Monday, April 28, 2008

to Journey

It's funny, how things sneak up on you. I cried last night - for the first time in a little while. It's not that I've been avoiding it; I just haven't stopped to really think through some of the things I've been feeling.

There are old fears that surfaced. I thought them long since banished, and instead I find them strong still. Fears from what has happened in the past. Fears from some of my experiences in 2006. Fears that I think ultimately unfounded.

It's funny how little it takes to stir things up in a us. A few events, a few missteps by myself and by others, and suddenly I find myself in a place that I thought I'd long since left.

So here I am, naked before the world, vulnerable, ashamed and unashamed all at once - that I can be so deeply afraid of loss, that I can be so deeply conscious of how fragile our relationships can be, that I can be so lacking in trust that all is in the hands of my God and King.

It's funny: I pride myself on being open with people, vulnerable. But there's two problems there: first that I pride myself on any such thing, that I would boast in anything but Christ alone. Second, that it's simply not true. Maybe I do better at it that some - but this isn't a zero-sum game, and it's not based on comparisons.

Jaimie sat with me and listened as I poured out my insecurities, weaknesses, and fears last night in a cloud-burst of emotion that surprised us both.

And it was the first time - in our nearly three months of dating and seven months of being friends that I had ever been so deeply vulnerable with her. I had opened up before, let her see certain things - but they were obvious pains, not these deep hidden pains.

It scared me, a little.

I thought myself past that.

I find now that I still have so far to grow.

I delight in this even as I am saddened by the ways in which my heart closes off.

For there is much joy and much gain to be had in the journey itself, not merely in the destination. As Jaimie and I spoke last night of this summer ahead, part of me wished it already to be over - and then I caught myself, for truth be told, though that part is there, the majority of me is looking forward greatly to the journey and the adventure of being apart 3 months. There is a vast unknown quality and unknowability to the months ahead, and a certainty of trial and difficulty, for we shall see each other litle and will be required to strive much to move forward. And to whither are we moving? I know not for certain, though hopes and dreams press deeply on me: for it is to God's will and not my dreams that I surrender, to His plans that I cleave, rather than my own fallible and tenuous vision of the path ahead.

Understand: I use this as metaphor for all else at the moment.

I am learning to live in the now though my temptation is to have my mind ever on the future. In friendships, in communicating with my family, in ministry, in everything, it is easy for me to look to the future for my joy and satisfaction: but calls me to live now. Today. This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it! And we must ever be redeeming the time - all of the time - for the days in which we walk are evil.

I have struggled of late to write - to put to pen the thoughts flighting so quickly through my mind. I know not why.

I have had the time, and the energy, but not the inspiration. My bursts have been few and far between.

Perhaps it is no more than discipline: for no task is always pleasant, and in nothing do we have ever-flowing ideas; in all these things we press on. Not, as I nearly wrote, until the pleasanter days of full inspiration come again, but rather rejoicing even in the dull moments, fixing our eyes perhaps especially then on Christ our King. Faith is proven not in our response to the grand moments of life but in our response to the quiet steady attempts of this broken fallen world to erode our hopes and - more and worse - to erode our Hope in Him.

And so: I write on.

And so: I study on.

And so: I dream on.

And so: I press on - that I may hold of that for which Christ has also laid hold of me.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting the things that lie behind and reaching forward to the things that are ahead, I press on to the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

The road ahead is uncertain. My vision is murky.

And the glorious part?

It matters not at all: for I need not see the road ahead. I need only see the road beneath my feet and trust to our faithful Creator while doing good.

Let God be glorified in me; may His name be great in my life.


- Chris

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Bride

That the church might be the Bride!

I sometimes lose sleep because I'm talking about this. I wonder if I'm crazy. Because I keep dreaming, envisioning - I have this burning flame in my chest, this passion that deepens and saturates me more every day.

I love the Bride of Christ.

But right now, in America, there is a lot wrong with her. It's like cancer in an arm... and it's spreading.

Middle class mediocrity - a peculiar brand of materialism that is never quite satisfied but is nonetheless somehow contented with "good enough." Lethargy and complacency. Leniency with sin. Hesitancy with truth.

