Showing posts with label External links. Show all posts
Showing posts with label External links. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

52 Verses | a year of poems

As I've mentioned a few times recently, I've had a new project in the works. Unsurprisingly, it's another blog, which went live a few minutes ago.

52 Verses is an art experiment, and an opportunity to declutter Thoughts; A Flame a bit. I realize that this blog has not, historically, been very focused. Its content has ranged from the whimsical to the theological, from poetic reflections on good and evil to proasic descriptions of my life. I am in the process of slowly changing that—hopefully allowing my readers to pick and choose what they'll read from me. 52 Verses is a first step in that direction.

Just as importantly, however, at least for me, it is an opportunity to develop discipline and increase my skill in an art form I love: poetry. I have long enjoyed expressing my heart through lyrical turns of phrase, often to the detriment of my prose. I have also never really practiced poetry. Over the next year, I will. Every week by Friday at 7 pm, a new poem will be up. Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly poetic, more than one will go up in a week, but the premise and the promise is one per week, for a year.

When the year is done, the project will end. (I'll have to find a new home for poetry at that point, but that's okay: part of the fun is putting a definite beginning and end to the project.)

I am very interested in constructive criticism, because part of the goal is becoming a better poet and a better writer. Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Friday, January 15, 2010

On Writing Well in the Digital Age

William Zinnser on the need to write well in the digital age as much or more than ever before:
Some of you, hearing me talk to you so urgently about the need to write plain English, perhaps found yourself thinking: “That’s so yesterday. Journalism has gone digital, and I’ve come to Columbia to learn the new electronic media. I no longer need to write well.” I think you need to write even more clearly and simply for the new media than for the old media. You’ll be making and editing videos and photographs and audio recordings to accompany your articles. Somebody—that’s you—will still have to write all those video scripts and audio scripts, and your writing will need to be lean and tight and coherent: plain nouns and verbs pushing your story forward so that the rest of us always know what’s happening. This principle applies—and will apply—to every digital format; nobody wants to consult a Web site that isn’t instantly clear. Clarity, brevity, and sequential order will be crucial to your success.
Quite right, and it's important to remember. Writing well is hard work, but it is always important—perhaps especially when the temptations not to are so great.

HT: Mike Pohlman at TGC

Saturday, January 31, 2009

American dreams

There is something in me that simply cannot be expressed, but comes welling up whenever I read stories like Tang Xiaozhao's. There is something about every story of people saying, "This is wrong, and that is right, and I'm willing to fight for it." There is something about every story of people yearning to break the chains of tyranny and have freedom. There is, in short, something about the American story and the way that it continues to prove a model - however broken - for millions around the world.

People love America. Plenty of people hate America's actions. Very few hate the idea of America. Tyrants do, of course. But the people? People love the idea of America.

America as it was meant to be, you understand: not this self-consumed and bloated picture of consumerism, but the land of noble people who will put others ahead of themselves and the good of their country above their own advancement. It's never really been that. But it has been the hope of that.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride form land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, you rpoor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus' Statue of Liberty-seated words still move me, and deeply. Not because America is any of those things. But rather because there is something in the image painted in them that is far deeper than America. There is, you see, a promise of a better country - a really better country, where every man is every other's equal, where freedom is more than an unvoiced dream, where every man is every other's brother as well as neighbor, where justice is actually done, where pasts are washed away and every man has another chance.

America has never been that - not in its best moments, and certainly not in its worsts.

But people keep dreaming of America as what it dreams of being.

I figured out why.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in my heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11.28-30

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to reeive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11.8-10

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a temptest and the sound of a trumpet a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them... But you hve come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gather, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel... Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12.18-19,22-24,28-29

For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to e a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
nor more shall be heard it in the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
Nor more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who doe snot fill out his days
for the young men shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for liek the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
the wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,"
says the Lord.
Isaiah 65.17-25

People are dreaming of a city with foundations. They're hoping for a kingdom that cannot be shaken. They're looking for heaven. People love America because in the dream of America - only in the dream, but very deeply in that dream - there is a taste of heaven, a taste of what we long for, what we were made for.

All we dream of in America will be so far surpassed by heaven that we shall look back on it as but the shadow of an echo of a quickly fading dream.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. An dI will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31.33

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37.27

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Faithfulness of God

I'm amazed. I know that God is faithful and good, and that He answers prayers. Yet, in this moment, I am once again awed by how precisely He works, how perfectly His timing is made clear, how elegantly His plans come to fruition. I am particularly confounded by the manner in which He has worked our prayers into His plans: how He positively delights in answering them, and is not slow to do so, but rather in the precise time that is right answers them perfectly.

