Wednesday, January 31, 2007

On blogging

I've been thinking about this yesterday and today: this interesting habit that we in the twenty-first century have of displaying our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams to the world at large, hoping that someone, somewhere, will read them. A comment by Curious Servant a little while back left me contemplating the nature of a blog, the different ways that people use them, and the different interactions that arise among us because of them.

I think at some level it's part of our ongoing quest for significance. There's a desire in all of us, I suspect - I know it's there in me and in everyone I've talked to - to know, or at least feel that we know, that our words and our lives mean something: that we matter. The blog is one of the ways that the people of this hypertechnologized, often self-absorbed, nearly always postmodern generation look for that significance. It's an outlet for our thoughts that, people imagine, the world hears. Whether or not the world does hear is an entirely different question, of course.

Yet a blog is not merely a place where people go to find significance. (I find it interesting that I describe the everywhere/nowhere of the internet as a place - I think it says something about our conceptions of the reality of this "space" that we so often "inhabit" with our time and our thoughts.) That's a good thing, because if it were, I'm not sure I or any other Christian would have any business blogging at all. Our significance is found, not in a blog or in a friendship or in a marriage or in our job or in anything at all other than the work and person of Christ - or rather, it shouldn't be; and ultimately can't be, however much we try to make it so. But the blog is more than an outlet for vanity, if we let it be. The blog is, like every other "place," an area where Christ can be glorified, where mutually edifying relationships can be formed, where all manner of thought - deep and theological or just plain silly - can find an expression, and thus display a little more of the glory of the Creator. It is a place where the creative outlets can flow freely and unhindered, and a place where focused logical analysis too is safely at home. It is a place where people pour out their wounds and find themselves comforted by others who come alongside, united by commonality of experience and especially of faith, though separated by many hundreds or thousands of miles. It is a place of open doors and opportunity.

Like all such open doors, of course, one must be wary of what lies on the other side. Every technological advance carries with it the potential for both great good and great evil. The same technology that allows us to type out theological treatises and run them past our friends equally allow people to distribute pornography. So long as we are wise, though, we can use this technology for great good. We can speak of the wonders of all that Christ has done. We can share our own personal testimonies, opening up our own weaknesses that that God's strength can be revealed in us. We can support each other in times of need. We can connect with those on the far side of the city, country, or world, with whom we have much in common in heart, though little, perhaps, in circumstance.

It's interesting to me to see the differences in various blogs. From Tim Challies to my mom to Daddy'sGirl to Curious Servant, we all have very different blogs, with very different styles, with very different points, with very different readerships. I don't think any one of those in necessarily better than the others, though. They're just different. Every one of them glorifies God in some way. Every one of them points to Him. And that's the important part. We can take these things that all too easily become all about us and instead point them at Him, to glorify His name, to honor Him. Just like we ought to be doing with every single part of our lives.

Next time: Will the Real Men Please Stand Up?

May our Father's peace and love reign in your hearts.

- Chris

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dangerous Obsessions

What are the dangerous obsessions of your life? What are those areas that you cling to above every other person, goal, thing, etc.? What is it that drives you, motivates you, compels you to act without hesitation in its service?

There are two categories for things of this sort, as there are two categories for most things. They are labeled Good and Bad. In the first category we can put only and exactly one such obsession: the obsession with glorifying God and with making Jesus Christ known to the world. In the other we must put all else. We must put everything in our lives in the other category, in fact, in comparison to the overwhelmingly supreme position that the one single obsession should have in our lives. Because anything else is worse than bad: it is truly evil. It is an idol.

I've been thinking about two seemingly unrelated topics recently: idols, and surrender. In reality, the two are intricately and inextricably intertwined. One cannot speak of the notion of surrender without asking to whom or to what one is surrendering; and one cannot speak of dealing with an idol in one's without considering the notion of surrender.

Idols are interesting. I think we in America today (and other parts of the Western world) in all our "glorious" embrace of post-modernism and post-Christianity, blessed so richly materially, and thoroughly anti-theistic ideas often fail to understand the Old Testament notion of an idol. We cannot comprehend the idea of setting up a wooden or stone statue and then proceeding to worship it: our reason compels us to take the view that it is utterly ineffective and even absurd to worship a piece of stone or a fallen tree that we ourselves have shaped, and in our own image, no less. Yet that is still the essential definition of an idol: a god made in our own image.

There are, of course, many examples of what this looks like in the world around us: materialism, lust, greed, selfishness. People live for themselves and make their own pleasure their own god. They seek fulfillment and satisfaction in sex, drugs, money, fame... family, children, and religion. Ultimately, though, every single one of those boils down to putting something above God. When someone puts anything above God, they are putting themselves above God: repeating the exact sin that caused the Fall of Man, and that led Satan to destruction. They make themselves gods; they create idols carved in their own image. Christians can do this, too. How easily we put even good things on pedestals: marriage, mission trips, church involvement, children, friendships... you can name almost any good activity and spend very little time looking before you find someone in the church who has made an idol out of it. Again, we seek our own good and our own pleasure rather than the glory of God Almighty. In so doing, we make an idol out of that thing and worship it - and thus, worship ourselves.

Equally sinful, though perhaps more horrifying, is when we not only make an idol of ourselves, but actually try to remake God in our own image. That is a sobering thought, if one pauses to consider it. We in Christian circles, along with every cult in the world, have a terrible tendency to remake God and shape Him in an image that is comfortable for us. When we worship that god, we are not worshiping Yahweh; we are worshiping ourselves. We are worshiping a vision that we have created in place of God's revelation of Himself to us. (That's one reason that good theology and solid teaching of the Word are so important: we must know who God is if we are to worship Him properly. If we do not know who He is - and how could we, without looking at what He has told us of Himself - then what we choose to worship will be our own conception of God, and our own conception of God will always and ever be grossly and hideously malformed, twisted by the sickening decay and corruption that has tainted mankind since the Fall.)

It is unsurprising that a cult or other religion would remake God in their own image; but what bothers me is how strong the tendency is in me to make an idol out of my own ideas of who God is, or who He should be. Especially in theologically liberal circles, but in any Christian fellowship that does not constantly check itself against the Word, it is easy to make statements about God that simply are not true. I can't even count the number of times I've heard things like, "God would never send people to hell just because they messed up a few times. I can't believe in a God who would do that; that's not loving. And God is all about love." God is love, yes, it's true. In fact, we wouldn't even know what love was if He hadn't taught us by loving us first. But our definition of love is sorely lacking; and more importantly that statement misses the fact that God is not merely loving: He is also just, kind, merciful, wrathful, righteous, jealous, omniscient, omnipresent, compassionate, omnipotent, holy, fearful, terrible, awesome, beautiful... the list goes on. He is who He has revealed Himself to be. The fact that who He is can sometimes make us uncomfortable does not excuse our redefining Him; in so doing we set up for ourselves an idol in our hearts, carved in our own image. Christians are, of all those who do this, the worst (meaning I am the worst) because of all that do this, we are those with the least excuse. We have the truth; and to twist it for our own comfort is execrable.

I have made idols in my life. I have held things far too dear; let obsessions other than Christ drive me. And that is dangerous. Dangerous is not bad in and of itself; but this sort of danger very much is: it is danger for our very spiritual being. What have my idols been? Many things. Mostly, relationships: long-standing friendships, dating, a future marriage. All of those are good things. However, when they are what drive us, rather than the love of Christ - when we are compelled by a need to sate those desires, rather than by an overwhelming urge to glorify God with every breath we take - then they are no longer good for us. They become idols. We worship them. We let them control our lives, make our decisions for us. They become god. What is an idol? It is anything we surrender to that isn't God.