Because it's comfortable. It's safe. And - they think - it's good business.

I cannot express the anger, the frustration, the sorrow that rises in me when I see the church act like a corporation, pastors functioning more as CEOs than shepherds, ministries thinking like business ventures.

I long to see the church live in real fellowship, deep community where people love each other, where relationships are true and meaningful because they penetrate to the very nature of who people are. I long to see the church have real accountability, people seeing each other's struggles and starting with prayer for each other, then helping each other.

Sometimes my heart aches because "youth ministries" and "college ministries" and "children's ministries" get in the way of true discipleship. A friend of mine once pointed out that the Bible only has one word for "children's minister" - father. I hunger for churches where the focus is on discipling families all together, drawing fathers and mothers after Christ so they may draw their children after them - where older couples can mentor younger couples and people in the same stage can support and understand each other; where children play together their whole lives and know each other deeply and truly; where every family knows each other - where the young catch a vision because their elders are living it out.

I dream of a church where the Great Commission and social work and life are all one and the same, all the time. Where it is common for people to bring their friends who are unbelievers to be in the company of believers. Where missionality is not a buzzword but a way of life. Where serving the community is normal, because that's what Christ did and called us to do. Where every aspect of life is reflective of Christ - including our response when we fail.

I hunger for "worship services" that are all about the worth of Christ. That are not about our own needs being met - though they will - but are instead about ascribing Him the glory that He is due, and about serving one another as we serve Christ. There can be praise offered that ranges from the simple chorus to the lengthy hymn, and all of it properly focused on the glory of Christ - whether lament and prayer for aid, or cry of thanksgiving, or shout of praise, or quiet meditation on the character of God, all of it offered both with the depth of intimacy of calling the Father "Daddy" and approaching with reverence and awe.

The Church is Christ's. I dream of seeing the church in America awaken to that reality and set her eyes no more on the lies this world offers. Oh, how glorious that day, when the millions open their eyes to see how much better Christ than every created thing: how much less that which has been made than its Maker, and the more so as it has been subjected to futility! How grand it will be when she at last it fixated on the glory of Christ as her one chief end - and all else be nothing in comparison. Oh the longing for the day when as one we proclaim that we have counted everything as rubbish and refuse compared to the all-surpassing glory of knowing Christ - our Lord, our Savior, our God and King!

I dream of heaven. But the kingdom of heaven is come - not yet in its fullness, but it is come, for the Holy Spirit is at work bringing it in the hearts of men. Everlasting life begins not when we die but the moment we first begin to live - when the Spirit breathes in us life and faith and through the blood of Christ sets us free from sin and death and to a life with abundance, beyond all we could ask or think, greater than any mind has imagined.

Is it folly? To be certain, it is! Yet it must be, because the wisdom of God is foolishness to man. I will then be foolish all the more in the eyes of the world, for the wisdom of men is demonic, false, evil. The wisdom of God is to be prized.

Christ calls... I will follow. And I will not cease to dream.

But it is not enough to dream.

It is enough to obey.

What lies ahead? I cannot say. Only this do I know: that the Only True God has a purpose for each and every life, and if I may be a part in awakening even a few hearts to the glory of His way; if I may be but the smallest part in calling the church to be the church, then it is more than enough for one lifetime.

For His glory!

- Chris

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Desire review

Last week I read John Eldredge's Desire: The Journey We Must Take to Find the Life God Offers, finishing it Saturday afternoon. The book is a 2007 republication under new title of the same text, first published in 2000 under the title The Journey of Desire. My last review, of Captivating, was by the same author with his wife; the books are significantly different, however. The theme of the book can be summed up from the introduction:
Desire is powerful. One of the most powerful forces in our lives.
At least, it was meant to be....
How you handle your heart's desire will in great measure determine what comes of your life. So let us take the journey together. (pp. vii, ix)

In Desire, Eldredge deals forthrightly with the condition of our heart, examining the various ways in which our hearts have been damaged and the ways in which Christ restores us. His thesis is that desire can be as powerful a force for good as it often is for evil, and that it is the corruption of our desire that causes such grievous wounds in the world - not desires in and of themselves.

