to me.

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Lightning As Grace

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, News

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Lightning As Grace

Life seems so terribly urgent sometimes, even when it’s not.  I am new to this online community of people who are no longer connected by mere bonds of blood, color, or geography, and I already feel the pressure to communicate with you, as if I’ve joined a conversation part-way through and have hours and hundreds of words to make up.

We are a connected people today, but you know all of this already.  We blog because we want our voices to be heard and because there is a community out there who will listen.  We Facebook because we want to feel connected to one another, even if we are the loneliest of people.  We Twitter because, well, who knows why we Twitter?

Writing is becoming an important part of my life, and while there is a sense in which it comes naturally, there’s also a tremendous amount I don’t know about the craft.  Writing then, whether books, blogs, or tweets, is a response to a call on my life.  So I am trying all of the mediums.  I’ve re-engaged my Facebook community.  I started to Twitter.  And I’ve started this blog, which I intend to use in such a way as to reveal what is most important in my life.  I hope it is my faith, and my desire to make much of Jesus, but we will have to see what comes out week by week.  I suspect there’s far more superficiality to me than I care to admit.

Being connected to this larger world has been an interesting experience for me recently.  I have been constantly thinking about these outlets for days straight.  I feel a burden now that wasn’t there before, a responsibility to communicate to the ether, even if no one is listening.  I have become needlessly self-absorbed, which is when I need God the most.

When I am like this, God never fails to show up. I recently boarded a flight from Connecticut to Washington DC, sat down in a window seat, opened up my laptop, and began thinking of the next tweet I should craft or the first blog post to write.  As the tires left earth, my thoughts stayed on the ground, on what would need to be shot into cyberspace when we returned home.  And most of the flight, I thought of nothing but what I would say to you.

But then lightning struck, not our airplane, but the clouds we were passing by.  As I looked out my window, I saw grandeur few eyes have seen.   The horizon was dark, a sea of clouds touched by night with slowly churning currents betraying unrest within.  In the foreground were towering white clouds, racing towards the heavens with outstretched arms.  And the lightning streaked across these clouds, illuminating them as far as I could see.  It really was beautiful; I wish you could have been there.

My thoughts went from inward to upward in that moment, because who can think about oneself when they are standing before a Creator who commands lightning bolts?  And I recalled why I want to write in the first place.  Words are a gift, and they can be used for good or for evil.  But I want these words to be useful to the Giver of words, to show His ultimate worth and beauty.

So I will fight to give miles of road to the weighty things that matter, but I’ll also allow the trivial space to run around at times until it grows tired.  I hope you will join me in this journey and that these words will be a means of grace for God to shape you and me in the midst of our conversations.

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Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Questions

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Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Non-exhaustive answers to hard and relevant questions…

Question:  Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?

Lots of people believe Jesus is God (I am one of them).  And lots of people believe He isn’t (Richard Dawkins is one of them).  There are plenty of people on my side, and there are plenty of people on his side.  One thing is for sure:  we aren’t both right.  Jesus is either God or He isn’t; there’s no middle ground on this question.

There are a number of authorities to which we can appeal to answer this question.  We can appeal to faith, because God has opened our eyes to see the reality and truth that Jesus is God, eternally existent as the Son and equal in nature and essence with the Father and the Spirit.  We can appeal to tradition, pointing to a counter-cultural movement that began with an unlikely band of deserters-turned-apostles which grew into the world’s largest religion.  Or we can appeal to the Bible, which surely makes the case for the divinity of Jesus.

You will search in vain for an explicit declaration of divinity from Jesus’ lips, at least one that will clearly silence His critics.  And this is not cause for alarm:  Jesus Himself was intentional about this as He spoke, and God the Spirit was intentional about this as He inspired the writing of the Scriptures.  So how can we be sure He is who we claim Him to be?

The claim is there is you’re willing to see it.  Or perhaps more accurately, the claim is there if God opens your eyes to see it.  We can look at several passages to give us the chance to test our sight.

