Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not random (but it might seem it)

Today was summer as it should be: upper 80's to lower 90's, light clouds scattered across a blue sky, a pleasant but light breeze blowing gently all day. It missed only mountains for perfection.


In less than 24 hours I shall see my Jaimie. This brings unspeakable joy to my heart.


I had another thought I wished to place in this space, but it has fled, left me here; I know not why.


Nehemiah is an incredible book. He was an incredible man - a man who burned with passion for the things of God, a man who dared to be violent against sin, to take great and bold stands against disobedience. So may we all be. (Though I may choose other ways to correct than beating, cursing, and tearing out hair; this is not my style. But I love the passion for God it reveals!)


Proverbs 28:9 says, "If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayers are an abomination." That is a fearful warning indeed, and a great caution to us to ever be studying Scripture and seeking the heart of God. If we turn away from His word, even our prayer is abominable: and that is a terrible place to be!


The Lord your God is God of Gods and Lord of Lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribes! He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve Him and hold fast to Him, and by His name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done these great and terrifying things before your eyes. (Deuteronomy 10:17-21)

God is great and mighty and awesome and above all others: and it is both a terrifying thing and a wonderful thing that He executes justice as He does. Terrifying, because we must then ourselves be just or be judged. Wonderful, because He is just and we may have sure hope that we will be justified in and by Him!


I rejoice the more in knowing God every day. This summer is thus far an incredible season of growing in faith and walking with God. Praise Him for such times as these!


Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful, and righteous. (Psalm 112:4)

How great a promise this: that even in the darkness, we will have Light, for He is gracious, He is merciful, and He is righteous! Here, as often elsewhere in Scripture, we see both the righteousness of God, with its promise of swift judgment on sin and disobedience, in the same place as His mercy and grace, and it is this that gives us hope, that is our light in the darkness. He is merciful and gracious: and so His righteousness is a source of hope as well as of trembling, as it could not be otherwise. (Of course, He could not be righteous and not be merciful and gracious, for mercy and grace and righteousness are all one together, not separable.)


God is good. That is the sure testimony of all of Scripture, and I see His goodness writ large across my life, especially evident to me in these college years by dint of closeness, but sure and true for all of my days.

Praise Him!

- Chris

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Truths from Nehemiah

I have been reading through the Old Testament in chronological order for about a year and a half now. I am consistently and constantly amazed at what God shows me - not because it's particularly surprising, but because I am always amazed by the fact that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us so fully, so deeply, so intimately.

This past week, I have been working my way through Nehemiah, and I am in awe of some of the things that pop up in the book. A few examples:
  • The commonly referenced phrase, "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10) originates in this book and occurs nowhere else in all of Scripture. What's really interesting about this is that it's an exhortation not to be grieved any longer over the past or to let conviction weigh down their hearts too heavily. The people were weeping after hearing the Law read, with its commands they had forsaken and its prophecies of judgment on Israel fulfilled in these people's immediate history - and Nehemiah encouraged them by saying, "Go your way. Eat the fat, and drink sweet wine, and give portions to anyone who has nothing pnepared, for this is a holy day before our God. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!"

    That's an incredible thing: that when we are crushed (and rightly so) under conviction from Him, it is His gift of joy that gives us strength - and joy comes with the morning, a fruit (a gift!) of the Spirit.

  • Nehemiah is one of the ten or so places in Scripture to quote the first thing God said to Moses on Sinai when giving him the law: "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness..." (Exodus 64:6, Nehemiah 9:17).

  • In Nehemiah 9 we have one of the briefest but most thorough summaries of pre-exilic Jewish history anywhere in Scripture - and almost every single verb referring to an active action rather than a response has as its subject God and its object His people: God accomplished the great things in Israel's history, and that is rarely made more clear than in this chapter.

  • Prayer is fundamental to the life of the one who would follow God. Over and over again in this book, something negative happens, and - whether it be bad news or outright threats against Jerusalem - Nehemiah's first response is always to pray. He takes what we might call "practical" steps - but only after he takes the most practical step and prays. Moreover, his prayers reflect a deep knowledge of God: he knows what God is capable of and calls on Him to do a great deal. When Nehemiah does take those "practical" steps, he is always aware that their success or failure depends entirely on God, and not on his own wisdom - and he makes sure the people know it, too.

  • The people have an incredibly high regard for the word. When, in Nehemiah 8, Ezra stands and reads the law for the first time, the people stand for the entire morning while it is being read and explained to them. And they stood and listened to the Scriptures being read in Hebrew - a language they neither spoke nor understood - and then translated into Aramaic, paragraph by paragraph. Then their leaders came back the next day and asked for detailed explanation - and then immediately put into practice what they heard.

    Later, the people set aside another day in which they spent a quarter of the day listening to the Scripture, and a quarter of the day confessing their sins and worshiping God. These people knew the importance of what they were hearing - not least because they heard prophesy of Moses predicting exactly what had ultimately happened to them in their exile.

