Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union, State of the Throne

Last night President Obama stood in front of congress and in front of the world and gave the state of the union address. I was only able to listen to about half of it because we had to get to youth group at the Decker's home, but my point in writing is not to sum up any of the points made in that speech. While I know many people write their thoughts down about our president, his politics, decisions, and so on, I've never been interested in doing so and am still not interested in the slightest. What I want to share with you is a reminder of the "State of the Throne". I've been slowly working my way through the New Testament and just this morning read Revelation 4 and 5. I find it to be incredibly providential that I would read this text just after the state of the union speech, especially considering how much I've pathetically stalled out in Revelation because, quite honestly, I'm scared of the book.

Currently, millions of Americans are worried sick about our economy and our unemployment rate. We are also worried about the health care bill passing or not passing and the seemingly constant threat of terrorism. There are many more concerns that many people have, and many of them are legitimate. But please take a moment to step outside of your current issues and worries and read Revelation 4 and 5. If properly understood, it will raise your eyes above your situation and onto the One who "created all things and by his will they existed and were created" as well as lift your eyes to Jesus who was "slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation..."

In chapter 4 of Revelation, John describes the Throne in Heaven. He uses incredible, heart stirring imagery of what he saw or what things were like - I just imagine John writing down very reflectively of this true story and can only come up with so many human words to describe this very divine experience. John gets the unimaginable privilege of seeing the throne room of Heaven as it stands right now - consider it the reality beyond your reality. At this very moment, while our world scurries about like busy ants, while we fret over very trivial and very serious things alike, while we are consumed in our personal little world, God is on the throne and God is not worried or losing control (unlike us). He is the One who is worthy of our praise and deepest affections, He is the one who created all things and who is leading human history to it's eventual coming climax. He raises up leaders and brings leaders down, He is drawing men and women to himself from all walks of life, all nationalities, and out of all kinds of false religions through the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it penetrates the whole world. The state of our union may be disagreed upon (and it always will be), the issues will be there until this final act is over... but the state of the Throne has not changed.

The Ruler and Creator of all things is the Lord, He is the King of kings, He is mighty to save and is accomplishing his will on earth. He is moving throughout every nation, in the midst of earthquakes in Haiti and wars in the Middle East. He is moving with no regard to border or popularity. He is moving through underground churches in China, mega-churches in America, and house churches on every continent (does anyone live in Antarctica? If so, He's moving there too). We have reason to be concerned about political issues that affect our daily lives - please don't think I'm trashing all your cares and worries. But we have far greater reason to have secure peace and hope in times of trouble, because Jesus is the Lion and the Lamb, the One who rescued us from our sin and gives eternal life. And, no matter what the state of our union is or becomes, that will always be true.

Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tim Keller's words are haunting me

"The Prodigal God" is a wonderful book. Wonderful yet also altogether devestating in so many ways as well. Keller has the uncanny ability to gracefully point out exactly where so many Christians are huge, huge hypocrites (or perhaps reveal how they're not Christians at all). If you haven't heard of the book or haven't read it, you really need to - click here to check it out. It's a small book and a quick read. I first read it in April of last year and am now reading through it for the third time with a small group of high school guys on Tuesday mornings.

In the book Keller addresses what he refers to as "elder brother lostness". This is, in essence, the person who is religious or moral, and tends to think of themselves as better than others for their moral achievements and clean record. They very often fill our churches and can be smelled a mile away by their younger brother counterparts - which is why, Keller argues, so many younger brothers like Jesus but despise the so called "institute" of the church. Anyways, that's not my point today - my point today is that Keller's words in chapter 4 have haunted me since I first read it back in April.