Just over two weeks ago, I was riding a train to Ft. Worth to visit my beloved Jaimie. On the ride down, I wrote the final entry in a journal I began nearly three years ago (October of 2005, early in my freshman year of college). After finishing it, I began to reread the journal slowly and contemplatively, meditating on all that God had done and indeed is still doing in me: in my life, in my heart, in my knowledge of and walk with Him. In so doing, I crossed paths with the work he was doing in me last spring. And, thanks to the gracious prompting of the Holy Spirit, both then (having me write a few short but important phrases) and now (having me reread those at that precise time), I realized once more that that work is ongoing.

God began breaking down my misplaced pride a very long time ago, but it was last year that I truly began to see it as something not merely bad but truly evil: for the first time He made clear to me, in the fruit of that sin, just how vile it is and how much destruction it reaps. And He worked fiercely to destroy a great deal of that. In the same stretch of time, He radically dealt with my words. He has given us all a very great gift: we have power in what we speak, power to build up or to break down those around us. We have a great responsibility to do rightly with our words - and He began to show me more fully what that required of me.

The correlation between the work He did in me last spring and the opening of my eyes to many, many more things last summer is a direct one.

In my reading through those entries, the Holy Spirit reminded me of what He said to me then: the work didn't stop after spring break 2007. It was to continue. And so I asked, "Lord, continue to break me of these things. Continue to destroy pride in me; continue to teach me to speak only in ways that edify and build up."

Within the next 24 hours, He was doing precisely that. He presented opportunity after opportunity for me to choose how to speak. He began working through Jaimie to bring conviction about particular phrases, expressions, etc. that are less than edifying - and then for us to work together to eliminate them.

And that same weekend He brought up situations that, though less than perfect themselves, are very much His perfect way of exposing in new and deeper ways the pride that still remains in my heart. In the past four days, He has been steadily and faithfully exposing that pride, showing it for what it is, making clear just how dark and disgusting that festering rot is. He has spoken perfectly clearly - through Jaimie, through books I've read, and especially through His word.

That last is the reason for this note. I often try to read from Proverbs every day: there is much simple (yet so profound) wisdom to be had there. Yesterday, after spending the previous night deeply praying for God to break my heart more about pride and to continue to break through, I read in Proverbs 11. It's one of only four chapters in the book where God specifically addresses pride - and one of the four well-known verses where God indicates that pride leads to destruction, but humility to life and honor. Coincidence? Not likely. He orchestrated events in my life just so, in order that it would line up and I would be where I needed to be in studying Scripture at the right time. And today, as I continued to press in, gladdened by my heart's joyful response to conviction, I read in Proverbs 12. The second verse struck me profoundly: Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. It was as though God had chosen to speak directly to me to encourage me to continue pressing on, to continue delighting in His discipline and sanctification. (And it is not merely "as if" He had done that: being the great and awesome God that He is, He did do that, through a passage that has undoubtedly spoken to millions of others throughout the millennia.)

I am reminded, as I consider the perfection of His timing, of the words that Tolkien put in Gandalf's mouth: "A wizard is never late. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to." Wizards may not be, and they may not be so punctual - but God is, and He is perfectly punctual, arriving exactly when He means to, and thus exactly when He needs to.

- Chris

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

hear and Obey

We are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only.

I spoke to my dear friend Jamin this past week while driving to Ft. Worth, and - as is ever the case with us - we found ourselves amazed at how God was working the very same things in our hearts and our lives. It has been thus as long as I can recall, even in times of conflict. Such a friend - such intimacy and fellowship - is a rare blessing. And we both have been pondering things we see in the church: needs, flaws, brokenness. We spoke about fellowship - and about fruitful fellowship. We spoke of prayer - and of effective prayer. We spoke on evangelism - and on evangelism not as conversionism but as disciple-making.

And then we spoke on something just as important as all of these. It is important to strive for a vision of all that God is calling us to: excellence and Christ-likeness not only as individuals but corporately. But it is not enough to identify the places we are failing, nor even to recognize what needs to be done. We may stand about and analyze the problems and solutions all day. But if we do not act on the vision that God has given us, we are nothing. And, like a thunderstorm without rain, Christians who are all flash and talk but no fruit are a terrible thing: how great our frustration when the storm does not deliver on its promise! And how much greater the disillusionment of a world that sees us time and again make noises about the problems in the church but fail to ourselves actualize those changes!