  • There is a very pressing awareness of the goodness and faithfulness of God throughout the entire book. It is summed up in many ways by that reference back to Exodus: He is merciful and gracious; He is not quick to anger, but He is overflowing with love and with faithfulness. And the awareness of all of this permeates the text because it permeated the lives of those who fill the book: they saw God's faithfulness, because it was that alone that had returned them to Jerusalem and Judea, and kept them alive and their efforts progressing despite all the opposition of men. They knew without any question that God was faithful, loving, merciful, and just - and the more so when they realized that His salvation was in spite of and not because of them.

If you've never taken the time to really study through the Old Testament, I cannot encourage it enough. Even if it's just been a while since you've gone through the historical books, go back and do it! There are riches of the character of God here that you will never find anywhere else in Scripture; that's why these books are here - and God longs, as He always has, to reveal Himself to you.

Grace and peace be with you.

- Chris

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day: a day set aside for the remembrance of those who have died in the service of the United States of America.

This country has its flaws, and they are many and great. It is far from without blemish, including in the way it has conducted itself in foreign affairs. We have at times been very right; but we have at times been very wrong.

Yet none of that diminishes the nobility of those who fought and died to give succor this nation: from the Seven Years' War of the 1760's, before we were even a nation, through those who have died in the sands of Afghanistan and Iraq, noble patriots have given all that they had to give to protect and guarantee the safety of their families and progeny - us and our forebears.

I look to God with gratitude for the establishment of this nation: a land of freedom where I am not persecuted by the government for my pursuit of Him, even as I recall those of my brothers and sisters in Christ who are oppressed for their pursuit. I rejoice that all of us are nonetheless free in Christ. (As the psalmist wrote, we shall trust in the Lord and fear not: what can man do to us?)

I am grateful as well to those that God has used in the preservation of this country for His purposes. Though this land is far from perfect - though we are a land of great idolatry and horrible sins - I stand humbled by their example of sacrifice and bravery. Most of them died not seeking to be heroes but simply to do their duty.

I salute them; I honor their memory; I thank God for them. For those whose families are living, I pray that the peace of God be with them, that His joy be spoken into their lives and His salvation come upon them. I know that I would not even be here but for their sacrifice, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Pray for those who serve. And pray for those who send them: not to send them needlessly into battle, nor ever to waste their lives. And understand that thought as exhortation without political commentary.

Grace and peace be with you this Memorial Day. Let their sacrifice be not in vain. Honor the freedoms they purchased with blood by cherishing those freedoms, and thanking God daily for the blessing they are.

- Chris

Sunday, May 25, 2008

To pause and reflect

I spent a considerable portion of the day working on a "looking back" project in my journal. I wrote a total of 7 pages of recollection (in summary) of the chief events as I recall them at this point of my life. It was a profitable exercise: for in doing so, one can see more clearly all that God has done.

It is interesting to reflect thus. Many things make far more sense now in retrospect than they did at the time. Some things make no more sense. And a few things actually make less sense than I thought they did at the time. But I am encouraged in that I know that God's faithfulness is supreme. I don't need to understand all these things; I need only trust in my faithful God, who is Sovereign and in charge of all these things.

I stand in awe of how faithful God has been to provide for me financially, above and beyond my needs to give me things that have been an incredible blessing to me. I stand in awe of how he has protected me relationally, even by holding my heart in a painful position until the one He had for me was near, and we were ready for each other. Incredible!

In addition, God's faithfulness to bring the right people into my life at the right time - from Travis Dunlap to Chris Goree to Jaimie Dawn - has been positively amazing. And before that, with Pat Dorbin in the time before college, and of course my parents and sisters all along the way (though I did not truly begin to appreciate them until the spring of 2007, God forgive me). The way in which the right people have been in the right place at the right time to make an essential difference is astounding. More amazing yet is the fact that all have been so faithful - both to encourage and to correct - as I have required. God's faithfulness is exceedingly good!

This sort of project takes a great deal of time, emotional energy, and hand strength. My hand quite literally aches from the amount of writing I did. And yet, it seems fitting that I should take this time before I finish this journal - it is only 17 pages left to write in out of a few hundred - as I started it when I came to school.

In this time of reflection, I have been reflecting as well on the necessity of reflecting. How are we to understand the way God works in our lives if we do not take the time to stop and understand how He has worked in our lives? And how can we expect to have a healthy perspective on what He is doing if we never pause to recognize what He has already done? We cannot! It is of the utmost importance that we stop to be remembrancers of the goodness and faithfulness of God. Out of such reflection, mediated by prayer and an abiding knowledge of Scripture, is born a deep and comforting understanding of God's character. We may rest assured that He will never leave us or forsake us. He has promised it in Scripture, and He has faithfully demonstrated it in our lives. By pausing to take stock every so often, we learn to recognize His hand in even the "mundane" and day-to-day, and so are comforted when things go ill with us. We have a record of all that He has done when things have seemingly gone amiss before.

And so we must at times stop and reflect on what has come before. We dare not become fixated on the past, just as we must never let the future consume us. We live today. But we look back on all that God has done to give us hope and courage to continue pressing on into the future. Only by understanding the past can we forsake it and be trapped by it no more - and so press on to the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

As a side note, I've made a few changes in the blog look and layout. Do let me know what you think!