What is the cure for an idol? Unsurprisingly, the cure is related directly to the problem. Surrender. But instead of surrendering to an idol - to our own flesh, to our own desires, even to our own needs - we surrender all of ourselves to God. We surrender our desires even for wonderful things like marriage and children, friends, opportunities to serve and minister. We must surrender all. I have spent a great deal of time recently thinking about that: what it means to truly surrender all of ourselves. For me, in the last year, it has meant letting go of my desire to be famous, admired, respected. It has meant letting go of my need for close friendships. It has meant letting go of marriage. It has meant letting go of my grades. It has meant letting go of my future. Giving them all - every single one - to God, and simply saying, "Not my will, but Yours be done. Glorify Yourself and Your name in my life. I want nothing else more than that." It has been hard. And the farther I come, the farther I see that I have yet to go in this walk of letting go of myself so that I might honor my God and Father. There are desires in that list. I still hope I get married. But if my King calls me to walk out this life single, then I will obey, and I will do so with joy, not with resignation. I still desire close, edifying friendships, but if God calls me to go through seasons of alone-ness, I will do so content, not lonely. I walk with God first and foremost. I will not be mastered by any of these things, though they are good for me.

I will be mastered only by the grace and sufficiency of Christ.

No one and nothing else is worth surrendering to. Period.

- Chris

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Asleep in the Light"

Apologies for the delay in posting a new entry on this blog. I've been pondering a great deal lately, but the vast majority of that is simply not suitable for the content of this blog. However, there are a few brief comments I'd like to make.

As an aside before I begin, I'd simply like to note that this blog will shortly be hosted on my own personal website, though there's nothing yet to see there (I'm currently designing it). Don't worry, this link should still direct you there, even once the transfer has been made. I think you'll enjoy the look of the new website, though the look of this blog will remain the same, at least initially.

The first is simply on the notion of serving God. We were challenged tonight by our speaker at Paradigm to consider what giving our all really means. This is something I've been praying about a great deal recently. He noted that, while not all of us are called to go overseas, all of us are called to go. Among the many principles God has been working in my heart in the last several months, one is precisely that notion that we are all called to go. Too frequently I hear members of the church use the excuse that they simply "aren't called" to go; or that they witness with "relational evangelism." Don't get me wrong: I'm all for relational evangelism, and I'm also well aware that some people aren't called to go overseas. However, when relational evangelism becomes an excuse for laziness or fear when it comes to sharing the gospel - and that happens a lot in evangelical circles today - then it is inappropriate. Of course, true relational evangelism takes a lot of courage; what is being referenced in this case is typically instead a sort of institutionalized apathy that people can now label relational evangelism though it in fact bears no relationship to the real thing. That saddens me, and it breaks my heart.

There is an old Keith Green song titled "Asleep in the Light," and I think he hits it on the head when he notes that the church has been given so much, but - despite the overwhelming needs right in front of us - all too often Christians can't even get out of bed (metaphorically speaking), much less go share the Gospel. This apathy disgusts me, and it disgusts me the more so because I see it very strongly in myself. I have to consciously discipline myself to be active in sharing my faith with those around me, because if I am not, I simply don't. I have to discipline myself to actively pray for those who need salvation; for revival to come; for the effectiveness of missionaries on the field; for financial needs to be met; for God to be revealing Himself to peoples who don't know Him. If I don't actively pursue all of those, I simply don't do them. I'm lazy. So is almost all of the rest of my generation. As Dr. Strauss wisely put it to me a few days ago, "Your generation understands the need, but is too attached to its material comforts." He's right, and he was also right when he later noted that his generation is much the same. We want people saved - but not if it requires our being uncomfortable, certainly not if it requires true hardship or (heaven forbid, we say!) persecution or death. Truly, ours is a fearful generation.

And that attachment to the material expresses itself in many ways. We do not give financially, either. Every missionary effort in the world could be fully funded, and every starving person fed, and every naked person clothed, if the American evangelical church tithed, and the money was used wisely, rather than for the material aggrandizement of the congregations in question. The fact that that does not happen should break our hearts. It should break my heart, and while it sometimes does, it sometimes doesn't, and that too breaks my heart. Jesus Christ gave His all. He deserved our all even before that; how much more so now? We need to be willing to sacrifice everything, up to and including our lives, our friends and family, and all our desires, for the sake of His glory, for the sake of making Him known to the nations.

Another thing I've been led to meditate on of late is the overwhelming supremacy of Christ's actions as compared to any other event in all our history. It is so very easy to become comfortable with the notion of all that Christianity entails. Yet if one stops to truly consider the reality of what happened 2000 years ago... it ought to drop us on our face, to be honest. Most of the time, we breeze right by it, as if it were of little consequence. But God Almighty became a man, lived on this earth, suffered, and died the most inhumane and painful death imaginable, culminating with His separation from Himself as the ultimate punishment for our sins. For my sins. And the fact that I can think on that without having the overwhelming desire to simply prostrate myself before God tells me just how fallen I still am. When we truly stop to consider the incredible magnitude of what He has accomplished, we cannot but be humbled. It is only as we come to that point of true humility by understanding our own worthlessness and His worthiness - and that He has granted us that worthiness - that we begin to truly be able to know Him and the magnificence of all He has done.

It is my prayer that as you think about any and all of what I've written, that you will be challenged at least a little in your faith, and that you'll have an ever-increasing desire to pursue God wholly, laying down everything of yourself for Him. I pray His blessings and His peace be with you all.

- Chris

Saturday, January 20, 2007

My current life in brief

Blast. I just lost this post completely in a small crash. *sigh* Lovely. Well, I guess I'm starting over. This post is going to be a good deal shorter than the last one - and I apologize again for how long it was, though I do hope it proves edifying to someone, somewhere, at some point. Before my browser crashed, I was describing this semester's schedule. I'm taking six classes: Quantum Mechanics I, Physical Mechanics I, R.A. Training, Musical Structures IV, Music Composition Lesson, and International Relations in the Middle East. That last class is probably going to be my favorite, I think; certainly it is thus far, though we've only met once to date. That, along with some of the points I raised in my post a week or so ago, is further lending credence to the notion that God is probably going to call me somewhere besides a relatively comfortable professorship here in the United States.

Even beyond the different things He's gifted me in, I'm increasingly finding myself desiring and passionate about the world beyond the shores of America, and caring more and more deeply for the lost and for their desperate need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. I don't know exactly what any of that looks like, at this point, of course, and I really don't need to. As Dr. Strauss pointed out in conversation with me yesterday, God will not hold back His wisdom from me as I ask Him for it; nor does He from any of us. Rather, as we continue to pursue His will and to pursue holiness, He makes clear the way before us. It's His word that's a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. In His good time, I'll know where to go. And that's true of every single area of my life, not just my "career" path.

In addition to the classes I'll be taking - all of which are proving to be rather homework intensive, much more so than in semesters past - I'll probably be working 15-20 hours every week. Given the combination of work and school, this semester is, I suspect, going to be an exercise in time management and a training ground for the future. I know God has grace and wisdom for me in how to walk this out, so I'm very much excited to see what it looks like, though I also must admit to a certain amount of intimidation that I'm having to overcome. Certainly discipline is high on the list of, well, disciplines to be learned in the coming months.

Above all, I am confident that He'll be glorified in all that I go through, and I rejoice to have that assurance. Grace and peace be with all of you, as always.

- Chris

Friday, January 19, 2007

On Male-Female Friendships

While this post is general and it is my hope that everyone who reads it will be blessed and encouraged, there are a few people I have had in mind as I was writing it, hoping and above all praying that it would be encouraging to you and provoke you to think again about this question of friendships between guys and girls. You each know who you are. If you disagree with me, and I expect that some of you may, that's fine. Too, I know it's long. But I hope that you'll take the time to read this through and really think and pray about it; and if the Lord so leads you, I'd love to talk to you about it.

