Monday, April 30, 2007

Proverbs 31:30

Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

The first girl was beautiful, a head-turner where ever she went. Tall, clear skin, gorgeous smile. Our relationship lasted a little while, then she got bored. Maybe she wanted more attention, or maybe she wanted less. One thing's for sure, when you have someone beautiful, they don't always stay that way. You get used to their appearance. They don't turn your head anymore. And with the passage of time, the beauty fades ... and fades ... and fades.

The second girl had a sense of calling. I thought she was the one. A missionary-in-the-making, full of courage and ministerial zeal. She was young and in the prime of her life, yet was willing to sacrifice it all to be where God wanted her. I found this extremely attractive. She was a person with a vision not only for her future vocation, however, but also her future partner. He was to be like this, and like that and going in the same direction. Long story short, I didn't fit the bill. I wasn't the one. Oh well, moving on...

The third girl had charm. A magnetic personality that drew me right in. I felt so comfortable around her and could actually be myself. She was entertaining in a simple and quiet way and not a lot of expectations of our friendship - which was nice for a change. However, this person glimmered of character deficiencies, and not a big lover of God. No, No, No... Enough said.

The next one ... must fear the Lord. She must be a woman of integrity and character, someone who is first a Christian before she is a romantic. I know now: Beauty, charm, and calling are secondary characteristics; they do not make the woman. They may be little extras that make the relationship exciting, but in the long run, they mean nothing. The godly woman trembles at God's word, which she has hidden in her heart. She loves with depth and acts in purity.

She is the one.

Monday, April 09, 2007

the wilderness of testing

And Jesus was driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted ...

Why the desert? Why to be tempted? Why by the Holy Spirit?

Let's think about the desert. What are some things in the desert that we can't find in normal everyday, urban existence?

First, the desert is a place of isolation. No one's around. Nobody peeking over your shoulder to see if you're behaving like a Christian. Inconspicuous. Christendom is a long way away. Here, no one knows about your vows, your convictions, and no one expects you to uphold them and no one cares if you do or don't. You could sin, and no one would know, in fact, it was most "normal" of you to do so.

Second, the desert is where you're at the mercy of the environment. The sun will beat on you during the day, the frost will bite you at night. Sand storms, venomous critters, hungry animals. It's where you need to keep alert and deliberately work at surviving. The only time you "get used to" that environment is when you're dying - reaching homeostasis with the surroundings, they say.

Third, in the desert is a lack of sustenance. No abundance of the usual things we feast on so gluttonously. No conferences, seminars, commentaries, 5 different versions of Bibles. Just you and whatever comes out of the mouth of God, and the mouth of the raven. Maybe there isn't a lot of new insights, but a time when you get to think long and hard about the stuff you've already learned. Now is the time to make sense of it all, ask yourself if you really believe it - out here, like you thought you did back there.

When God tests a man in the desert, it's not to see how he'll do. He's not ignorant of the future or our prospects for success. It's not so that God'll know how we'll fare. It's so that we'll know. It's for us to find out what God really means to us. It's for us to see what we're made of; whether we revert to our animal instincts, or we abide in the Spirit. It was essential for Jesus' ministry to find Himself in God and experience Him in the desert, away from everyone, away from the expectations of being the Son of God. The testing was about His humanity and the place that God occupied in the heart of a Disciple. The wilderness is where we each need to go and meet God ... at some point.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

have mercy

Just finished preaching a sermon from John 3:16-21. The gospel, clear and straightforward presentation on the sacrificial and universal love of God. It took 20 mins, then for 30 mins, I got chewed by my class during the critique.

They took apart the transitions, complained about how the intro could have better tied into the 2nd point, and wondered why the applications weren't more "concrete". I mean, do I really need walk you through a 3-step process on how you examine your beliefs and reflect on the love of God and how to respond in continuous, fruit-bearing faith?

Sometimes I fear the direction that theological education is going. I fear where the church is headed. The flabbiness, the apathy, the intellectual impoverishment.

God have mercy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Fish stink

Luke 5:1-11

Fishing. Now that's something that Peter could do. You don't find yourself, some 30 plus years of age, doing the same thing over and over again since your daddy taught you when you were a little runt and not being pretty darn good at it. Peter had to have been a good fisherman, but sometimes you land a sweet catch and sometimes you don't. This time he didn't. All night long and not even a wandering crab (provendential failure, perhaps?)