God bless you. May His grace and peace sustain you in all things.

- Chris

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Blog recommendations

A simple post, tonight: a few blogs to recommend:

My friend Britt Clay, a blog on his life that is often filled with wisdom from all that God is teaching him. He's a great guy, and I've been honored to invest in his life this past year.
Acts 20:22-24

His girlfriend, Lauren, who is one of the Godliest women her age I have the pleasure of knowing.
His Footprints Lead The Way...

My friend and another man I've had the privilege to invest in over the last couple years, Stephen Carradini. Look for a dry wit, amusing humor, and uncanny insight, as well as really good writing.
The World is a Moving Target (so I am always in motion)

My friend Clayton Canon, who I was blessed to serve alongside on the Walker Ministry Team last year, through thick and thin. A Godly man walking through some hard situations with considerable integrity!
"Here on purpose, for a purpose!"

And one of my best friends in all the world, Levi Wall. We've known each other all our lives, and he has been a steadfast encouragement to me in ways I can't even describe, much less give sufficient thanks to God for.
Winds of Heaven, Stuff of Earth

I hope you are blessed, encouraged, and amused by these blogs as I have been.

Grace and peace be with you!

- Chris


Jaimie says I sound weird after midnight. (I'm just putting this because she didn't actually say it.) And now she promises revenge. Journalists get revenge, she says...

I have a job! God has provided in an incredibly amazing way. I'm going to be getting paid for the research that I was going to be doing anyway. The Physics Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at OU had an opening, and I'm going to still be doing the biophysics research that I was going to be doing. I'm excited, incredibly excited.

It's amazing how God has worked. I had two job offers for very good jobs - two jobs that were one detail off from being workable, and the provision is so much better than it would have been in those jobs. I'm not exaggerating when I say I'll get paid four times more in this job than I would have in either of those. God is good!

- Chris

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Music in movies

I saw Prince Caspian tonight. It was a good movie - better, in my opinion, than the first in the series in terms of the quality of the filmmaking. With one major exception.

The score.

The vast majority of the score was direct reuse of cues from the first movie.

I very much enjoyed Harry Gregson-Williams' work on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Kingdom of Heaven. Even his work on Shrek was good. But this bothered me immensely on a number of levels.

As a composer myself, I understand both the difficulty of developing one's previously written music in new directions - and how utterly essential it is if one is to maintain any artistic momentum (or indeed a sense of artistic integrity). The work here was closer to "cut and paste" than to innovation. A few times, it was direct replaying of cues from the first movie.

I don't know the circumstances behind the music's being that way. I do know that if I as a composer did not have the time to devote to creating a work of excellence, I wouldn't take a project.

At the root of my problem with this score is that I simply do not understand how he could have made this choice. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but as with a few other composers before him (James Horner, I'm looking at you), I have to say that for right now, Harry Gregson-Williams is not going to be getting any of my money on his soundtracks.

There is a call in this life to do all things in a way that honors God. In the world of composing, as everywhere else, that means putting forth a great deal of hard work. In the creative world, "innovative" may not always be best: but new in the sense of not having been done before in particular is. If it is but a rehash of what has already been done - a direct rehash, not a development of that which came before - I think it better left undone.

The whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Which is too bad, because I loved the movie.

Tomorrow, I hope to have a more theologically minded post.

For now, good night!

- Chris

A postscript: I think I was the more frustrated with this because the few moments that Gregson-Williams included that were new cues were breathtaking. The comparison with the rest of the score made it that much the weaker.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jobs and other topics

I've been offered two jobs in the last three days. Both were a very good fit for me, something I thought I would enjoy doing. Both were one detail from being workable. I couldn't take either of them.

That could be really frustrating. Instead, I'm finding myself contented with the knowledge that whatever God has for me is better. He will supply all my needs; He will make provision as it is needed. Of this I am absolutely confident. And that is a pleasant place to be indeed. It is good to trust Him. I must now be obedient to continue looking - and it has been His good pleasure to encourage me along the way with the enthusiasm with which the jobs have been offered. The person I spoke with today assured me I would be at the top of their candidate list for future hirings... praise God!

At the same time, I'm looking at what research I'm going to be doing this summer and next fall (if it works out this summer) for my capstone: and it's possible that I may be working on a topic in biophysics. My professor and I are going to look at it in more detail on Friday. Needless to say, it's fascinating and full of interesting possibilities and topics. The area is completely wide open to research, because so very little has been done it, and it's essentially a "baby" field of research.

For the first time in a long time, I'm actually really excited about what I'm doing for my physics degree: not just enjoying it well enough, but really excited about the things ahead of me.

I had a wonderful conversation today with a brother in Christ named Silas: a friendly man who works at Wong Key in the Union. I love when fellowship comes in unexpected places. And Silas had a few good suggestions about the path to seminary (if indeed that is where God leads me), suggestions that fit a few things I've been batting around in my own head.