Effecting change is difficult, of course. One must have a clear vision of the goal - and, more importantly, of the purpose of that goal. But one must also have the support and cooperation of others - including leaders, if one is a layperson, and including one's fellow leaders if one is in a position of authority. Beyond this, change requires patience and diligence, and it requires a deep and immense dedication to prayer: both for the seeking of God's will and direction, and to importune Him to bring about heart change. Without heart change, all the external changes in the world are meaningless.

And so we come to it: the great burden and great joy of our service in this life. We are called to execute the changes that the body of Christ requires. The call is on us to stop sitting and to go and be obedient to the call of the Holy Spirit as He in His grace opens our eyes to truth. If you see a need, perhaps it is time to stop complaining about it and to start filling it. If there is a lack in the body, perhaps it is you who is to meet it. If there are problems, perhaps it is your responsibility to step up and by the grace of God help fix them. Instead of throwing down a gauntlet and pointing the accusing finger, perhaps if one has vision that his brethren lack he simply ought to begin walking and let the results speak for themselves.

I am not saying that there is no place for conversation or contemplation. I am saying that faith without works is dead and that even if we accomplished great things for the Kingdom of God, it would be worthless if not done in love and grace. When we see a brother - or a congregation - struggling, we ought to simply dive in, get our hands dirty, and work - all the while, praying fervently and with passion for God to move. What right have we to criticize so angrily who will not ourselves set our hands to the plow and toil for the good of the Church and the glory of Christ Jesus? Do we really live to serve and obey Him whom we proclaim as not only Savior but also Lord?

His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. Let us follow Him. Let us be known by our love for one another. Let us be like Him: serving where there is a need.

- Chris

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thoughts

A few thoughts I'll leave you with before what is likely to be a three day absence, as I'm taking a trip to Ft. Worth to visit Jaimie and her family (huzzah!).

It is good to discipline our bodies: to work at being in good shape, to spend time exercising. The exercise of our body is good for our mind, as well.

It is good to exercise our minds in ways that are perhaps not as natural as once they were. An essay on The Atlantic commented at some length on the ways in which the Internet is changing not only how we function externally in relation to information, but how it affects even the way our minds think and work. It's an important piece of writing; I recommend that you take the time to read through all of it.

I also recommend that you then take time to read at least one truly good book this summer: a great work of literature, or one of the classics of the Christian faith. You can draw on any you like, but a good place to start might be The Point's 2008 Summer Reading List. Books that challenge you, build up your mind, and force you to think are good for you, and we don't read enough of them. More than that: set aside time to work on whatever book you're reading in great big chunks, and take time to think about it. Letting a work of literature percolate through your mind is nearly as important as the reading itself is.

Swordfighting is good exercise.

The pursuit of God is the pursuit of the greatest joy and glory conceivable.

There are few things in this world fighting for. A life with purpose and meaning is one of them. A life with joy and passion, too. None of the things worth fighting for can be found without God.

Take some time to actively listen to some good music this summer: not merely to hear it as you do something else, but to sit quietly and listen to music. Learn to appreciate classical music: it's an acquired skill, not something that comes naturally to everyone, but well worth your time. I highly recommend the works of Arvo Pärt if you want God-glorifying modern classical music. Again, it may take some effort to appreciate, but it's well worth your time.

As I've written before: beauty requires work, both in creation and appreciation. But all good things in life are thus; why should beauty be any different?

May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ comfort, sustain, and uphold you; may the glory of His name consume you!

- Chris

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Glory

Note: to fully understand this, it is essential, not merely optional, to read the Scriptues linked throughout the post below.

---

A friend set me an impossible task in a message he sent me this morning. He asked me to define the glory of God. (I'm honored that he would think me worth asking, but, bluntly, I'm not up to the task. Nonetheless, I shall give it a go, and in so doing hopefully demonstrate, through my own inability to convey the truth of the concept, its fantastical greatness.)

The phrase, "glory of God," tossed about as commonly as it is in our Christian circles, certainly bears more reflection than we often give it. Given the number of times variations on the phrase occur throughout Scripture, we ought to be giving it considerable attention simply on its own merit, and when one expands to consider variations on the phrase - "God of glory," "the Glory of Israel," and so on (try just searching for glory and glorious if you really want to see how important the term is in scripture) - the sheer quantity of references is astounding. This demands closer attention.