  1. In John 8:58, Jesus responds to the religious leaders who are questioning whether or not He considered Himself to be greater than their father, Abraham.  Here, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  This may seem innocent enough to us, but the Jews picked up stones to kill Him for this statement, because they heard the connection He made to Exodus 3:14, where God gives His name to Abraham:  “I Am Who I Am.”
  2. In John 10:30, Jesus responds again to the Jewish leaders who are questioning Him.  They ask Him:  “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (vs 24).  Jesus answers them:  “My Father…is greater than all…[and] I and the Father are one.”  This must have created some drama for monotheists who daily recited the Shema:  “Hear, O Israel:  The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4).  And it was:  they picked up stones to kill Him once more.
  3. In John 20:29, Jesus had His best chance to clarify his lack of deity if He wanted to do so.  Thomas, who had doubted the risen Christ even after his closest friends told him about Jesus’ appearance to them, finally lays his own eyes on the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side.  He says, “My Lord and my God!” (vs 28), and Jesus, rather than correcting him, accepts the statement and makes a teaching point of faith.

Jesus had many opportunities to simply say, “I am God,” but He chose not to.  Perhaps this has to do with God’s design:  “…their ears can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).  Whatever the reason, He was nuanced in His responses on purpose, which may lead people like Richard Dawkins into darkness, but He means for us to declare the light of this truth to the world, that God took on flesh to do what we could not do ourselves:  pay the price for our sins.

There are many other passages in Scripture that point to Jesus’ divinity.  Where else do you see the Bible pointing to Jesus as God?

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When Decisions Must Be Made

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Prayers

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When Decisions Must Be Made

A prayer when the fear of uncertainty replaces trust in a faithful God.

Father, my heart cries to you from fear and doubt:
My path is unclear, and you are not to be found.
The road soon divides, and the darkness creeps in,
So my sight is neared to the next step in my path.
I will take the right or the left, so long as you lead,
But your voice is not near to my ear,
Nor can I feel your hand on my shoulder as I walk.
How long must I wait?  Should I wait, or should I go,
Taking the road that requires the most faith or the one that seems most sensible?
O my soul, why must I live in fear and doubt?
Thy Word, my God, is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I will walk by the light of thy lamp, although it shows only my next step,
Because you are a faithful God, and You have never failed me.
May the light of your grace shine brightly as I walk,
So that I may not even know the path I am on,
But be glad that You are near.

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Why Theology Matters

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Theology

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Why Theology Matters

Theology matters.

Here’s what I mean.  I was on the skydiving team at the Air Force Academy, and each year, we would spend our Spring Break and Christmas Break training in Arizona or Florida.  As much fun as this was, one of the consequences of being on this team meant I could no longer look at the sky like I did before.  Before I began skydiving, the sky held no particular significance:  It was either cloudless, or it had clouds, and some were big clouds that made noise and dropped rain and others were little clouds that looked dogs.  But that was as far as it went.  After I began skydiving, though, I never saw clouds again.  I saw holes.

Skydivers aren’t allowed to jump out of a plane unless they can see their landing area from the air, so flying over a cloud bank hovering over the drop zone means riding down with the plane, which is no fun at all.  But if the landing area is clear, or if there is a big enough hole in the cloud layer over the drop zone, then you’re getting out, which is all the fun in the world.  So I would spend my days walking around with my head back and my eyes scanning the sky for holes, because holes meant there was fun to be had.

Or suppose you’re a photographer.  Do you see the world as you did as a child?  Or do you see framed shots everywhere you go?  Or maybe a surfer.  Do surfers see waves breaking on shore like most people do?  Or do they see shoulders and closeouts?  The point is our perspectives, the thoughts that fill our minds, impact the way we see the world and live our lives.

So it is with God. Our relationship to God has more angles that I can imagine, but a few stand out.  We can know and love him with our hearts.  We can know and love Him with our souls.  And we can know and love Him with our minds (Matthew 22:37).  So what we feel about God matters.  How we spiritually connect with God matters.  And what we think about God matters.