A few days ago I felt led to share a particular verse with a friend I had called, though I was only leaving her a message. It turned out that she was having a horrid day and had been crying out for God to speak to her about something: that something being exactly matched with the verse I shared with her, not knowing why, and being of use and comfort as she and friends came under spiritual attack that night. Praise God, who is greater than we can imagine, who works in ways we do not understand or even dream of!

May His glory consume us day by day; may we live ever for Him alone!

- Chris

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


A season that speaks, for me, of opposite.
Promise and broken promises,
Bright dreams and nightmares,
Crumbling expectations and great hope.
Summer has been all of these and more.
Year by year, summer has meant something different.
All seasons run thus:
But summer...

Summer, at least in these scholastic years,
Is when everything changes,
When everything falls apart or comes together.

Two summers past I struggled through pain and sorrow:
The greatest I had yet known,
And saw the course set for a year that would be much the same.
It was good.
It was hard.

One summer past I enjoyed the deepest fellowship,
The greatest joy I had yet known,
And saw the course set for a year that would be much the same.
It was hard.
It was good.

And summer has come again: I know not what she holds in store;
I know not
What great or terrible
(Or great and terrible)
Purpose may come to be
As days and weeks and months unfold.

I know that summer sun and summer storm are oft birthed as twins.
I know that peace and tranquility
Are sometimes jarred by the swift assault of fierce tempests.
I know that great thundering rain
Is sometimes beatified with gaps of blue sky, and rainbows.
I know that storm and peace
Are not in such fearful opposition as they sometimes seem:
For peace may be birthed most deeply in the midst of the greatest storm;
And, true, can be known most deeply only in the tempest.

These days now slowly passing by:
They hearken to days ahead and days behind -
Reminding of all that has come before and promising of all that is to come,
For good or ill.
In moments of loud sunniness or quiet gale,
As green and brown and blue mingle gloriously;
As lightning flash and thunder echo across the plain...

Summer comes, and I know not what she holds.
She speaks to me of opposites.
And wond'ring I am left here
Gazing at the sky.
Answers will come
In time.

Monday, May 19, 2008


The little book of Zephaniah is, sadly, probably overlooked a great deal in modern Christian circles. (Indeed, we could say much the same for most of the Old Testament, but that is another post for another evening.)

For the last 16 months I have been slowly working my way through the Old Testament in chronological order. I've read all these books before. And I've taken side trips along the way - the foundations of a word-study on glory (before I realized that I would continue to gain in that as I continued to study through the Old Testament, and that the latter would more thoroughly inform the former than a simple word study), diversions through a few brief book studies in the New Testament. I keep coming back to this slow progression through history, though.

Why? Because it is incredible. The character of God is revealed in unique ways in the historical narrative - sometimes surprising ways. His broken heart for the dying world is so evident. His sorrow at the sins and rebellion of men is beyond mere words to describe. His mercy and love are on display in ways that are surpassed only by the incarnation, cross, and resurrection.

As I read Zephaniah one evening last week, two verses struck me forcefully, both from the final chapter. The book, like the other minor prophets, is a broken-hearted tirade against the foolish sins of Israel, with the hope and promise of God's eventually redeeming her to Himself - by wiping out those sins, not only forgiving them but making Israel truly righteous: a promise which began to see its fulfillment in the nations and will someday be completed when Israel herself returns to Christ.

In Zephaniah 3:5 we read:
The Lord in her midst is righteous;
He does no injustice.
Every morning he shows forth his justice;
Each dawn he does not fail.
But the unjust knows no shame.

This is an incredible verse. We see highlighted and sharply contrasted - as in many of the surrounding verses - God and the sinner. God's injustice is on clear display: He is in the midst of Jerusalem and Judah (the context referenced here). The unjust ones to whom the book is directed in call for repentance, however, knows no shame. Even with the perfect example of what he is not, still he blithely walks on his way, content in his sinfulness.

How easy it is to smirk at the folly of it all. But how frequently is it you or me that, despite the clear evidences of the character of God that we ought to be reflecting, walk unconcernedly along in stubborn pride and rebellion? And this after we have been reborn, redeemed, given a heart of flesh instead of stone! How great should be our sorrow when we see our own sinfulness and the depravity from which are gradually but oh-so-certainly being redeemed!

The other text which stood out to me was the oft-quoted Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a Mighty One who will save.
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

I have heard the passage referenced frequently. Yet I have not stopped to truly consider all its implications until that evening last week. So much is buried in this single verse: so much of who God Himself is, so much of His nature and character, so much of the way He interacts with us - and will in the glory of Heaven.

First, He will be in our midst. Right in the middle of us, with us wherever we are. Incredible!

Second, He is not merely the Lord God, He is the Lord our God. That's worth pondering. He is not merely some abstract deity: He is not merely the God of all creation (though to lead that latter phrase with "merely" is a misnomer all its own) - He is personally each of our God as individuals and He is our God as a community of redeemed ones. How remarkable!