Thanks to yet another provocative discussion going on at the Boundless Line, a conversation I had Monday night, and a set of ongoing circumstances with someone who is now an acquaintance of mine, I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about the topic of friendships between guys and girls. There's obviously a great deal of feeling caught up in discussions like the one going on over at Boundless, and I'm sure the same is true almost any time the topic comes up, for the simple reason that guy-girl relationships are among the most complicated and confusing areas in our lives, particularly (though by no means solely) as young adults. Given all of the above, I'm taking a little time to present some of my thoughts on the topic, hoping they'll be at least a little edifying to some of you. [Certainly, there are plenty of times when the same issues come up later. However, they tend to be most frequent as young adults, roughly from the onset of adolescence to whatever point someone gets married. While that period can extend well into one's life, that is rare. Furthermore, I've yet to experience that particular circumstance, and as such I will not comment except where I do have personal experience, except insofar as I'm referencing the comments and thoughts of others older, more experienced, and wiser than me.] I have to preface this by saying that I'm really re-evaluating much of this in light of this theory, which I was first introduced to today. It's certainly not complete - and the blogger describing it makes this very clear - but it does have a certain amount of accuracy to it, even from my own personal experiences.

Men and women are different; of that there is little doubt. (Those few who do doubt it have clearly never met a member of the opposite sex; if one has, there is no doubt!) That simple fact, stated in just a few words, shapes a great deal of human history. Indeed, beyond man's relationship with God and his inherent fallen state, it is the relationship between man and woman that has almost singularly defined the tale of our past, and that continues to define our present. The great romances remain, defying every change brought about by culture and history, from those in ancient times, through Shakespeare, right up through the modern romance and romantic comedy films. Whole nations have legendarily risen and fallen on these interactions. We should not then be surprised that every interaction between the sexes from puberty on is fraught with complications. Some of these are natural, and some of them are needless. The moment that any hint of attraction enters the arena, simple friendships become increasingly difficult to maintain, and for that matter to first construct. This does not change - not from the early teens through early adulthood (and, by accounts of those older than me, not even after that).

There are two separate but related issues that arise here. One is the issue of attraction, and with it pursuit, rejection, marriage, and so forth. The other is friendship between people of opposite sex where romantic intentions are not present. The former is exceedingly complicated. I have little experience with it, and that all full of so-called failure (though I have little doubt that God had His purpose even in that), so I will not in any way attempt to discuss an area in which my expertise is non-existent. Rather, I will look to the second area, where I do have a good deal of experience. For as long as I can remember, I have had good, close, female friends in addition to my close male friends. I also have two younger sisters, with whom I am becoming increasingly good friends (and it is to my chagrin that I have not made a greater effort to do so previously). It is from this experience and from Scripture that I will draw my arguments in the following discussion of the topic. Any true wisdom here is from God. All the mistakes are mine alone, and I am sure there are some, though I have tried to avoid them. I pray the former greatly outweighs the latter and that any who read this are kept from being mislead by any of the latter.

There are a few schools of thought regarding friendships between men and women percolating about in Christian circles at this time. I will attempt to address them each in turn, insofar as I am able to do so. One is that men and women should avoid all close friendships with people of the opposite sex except in the context of pursuit and then marriage. Friendships between men and women who are not romantically involved, in this view, should never include any time spent alone; nor should they spend large amounts of time together. Instead, their contact should be limited to interactions in groups at church, Bible studies throughout the week. Another view is that any male female relationship that is not crossing sexual boundaries is allowable. In this perspective, as long as both parties are comfortable with the relationship and it is well-defined, there is no problem, regardless of the degree of intimacy involved. The final view is somewhere in the middle, and harder to define for the simple reason that there is no commonly held version of this view: it varies person to person, and even circumstance to circumstance for individual people. Generally, people holding to this view value the notion of "guarded intimacy" but do not fully reject close friendships between people of the opposite sex. I will clearly state my bias here and now by stating that it is into this last group that I place myself, for what I hope will become clear are good reasons.

The first view is predicated on the notion that any relationship other than the marriage relationship that involves strong degrees of emotional and/or spiritual intimacy are inappropriate. There are several reasons why people hold to this. First, there is the view that anything not allowed when in a marriage relationship should likewise be not allowed when outside of a marriage relationship, for the reason that the people in question most likely will be married at some point in the future. (I have, in order to make a point, temporarily assumed even this extreme position myself in the past, as some of you may recall.) This extends from physical contact to all emotional and spiritual openness between people. While rarely put in such stark terms, this view is relatively common in the Christian circles today. A friend recently explained to me that she had observed her parents and noted that they had close friends of the opposite sex besides each other. This is a fair observation, and I believe her parents are setting a Godly example. From their example, she extrapolated the notion that she should have no close male friends (and, in general, that people should have no close friends of the opposite sex) other than a person with whom she would be considering marriage or to whom she were actually marriage. Inherent in this view is an extremely high regard for the sanctity of marriage, and with it for the purity of that relationship. People who, like my friend, hold to this view, so highly value that future relationship that they want to save all their emotional and spiritual intimacy for that one person. As well, people holding this view typically see themselves as seeking to guard both their own and others' hearts from unnecessary heartache and difficulties that God did not have in store for either party, by avoiding the seemingly inevitable entanglements of attraction - attraction that often goes unreciprocated.

This is not only understandable but in many ways admirable, and honestly I find it a tempting view at times. I find, however, that I ultimately cannot hold to it for a number of reasons, some of them Biblical and others purely experiential. I will begin with the latter, as they are the less important of the two. I know from having had many close female friends that it is quite possible to have close friendships without falling into the difficult straits brought on by attraction. It can be difficult, but it is possible. Furthermore, as I look back even at relationships that did have a great deal of pain in them from unreciprocated attractions, I find that I do not regret them in the least. They helped shape me into the man I am today. I gained valuable insights into humanity's spiritual condition, into the character of God, and into the nature of both men and women in specific, from those relationships, and I would not trade even those insights for having had less pain. More importantly, though, I would not trade the impacts that we had on each other's lives by being friends; I would not for anything in this world give up the ways I got to be a help to them and they to me simply because of the possible (and in many past cases, very much actualized) pain present therein. Rather, I count that cost as insignificant compared to the value of what we gained in knowing each other.

There is furthermore a logical flaw in this argumentation, for in taking the position that because married people should have no intimate opposite-sex friends, neither should those who are not married, a crucial point is missed. Specifically, that the married persons do have a close friend of the opposite sex. And that is meeting a need in their hearts. While we are clearly not meant to have the same degree of intimacy before marriage, we do need the insights and giftings of those members of the body who are different from us, and God created men and women different for precisely that reason among others. We compliment one another. When we ignore that gifting in our own pious desire to be holy without seeking what God Himself says about it, we are grave danger of holding ourselves to a higher standard than God does, and being "holier than thou" to God - of raising ourselves in pride to say our ways are higher than His - is a dangerous place indeed. I doubt most people who hold to that position consciously embrace this mentality (quite the opposite, I am sure!) yet, based on Scripture, that is precisely what they are doing, from what I can see.

Why do I say that? Quite simply, it is because as I look at this argument from a Biblical standpoint, I find myself disagreeing unable to hold to it. First and foremost, there is no passage in the Bible that explicitly deals with the topic. We must work from inference from other passages, both prescriptive and descriptive. We know that we are not to defraud one another sexually. We know that Timothy, as a young pastor, was told to treat younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. It is from these passages and a few others like them that proponents of this view often draw their support. These are compelling arguments at some level - at least, they are if one takes the view that no close friendship between men and women can be pure unless it be in marriage.