Keller writes, "The last sign of the elder-brother spirit is a lack of assurance of the father's love." He then continues later to say that the clearest symptom of this lack of assurance is a dry prayer life. This is the part that has haunted me because this is, sadly, so often an accurate description of my prayer life. But what I'm realizing is that the answer to a dry prayer life isn't necessarily "try to pray more" - this would be continuing the cycle of trying my hardest to do something that pleases God. What I need is to ask God to change my heart so that I want to pray more. So I want to connect with him, and so I want to praise him spontaneously and with no strings attached. I can't tell you how many times in the past few months I've caught myself about to do something or say something which I need to be totally dependent on the Lord for and yet am about to start into it without seeking his guidance, his peace, his wisdom, or anything else.

So, Lord, what I'm saying is that I want a deeper, more intimate prayer life with you. I want to want you. I want to want communion with you throughout my day. Work in my heart in such a way that my first thought isn't a to-do list for you but a myriad of praises for how wonderful you are, how gracious you have been to me, and so on. Change my heart so that I want to spend time in prayer more than be with anyone else, or more than I want to watch that show or that game, or whatever else I may want more. Keep me centered on you so that when things do go wrong, when I disappoint myself or someone disappoints me, my first instinct isn't to question your sovereignty and kindness but to run to your arms and be with you. Thank you for your patience with me - you have given me so many gracious blessings and I praise you for every one of them. I do love you and am eager to grow in wisdom and knowledge of you. Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, part 2 of 5

Part two: A Character

In the second part of his book, Donald Miller continues to describe how he and the other guys were creating a fictional character named Donald Miller. He also begins analyzing what it means to be a character in a story. He opens the section talking about the difference between believing life is remarkable and believing life is unremarkable - that it isn't a big Story we are in. He says this on page 59: "We don't want to be characters in a story because characters have to move and breathe and face conflict with courage." I love the way Miller puts responsibility on us as characters in a story. Our lives tell stories and also are participating int he grand Story of God, which he has been telling since he started it all. However, many people (myself included at times) spend very little time thinking about our lives and just let life happen to us. There are no set out goals to accomplish, no seeking God's will in specific directions in life - instead there is just a "hope all works out" that can aid us in playing the role of victim. If are not willing to engage in a story, to build relationships and risk something and perhaps fail at something big, it would be easy to believe the lie that life is not meant to be important, not meant to be captivating and provocative.

In part two, Miller describes the growing awareness that he needed to search for his dad. Miller had not seen his dad since he was a young boy and didn't know for sure if he was alive or not. Yet as he was "editing his life" as he calls it, he realized that one huge story that he had to pursue was the story of his father - who was he, where was he, what did he think of his son, and so on. And while Miller wanted to just write his dad off and forget about him for good, he knew that he was being invited by God into a deep part of his past, something unfinished that needed to be addressed. And because a character in a good story is going to confront difficulty with courage, Miller decided he would begin searching for his dad.

Miller refers to God as the Author of our stories, the One outside of ourselves who is inviting us into better stories, stories that center on him and bring him glory. And while calling God the "Writer" is sort of weird, I don't think it disrespectful nor altogether un-biblical. After all, God is referred to as the "author and perfecter of our faith" in Hebrews 12:2, and there is a sense in which God has scripted salvation as the Master Author. The more I reflect on Miller's writing, the more I see his point of view of life as a story and myself as a character in it. Will I try to write my own story - pursuing my own fame, fortune, health, and what not - or will I pursue God's story that he is telling the world about himself, about meaning in life, and about his extremely relational nature?

More to come.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

There's Something About The Rain

There's just something about the rain that I love. I was excited about this storm when I heard it would be coming, though I of course understood that some areas would not be ready for so much snow and/or rain all at once. It is my theory that there is no such thing as "bad weather". I don't necessarily mean to take that to the extreme and sound heartless about the devastation that comes with tornadoes, hurricanes, and the like. It's just that storms like these are a nice change of pace for me. I'm sitting by a window at Panera bread as I type this and just love seeing the rain come down. The wind was howling yesterday outside of my apartment so hard that I truly believed the not-so-strong looking tree was going to fold in half and perhaps come inside my apartment window. Fortunately it didn't.