Third, He is a Mighty One who will save. Two things worth noting here - first, He is Mighty, which means He is able to save: the promise is not made vainly; second, He is absolutely going to save: the verb is will, not may.

And then we come to the oft-quoted (but perhaps not oft-pondered) part. He will rejoice over us with gladness. Wait: the God of all will rejoice of us with gladness? And it's such a great rejoicing - in which gladness is automatically implied - that it must be reinforced by saying "with gladness"? What kind of rejoicing is this? Indeed, it is the kind of rejoicing that only God, with His infinite capacity for joy can do.

He will quiet us with His love. The image is of a child falling silent in their parent's loving arms: secure, completely at peace, because the trust is so complete. And why is the trust so complete? Because there is utter assurance of the parent's love. And so it is here with God: we will be quieted by His love, as we trust Him perfectly. Interestingly, while this is a future promise, I think this part of the verse has perhaps the most immediate application for our daily lives now: when our hearts, troubled by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, are loud and complaining, we may see them quieted when we turn back to Christ and recognize His love.

And last but not least - as if to reinforce the image of rejoicing and then step again farther - He will exult over us with singing. To exult: to revel, to be so completely filled with joy that it exceeds words' capability to convey. And out of this is born singing. But not just any singing: loud singing, like the shout that bursts from your chest when your wildest aspirations are birthed before your eyes. God will do that over us.

And again, as I did the other night, I find myself with tears in my eyes as I ponder this. It is beyond belief: and yet we believe it because He Himself promises that it is true. We who are so unworthy will, in our glorification (which will so perfectly glorify God Himself as all finally see just how great His goodness, mercy, lovingkindness, justice, righteousness, and holiness are), He will rejoice over us.

I do not understand.

I am humbled, broken before this.

And I find in myself awe and reverence.

As it should be: for we are to bring to God an acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.

He is a consuming fire, as Israel learned well in her disobedience - as you and I have learned well in our idolatries. Yet He is, now that we are His redeemed ones, a fire that consumes all the dross and destroys the chaff that is not of Him.

Glory to God in the highest! Glory!

- Chris

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Baba Yetu

Sometimes - rarely - a piece of art surpasses that which for it was created. Sometimes it elevates that for which it was created. Such moments are rare. They are beautiful. They are occasionally transcendent.

This one sent chills through my spine.

It's music composed for a videogame. A good game, by most accounts, though one I've not played - for lack of both time and inclination.

It's called "Baba Yetu" - a setting of the text of the "Lord's prayer" in Swahili, by a composer named Christopher Tin.

It's stunning.

And, whether he intended it thus or not, it glorifies God.

This is what art is for.

Baba Yetu
Baba yetu yetu, uliye
Mbinguni yetu yetu, amina!
Baba yetu yetu, uliye
Jina lako litukuzwe.

Utupe leo chakula chetu
Tunachohitaji utusamehe
Makosa yetu, hey!
Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe
Waliotukosea usitutie
Katika majaribu, lakini
Utuokoe, na yule, milelea milele!

Ufalme wako ufike utakalo
Lifanyike duniani kama mbinguni. (Amina)

Utupe leo chakula chetu
Tunachohitaji utusamehe
Makosa yetu, hey!
Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe
Waliotukosea usitutie
Katika majaribu, lakini
Utuokoe, na yule, simama mwehu

Baba yetu yetu uliye
Jina lako litukuzwe.

English translation:
Our Father, who art
in Heaven. Amen!
Our Father,
Hallowed be thy name.

Give us this day our daily bread,
Forgive us of
our trespasses
As we forgive others
Who tresspass against us
Lead us not into temptation, but
deiver us from Evil, and you are forever and ever!

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
On Earth as it is in Heaven. (Amen)

Give us this day our daily bread,
Forgive us of
our trespasses
As we forgive others
Who tresspass against us
Lead us not into temptation, but
deiver us from Evil, and you wake the dead

Our Father, who art
Hallowed be thy name.

Source for lyrics and translation:

- Chris

Two brief thoughts

Two rather unrelated thoughts.

First, I like fiction, especially the truly good kind which is simultaneously well-written and has a theme and idea that point back to Christ. Dostoevsky was the master of this. For modern work, Stephen Lawhead isn't a bad bet (I'm working on some of his stuff now, and it's very, very good in both regards).

Second, I hate seeing friends hurt and being able to do nothing for them. I'm glad, then, that I can do something for them: I can pray. That we so often take as a small or trivial thing. It is not. In His sovereign wisdom, God has ordained that our prayers impact eternity itself. That is a very large thing indeed: and it is a great responsibility that we are given, to pray. I dare not take it too lightly. Truth be told, I sometimes wish I could wish away my friends' pain, but this I know for truth: God truly is in control, working all things for good.

- Chris

Friday, May 16, 2008

Haste and Laziness

As the past week has passed, I've found myself with time to reflect that's been unusual for me of late. Opportunities for prolonged reflection tend to be few and far between when in the rush of scholastic endeavors.

It has been good - a blessing - but nonetheless a trifle different for me. Two nights ago I simply turned off the lights and sad, curled up in a chair under a blanket, watching the rain pour from the sky and the lightning flash across the heavens. It was glorious.