The text is 212 pages long, broken into 12 chapters, each headed with quotes from a wide variety of thinkers. (The first chapter, for example, includes quotes from both Pascal and U2.) As is common in the Christian market these days, each chapter is neatly subdivided into sections, with descriptive headers on the sections. The ongoing analysis of the problems and solutions of desire are mixed with anecdotes from various sources - both those successfully using their desires to glorify God and those caught in the sinful consequences of desire unsurrendered to Christ. Chapters build on previously explained points, and the questions posed and answered in each chapter find further resolution later in the book. The book is framed with an interesting story of a sea lion stranded far from the sea as metaphor for our lives, in front of about half the chapters.

The merits of the book are as follows:

John Eldredge speaks in a friendly tone to the reader. Much of his writing here is lightly conversational; the rest is narrative and story. The mix is well-balanced, and his stories are always clearly opened and closed. More importantly, they are often profound. It's a trait that's lacking in too many Christian books these days. When books content themselves with mere illustration, rather than letting illustration come secondary to meaning, they lose a lot. Eldredge doesn't make this mistake, and so the text has not only a lot of examples but a lot of truth communicated through them.

Desire is sprinkled with numerous insightful quotes - from Pascal to MacDonald to various bands - and filtered through Eldredge's own painful loss of a close and dear friend. This latter point gives the text a warmth and emotional depth that is uncommon in the Christian "message" books I've read. Because the entire text comes with this as context, it also has an unusual weight about it. Eldredge knows what he's doing as an author; he successfully leverages this into true sympathy from the reader, and then catapults from that sympathy into agreement. This could be a problem were Eldredge feeding the reader falsehoods, but (as I'll address in a moment), it's a good thing because he isn't doing any such thing.

The organization of thought in this book was particularly well done: there was a good flow from section to section. The text draws on ideas from previous chapters while maintaining momentum, keeping from getting bogged down. Each chapter itself has a well-organized flow of thought, which helps this, and there is a good mix of anecdote and apropo quote and analysis. Even his sea-lion narrative was well-placed and well-organized. All that coalesces into what is simply a very well-written book.

This text is thoroughly centered on Biblical principles. I went in a bit skeptical, because I'd just finished reading Captivating - a book I was not terribly comfortable with theologically. I came out satisfied, though a bit mystified as to how Eldredge could be so accurate in this book, and so far off in Captivating. To be clear, Eldredge is not doing an exposition of Scripture in this text, but he never veers off from Biblical principles and truths. Indeed, of everything I've read of his, this book rang most true with me, both at a personal level and with regard to its faithfulness to the word of God.

He struck at some fundamental truths about the nature of our existence, and about desire itself, in the course of the book. Notably, he addressed and corrected the lie that desires themselves are the problem. It is our fallenness that is the problem, our aptitude to being consumed by the desire and becoming an addict. The desire itself is meant to bless and indeed to turn us to God. In what is ultimately a fairly surprising comparison, a lot of Eldredge's points here resonate strongly with some of the points made by John Piper in Desiring God: our great delight and our chief desire is to be toward God Himself. When that is true, we are free to delight in and enjoy all our other desires, because they no longer rule us: they are instead submitted to Him and His ways. Eldredge faithfully addressed the problems of addiction - and did a particularly good job of getting at the root of addiction - as well as encouraging the reader to delight in desire properly surrendered to God. In all of this, he never loses his biblical focus, and while Scripture is not quoted at length, it is referenced with some frequency; and the vast majority of other quotes are from great Christian thinkers.

There are a few minor demerits. At one point, Eldredge makes a reference to cutting away all the legalism and tradition, and his explanation could be construed as a criticism of the forms and traditions of church. Insofar as people may be tempted to hold to the forms and traditions either for their own sakes or for a sense of legalism, I agree. We must be cautious here, though: much of form is designed to turn us back to God, and while it is not sacred, we should be careful in our decisions regarding form. When he follows this with a description of his own year spent away from formal church attendance, I am concerned that readers may take this as license to abandon the fellowship of believers. He mentions this briefly but in a place of significance, but he counters by noting that he didn't step away from his accountability or his community, only from his formal church attendance. Even with that caveat, I'm slightly uncomfortable with the notion that not actively participating in the local church is ever acceptable from a Scriptural standpoint.