Most people that I have seen that hold these views come to the Bible with it and then seek justification for their view. This manner of examining the Bible - eisegetically, rather than exegetically (letting the text speak for itself) - is dangerous, and indeed is the foundation of heresies many and varied throughout history. By no means am I suggesting those holding to this view are heretics; rather I am pointing out that it is unwise to do. And certainly I am not innocent from having done so in the past. On this topic I have done my best to examine the whole picture presented by Scripture with prayer, aware of my own biases and fallibility, and I can stand only on what I have found, hoping that I have not been deceived by my own fallen nature. Why do I think these views are flawed? For the simple reason that the record of the rest of Scripture first does not explicitly address the issue, and secondly does not confirm this thesis in its presentation of descriptive verses, even about Jesus Himself. First, in the Timothy passage, we see that younger women are to be treated as sisters, with purity. In fact, the analogy of the members of the church as being our brothers is used throughout the New Testament. The notion of "brothers" or "brethren" has the connotation of being immediate family in this usage, because all have become adopted children of God. Yet, nowhere are we given instruction not to be close friends with our siblings. To the contrary, they are given to us as great gifts, and likewise our brothers and sisters in Christ are given to us as gifts. Indeed, we are given to each other for mutual edification and sanctification. To this end, we should not scorn the gifts that God has given us in each other, but rather guard them carefully and wisely. Furthermore, from the example of Jesus Himself we have considerable evidence that close friendships with women were a significant part of His life and His ministry. We see Paul establishing strong spiritual relationships with women along the way in his ministry. We see John addressing a beloved woman in one of the letters that is divinely inspired. Clearly, the notion that close friendships are inappropriate doesn't hold up, then.

At the same time, we are not each other's, and in view of honoring each other's future spouses, guarding each other's purity, and seeking above all to bring glory to God, it is clear that there ought to boundaries on non-romantic relationships. There are topics that ought not be discussed, emotional lines that ought not be crossed, spiritual intimacies that ought not be shared, and physical boundaries that ought not be stepped over. We cannot guard each other's hearts if we have laid them bare before each other; we cannot keep safe each other's hearts for the future if we have given them away in friendships here in the now. I have yet to find any Biblical support for this theory of guy-girl interactions. At the same time, there is plenty (most of it above) to suggest that we need to be careful to honor and guard each other's hearts. We have a responsibility to keep our relationships from crossing lines of intimacy that would be better reserved for the context of marriage. Certainly we should never find ourselves being mentored by or mentoring a person of the opposite sex. There are too many opportunities for relationships of that sort to cross the line between what is appropriate and what is not. Nor should we be baring our souls to friends of the opposite sex, no matter how close. There are parts of ourselves that ought to be kept special for the person we marry. Even in that context, there are issues that are better left dealt with in same-sex relationships than together. There is also an inherent danger that we can let a friend of the opposite sex act as a substitute, a fill-in relationship, instead of having the courage to step out in pursuit (or in being pursued) by someone to whom we might be married. Using a person is never permissible, and we always need to guard against it. That is not to say that any comforting or intimacy between people of the opposite sex is inappropriate, of course, but rather than we are not to substitute friendships for romantic relationships leading to the ultimate romance of marriage. Though friendship should be the basis and foundation of a marriage, there are different kinds of friendship involved in these relationships. As Lewis put it, one kind of friendship has the two people walking side by side toward a common goal; the other has the people facing each other, even as they pursue a common goal together. So we must always be mindful of how we are approaching these relationships.

There are friendships that model brotherhood and sisterhood to one another, and demonstrate to the rest of the world that redeemed relationships do not have to be centered on sexuality and emotional fulfillment, but rather can be subsumed to the obedience of Christ and the goal of mutual service and edification. Those friendships - those siblings that God has blessed us with - are some of the greatest gifts we can ever have, and to deny them in an attempt to make ourselves holy in ways that God has not called holy is quite simply to deny God the opportunity to bless us beyond what we can ask or imagine. I know that my own close female friends have blessed, encouraged, and taught me a great deal. To those of you who have sought to honor God by cutting yourself off from these friendships, I hope you'll stop and look at it again and spend some time praying about it. To those of you who may have tried to honor God but have ignored the ways we need to guard each other's hearts in guy-girl relationships, I hope you as well will seek our Father's wisdom in this area of considerable vulnerability. And to those of you who, like me, have found yourself seeking God somewhere in the middle, I encourage you to continue looking for greater wisdom in what that means and where the lines ought to be drawn, because - like those on either extreme - we are sinners in need of all of God's help so that we don't cause each other to stumble. Above all, let us seek to honor and glorify God in all of our deeds, in our words, and especially in the thoughts and intentions of our hearts as we approach these relationships which, redeemed, are a great gift, but left enslaved to the curse, are tragedies waiting to happen.

- Chris

Thursday, January 18, 2007

No real post

I feel terrible, and I'm going to bed. Sorry there's no update of a real sort today. I'm currently experiencing a splitting headache, wild mood swings every minute or so, and various other oddities. I'm really hoping sleep helps. God bless, all, and good night.

- Chris

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marriage blog reading, classes, and songs

This is going to be a short post. First off, please go read Michael Medved's blog post from today (by the time most of you read this, yesterday) regarding the big hubbub in the New York Times and most of the other news media about how for the first time, more American women are living alone than not... of course, it's highly fallacious, just as the last similar report was, back in October. The anti-marriage voices are loud and shrill - and also wrong. *sigh*

In terms of my own life, this is going to be a challenging semester. I'm going to have to be extremely disciplined, because keeping my grades up while working 15-20 hours a week with the classes I'm taking is going to be a not insignificant challenge. I'm up for it, and I know that God will have all the grace and wisdom I need, but it will certainly be a challenge. I've no idea what this semester entails in other areas of my life, but I'm certain it will be both challenging and encouraging spiritually. With everything that God accomplished in my life last semester, I'm terribly excited to see what this semester will bring. I know that He has a greater fullness for me, as well as a greater awareness of my own inability and my own sinfulness - and with them, an increased understanding of His transcendence, power, and redeeming work in my life. I know He's going to establish His testimony through my life, and His glory will be revealed. Thus, whatever happens, I am learning to be content. His grace is sufficient.

Songwriting is proceeding apace. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be setting this song in E flat minor/D sharp minor (but the feel of it really is in E flat minor, which is interesting since that has some really strange chords in it... like C flat major). I think I'm going to do three different arrangements of it, as well - one for vocal and guitar, one for vocal and piano, and one for vocals and a small "band." I'm looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to getting back in the swing of things with composition lessons, though that'll also be a good deal of work. Work is a very good thing!

And now, I'm going to go back to studying for my Physical Mechanics I class. I've plenty to do already, and it's only two days in! Bring on the rain, I say - full aware of all that means for my life. God will be glorified, so let it fall!

- Chris

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

God's faithfulness

I haven't a lot to write tonight. I have only this: God is faithful. He is, and He is a rewarder of those who seek Him! I'm so blessed at how He works in our lives, at how faithful He is to restore where our sin has destroyed and brought death, because of His great love and grace for us. Where I had not even know how He could heal, He did. It does not mean that there is not still work to be done and obedience to be fulfilled. To the contrary, after what He did tonight, there is more for all of those involved to be seeking Him in, but He is healing and restoring and redeeming. That's who He is! Thanks be to God who is faithful and mighty and awesome to save. And thanks to my friends who have been obedient to the Father and the promptings of His Spirit to bring me the word of truth when I needed to hear it for conviction. I know that He is doing mighty things in all of us.

May you be blessed as you think on who God is and on how mighty He is to save.

- Chris

Monday, January 15, 2007

Various topics in brief

We met for church today, even though church was canceled. It was very much a blessing. Jacob Zoller shared some of the things that God had been laying on his heart, and they were a huge confirmation, as they were many of the same things God has been laying on my heart regarding holiness and purity and the standard to which we are called in our ministry to the world. Unsurprisingly, that call to holiness came under attack even in the rest of the day. In some instances, I saw victory. In others, I saw failure. Yet I am not discouraged, though I am increasingly sickened and revolted by the depravity of my own sin nature. I long for the day when I am perfected, when God is truly glorified in all that I do. That day has not yet come - indeed, it is still far off, as this world measures time. But in the eyes of God, it is but a moment away, and then for eternity I will be serving Him in perfection with all I do as I live for Him. That's worth looking forward to.