We miss so much in this hectic existence. There is much wisdom in the book of Proverbs, and I find it interesting that the same book warns against both laziness and haste. In America, we seem to have somehow missed both injunctions: for we make haste for the sake of being lazy, it seems. All of our striving is for the sake of making things easier for ourselves, reducing our work: and so we are constantly hurried so that we may be lazy.

We have somehow simultaneously lost sight of the facts that work is good and haste leads to destruction. Work is a great blessing, not the curse that most of us often find it to be. Sin has as one of its great consequences both the travailing that we associate with work and the dislike most people have for it. And I begin to suspect that we hurry so much, place so much emphasis on productivity, essentially because we are lazy. We remember neither the value of hard work nor what a great value there is in an unhasty life.

A life well lived involves much hard work, but done without hasty striving: done instead well and with enjoyment to the glory of God. It involves at the same time many moments of long, quiet reflection: of sitting in silence before the sunset, of peaceable evenings with a book at the fireside, of falling asleep in a spouse's arms under the stars...

Perhaps we would more rightly treasure rest if we valued our work as more than a source of income, and saw it instead as an opportunity to glorify God. Perhaps we would worry less about our work, and spend our days not consumed with it, if we understood truly what it is to be still and to know that God is indeed God.

For that is a fearful thing: to know that He is God - to know Him as He is. In the face of that, our every striving ceases - though not our doing - and our laziness is destroyed: replaced by a love of work well done and an enjoyment of rest earned.

We may live in our own capability, ever straining to accomplish on our own the myriad tasks of this existence - or we may surrender to God our Father, the Maker of all, who did before ever we were. If the former, our days will be filled with ceaseless noise, the hasty strivings of beings who have no end to their work because the end of their work is an end to work. If the latter, our days will be filled instead with a glorious effort to magnify God both in our working and our resting, and a recognition that the two, rather than standing in opposition, mutually support one another.

Impossible! comes the cry. But is is not: for all things are possible with God. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind! The Spirit frees us from old ways of thinking and leads us boldly into a new way: the oldest way. He gives us a life that is sacred from awakening to slumber's slow drift.

In this we find that there is no separation between the secular and the sacred: for to pastor a church is no more holy, in light of Christ, than to run a company. The vocations differ not in God-pleasingness but in their direction and shape.

And so we offer to God our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God: our spiritual worship, being conformed no more to the pattern this world offers, and instead being metamorphosed through the recreation of our minds: This is how we we will be able to know the will of God - what is good and perfect and right!

- Chris

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Without segue

I often begin these posts by noting the length of time it has been since I posted. I'm not sure why this is: it is a strange habit in any case, to behave as though you, my reader, are incapable of looking at the post directly below this one and seeing the date on which it was posted.

I sit here in a room which a week ago I had never stepped foot in, immensely comfortable with its being my home. I think of it as home, now. And I seamlessly made that transition in a 6 hour period. That is a strange feat indeed, and one I think that is unusual in the history of the world. Certainly humans have always been adaptable; but there is inevitably, in tales of rapid transition, a strong and distinct sense of the displacement. Yes, it is but a short distance that I have moved, but still, the fact that I have so readily adjusted speaks to the transitory nature of this stage of life, and to the almost ephemeral quality of a collegiate existence.

Life here happens without segue. There are few long smooth transitions in these four years, but instead abrupt jumps, both in location and task - from school to parents' house and back again, from classes to summer jobs and winter breaks and so on.

Personality transitions take longer, of course, mediated as they are by events and the pacing of God (nearly always different than the pacing we had envisioned), but they likewise tend to come in spurts. We suddenly find ourselves in a new position, and must quickly grow to cope. This undoubtedly is true in many stages of life, but I suspect the more so in this stage where circumstances themselves alter so rapidly.

It is not for nothing than the years immediately following high school - whether in college, a trade school, or a job - are seen as seminal and formative in the life of any individual. This is the time we have demarcated for self-identification and the establishment of personal responsibility. One may quibble with the choice of this as the particular time in which such action ought to be taken, but for now it simply is so. We make the leap - hopefully - from adolescent to adult in four (or often five) years. The real transition happens somewhere along the way, usually in a period of months, sometimes even weeks, when first we are confronted with true responsibility, and begin to stop reacting and begin acting.

A wise friend once commented to me that the difference between a boy and man is the difference between the statements, "It got lost," and "I lost it." He was right. There is a moment when we begin to decide for ourselves whether we shall decide for ourselves, or content ourselves instead with ever being indecisive beings who let others make decisions for us.

More fundamentally, there comes a time when we must ask ourselves where our priorities and commitments lie - above and beyond the wills or wishes of our parents (though it is certainly a blessing when we may be in accord with them). There is a moment when we choose what we believe about this life, and - just as importantly - why we believe thus.

I have chosen to pursue Jesus Christ with all of my heart, for all of my days: to make the glory of God the Father revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit my one and only purpose in this life.