When I say theology matters, I should probably say affections matter, and intimacy matters too. I am bent towards thoughts of God at the expense of affections for Him or knowledge of Him.  This will likely come out in what I write, so be on guard against any attempts I make to elevate our thoughts about God above our knowledge of Him.  But there’s a sense in which what we believe about God affects how we feel about Him and how we connect with Him.

Together we’ll explore the many ways this may work out in our lives.  There is much to be said, and not enough space today to say it, but I look forward to collaborating with you to deepen our thoughts, affections, and knowledge of God in the coming weeks and months.  Until then, as you travel your road of faith, be looking to the sky to discover your own holes, to see what it is you believe about this great God.

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As Iron Sharpens Iron

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Poetry

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As Iron Sharpens Iron

A meditation in poem on Proverbs 27:17

How hot the flame that first applied
It’s heat to lifeless elements,
Drawn from the ground and made alive
With power that was heaven sent.

As ore gave way to molten flow,
And iron rivers slowly cooled,
So rods that soon began to grow
Were fashioned into useful tools

To serve a cause t’was not their own,
But something larger than they knew,
And in this they were not alone
Yet acted like the chosen few.

Their own wisdom they did applaud
And boasted in their steely might,
Til they engaged another rod
And boasting turned its fists to fight.

They did not know their own weakness
And did not realize deep within
Were impurities that made them less
Useful in their Maker’s hand.

Yet not out of His control were
They ever for a moment’s pause,
For wielding them was His pleasure,
So edges rough would soften as

He brought them near to others like
Themselves, so heat inside would rise
And rid their core from impurity,
Which made them stronger in His eyes.

So was the Master Smelter’s plan:
His Spirit’s flame did first bring life
And continued burning from within
To sharpen His iron through holy strife.

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The Insufficiency and Sufficiency of Words

Published on October 4, 2009 by CT in Blog, Kindling

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The Insufficiency and Sufficiency of WordsWhen others’ words kindle my own flame:

Reflections on words by Abraham Piper @ Twenty Two Words Dot Com

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Sometimes people say that 22 words isn’t enough to get my point across. To this, I say,…

…true.

If the goal is complete clarity, even 775,000 words is insufficient.

Fortunately, there are other reasons to write than being understood.

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My favorite comment about artists is this:  “Just because no one understands you doesn’t make you an artist.”  It’s always fun to make fun of slightly vague, overly nuanced, different for the sake of conforming to a different community kind of people.  But being a writer kind of makes me one, so I need to own it.  As an artist, I create because I want to inspire, to comfort, to deepen affections, and to be accepted.

I’ve thought a lot about whether or not I’d continue writing if no one read what I wrote.  I’d like to say I would, that I would do it for the sake of writing, and that there’s some inherent value in doing so.  And I suppose there is; journaling is widely accepted as a useful tool in meditation and prayer.  But isn’t the reason we write is to be read, and ultimately, to be understood?

Abraham Piper disagrees.  And I agree with him, even though that means disagreeing with myself, which is something an artist would say.  Piper takes a lighthearted dig at his questioners and raises a meaningful question of his own, asking why we write.

I won’t put words in his mouth, but I write because I want Jesus to be treasured above all things.  That sounds far nobler than is the truth; I’ve already mentioned I write to be accepted, and the desire to be noticed and praised goes much deeper.  But I continue to preach to my soul that all things exist for Jesus (Col 1:16), including the words that flow out my fingertips.

Ultimately, if all things exist for Jesus, then words are insufficient.  This is why John ends his gospel by writing, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  But words can also be gloriously sufficient when their purpose serves a higher end than their source.  This is why Luke opens his gospel by writing, “It seemed good to me…to write…that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).

This is a paradox, which is OK because God created paradox (see the Trinity, the Incarnation, Divine Election and Human Responsibility, etc), making Him the ultimate artist.  So I create, and perhaps you do as well.  If so, why do you write, or paint, or create songs?

Original Blog Posting:  (http://twentytwowords.com/2009/09/28/sometimes-people-say-that-22-words-isn%E2%80%99t-enough-to-get-my-point-across-to-this-i-say%E2%80%A6/)

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