I hung out for quite a while with Steph, Valerie, Obadiah, and K Lai today. Awesome crowd. Spending time with K Lai inspired me to keep working on the guitar; I'd love to be able to play as well as he does some day. It also inspired me to start working on a song. Steph will probably kill me when she reads the text of the song, which is why it'll be a while - if ever - before she sees it. But there are things in my heart that can only be expressed through poem and music, and the guitar is perhaps ideal as a vehicle for conveying this particular message. It should be interesting.

In other personal news, I actually have a piano in my room this semester, which is positively amazing. My thanks are directed to Stephen Carradini, a fabulous fellow. He brought his old (ancient!) Yamaha Clavinova up, but didn't really want to cram it in his room again. In his generosity, he offered to put it in my room for the semester. Already I can see that my life is going to be significantly richer musically for having it (indeed, it already has been), and I can't begin to express how grateful I am to God for having provided this way and to Stephen for being so generous as to loan me an electronic piano for a semester. I am almost infinitely more alive when I have the outlet to freely express myself musically, as I now do. It's an outlet for worship; it's an instrument for composing; and it's an opportunity to spend time with others, "jamming," from time to time.

I'm very much ready to start classes on Tuesday. I also have a job interview on Tuesday afternoon, for a position here on campus doing clerical work. It could be very much a blessing and an answer to prayer for provision from God, which is very much needed right now (as I've mentioned before). Your prayers would be very much appreciated.

In other news, I'm not sure I'm going to sleep tonight. I may sleep a bit today instead. I'm in something of an odd mood, and between working on this song and wanting to really spend some time studying the Word, I want to just keep going. In the meantime, I pray our Lord bless you all and keep you in His perfect peace. Grow always in the knowledge of Him and His truth!

- Chris

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My future

What do I want to do in/with my life? That's an extremely difficult question for me to answer right now. Honestly, I have to start out by stating very clearly that a lot of this is really open right now. My understanding of where I'm going in life has been shifting massively in the last year or so. Some background is perhaps needed. Some of this may be familiar to some of you; much of it may be new.

I came into college absolutely set on the idea of going through all the way to get a Ph.D. in physics - probably in something relating to high-energy physics, cosmology, and grand unifying field theories. The plan was to essentially go get a professorship and spend the rest of my life teaching physics and working to spread the gospel from that position, as a witness in the scientific community. That's a great vision, I think. But I'm not really sure it's what I'm called to. It's funny, because looking back, I got that in my head, essentially thinking, "That'd be really cool!" and then just ran with. I never stopped to pray about it. Which is odd, because I prayed a lot about college - where to go, how it was going to be covered financially, etc. I just never prayed about what I was supposed to be studying. I've been increasingly thinking about those things over the last year, though, starting last Thanksgiving when Travis Dunlap - who's been discipling me since then - challenged me to think about my purpose in life.

I'm increasingly convinced that God is going to do something radically different from what I had planned with my life. He's been changing my heart in so many ways - to truly and deeply care about the lost; to care about the state of the church (which is so asleep right now that it's infuriating); to care about His goals and purposes in this world. It's odd, really. I've come to very much value the Baptist Student Union - I think it's one of the best ministries on campus - but I just want to scream sometimes because even there people so easily fall into laziness and complacency spiritually. And I see the same thing everywhere, including (especially!) my own heart. And it breaks my heart. I want to change it.

And as I've been examining various things in the last few months in Men's Fraternity, I've been increasingly coming to the conclusion that physics may not be where I'm called. My parents seem to be a bit worried to hear me talking this way; I think they think I'm losing my sense of vision and getting confused in college like so many of the people we've known have. But I'm not. I'm getting God's vision

I honestly don't know what I want to be doing with my life at this point. I only know that I really want to do what God's calling me to, because I want to be effective for His kingdom. I know that He's gifted me immensely for a reason. I know that He's been putting me through various difficulties for a reason - preparation, like the forging of a sword - in the last year. I know that there are things He's told me through various people who don't even know each other, much less that they're saying the same things, that tell me that His purpose is going to be very interesting to say the least. I know that I'm called to tell people the gospel, and to communicate the truth of Scripture at an historical, a philosophical, a scientific, and a spiritual level. I know that I'm called to help wake up the church from its slumber to go and get active in the business of doing what God called us to: serving those around us, sharing the gospel, feeding and clothing the poor and the starving.

We can share the gospel with the whole world this generation if we will just get up and go. We need to be faithful to pray, and then we need to be faithful to actually go. So what do I want to do? I want to be a part of that.

I don't have a clue what that looks like, to be perfectly honest. It's something that's actually been crystallizing only in the last 2 months. It's really intimidating at times, because it's just way too big. I can't possibly do all of that. But then, that's the secret anyways - I can't do anything of myself anyways. We are nothing in our own strength; it is only the power of Christ in us, the Holy Spirit working through us, that avails anyways. And - this is encouraging, but in a way that makes no sense to the flesh - He doesn't need us! He can do it all without us. He chooses to use us when we obey, but He isn't relying on us to achieve His purposes. I guess that's encouraging in that confusing sense, but it's also encouraging because it means that He isn't frustrated or hindered when we mess up.

I still want to write music for the rest of my life; I still want to study physics because I love it. I want to discover something amazing. I want to score a movie or a videogame at some point. I want to hear the symphony orchestras of Europe - and I want one of them to someday play something I wrote. I want to write. I want to read. I want to publish a dozen books at least before I die. I want to marry, to have children - to be the best husband and the best father I can possibly be. I want to serve in the local church; I want to be invisible and do the kinds of things that need doing but don't need to be seen by the congregation. And, in contrast, I want to stand up in front of the whole church and yell, "Wake up! Go! We have been commanded!" I want to be one of those kinds of grandparents that the grandkids love to go visit, because he's so much fun to be around, whatever their age. I want to be full of quiet wisdom of the sort that only a long life surrendered to the Holy Spirit can bring. I want to be kind and gentle and humble. I want my wife to know that she's the greatest and most amazing and most treasured person in the world. I want my children to know that they are blessings from God to the world, but especially to me. I want to be able to praise God every day, to spend time in His word and His presence all the time.

I can't even express myself about myself very well. But insofar as I can, that's Chris Krycho.

In the midst of an ongoing conversation with a friend, we mutually posed the question to each other: what do we want to do with our lives? What do we dream of doing in this existence? Not just what job do we want to have, etc., but what is it that is our passion and our calling? This is a slightly tightened up version of my response to that question, which is why it's slightly more conversational and less formal than my average post on here. I hope you've been blessed at least a little bit by it; I hope you know me a little better now; and I hope that you'll take the time to think through those questions yourself.

- Chris

Friday, January 12, 2007

Two songs...

I'm so glad to be back in Oklahoma. It's good to be home. Home - as in Colorado - is now home away from home, which is strange. Being back here just feels very right. And God is doing marvelous work, as always. Two songs have stood out to me recently - one just in general for a few weeks, the other just in the last 24 hours or so. Both of them are testimonies of what our perspective on life ought to be.

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You
Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain

I am Yours regardless of
The clouds that may loom above
Because You are much greater than my pain
You who made a way for me
By suffering Your destiny
So tell me what's a little rain
So I pray

Holy, holy, holy

That one is Bring the Rain, by MercyMe. It's one of the best songs from their newest CD. It's also a really good reflection of what my heart is increasingly coming to be as God draws me to Him. Whatever it takes to praise Him - that's what I want. The second one, posted below, is much older, but incredibly important to remember. The Battle Belongs To The Lord is by Jamie Owens-Collins, and we need to remember just how true that statement is. The battle is His, and we need only surrender and obey. He's the One who wins the victory.

In heavenly armor we'll enter the land,
The battle belongs to the Lord.
No weapon that's fashioned against us will stand,
The battle belongs to the Lord.

And we sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord,
We sing glory, honor, power and strength to the Lord.

When the power of darkness comes in like a flood,
The battle belongs to the Lord.
He'll raise up a standard, the power of His blood,
The battle belongs to the Lord.

When Your enemy presses in hard, do not fear,
The battle belongs to the Lord.
Take courage my friend, your redemption is near,
The battle belongs to the Lord.