In the same passage, he discusses challenging someone he was counseling to stop reading her Bible for a few weeks because she was doing it out of mere duty. While I see where he was coming from, this, too, is worrisome to me. There are ways in which to cut off legalistic views of church and Bible reading without abandoning them: the issue is not a matter of how often we do things but of what our heart attitude is in doing them, and while I don't doubt that God can in the manner Eldredge suggested, the weight of Scripture would seem to indicate that it is more actively engaging with His word and with His people that we are drawn out of those fallen heart attitudes, not less.

Those being the only demerits, and taking up a relatively small section of the book (just a few pages), I am far more comfortable with this book than any others I've read of his. Indeed, given the significant good things about the book, I can recommend it with the caveat that it should be read with those few demerits in mind. There is a lot to be learned here, and this is a good place to start in exploring the issue of desire as God intended it to be. (Just don't let it be the place your exploration stops!)

- Chris

after rain

Golden light falling tilted from above
Through green leaves and brown boughs
And green earth after the washing
Blue skies - as though for the first time
Puffy white and gray clouds tugged quickly
Like intermittent curtains on high
It is always quiet after rain
As now

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A much needed update!

Summary of life/general update commence.

I went to Ft. Worth with Jaimie last weekend; we visited her family and hung out with some of her friends. I like them all quite a lot. Weekend in summary: we drove down Friday afternoon, and got in at about 5:40, if I recall correctly. We then celebrated Jaimie's mom's birthday with some extended family and friends. It was cool getting to interact with the people that have been such a huge part of her life.

Saturday we connected at about 11 (I spent the night at the house of some family friends of theirs), had lunch, and then visited her grandmother, who's recovering from a triple bypass. It was good to be able to spend time with her, and her roommate (who hadn't had many visitors while in the rehab/nursing home), and I enjoyed the time a lot. We headed back to their house, and Jaimie and I spent about an hour at a nearby park, enjoying the weather and talking. We then had dinner, and went to a concert her sister was performing in - of which her sister's performance was far and away the highlight. The other performances were really not terribly impressive, but hers was, and it was nice to be able to meet her in person (we've conversed briefly via facebook, but no more, prior to this).

Sunday, we spent part of the morning together, and then drove back to Norman, leaving her house at about 1:00 pm. Our conversation on the way back was just as wonderful as our conversation on the way down was, and was thoroughly profitable.

I'm blessed by how God has been working in us in these past months, and I'm amazed at some of the ways He's used her in my life. Over the last couple of years, I've been learning to be joyful again. In the last months, God has used her amazingly to teach me how to be happy again - and that's a big deal. As my parents can attest, I was a very happy little boy; over time I lost a lot of that. God is restoring it through Jaimie. And that's incredible.

There's so much more that God is doing than this, too, in my life. I'm very seriously considering what ministry will look like next year. I don't know exactly, but I'm increasingly serious about it, and along the way praying about what I'm going to be doing this summer ministry-wise. I'm excited about all of it!

I'm incredibly grateful for the way that God uses friends in our lives. Last week I was struggling a lot with being down on people and situations with regard to ministry and the advance of the gospel, leading me to frustration with myself and to a throw-my-hands-up-in-the-air and ask "Why bother?" attitude in a small way. And then, my best friend Jamin called me and started asking about precisely those things, encouraging me and enheartening me. God is so faithful - above all we could ask or think or even imagine. He is good to us.

Composing is going really well right now. I finished a setting of Psalm 67, titled (fittingly, I think) Let the Peoples Praise You about two weeks ago. It was my first full-scale choral work, and I think it came out rather nicely; it seems there's a good chance of having it played next semester. I'm currently working on my first solo piece in two years, an oboe solo, that I'm really loving. I'm working on a title for it, still simmering and thinking.

God's word continues to be a blessing to me, as ever it shall - so full of the riches of who He is. My study through Jeremiah has been good, and though it's a long book that's taking me a long time, I'm getting a great deal from it: learning more and more who God is and what His heart is for His people and for the world.