I have done so not because my parents are Christians - though praise be to God for their salvation, and gratitude fills my heart for their faithfulness - nor because it is easy - for it is not - but because Christ is true, and His glory an end worth dedicating a life to. No other aim could be so lofty, so rewarding, so true.

I sit here in this desk, striding forward toward the future confident of the purposes that God has for me though I know not what they are, weeks from being 21, and grasp the world in new ways: and grasp most of all how much still eludes me. Our vision remains constrained in this age, and in this is the seed of both doubt and trust: doubt from the flesh, and trust from the Spirit. Though the way before is rarely clear, we know on whom we stand.

And so it is that in a season of life absent segues, when change hurtles upon me day by day and transitions are rarely more than a day in length, it is to the solid rock that I have found my feet planted by the grace of God: that very same grace, on which my entire life is built.

I hope to write here every day this summer, beginning today: not so much for you, the reader, as for me, the writer: for my writing must continue to grow and mature, and it shall not do so unless I am writing.

As for what the future holds... we shall see. Undoubtedly it will be a surprise in every way.

- Chris

Monday, May 5, 2008

Part 5: Glimmers

The sun is shining today. I wonder if that means spring is coming? Winter has been long, cold, and dreary. Gray skies.

And with the sun glimmering through the wrack of clouds, with the hints of blue sky breaking through the clouds, I cannot help but wonder how it is that my surroundings ever seem to reflect my heart. The storm. The gray skies that have so dominated the world this last winter in particular, but somehow seem to have ever since that fateful night. The moments of hope like the few days of sunshine last summer.

And now as things begin at last to make sense - maybe - the gray skies have tentatively broken. The sun is shining; of that there can be no doubt, but how long it will stay out is the ultimate question. And the blue skies, the trees almost shockingly green, the flowers gentle hues of purple and orange and red...

Can it be? Is there truly hope in this world?

And if so... oh, God! If there is hope...

I have read much this last year. Things are clearer now than they were. God becomes to me not only an angry judge but a vindicator.

It is strange. He is the source of my hope. I never thought that could be. Ever and always he has been my condemner, the one who stands over me with gavel in hand to judge and to smite, crushing me beneath his rightful rage. He is the holy God, the righteous one who I can never reach.

On my own.

I cannot believe my own eyes as I read, sometimes. I look up at the heavens, want to laugh, shout, cry, take in the sun and the clouds and the blue with my arms somehow.

There is hope in this book, hope I have never known in all my days. I have been wreathed in endless darkness, and the flint has always been at hand, the kindling at my feet. But I did not know, could not know, for no one had ever told me, given me any idea.

And that makes me simultaneously sad and angry. Outraged.

I know I am not alone in this hopelessness. But what am I to do? I do not even understand, yet, what all that I read means.

Grace is still a mystery to me. Justification eludes my understanding. Election is completely beyond my grasp. Yet these words are here, common, oft-repeated.

The glory of Christ seems to be a central theme of the New Testament. I cannot believe the riches I find: the frequency with which everything returns to that point, and how infrequent the references to...

No. Not yet. I dare not. I dare not even truly think such things yet. There is much yet to study before I begin to walk that road, for it is a road I would not easily return from.

For now I content myself with a glimmer of sun, with the taste of spring air after a rain when the earth turns soft and the sky turns all the colors imaginable. I will content myself with a sky turned to fire as my heart begins to burn anew with a passion and a desire and a life such as I have never known and my thoughts are kindled into flame.

I love God: not only fear him (though fear Him I do, and rightly so). For though I fear him, I begin not to be afraid, begin as though held by his hand - inconceivable! is it possible? - to trust Him and so to have stirred in my heart affections for Him beyond mere terror and growing more and more like delight.

And the winds continue to tear apart the great gray shroud.


This is part of an ongoing work of historical fiction.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sanctified - together

There is a necessary tension in presenting truth with grace. Truth is of the deepest necessity, but presented absent grace, it brings condemnation. Grace is a deeply felt need, but grace absent truth brings stagnation.

In this tension can be found nearly all of the difficulty in presenting the gospel, especially to those who are hurting. We must pour out our love upon the lost - dreadfully aware of our own need for Christ and His supremacy, and dreadfully aware of their need for Him - by speaking the truth. It is essential that the sinner hear of his sin and need, that he be made fully aware of his own depravity. Yet to do this, even to do this and present hope, without pouring love into the life of a person, is to push them away from the gospel. All too often, we assume that merely speaking the truth is enough to bring someone to Christ.

And certainly God may use this kind of witness. But His delight is in a witness that is demonstrated. We know God's love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, at the perfect time, Christ died for the ungodly - you and me. And the world will know Christ's love for them when we choose to die to ourselves and live for Christ: for living for Christ will of necessity mean living for others.

This is an area I struggle with. I love truth. I love right doctrine and practice. I love people seeing God as He truly is. Because of this, I can be harsh, rough, even cold in the way I treat people when discussing points I'm passionate about. And in this, God is teaching me, softening me, gentling me, growing me.