One of those phrases - God of glory - is particularly interesting, though it occurs only twice in the body of Scripture (at least so far as I can find): in Psalm 29:3, and in Acts 7:2. These two passages seem to speak rather uniquely to the notion of God's glory, and in manner rather different one from another. From these two passages, as well as what I have gained from my study over nearly a year, I hope to paint something of a picture of what Scripture means by the glory of God.

The 29th Psalm is one of praise and adulation. It opens with an exhortation to the heavenly host to worship God. The particular exhortation in this case is to ascribe to Him all that He is due: glory and strength, the glory due His name. The word glory appears once in each of the three verses, which is significant given that there are only eleven verses in the Psalm. I want to particularly draw your attention to verse 3, the first appearance in Scripture of the phrase "God of glory."

In a Psalm reflecting on the attributes of God - in particular, elucidating His supreme power and worthiness of praise - it is suggestive that David chose to use the phrase "of glory" to describe the God who is "over the waters" (v. 3). The contrast to other gods is, in my opinion, strongly implied in the passage. Every thing that other gods of other tribes would have been doing - natural events like earthquakes, fertility, and so on - is explicitly declared to be under the control of David's - and our - God. But unlike all the other gods, He is not merely the god of the water or the god of fertility or the god of the earth: He is God of glory.

In Acts 7, we have the conclusion of the story of the first known martyr of the Christian believers: Stephen. In verse 2 he begins his monologue declaring the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, lumping them in with the consistent pattern of unbelief that had characterized the Jews over their long history, and thus quietly proclaiming that in rejecting Christ, they were rejecting God. That he opens this speech with reference to the God of glory as the one who revealed Himself to Abraham indicates that it is this attribute Stephen has in mind and wants the Pharisees to have in mind as he recounts their history. That He is the God of glory is central to an understanding of this passage.

These passages in particular, and many others related to them, raise two significant questions. First, what is the glory of God, and second, what does it mean to be the God of glory?

Let us begin by addressing the former question and then from that see if we can understand somewhat the latter question. Glory is a difficult word to define, because it is a word we still have in our language but which concept has slowly faded from our minds. It has become a small, a light thing, when it is used at all.

The American Heritage dictionary's relevant definitions are:
1. Great honor, praise, or distinction accorded by common consent; renown.
3. A highly praiseworthy asset: Your wit is your crowning glory.
4. Adoration, praise, and thanksgiving offered in worship.
5. Majestic beauty and splendor, resplendence: The sun set in a blaze of glory.
6. The splendor and bliss of heaven; perfect happiness.

All of these, with some modification, are part and parcel of the glory which we ascribe to God. On the first count, the honor, praise, or distinction is deserved regardless of whether it is accorded (and to not accord it is thus a wrong done); and the deserving is by dint of the very nature of who God is, not by any assent to His worth by others: He is, by His very nature, utterly deserving of honor, praise, and distinction. The sixth is of course relevant because glory in this sense is then our partaking of perfect fellowship with God.

Of all of these, the third and fifth definitions are most significant for our discussion. The fifth definition gives us both an image of the glory of God revealed in nature - consider the comparisons given in Psalm 19, for example - and a notion of what glory is: majesty, resplendence, and beauty! So in this sense, we may say that God's glory can be defined as His utter and consummate majesty and beauty: greater by an infinite amount than anything of majesty or beauty in this world. And we may also say, in the sense of the third definition, that all His attributes are His glory, for none among them is chief, but all are part and parcel together. His majesty and beauty derive from the sum total of everything about Him: from His perfect love to HIs righteous judgment in wrath, which are but two parts of the same thing: His glory.

And this drives us further, to a deeper and hopefully truer definition. If we look at the word "glory" in the sense in which it is used in Hebrew, it carries two further meanings with it that are somewhat lost in English. The first is the great sense of weight associated with the glory of God: it is a great and terrible and heavy thing: and not only metaphorically. In one of my favorite passages about His glory, at the dedication of the first temple, God's glory falls on the temple, and the priests cannot even enter the temple, because it was full of the glory of God. There are a couple of interesting points to note from this: the first is the sheer present-ness (if you'll allow me the word) of the glory of God. It was Immanent in a way that we typically do not associate with God at all, much less a supposedly abstract concept like His glory. And furthermore, the implication of the passage is that this was the very presence of God, in which case to say that His glory fell is to say that He, in some way beyond us, made Himself present in that location in a way He was not ordinarily physically present.

