Re: Night at the Roxbury

Re: Night at the Roxbury

I read a prayer recently that someone posted on their blog (can’t remember which one, sorry!) that quoted John Piper…in the prayer, he prayed that God would help us to grasp the spectacle of our sin, and through that, the grandness of God’s holiness.  “Spectacle” struck me as such a strange word choice. The dictionary defines “spectacle” as: a visually striking performance or display. To see sin in such a way really is uncomfortable.  Really uncomfortable.  But truly grasping it for what it is – truly grasping our situation for what it is – makes God’s holiness and the hope available through Jesus so striking.

One of the blogs I really enjoy following is written by Hannah.  She recently wrote a post titled “Night at the Roxbury” about some of the chaos of living and working where she does.  In that post,  she reflects on the feeling of hopelessness, and how that leads her to hope. Right on, Hannah! I think it’s really truly in those hopeless kinds of situations that really begin to grasp “hope.”

When we are able to see the brokenness of things and recognize it as broken, as not how that thing was meant to be, we have arrived at hope. May we never settle for brokenness…

(by the way, anyone recognize the Piper paraphrase?  I’d like to find that again…)

posted by: caleb

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allegorizing the Trinity?

allegorizing the Trinity?

One interest of mine that continually challenges me…and never really leaves me satisfied…is looking for ways to communicate the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  The communication of this doctrine, I believe, is an essential element of Christian teaching.  Often, though, especially in evangelical circles, we are so concerned with the application of doctrine, that we tend to neglect doctrines that don’t seem as readily applicable.  If there were any doctrine in my growing up years that seemed irrelevant to the daily decision I had to make, it would have been the doctrine of the Trinity.  When I finally began to understand the relevance this doctrine has for our daily lives, my interest in communicating it exploded.

One of the difficulties we have communicating this doctrine is that there is no single verse in Scripture that articulates a complete picture of the doctrine.  Another difficulty communicating this doctrine is that all analogies drawn from nature tend to fall apart rather quickly.  Some of the more helpful analogies are those drawn from human relationships.  That is why I’m really intrigued to read William Young’s book, The Shack, which is, I believe, in the top 100 best-selling titles on Amazon currently.  I haven’t read it yet, but I know a number of people who are or have read it.  And there is a LOT of buzz around this book right now.  I can’t review a book I haven’t read, but from what I’ve read about it, I know that it is a fictional novel driven by an allegory of the Trinity based several people relating to each other.  Sounds pretty intriguing, no?

Here are a couple reviews that caught my eye:

on Christianity Today’s website

on Amazon

posted by: caleb

change in plans?

change in plans?

If you’ve been watching the news at all over the last couple days, I’d imagine this question may have come to your mind concerning us and our plans. Let me just say up front: Our plans right now remain unchanged. We are still hoping to be in Beirut by mid-September starting language studies. Does the current situation scare us? There are a couple of answers I often give when posed with that question…the first is in a post Nicolette wrote up not so long ago on fear. The second answer I will often give is: yes. of course. But the current situation is also a reminder of why we want to work in this part of the world…we want to be a part of bringing about true, lasting Peace straight from the Source.

Is it “safe” moving to Lebanon? We are often asked this question, and the sentiment behind it encourages me. I…We very much hear and appreciate your concern and care for us. We certainly don’t tackle the issue of safety lightly. A year or two ago, a very dear friend of ours blogged about the issue of safety as he, his wife, and baby girl prepared to move to another chaos-prone country. His post so clearly echoes our thoughts on the issue that I have included it below for your reading pleasure. His answer to the question, “But is it safe there?”:

The answer has several parts. First, we believe the safest place we can be is living in obedience to God. We believe that God created us to share the Gospel with people who have never heard. When Jesus gave the command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” he coupled it with a promise, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Does the presence of the Triune God insure that we won’t get hurt or die? No. The night before he was executed, Jesus told his disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Being a follower of Christ involves a willingness to follow in his footsteps. We can’t “leapfrog” over the cross to the resurrection. Too many of us have unwittingly bought into the Prosperity Gospel that promises heaven right here on earth. God’s promises will come true, but we err if expect the blessings without the hardship. Jim Elliot, slain missionary to the Wadoni People (formerly known as the Auca Indians) famously said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Second, safety is an illusion. No place is safe. Living in America is not safe. Driving in a car is not safe. Eating at a restaurant is not safe. People go to great lengths to find security, but all in vain. People buy SUVs, install alarm systems, and live in gated communities in an attempt to find security.

We don’t like to admit it, but none of these things can keep us safe. Deep down we all know that tomorrow we could lose our jobs or the ability to work, the stock market could crash, we could be diagnosed with cancer, or a hurricane, tornado, drought, or earthquake could strike. The Bible says, “You are a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13–14). We have no guarantee of tomorrow, and we can’t avoid risk.

So since risk is unavoidable, why not be intentional with the risks we take? Why not take risks that glorify God? Let’s take risks that produce everlasting results.

What is the difference between faith and foolishness? Foolishness is taking risks that have a temporal purpose. Faith is taking risks that have an eternal purpose. Faith takes risks in obedience to God’s commands. Foolishness is focused on self. Faith is focused on God and others. When we put all of our eggs in God’s basket, we find that it’s really not a risk.

…That’s sort of a long answer to the question, “Is it safe.” For us, it is a calculated risk that we think is worth it. Our confidence is in the Lord who has led us to -[this country]-. No matter what happens, His goodness never fails.