This is one of many reasons we are given each other in the body of Christ. Because without that, it would be far more difficult for me to grow in this were I without faithful friends who regularly correct me when I stray out of line. Moreover, it is where I find those who are far better at gentleness and respect than I - where I can learn by watching those more mature in this, where I can be taught how to walk aright in this.

And from all of that is born a greater presentation of the glory of Christ to this dark and dying world. We are not given the body merely for each other - but because in serving one another and helping one another and teaching one another, we reflect the very nature of God. We reflect fellowship in a way that we never could alone, and God by His nature is never alone: for He is ever in perfect loving communion and fellowship with Himself.

The Church is not for you, nor for me: it is first and foremost for Christ, and it is for us together, not you and me apart. And how glorious this Bride will be when presented to her King that day: her stains washed away by His blood, her skin made clear and beautiful by His sanctifying grace, so that she at last reflects His glory perfectly: not completely (for such is impossible) but perfectly: without blot or blemish, without any distraction, without any idolatry.

Unity, communion, intimacy: the God of all dwelling Himself among us and making us like Him in ways beyond merely cleansing us of sin - making us like Him together, corporately, not merely as individuals. This is a marvelous thing indeed, and it is unique. In no other religion is the call to both diversity and unity: either they call for people to lose themselves in the whole, or to seize their own identity all the more strongly. Only in Christ do we find a call to become our individual selves more perfectly by becoming part of the whole (the Church) more perfectly, simultaneously and in an indescribably intermingled process.

We are sanctified corporately, not individually. It is for this reason that we dare not forsake the gathering together, for this reason that we ought to delight in each others' presence, even when our relationships are difficult. It is for this purpose that God brings us into the specific places of fellowship that He does. And in all of this, He is being greatly glorified and magnified.

Praise Him, O you peoples! Together make Him of great renown, lift up His praise to the heavens, raise your voices high!

- Chris

Thursday, May 1, 2008


Dancing is mandatory. In heaven, I mean, not now. Oh, there will be dancing.

The glory of Christ will demand it. How can one not dance?

I ache, sometimes, to simply leap and twirl and kick - to use my body and movement to express outwardly the inward life that I have been given. Christ has made me alive. I am not only no longer dead, I have life with abundance. I have everlasting life. I have hope, and joy, and freedom, and a sum total of it all that cannot be captured with this language, for English has no word to adequately express this notion of the totality of it all. Gestalt is close, but obviously not English, and even it does not, I do not think, fully capture the notion.

I want to shout at the top of my lungs: How great the King of Israel, the Kinsman Redeemer, the Great Ransomer, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of all creation. He - is - great!

There are not words, there is no melody, there are no colors - that are capable of capturing even the slightest hint of His greatness, His splendor, His all-consuming majesty and power. He is greater than the greatest imaginings of men. He is perfectly free. And He loves us, delights in us as we delight in Him! He delights in Himself, in His own perfection, His own beauty and strength and an infinity of glory. And there is nothing comparable to reveling in His glory and majesty.

The beauty we see and hear and smell in this world is but the most utterly insignificant fraction, an incomprehensibly infinitesimal fraction of his beauty: less than an atom to the size of the universe. And my heart bursts to overflowing with it. I cannot contain it; I cannot hold back my delight in this God-King who rules over all yet loves to walk beside me, this Greatest of all who is great enough to be humble, this perfect Judge who is utterly merciful...

He is God! He is beyond our words' ability to describe, and so worth every day's utter devotion to describe Him, though an entire eternity will not be enough to understand Him, far less to create words great enough to describe Him.

Will we, perhaps, invent entire languages devoted to the better description of God Himself? Will we spend the aeons learning how to better communicate our devotion to Him through new instruments, each more lovingly crafted than the one before, more perfect? Will we spend a trillion trillion years coming to terms with the splendor of a new creation with new physics and new chemistry and new biology?

My heart cries out, "Yes!" in a great exultant shout, passionately looking forward to the day when we will be like Him. And why will we be like Him? Because we shall see Him as He is! How incredible, how marvelous - to finally at long last see Him as He is. We shall not see Him totally, but we shall see Him perfectly. Oh, my heart aches for that day, longs for it to be now. I have so much to do before that day, but I look forward to like nothing else: for nothing can possible compare with looking on the face of God, to see Christ revealed in His glory, to enter into perfect fellowship with the Father, mediated by the Spirit, growing ever closer to the Trinity. There is nothing that compares to the supreme glory of the God of all, and nothing that compares to the delight we shall then have in being in His presence, feasting with Him. Oh, for that moment when we shall fall awed at His feet, and He reaches down and lifts us, calling us "friend," when the blinders of sin fall away and we finally see Him without our own falsehoods, when no hint of idolatry remains...

Dancing will be mandatory - but not burdensome, not a weight in any way; instead a glorious exulting in God, unleashed by new bodies to proclaim the glory of God unhindered.

The glory of God - His fullness, His every attribute in perfection, His name, His person!

I have no words. I am lost. I cannot but cry out to Him, seek Him, worship Him with every part of me.

His glory!