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.