There is a peculiar tension between faith in God’s goodness and the logical responses we feel watching CNN at night. Conflict in Lebanon seems, at times, to be as sure as the fact that the weather changes (at least outside of Arizona, where it will be 100F from this Friday until next fall, I suspect). The current situation, if it continues, may force us to do language studies elsewhere. But it may be sorted out and life brought back to “normal.” Our plans remain unchanged at present. Our hope remains firmly fixed on its Source.

posted by: caleb

God’s glory

God’s glory

While I was in seminary, one of my professors was talking about God’s glory in nature and in mankind. One of the lines of thought that he took that really caught my attention is that because God has created humans to bear his image, humans are the supreme reflectors of God’s glory in all of creation. This would infer that the spectacular glory of God is more nearly reflected in the murderer on death row than even the most beautiful wilderness landscape.

sunset over magma mine

If there is anything that you could identify as a hobby of mine, it would be “outdoors.” Anything to do with exploring the outdoors is something I either a) really enjoy doing, or b) am hoping to try doing. So, this thought from my professor is stuck in my mind, especially when I’m out in the “wilderness” exploring and having a great time. I am constantly reminded that the beauty of this shocking, overwhelming, amazingly fun scene I am taking in, moment by moment, pales in comparison to the beauty of even the most frustrating or annoying or unloveable person in my life at that moment. I am reminded that I need to look for what is praiseworthy in them.

Last weekend, I got a chance to get away for just one night to go camp with some friends in the high desert just east of Phoenix. What a “reset” this kind of time is! Not to “escape” from humanity, but to reminded of that which is truly beautiful…and what I’ve been too critical to see.

Click here for some more shots from that trip…hope you enjoy!

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caleb's feet

caleb’s feet

your church vs. the ideal church?

your church vs. the ideal church?

Good questions have a way of making you think about them for a long time after you answered them. So, here’s a question I was asked recently, that I’ve been muddling on ever since:

Which do you love more, your local church or the ideal Church?

I answered by saying that I love my church to the degree that it conforms to the ideal church. Well, I didn’t actually say it that smoothly. It took me a minute or two to get there.

Augustine makes this very point in Book 14, Chapter 6 of his work City of God. His famous dictum, so often misconstrued “…he should hate the sin but love the sinner” was written in the context of his discussion of man’s nature, the importance of the will and its act of love.

This question really challenged me, because by saying that you love the ideal Church more than your church, you will find yourself forever frustrated by the local church. The truth is we’re still on our way to where we are supposed to be, but we haven’t arrived yet. The truth is that we in the Church will let you down. We’ll lie to you. We’ll gossip about you behind your back. We’ll be unforgiving. We’ll misjudge you. We’ll cut you down and betray you. Sadly, we are as broken and corrupt humans just like the rest of humanity.

The difference that “salvation” makes is in our Hope. What awaits us is the complete renewal of our corrupt an imperfect humanity into incorruptible and perfect humanity.

Okay, so that’s the theology behind the idea. The point is that we should love what is good. It is right for us to appreciate it and praise it and love it. The rub is that everything on this side of “salvation” is corrupted.

Let’s take as an example my love for my wife.  No matter how hard I try to overcome it, my love for her is corrupted and inwardly bent. Even though I am saved and I am being transformed, that transformation has not fully (or even mostly) happened yet. So, I am not fully “loveable” yet. In fact, there are still a good number of things about me that she cannot…and should not love. She can only truly love that which is good in me. That which is evil she must hate.

The same is true for the church. She is not fully “loveable” yet, but she will be someday.

posted by: caleb

snippets from the early church

snippets from the early church

Strange how much you can miss something that you were so ready to put away when you had it, isn’t it? The past month or two, I have ached to be back at seminary wrestling with some of the ideas I grappled with there. I miss those discussions.

One that has been on my mind a lot lately concerns worship in the church. Last December, I was at the tail-end of a class that focused on reading a lot of documents from the early church. One point that writers in the early church often emphasized was that worship is sacrifice. You come to worship, not to receive, but to give. In giving you do not “change” God, meeting some need of His or filling some want that He lacked. Rather, as you worship, you find yourself changed…turned from impure to pure, from faithless to faithful.

Interestingly, worship in the early church was oriented primarily around the Lord’s supper. Their understanding of worship was informed by how they understood what was happening at Communion. They understood that we offer back to God only what has first been offered to us. Christ’s body and blood, which is the only acceptable sacrifice before God, were represented by the bread and the cup of wine. It was, and still is, only by his body broken and his blood shed that we are cleansed. Thus, the high point in the worship service in the early church was when the bread and the cup were held up by the church above everyone’s head. We hold these up as the only meritorious sacrifice before God, believing, and find forgiveness and cleansing.

So, this week as you worship, consider worship a sacrifice, and then remember who you’re lifting up as worthy before the Father.

posted by: caleb

the hermeneutical principle of suffering…

the hermeneutical principle of suffering…

So, I’m up a little late tonight, reflecting. Chalk it up to the late afternoon thunderstorm show that transitioned into a radiant yellow on orange on blue on purple sunset…or chalk it up to my chicken schwarma and hummus filled belly. But, I’m reflective tonight. And that means my journal got a work out. About a year ago, it looks like I was similarly reflective…and here’s some thoughts from then:

Embracing suffering as the greatest hermeneutical principle?

The power to do this comes from the joy set before us. Where does sacrificial love come from? It comes from being satisfied in what God has promised to be for us more than anything else in this life. What has he promised to be? Present! Sufficient! Our hope is not in what this life has to offer, but in the resurrection to a better life.

posted by: caleb