An extremely important aside here is to note a few things about this presence and immanence. When it left the temple, it broke the prophet's heart - and when it was prophesied to return, it gave him great joy. (The whole book of Ezekiel is essentially focused on God's glory and the temple in the context of man's sinfulness.) The presence of the glory of God is not a small thing. So it is that when the very radiance of the glory of God appears in the person of Christ, this is a most incredible and remarkable event! It is beyond compare! He, the very image of the invisible God (stop and think about that!), appeared to make His glory known to us, and to invite us to once again be perfect reflections of that glory. Ah! I do not have the words to communicate the depth, the urgency, the profundity and meaning in this: that we are given the opportunity to be the ambassadors of Christ in this world, and thus of the glory of God in this world! This is beyond anything in all the world for incredibility.

Returning from that aside to continue our defining, we examine a second point raised by the Hebrew meaning, and related to our expansion of the third definition above. Glory in the Scriptures also means the fullness or totality of something, a complete and total whole. The glory of God, then, is the totality of all He is, a grand whole that is greater than the infinity of each of its parts or even their infinite sum. His glory is the true reality, the grand totality of who He is: His every attribute in perfect harmony and fullness! It is this that is radiant, beautiful, and majestic: and those very attributes are themselves only a part of His glory, parts that make up that transcendent whole.

It is difficult to convey glory in mere words. Think of the most radiant sunset you have ever seen, and all that made it beautiful: impossible to describe, yet knowable nonetheless. Ponder on the most beautiful music you've ever heard, and try for a moment to grasp what made it so compelling: impossible to verbalize, but capable of being experienced. So it is with the glory of God: only infinitely more so, for His nature and character are infinite, and His glory is infinitely infinite. You see? My words fail. Yet I know, in some small part, the glory of God our Father: because I know Him, more deeply and truly every day.

This brings us to our final question: What does it mean that our God is the God of glory? I think that we first must be cautioned that we can never fully describe God Almighty: if even the concept of His glory is beyond our ability to verbalize, how much more so He himself, the God of glory? Then, second, we may grapple with this notion. When other gods are gods of fertility, of water, of sun and moon and stars, even of higher things like righteous anger or love, and ours is the God of glory, this speaks to the reality of who He is. He is not a God created by human hands, nor a construction of feeble human minds. We might be able to conceive of a God whose primary attribute is love - but a God whose love is but a part of a more perfect whole, whose love is a part of glory? This is a God beyond any of us to conceive of, a God whose very nature is beyond understand, but whose glory is reflected just as much in His revealing Himself to us and calling us to comprehend as it is in being so utterly beyond our comprehension.

And because He is the God of glory, with all that this entails, there can be no higher calling in this life, no greater pleasure or joy in this life, than to surrender utterly and completely to His glory as our chief and supreme end, to which all other goals must be subservient or put completely aside. His glory is the only thing worth living for, the only real purpose in this world: for all this is for Him and by Him, and all this is to the glory of Christ. How great an honor we are given to be His image-bearers, to carry in us a small part of the glory of God reflected so that the world may know Him! And how great the promise of Heaven, where we shall each of us perfectly reflect the aspect of His glory we were designed for, and all of us together shall be a shining mirror of the great and terrible glory that He is.

May the glory of the God of glory consume us all!

- 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

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
Lyrics:
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:
theologyweb.com

- Chris

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ooh! Ahh! Amazing!

I simply must recommend you to my new favorite website. My dear friend Laurie Goree showed me this site while we were at Glorieta, and I am terribly excited by the possibilities it opens up.

My friends, you must check out Bible.org.

More particularly, you must look at the online Bible they have there. Some of the coolest features I know of on any Bible study website.

Want to study a particular verse in the original language? Click on the link at the start of the verse and you'll have multiple translations, and the original Hebrew and/or Greek immediately on hand. Want to find all occurrences of a word in Scripture? Double click it. Want to see background notes on particular translation issues? They're right at the bottom of the screen. Want to see an outline of the book you're reading? It's there on the right side of the screen.

And the rest of the website has some great tools available as well - examples, illustrations, etc. I can't recommend the site highly enough. Between this and Bible Gateway, I'm pretty well set.

(That's not to say that I'm not looking forward to a full release of Logos for Mac, though!)

God's grace be with you.

- Chris

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I'm back. I think.

It's been a while...

Last month was busy. This one is no less so, but is so in different ways, I suppose (as is often the case). This semester is no less busy than the last, either - probably more so.

I've been thinking, off and on, about all that God has been teaching me - how to communicate it. Honestly, I've been at something of a loss. I'm learning much. But it's hard to even qualitatively describe, much less to quantify in such a way as to be communicable with words. They're, for lack of a better way of describing it, great sweeping vistas that are slowly opening before me, incommunicable as of yet because not yet fully understood.