Contrast this with the next scene: a haul of fish so massive that neither the net nor two fishing boats combined could sustain the weight of the catch.

And the difference between the two scenes: a program? an ideology? a strategy?


A great catch of fish, but it didn't come easily. The fish could only be found in deep waters. Deep waters. But deep waters are ... deep! They're dark! They're far away from shore, from home, from comforts. Out there in deep waters, there's so much uncertainty! We're sitting ducks at the mercy of the sea!

That's what we think.

Jesus, he just thinks, deep waters ... where else can I find enough space to summon all those fish to mash themselves into Peter's net?

And the rest is history. After Jesus comes on the scene, everything changes, nothing matters anymore. The earth-shattering, record-breaking, career catch of fish, the busted nets, the soggy boats; they're all left to rot on the beach. Jesus has just walked into their lives and it is no gamble for them to leave everything and follow him. From now on, they'd be catching men. From now on, they'd be forever caught by Christ.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


On a certain mountain stands a tall tablet shaped stone with a flat surface. On it are inscribed words. The words are not in any foreign language, and although the phrases are a little mysterious in meaning at times, what it says is generally straight forward. Many people gather at the foot of this stone. They carefully read the words and then scribble their own words onto a parchment and head back down the mountain and tell others what they wrote. Of course not everyone has the same reflections about what the stone said, so they spend their time arguing with one another to see who's right. Some people go to the stone, read what it says, but don't write anything down. They simply try to remember what the stone said, head down the mountain and begin putting it into practice as best they can.

Much of theology can be reduced to grown men who don't know how to say those 3 precious words: "I don't know". What they do not know they strive to know and in so doing build vast systems to help them organize their thoughts on God. God is in no way impressed with them. Rather, he delights in the one who meditates on his words day and night, who remembers what it says and puts it into practice.

The emerging church is moving in the direction of orthopraxy over orthodoxy (right living over right knowing) and I don't think it's such a bad thing. Of course there are some fundamental truths that can never and should never be compromised. There can never be a truly postmodern, relativistic Christian. But I can appreciate the emphasis. It's time to move. It's time to start living as if we actually believe in the supremacy of Christ and the desperate need this world has for the gospel. It's time we come down from the mountain and show the world that we know God and we have his word.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Isaac Offering

"A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do ..."

Whatever the Chaldee version of that phrase is, Abraham certainly muttered it into his cloak as he made that ascent up the mountain of Moriah on the eve of the sacrifice of his son to God.

Imagine if he, after receiving the command from God, asked his friends what they thought about it. Imagine if he asked his wife Sarah, "I think I heard God say that I'm suppose to offer our son as a burnt offering." What would she have thought? "Are you out of your damn mind? God would never tell you to do that!"

Perhaps that's why he set out so early in the morning.

But that is exactly what God had spoken and Abraham knew it. He had to dispell every word of resistance discouraging such a disgusting act such as human sacrifice, and yes, it was a terrible thing to command a father to do. But God had said it. Abraham had learned to recognize the voice of God. Now, he was to learn to trust it.

It's a scary thing to come face to face with an Isaac offering request, but it is essential to our discipleship. A time will come when God bids up lay down the very thing that we have invested our entire lives for, the thing that we love more than anything on earth. He asks us, "Do you love me more than these? Can I have this?"

It's not that He intrinsically wants it or needs it, but knows that our hearts are attached to it, and our grip has tightened around it. It was a gift to begin with, but with time we clutch it like a child clutches a candy bar. We forget that there was a time when we were without it and God was enough to satisfy us completely. But then this 'thing' came along.

I must ask myself, "Am I at rest if I am not in fulltime ministry, or on my way to the mission field just yet? Am I satisfied, sitting still, doing little but being attentive at the feet of Jesus, like Mary? Or am I constantly compelled to shake and move and get busy for the ministry, like Martha?" If my identify has been programmed by what I do for God and not who I am in God, then my heart is laid captive by an external force that is not God Himself. My proper integration into a church where I am not given a high profile responsibility is essential at this point of my life. Though this may run contrary to the suggestion of many and makes little sense given my soon approaching graduation from a Bible College, I am sure that the call of God, for now, is to stop, and to receive, to be led, and to fellowship. It's high time I flow and resonate with a church rather than flail about impatiently as one of its leaders hoping to get where I 'really wanna be'.

It's time to offer Isaac.

Giddy up.