I'm looking at trying some new things in discipleship - going prayer walking together, going out and sharing the gospel directly together, and so on. It's a bit scary, but also exciting. I'm looking forward to it, a lot. More than that, I'm praying that God uses it in my life, in the lives of the men I'm discipling, and in the lives of those we encounter along the way - all to His glory and the spread of His name.

I love living.

- Chris

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Apologies that I haven't blogged much recently. These last weeks have been busy and filled with many other things to distract my mind and keep me from writing much. Many of them are resolved, but I simply haven't been the mood. I've spent so much time thinking that taking more time to sit and think through my writing has not appealed much to me.

We are called to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength, and all our minds. We are called to surrender to Him our everything: to truly love Him with our lives. These bodies He has given us - subjected to futility by the fall though they be - are glorious things. We are called to love Him with the way we think, with the way we eat, with the way we sleep, with the way we exercise, with the way we spend our times - with everything. He has to be first in all we do.

The gospel is news. That's what the word means! John Piper spoke on this a number of weeks ago to his church: that the power of the gospel is in its nature: it is not some mantra which has power because of the words' spiritual quality, but because the news is so good. (The words are inspired, but they are inspired because God is using them to communicate glorious Truth, not because they are somehow powerful in and of themselves. The power of Scripture is because the Spirit speaks through it.) It is good news! Good news! The best news there has ever been. Dare to stop and think about it. Don't gloss over it. Don't let it be normal.

God became a man.

He lived from infancy to death as a man. He ate, drank, went to the bathroom, slept, cried, threw up when he had a virus, went through puberty. God did all this. The humiliation! Yet He counted the glory of His Father and the ransom of His people worth it.

He wasn't any less God for it. He wasn't hindered by His humanity, wasn't constrained by it. He was still upholding the universe by the word of His power.

God is. He's everywhere, in every time, without exception.

That doesn't make any sense. It's crazy.

God died.

He was beaten, lashed, and then hung on a cross to die a slow, excruciating death by suffocation, his nerves screaming in agony, his nakedness revealed for all the world to see. And then, the wrath of God for the sins of all humanity was poured out on Him. God did all this.

He was separated from His father, and in a way we don't understand, was still God, was still of infinite worth, was still Christ.

That's utterly inconceivable.

God was buried. Wrapped in cloth, and laid in a tomb until the third morning. They came to anoint the body with incense so that it wouldn't smell bad. And then He rose from the dead, uncontained by the tomb or by death, displaying the greatness of God's power, the utter triumph over evil - not the final triumph, but the one that definitively forecasts it.

God did all this.

He overcame sin, death, hell, Satan, every power that would be in rebellion to Him. All that has been subjected to futility is now being renewed. He reasserted His lordship - a lordship that had never ceased, but had been denied, that has become deniable.

And - and! AND! - in doing all of this, He sets us free - you, me, our parents, our friends, all who will come to Him - from the folly of this world, from the death that rules us, the sin that controls us, the cycles of destruction that we can never escape! HE SET US FREE.

STOP. Don't keep reading. Don't look at another blog. Go back, and think about that, meditate on it, pray about it, read the Bible about all that. But don't dare go on with your day, callous and accustomed to what God has done, absent the wonder and the awe that should fill us. STOP. Worship.

- Chris

Friday, April 4, 2008


It has been, to say the least, an interesting week.

My last several posts were very different from one another, of course - they dealt with significantly different topics. But in a lot of ways, there was overlap. There always is. At the heart of every situation, every issue that we deal with, is one fundamental reality. We serve Christ. We seek His glory. We honor Him in all.

I have spent time talking in considerably more detail this past week with both outsiders completely uninvolved in the situation - people who know none of those involved - and with those most directly involved. My parents have had much good counsel. I wish I had more time to talk to them, honestly. They're smart people. In the midst of that and a lot of prayer, I've come to certain conclusions.

First, the leadership in the BSU is absolutely trustworthy. They're human, but they are Godly men following God. Imperfect, of course, and I have no idea whether they've made any significant mistakes in their handling of this situation. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, because God is bigger than any they might have made. They are following Christ; and He is good and sovereign.

I'm hanging out with Jaimie, now, and she's also amazing. More thoughts, later.

- Chris