Being a girl's boyfriend is an entirely different thing, in some sense, from being a girl's friend. There are many things that are the same... but there are things that are uniquely different, peculiar to this different stage of relationship. It is as though I am simultaneously made aware of my role as a man and of my utter inability to measure up in that role. I am not capable of leading this woman rightly. I am not able to do this perfectly. (Before any of you jump out, I know that perfection is not attainable in the here and now - but that does not mean I desire any less to do perfectly by Jaimie in this relationship.)

I know that I will hurt her at some point. That breaks my heart. I long not to hurt her. I long to be a "perfect" boyfriend - to get everything right, always be kind and gentle and caring and attentive and wise. But I will not... And so I thank God for the grace He so freely gives us, even as I pray that my mistakes will be few and far between. I pray that He will take even the places where I do fail and use them for His glory and our good.

There is a sense of responsibility that is deeper, more profound than I have experienced before. I imagine it must be merely a pale shadow of the responsibility that a man feels (if he is in any way in tune with God and the demands God places on men) for his wife. That thought (rightfully) intimidates me a bit - in a way that encourages me to press on in my faith.

But my relationship with Jaimie is far from the only area in which I am changing and growing.

I continue to be passionate about the gospel, about this campus, about my hall and my friends and my colleagues. I long to see God move here. I see opportunities for God to move on this campus and I yearn to see others leap at them as much as I do. I want to see myself leap at them as much as I ought to. I want to see a people broken for Christ - utterly surrendered to His will. That passion is slowly deepening, solidifying. Vision is slowly emerging. I have not merely abstractions but the shadows of plans - and that is a good thing, the answer to prayers.

Jeremiah is an interesting book. It is a book of contrasts - indeed, a book of ironies. It is profoundly literary. I was struck most by a passage in Jeremiah 3 where God asks the rhetorical, "Will I redeem such a people as this?" In context, the expected answer is clearly "no," but what is striking is that His actual answer is "yes." He is a God who delights in saving people, rescuing them, saving them - even when they do not deserve it.

This, combined with my ongoing fascination with the God of glory presented throughout all Scripture, combined with my sense of urgency about the gospel, combined with my incredible awe at the fact that we are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation... I am awed, humbled, encouraged to press on in prayer and in vision-casting and in doing. I am emboldened in all these things to continue in the work that God has set before me.

I have been slowly pondering what to do over the next year here at OU - what direction to take in terms of ministry: how to place myself most strategically, how to be most effective, how to make the most impact, how to prepare for the time after college most effectively. I have been considering where God would lead me after college, and my ideas are shifting, changing, far from solid. I have several thoughts, all of which are thoroughly appealing at some level: grad school, seminary, work... I do not know where God is leading. I know that, as of this moment, my inclination is to finish undergrad, get a decent job and pay off what little debt I have and save somewhat so as to be in good shape to go wherever God leads, and then possibly go to seminary for training and equipping for the works God has for me. I do not, however, know if that is what God has for me, and His plans are infinitely better than mine. (I have made the mistake of not asking God His plans for me before, and it's a mistake I hope not to repeat!)

And in all of this, coming somewhat full circle, I am encouraged by Jaimie. It is not only responsibility and weight that our relationship brings - but also much joy, much encouragement, much delight. She encourages me to press on. She reminds me that I am not alone. She helps me to understand that God does use me, and often in ways I do not - sometimes cannot - see. And this is good. It helps me to press on. It gives me hope, and I have desperately needed it. It can be hard, sometimes, to press on, when one does not see the fruit of one's labor (and sometimes even when one does).

But then, that is faith: to walk on, assured of what one hopes will be accomplished and with the conviction of all that one does not see coming to pass.

So I am learning faith. But that does not say the half of it. And in all this, I have not said the half of it. As I said, it is yet beyond me to even understand fully, much less communicate.

But, that said... I'm back.

- Chris

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bondage of choices

Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church wrote an interesting blog (quick read) a couple days ago about the bondage we can find ourselves in to needing subjective "senses" of where God is leading us.

I do believe that God's Spirit will sometimes lead us subjectively. So, for instance, I am choosing to spend my life here on Capitol Hill because my wife & I sensed in 1993 that that is what God wanted us to do. However, I realized then (and now) that I could be wrong about that supposition. Scripture is NEVER wrong. I was free in 1993 to stay in England, or teach at a seminary, either of which would have been delightful opportunities. I understand that I was free to make those choices. But I chose, consulting Scripture, friends, wisdom, and my own subjective sense of the Lord's will, to come to DC. And even if I were wrong about that, I had (and have) that freedom in Christ to act in a way that is not sin. And I understand my pastoring here not to be sin. So I am free. Regardless of the sense of leading I had.