Maybe it's the mood I get in when rain comes down consistently for a while, but I sincerely am enjoying it. I was reading in Amos earlier this morning for the seminary class I'm taking and God kept talking about wind and rain and how he was going to send it this way and that way. The Scriptures talk like that all over the place, and I think it's important to remember. While our scientists and meteorologists can tell us where a storm is coming from, they tend to neglect REALLY Where it's coming from. God himself is sovereign over wind and rain, and while that can certainly be a difficult thing to swallow when disaster strikes (or even just a leaky roof), it's something the Bible confronts us with anyways. We would much rather speak of God as not involved in these things, but in the end if he's not involved or in control then he's not really that big of a God after all. But I want to receive God's full self revelation and trust that he is ultimately the One who brings rain and sun.

Just some thoughts.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"A Million Miles In a Thousand Years" book review, part 1 of 5

Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles In a Thousand Years, is a fascinating read so far. I've just started the fourth and final section of the book and highly recommend it already. Miller has an incredible way of writing with candor, humor, and depth all at the same time. The book isn't necessarily short (about 250 pages) but is a quick read and one you'll get absorbed in. I'm going to do a short review on each of the four parts of the book.

Part One: Exposition

Much of the beginning of the book is more of a story about his life than it is the meat of the book. Basically, after one of his books got popular some movie producers wanted to do a documentary on his life. What they quickly discovered, however, is that Miller's life was not exciting or meaningful enough to really make a movie. So they decided to go ahead with a movie about a guy named Donald Miller but reconstructed it in such a way that it didn't represent Miller's life at all. In this process Miller begins discovering that there are many similarities to what goes into a great story and what goes into a great life. Miller convincingly describes most people's lives as boring stories. We are bored because we are not living any kind of worthy story that should be told anywhere, so we tend to get caught up in TV shows that tell good stories or movies - but of course some of these aren't even good stories, they are just somehow more interesting than the stories we are telling with our lives.

Throughout the book Miller goes back and forth between describing his life experience and then pulling back to reflect on what he's learning about life and story. On page 31-32 he writes, "Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller." Just think of almost every "great movie" ever made - they always center around a conflict that the protagonist must conquer, push through, or whatever in order to succeed. And even though some great movies end with the hero still failing or dying, they are great stories because of the courage they showed in the face of adversity. I'm beginning to get a clearer picture on how God is a "master storyteller", both in Scripture as well as individual believer's lives. But we MUST be willing to greet adversity when it comes and trust that God only allows it into our story to make us more like Him, the great Character of all characters, and also to display the glory of his grace, hope, justice, and so on.

Just some thoughts.

Friday, January 15, 2010

It's been a while...

I haven't written in almost a month now and I think I know why. I've been reading this interesting book by Donald Miller called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years". Miller is a phenomenal author who has written several books in the past few years and this one does not let down in the least. The subtitle is "What I learned while editing my life" and he talks about how our lives are much like stories and how most Americans live lame stories. Anyways, one reason why I think I haven't been writing much lately is that I was afraid that people weren't going to read it and I guess I was sort of in it to be patted on the back once in a while and hear stuff like "Hey, great blog the other day" and "Man, you're a great writer!" And so maybe out of the fear of that and the fact that I just wasn't writing regularly, I took a miniature hiatus from blogging. But here's the thing: I love to write and some day hope to write a book if not more than one book. I have no idea if this will ever take place but the least I can do is write almost every day on this blog to develop love for writing and also develop the discipline necessary to become a good writer.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm done trying to do commentary on 1 Peter and I'm just going to make this more of an online journal for myself and anyone who is interested in reading. I want to be open, humorous, winsome, and want to develop as a writer. So if you read this at all, thank you. I'm excited (for now) about doing this more often and just putting my fingers on the keyboard and seeing what comes. I'm going to keep them shorter than they were for the most part because people generally don't read stuff that is long when they're online and, honestly, I don't want to go on and on about things - short and to the point, right? So, enjoy if you so choose and if you don't then you certainly won't be offending me.

Just some thoughts