Amen! God bless, all, and a good night to all of you. Be safe if any of you must needs travel in inclement weather as we are currently experiencing here in Oklahoma.

Watch for some interesting news here within a few weeks or a month.

- Chris

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Discussions among brethren

I've been reminded rather sharply today of how easily we as Christians fall into the trap of attacking each other when passionately discussing various aspects of our faith on which we disagree. From the predestination question to what proper dating looks like to almost any other topic about which Christians care deeply, hot topics tend to incite hot discussions. And, in our state of ongoing sanctification (rather than completed perfection), we all too often make the terrible mistake of attacking one another rather than seeking to edify and build one another up. I am probably the worst person I know about this, thanks to my pride and frequent "need" to be right about something. God has called us to a higher standard than that. I got into a heated discussion today on the Boundless blogs about dating and marriage and their roles in our lives, and all too quickly two Christians who love the Lord (and thus, should love each other!) were arguing fiercely, combatively, and harshly. We were not demonstrating God's love to each other, nor to those around us, nor to any non-Christians who might have stumbled on the blog entry and started reading it. And reading another conversation back and forth, I saw the very same thing between others. How easily we fall right back into the same kinds of vindictiveness and destructive conversations from which we have been saved! How easily we forget that we are to bear under each others' weaknesses, showing grace and love to one another, even as Christ has showed His own grace and love to us and born our weaknesses. How easily we step into pride rather than the humility to which we are called. It breaks my heart. I'm so grateful for that, for the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit to point out our wrong and break us again and remold us and draw us ever nearer to Him.

- Chris

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

And the gospel goes forth in power!

The Boundless Line today has been provoking a lot of thought for me today, but one post by Ted Slater particularly caught my attention. The gospel is spreading like wildfire in the Middle East, including in some of the countries most hostile to Christianity - and in some miraculous ways. This is, for me at least, very much an encouragement, as I've been praying for revival in the Middle East for several years now.

I was encouraged to read lately that there's revival taking place among Muslims in the Middle East.

SVM News quotes author and Middle East expert Joel C. Rosenberg:

"More Muslims converted to faith in Jesus Christ over the past decade than at any other time in human history. A spiritual revolution is underway throughout North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia."

You can find the blog entry here, and the full text of the original article here.

I pray you're all encouraged and edified by this. Keep praying for our brethren there; keep giving - yes, even sacrificially - for the cause of the advancement of the gospel; and keep seeking the Lord's will as to whether you should go. I certainly am.

- Chris

Obedience and sacrifice

And Samuel said to Saul, "The LORD sent me to anoint you king over His people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on thew ay when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"

So Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, two hundred thousand men on foot, and ten thousand men of Judah. And Saul came to the city of Amalek and lay in wait in the valley. Then Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart; go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them. For you showed kindness to all the people of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. And Saul defeated the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt. And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive and devoted to destruction all the people with edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.


Saul said [to Samuel], "They have brought them from the Amalekites for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen to sacrifice to the LORD your God, and the rest we have devoted to destruction."


And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, /as in obeying the voice of the LORD? // Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. // For rebellion is as the sin of divination, / and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. // Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, / He has also rejected you from being king." (1 Samuel 15:1-9, 15, 22-23; ESV)

All too often, we can get so caught up in our own understanding of what God wants, that we ignore His simple and clear instructions to us. We reject clear instruction and teaching, simply because it doesn't line up with what we think ought to be. We operate out of our own wisdom, instead of out of the wisdom that God has offered to freely give us (James 1:5). That, in turn, leads to God's having to discipline us. He doesn't want us to fail and then offer sacrifices to Him (so to speak; obviously we're not under the old sacrificial covenant any longer). Rather, He wants us to simply obey Him. His will is best, for us and for all those around us. Interestingly, that sometimes requires us to surrender our intellects to Him, for we are incapable of truly understanding all that is going on when He ordains something.

What I find compelling about this passage is that Saul really did try to do his best here. His best simply wasn't good enough. Indeed, it wasn't even close. Rather, it caused him to lose the throne that was so dear to him. God didn't want Saul's best. He wanted Saul to surrender and do His will instead. He wanted His purposes accomplished, not those of a man so consumed by His own understanding of the way in which things worked that he would ignore clear instructions from a prophet who had already had to bring him severe discipline. We can very easily judge Saul for his foolish disobedience, and just as easily - and very smugly - congratulate ourselves for our consistency: how we would never do that. Yet we do. The commands of Christ are clear enough. His message is not difficult to understand, and the call to holiness that He lays out is very straightforward. Yet we ignore it on a regular basis. We choose to reject His standards of purity and righteousness because they're simply too much work. We forget that while we are no longer bound by the law, Christ's path is no easier. In fact, while it is much freer, and we have His strength in us for it, a simple examination of the differences in commands between Old and New Testament shows that, if anything, the difficulty has truly increased. Our ability has increased along with it, thanks to the strengthening and empowering work of the Holy Spirit as He sanctifies us day by day. Whereas there was a great deal of importance on ceremonial cleanliness in the Old Testament (though never at the cost of internal holiness), the New Testament eliminates that utterly and instead demands utter perfection in righteousness. Gladly (for we cannot achieve that state on our own!), we have been granted righteousness in Christ. We have not merely been counted righteous because of His work, we actually are righteous because of His work. We are being sanctified, but that one price was enough.

We no longer need sacrifice. We need only obey. Just as it has ever been, save that now we see the fullness of Christ's redemptive work for us. And for that, we owe Him our obedience, and our lives given in praise.

Bless His name with your lips and with your deeds.

- Chris

Monday, January 8, 2007


I despise my sin. I want it eradicated from my life. I long for purity. I desire virtue. I hunger for holiness.

And yet I continually fall short of them. My flesh is so weak, and so often I choose, willingly and in full knowledge of what I'm doing, to disobey God. And that breaks my heart.

Probably - no, definitely - not as much as it ought to. I'm praying that the Holy Spirit will break me more. I need it. Daily.

- Chris

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Review: no compromise

I just finished reading no compromise: The Life Story of KEITH GREEN, by Melody Green and David Hazard. As is obvious from the title, the book is a biography of Christian recording artist (and, many have said, prophet) Keith Green, whose years of ministry lasted from 1978 - the year he was saved - to his death in 1982. In that short time, he helped reshape the entire (young) world of Christian music and influenced thousands (perhaps millions) of Christians across America - and through them, across the world - to dedicate themselves to pursuing God at a deeper level. The book chronicles his life from his birth through his death, in greater detail in some areas and in less in others where the authors had less knowledge to draw on. Throughout, the picture painted is that of a man with a divine call on his life - a call that ultimately, despite his own flaws and weaknesses, he answered and fulfilled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The title alone describes Keith Green to a "T."

The book is a mostly chronological retelling of Keith Green's life. The early chapters skip backward and forward in a way that give insight on the "current" events being described by the narrator of the text, Keith's wife Melody. The narrative opens before Keith and Melody's conversion to Christianity, in days when they were searching for spiritual truth everywhere, in everything - from drugs to Eastern mysticism... to the teachings of Jesus Christ. The very first anecdote recounted is that of an encounter with a common friend of theirs outside of a cafe where Keith had been playing a gig. The encounter - like most with that friend - turned to discussion of the supernatural. As Keith started discussing how he'd been studying Jesus Christ, the discussion took a turn as the man clearly came under demonic influence, proclaiming he was Jesus Christ, and then being repelled when Keith instinctively snapped back a Scripture refuting the claim. The rest of the book is similarly aware of the interaction of the real spiritual forces of darkness so active in the lives of those given over to the drug-soaked and cult-obsessed ideologies of the late 70's - ideologies which largely remain unrefuted in the public at large even today.