Interesting thoughts, and worth reading through the rest of the blog - don't worry, it's short (especially compared to mine!).

- Chris

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A profound thought

A blogging friend of mine has a way of posting incredibly profound thoughts that are short but provoke considerable contemplation. His February 4 post did precisely that... take a read and think on it for a bit.
In his 1863 "Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day", Abraham Lincoln asserted that American's had taken for granted God's kindness: "We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own".

Thank God for how He uses the body for mutual encouragement!

- Chris

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My sister!

I've got another blog you ought to read! My sister just started blogging at Moving Onward to the Goal. That makes four of the five members of my family blogging (though I confess I hope she blogs more frequently than my incredibly busy mom and dad). I hope you're as blessed by her as I am: she is an incredibly Godly woman, and I count myself honored to be her brother.

Enjoy the reading!

Edit, 5/29/08: My sister has moved her blog to a new name and site, Reflections and Ponderings.

- Chris

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another Valentine's day

My dad is amazing. I learn so much from him - about following God, about truly being a man, about what it will mean to be a husband and father. He's a good one, and getting better at both. I love him a lot.

His post about his Valentine's day nearly made me cry... so many answers to prayers I've prayed for my parents in that one day, so much that God is restoring and renewing and making better than it had ever been in their marriage!

I am blessed to watch it, blessed to be their son.

- Chris

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Read this!

Rarely in my life have I met men of such deep Godliness as Dr. Del Tackett. He blessed me (and, I'm sure, many others) with this blog post... be encouraged.

- Chris

Monday, January 21, 2008

New blog news!

Well, I've started on a new blogging venture with several friends - in addition to, not in lieu of, this one. The site is still being developed, and the guy coordinating it has yet to post the first post as of the time I write this, but I am terribly excited: it's a place where four like-minded Christian young men will be posting our thoughts on God's work and all that He is teaching us. I've no doubt we will end up posting responses to each other, as well as our own random thoughts, and the read should be interesting. You can find us at Soli Deo Gloria (or copy and past the following into your browser: http://solideoglorianorman.blogspot.com).

God bless!

- Chris

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Whispers

I have, of late, pondered much and written little. There has not been time: or, more properly, there has not been time made. It is late, as I write - pleasantly so. Sometimes thoughts that have idly wandered in the mind crystallize in the night, in the darkness and the silence and the solitude. Sometimes prayer is most fruitful in the still watches of the passing seconds between the twilights. So also it is with meditation on the very Word of God: and on the Word revealed in flesh, communicated therein.

Silence is a discipline we perhaps do not practice enough. The same is, sadly, true of solitude. We have forgotten how to be alone, to be still, to rest in the quiet and to simply draw near to God. The West knows not how to be still and know that He is God. And lancing at the context of that verse, I am struck by this thought: perhaps it is because we do not see the power of His arm, or comprehend the reach of His grasp. If we truly understood, we would be still, for we would then know that we are secure in Him: that all the affairs that so trouble our hearts, that drive us not to be still, not to be comfortable alone with Him are all His, are all in His hands, are all already known by Him - are all being divinely crafted for His glory and our good.

And perhaps some of it is from fear. If we are quiet and still in the silence far from the noise of our lives: that static, that crashing white blur that we ignore yet never escape... if we dare to be alone, absent our technological regalia and incessant chattering of acquaintances (and yes, even friends)... Then we might find ourselves confronted by the Incomparable One, find ourselves face to face with His reality, His immensity, His holiness... His glory: the very fullness of His being.

And what then? For if we find ourselves confronted by that, we will no longer be able to function as we have in the world around us! We will no longer be able to live as unchanged men and women, comfortable in this existence. How could we be comfortable in that which is broken, unhinged in every sense, a pale reflection of what ought to be, what was, what will be? No, our hearts would yearn, truly and deeply for a city that has foundations: and even more, for the One who designed and built that city. We could not rest in a land where we are but sojourners, foreigners present for a time but certainly not staying: for our greater country awaits us, and our King there reigning supreme.

And if that is what awaits us in the solitude and the silence, it is easy to see why it terrifies us: that will shake us to our core, alter everything of how we live, leave us with a missional outlook and a life that must be surrendered, not held tightly in the grip of absolute autonomy. These are indeed frightening prospects for a human soul still wrapped in the grip of sin.