From that one encounter on, Melody traces her and Keith's spiritual journeys, as well as examining Keith's early life as a musical prodigy who almost - but never quite - made it big in the unforgiving recording industry. From drug-loving, "free love" (that is, free sex) hippies of the 70's, Keith and Melody walked a path that took them ever closer to the saving power of Christ. They first came to see Him as a good teacher, a "spiritual master" to be followed in the tradition of following Buddha and others of that sort, then even a divinely inspired messenger from God. For a long time, they struggled with the notion that He was truly God Himself, that all Scripture was actually and completely true. When, after continuing to interact with Christian friends of theirs, they became convinced of Scripture's claims of Christ's divinity, both of them continued to struggle - no longer with their intellects, but now with their wills. Committing to Christ meant absolutely surrendering to Him.

One of the points that became increasingly clear to Melody the longer she and Keith were married, and that becomes clear to the reader the farther along in the book one goes, is that Keith was not a man of compromise. Whatever he believed, he believed with all his heart, and he brooked no deviation from that belief in his own life. He understood, then, that committing to follow Christ was truly a commitment to give up his own will and to live a life of holiness dedicated the glory of God. When he committed his life to Christ, he did precisely that. When he began to realize just how short of God's standard most of his Christian friends were falling, he set out to proclaim that standard. He and Melody opened their house to the needy, eventually taking over several houses in their area to support those walking away from old, broken lives into new ones changed by the power of Christ. Keith finally saw musical success, when at last he was able to surrender his dream of success and give himself wholly to working for the Kingdom of God. His music provoked the nation, and his tours led to changed hearts and awakenings of people's understanding of what it meant to truly follow God - to give their all for Him. I'll leave the rest for you to discover - as well as the details of all I wrote above. It's worth reading for yourself.

The text is easy to read. Melody Green, writing with David Hazard (who is mostly invisible as a co-writer and editor), tells the story mostly from a first person historical perspective, remembering the events as they happened to the two of them. In the cases where she was not present, she uses a third person voice, relying on the first-hand accounts available to her - first from Keith himself, either from conversation with him or from his extensive journals; then from those who knew him and participated in his life at the various junctures she chronicles. The book flows and reads well, as if listening to a story told by a friend. The simple power of their testimony helps, too. And I'm sure that Hazard helped immensely. He's an award-winning writer and editor, and it shows. The book never lags pace-wise, and it maintains interest easily simply by telling Keith's story in an interesting and compelling way. Each chapter is titled by the title of one of his songs - one that fits the material well. It's interesting to see how one's perception of those songs changes after reading how and when they came about. All of them become even more compelling than they already are. The pictures scattered throughout the text provide a nice glimpse into the man at a level beyond what words alone can convey, are well-placed, and generally add to the text.

The pros and cons are difficult to discuss in this book. On the positive side is pretty much the whole text, which is inspiring at a number of levels. It is full of reminders of the surrendered life we're called to live, and also of God's amazing grace to save us and continue to work patiently as we are sanctified after salvation. I cannot think of a single reason not to recommend the book. There really aren't any cons... save perhaps that it seemed too short. I read the entire thing in two or three sittings stretching over perhaps four or five hours total. It'll probably take a bit longer than that for most people (I read sickeningly quickly), but given that's the only con I can think of, I certainly have no reservations recommending it - with the single exception that you won't enjoy it if you don't appreciate being challenged and convicted, because reading about the convictions that Keith and Melody seized and ran with will challenge and provoke you. It did me. And it has a lot of other people along the way as well. It's my hope you are encouraged by that.

Keith Green's unflinching commitment to holiness, to purity, to the standard of perfection to which we as Christians are ultimately called, rubbed a lot of Christians the wrong way in the early 80's, and continues to do so to this day. In our modern and post-modern church culture, the focus is all too often on our salvation - our justification - alone, and in many churches in America, the message of sanctification is never preached. Rather, we want God to give to us, and have no desire to hear of the expectations that He has on our lives. To be sure, we must always remain aware of His grace and His mercy. But grace is not a license to sin; to the contrary, it is a free gift that ought to ever humble us and, if we truly understand it, break our hearts and draw us ever more to pursue holiness. Why? Because our holiness can only come through surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit - and it thus brings glory to God the Father by pointing to the mighty work accomplished by Jesus Christ on the cross and in His resurrection. Sanctification is a vital part of the Christian message, and it has been passed up in a way that seeks to win more souls by not telling people the difficulty of the road before them (nor of the reward inherent in being made more like God!). In so doing, God's grace has been cheapened. Keith Green was a man who saw that cheapening and knew how marvelous God's free gift truly is - and went out to proclaim it to the world. I recommend that all of you read this book, and as soon as possible. You will be convicted, encouraged, and provoked to ponder again the marvelous work that God has done in us.

God bless you all. May you walk in His peace. May His understanding light your way. May His word be the light to your path and the truth to which you cling every moment of every day. May His grace be real to you like never before. Go in the power that dwells in you in the person of the Spirit.

- Chris

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

And another!

My last post went up when permission was still pending on a request I had to another blogger - a very recent friend of mine via the blogosphere. It's my pleasure to be able to point you to:

Having the Time of My Life

She's a musician, and an artist who's glorifying God. Again, I hope you'll be as blessed as I have been by reading her reflections and the awesome stories she manages to pull out.

- Chris

A blog worth reading...

Here's a blog I'd recommend reading if and when you have the time. This man stumbled on my blogs, and as I went back to look at his I was greatly encouraged. I pray you will be as well.

Job's Tale

His and mine are two very different blogs, by very different people, in very different places in their lives - but both with a heart to glorify God in their use of art.

Peace with all of you.

- Chris

Looking back, looking forward

How does one sum up a year? How does one even begin to describe all that has occurred in the previous 12 months/52 weeks/365 days/8760 hours/525600 minutes/etc.? Too much has happened. Even a 2000 word essay would not begin to describe all that has happened in this year - nor even all that I have learned in it. No, there is so much that happens every moment, so much that we learn in our daily conversations, that no single post could hope to explain all that has occurred. I can, however, describe in some detail the kinds of changes God has been steadily working in my heart, at least in the broad strokes, and that is, I think, of far more worth than any lengthy description of the sequence of events of this year. After all, what are the events but the vehicle for the accomplishment of God's purposes and for the glorification of His name?

With everything that has happened, particularly in the last six or seven months, it's almost difficult to remember one year ago as being only one year ago. It feels much longer, much farther back along the track of my life. The first several months of the year really set the tone for what was to come, though I wasn't yet aware of it. I faced severe stress from my scholastic schedule, combined with serious physical ailments (a week of excruciating migraines and dizziness, a still-unexplained but severe pain in the abdomen, and some of the worst cases of sinus infections I've ever had being the standouts). I was still working through various difficulties in my friendship with Danielle, which would only end up intensifying as the year went on. The first several months consisted spiritually of a very dry season - and my failure to press on in spite of the dryness. I was increasingly feeling as though I had no real relationship with my Father, regardless of how much time I was spending in the Word or praying; and eventually I began to simply do less and less of both, out of frustration and busyness. I was also feeling very lonely. For the first time, the newness of college was wearing off and I was beginning to understand how much work it was to build solid, meaningful relationships with the people at OU. It wasn't something I'd really had to deal with that much, thanks to growing up with a group of three exceedingly close friends. I recall one conversation in particular with Travis where I expressed both those sentiments, at length.

In His infinite grace and mercy, my Father intervened in March, when I went to Glorieta. I can honestly say that the days on the road with Travis, combined with the six days at Glorieta, listening to the teaching of some very Godly men, refocused me, and set me on fire on again. Wednesday evening, Travis, Ryan Bentick, and I sat down to watch a DVD presentation in which Louie Giglio elaborated on some of the sentiments behind Chris Tomlin's song Indescribable. As we were led to consider the magnitude of the work done by Jesus Christ on the cross, it was if a wall broke down in my heart and I was simply washed in the Spirit's presence. It was the first time in months I'd been so aware of the presence of God in my life, and it broke my heart in so many ways. I came away from Glorieta energized and ready to go forth in a new way: I had a vision like I'd not had before; I had a sense of God's purpose starting to grow in me; I had the surety of His reality and His presence; and I had (I felt, for the first time since getting to OU) some true, deep fellowship. From there, as Travis and I visited my family and church in Colorado Springs, there was increasing excitement in me to go and do as God was leading: in discipleship, in pursuing a deeper knowledge of Him, and in dedicating all I did to His glory. Those three goals really became the themes for the rest of the year spiritually - along with an increasing awareness of God Almighty's all-sufficiency and my own inadequacy.

The rest of the semester was challenging but extremely enjoyable and rewarding on many levels. Friendships were burgeoning and growing in depth and spiritual intimacy in ways I'd not known. Schoolwork was going well. I was relatively healthy. I was delighting in my composing and being involved in the musical community. Now that my crisis of decision - early in the semester - about what degree to pursue was over, I found a great deal of peace in everything I was doing. In the music I composed, in the physics problems, in the church activities, in my friendships - in everything! - I was finding great joy and peace, knowing that I was in line with God's will. For the first time in a long time I was able to simply be at peace with being single and in waiting for the Lord's timing - to be truly content in where He had me. Those last few months of that semester were probably some of the most enjoyable months I've ever had. More than happiness, though, I was very much in joy and peace from the security I was finding in knowing that I was following after God.

The summer ended up being very different from the end of the semester. It started out decently enough. The first few weeks were calm enough, though they certainly hinted at what was to come. First, I started having to confront what could probably be diagnosed with clinical depression. (That lasted until much more recently, and that's been part of what I've had to deal with in recent months, making already difficult circumstances even harder. God's faithfulness is amazing, though!) I started work three weeks in, and by that point I'd already had the relationship difficulty start. Looking back, I can see how God was preparing me for the rest of the year then, and I can see how much I failed to put my eyes on Him. The first is encouraging, the second still breaks my heart. How easy it is for us to get caught up in what the circumstances look like and then becoming frustrated at God because our expectations are not being met. His plans truly are so much better than ours. I increasingly became frustrated with the work situation - both because of my own heart and because of the circumstances. Then, after six weeks of work (nine weeks into the summer) everything started to seemingly fall apart: I got pretty badly hurt, straining my back. And relationships started to sour. More and more I was finding myself emotionally torn apart and weakened. And again, I put my eyes on that quite a bit, instead of focusing on God Almighty, who was allowing these things for the edification of many, not only myself. In hindsight I can see how powerfully God was orchestrating all these things to work for the good of those who love Him. It's quite remarkable, though it really shouldn't be a surprise to me, having watched Him do precisely that all my life. By the end of the summer, I just wanted to get away from Colorado Springs and the pain that it represented to where my life is.

The semester itself opened amazingly, and it was an extremely welcome respite from what I'd just been experiencing. God provided a wonderful job for me, one that far exceeded my expectations; and with it He provided the opportunity for me to get a new car, one that also far exceeded my wildest dreams of what I could be driving. Arriving in Oklahoma meant reuniting with many friends. New friendships started growing. Discipleship opportunities presenting themselves - both for me to be discipled and to be discipling. Open doors for witnessing. Places to serve. It was a huge blessing, and extremely exciting. I was overwhelmed with the sense of being exactly where I needed to be - of being home. Spiritually, I was just beginning to seethe fruit of preparation that God had been doing at the end of the previous year and then throughout the summer. Then everything started to fall apart circumstantially. And God began to be truly glorified in my life. I hurt my right arm, preventing me from using it for almost a month and a half. Friendships began to fall apart or vanish. I began to become aware of just how horribly and terribly fallen huamnity is, and how far I still have to go in the process of sanctification - and how utterly unable to accomplish any of that in myself I am. My pride became glaringly obvious to me, and has continued to. My selfishness was revealed in its ugliness. My disregard for the lost, my sharp tongue to all those around me, my doubt and disbelief, my callousness toward my fellow believers... all of it has been thrown into sharp relief. In the midst of it, I've seen God changing my heart. He pours out conviction, and then requires immensely of me. And it is the most incredibly exciting process I've ever been through. I prayed months and months ago - probably in about September - that God would mold me to be wholly His, that my every action, word, and even thought, would be for His glory; that He would do with me what He willed, regardless of what that looked like, regardless of the cost to me. And He is starting to show me what that road looks like. The more trials come, the more I find I can simply point to Him, because my own strength does not suffice. Likewise, in every gifting He's given and every blessing He's poured out, I am more and more able - thanks to the work doing in me - to simply point to Him and say, "To God alone be the glory. This is of Him, and not of me." Everything that He's allowed - whether it seems good or ill in the moment - has been for marvelous purposes. Whether it be so that others may be encouraged, I be called closer to Him, both, or even things I know not at this juncture, every event He has allowed is and will be used for His glory and for the accomplishing of His will. That is a marvelous perspective to have.

I have begun to learn what joy is. I have begun to grasp the meaning of peace. I have begun to understand what God meant when He said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness." How marvelous a thing it is to see our weakness, our insufficiency, and our inability to please Him, and to be able to rejoice in that! It's something that cannot be communicated by words alone, but only by the living out of it. Truly, the more He becomes my all and all, the more I see how marvelous His plans are. Though sometimes my emotions scream out and my flesh wants to rebel, I know that I know that His plans are better than mine, that His ways are perfect, and that His timing and purposes in my life will far exceed every expectation I could have. Too, I am slowly learning to be content whatever my circumstances, knowing that they are what God has allotted for this time. That contentment, He is teaching me, is not merely a wearied and resigned acceptance of one's circumstances but a delighted embracing of what God has decreed for this time and this season. That's a hard thing - an impossible thing in the flesh, but all things are possible through Christ who strengthens us! Last (but certainly far from least) I have been increasingly convicted of the absolute need for us to be going forth and sharing the Gospel. There are so many dead and dying - and so many who've never even heard the Gospel. If we really know God, and we really understand our salvation - if we truly understand what we have been saved from and what we have been saved to - then nothing will stop us from actively proclaiming the Gospel wherever and whenever we can. It is too important not to. And so often we don't, because it isn't convenient. But He has told us to go and make disciples of all the nations. I don't know exactly what that looks like for all my life, but I know that in my day to day existence right now, it means actively telling those around me. Should He call me to go elsewhere and proclaim, I will. I don't know what His calling on my life is exactly, just yet, but I know that He will show me in due time.

Looking back, I see again and again God's perfect purpose, His will, His absolute faithfulness in my life and in the lives of those around me. How can we doubt Him when He proves Himself over and over and over again? It breaks my heart that we do. So here's my New Year's Prayer:
I pray that You will be glorified in my life ever more. I pray that You will teach me to rely on You fully and completely. I pray that You will show me Your ways. I pray for Your joy and your peace as a testimony to those around me. I pray for boldness to proclaim Your truth in love to those who are dying and need you. I pray that You will continue to open my eyes to my sinfulness and break my heart at how I rebel against You and defame Your name. I pray You will continue to reshape me in Your image. I pray Your will be done in every part of my life. It's in the name of your holy Son, Jesus Christ, that I ask these things, Father God, in the power that You've given me as You indwell me in the Holy Spirit. I love You. Amen.

- Chris

Monday, January 1, 2007

Good reading

Some recommendations here for your reading leisure (and edification, I hope!). I'll be putting up reviews of several books I've recently read soon (hopefully tomorrow, though I'm honestly not sure), and I'll also be putting up an end-of-the-last-year/beginning-of-the-new-year post, hopefully later today.

In the meantime, here are some links to articles by Ravi Zacharias on the differences between Christianity and Islam, and the uniqueness of the Christian message. Ravi Zacharias is an apologist who grew up in India and became a Christian at the age of 17 after an attempted suicide (elaboration in the articles), and because of his unique background, felt called to go share the gospel with non-Westerners, because he understands where they are coming from culturally and religiously. I hope you're blessed by the reading.

God's perfect peace be with you all!

- Chris