We forget, sometimes, in the pursuit of holiness, that it is indeed a pursuit: not a moment of achieving, not a single instant in which we have overcome and arrived, but a lifetime, a journey, a great traverse across the wilderness. But it is the wilderness which hones us, which sharpens us, which makes us as we ought to be... transparent, a perfect reflection, yet unique and distinct in the manner of that reflection.

So we should delight in the journey, and recognize that though we shall one day be perfected, we are not yet arrived at that moment. There is, as has been sung, a joy in the journey, a light we can love on the way. Yet sometimes, I think, we struggle, wrestling with our purpose, our plans, our future: seeking to understand, as another man asked in song, what precisely is our place in this world?

And the answer is so simple to say, so difficult to understand, so impossible of ourselves to accomplish. We live to glorify God: to make Him known to all the nations, to share His love and His delight with all - with people of every tribe, tongue, and nation - and to delight in Him above all else: by delighting in Him in whatever we do.

So I sit awake at 2:34 am. I think. I pray. I meditate. And sometimes I write, pouring out my heart and my thoughts. And I meditate on His word, on the sufficiency of His sacrifice and His perfect priesthood. I look at His nature, His glory, His character, His perfect intercession... and I am still. If I speak, it is in a whisper, awed and reverent: for who am I that I may enter His throne: and with confidence? And yet I know the answer: I am His child by right, righteous by the blood shed for me.

And I encourage you as well, to sit awake in the dark watches of the night, to keep tryst with God Almighty, the Holy One: a perfect Father, the first among many Brothers, a perfect Comforter. Rest in silence, be at peace, let your heart go still, and come to know the One who is.

- Chris

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Accountability in discipleship

Some thoughts on accountability in discipleship and the standard to which we are held when discipling. (And these are just that, my thoughts, mostly pulled from a conversation with a friend.)

First and foremost, I think accountability in discipleship very much depends on the relationship in question. Different relationships have very different parameters: one might be simply for the sake of learning about a particular aspect of faith, whereas another might be a complete spiritual submission one person to another.

I don't know that either of those is inherently better than the other, but they do differ. In the former case there will (somewhat obviously) be less emphasis on accountability than in the latter, and I think correspondingly less responsibility. At the same time, I think that anytime we're in a position of spiritual authority, if we see issues and do not hold people accountable, we are in a place of responsibility. Tempering that is the realization that it is not our job to fix people, but rather the work of the Holy Spirit.

For me, in the discipleship relationships I have, I know there's a fine line that really varies from case to case as to where I bring up issues I see and where I don't. With one hypothetical guy, if I see an issue, I might bring it up, within a few weeks if there's some concern as to how I need to handle it. With another hypothetical guy, I might not bring it up at all if we're simply not in a place in our relationship where he's willing to hear from me at that deep and possibly painful area. In that case, my responsibility is to ask questions to get him thinking, and to comment on areas God has convicted me, and to spend a LOT of time praying for him.

(That, by the way, is where I think our gravest responsibility is in the context of discipleship: prayer. If we are not faithful to pray for those we are leading, how will we ever be able to effectively pour into their lives? How could we presume to try to bring accountability or correction to someone we're not faithfully praying for?)

One thing I think is important is to establish at the beginning of any relationship of that sort what the ground rules/expectations are. I let any of the guys I meet with know that I don't see the meetings as just a time to hang out - though we do that as well - but as a time focused on spiritual growth. But, I also invite them to tell me what their expectations are, and I really try to work with that. So, if they tell me they have a big need for accountability, that'll be a much bigger emphasis, whereas if they say, "I'm really just looking to read the word of God and study it together," that'll be the focus. There would still be accountability, but it'd be a lot less a focus.

There's also the standard accountability relationship, where the whole point of the relationship is simply to stand beside each other, of course, and in that case all the emphasis would be there.

So far as I understand, the place where we are really accountable before God is where we lead people astray, or where we do not speak a warning when we have been clearly instructed to do so. That's a really fine line, in a lot of ways: what does "clearly instructed to do so" mean for us? We obviously don't have God speaking directly in the same way Ezekiel did. I think the Ezekiel example, though somteims taken out of context, is worth paying attention to: if the watchman doesn't call a warning when the enemy is coming, people's blood is on his hands.

In practice, for me at least, that means that if I've been down a path and seen it cause pain and anguish - and particularly if I know it's a sinful path - I will say, "Hey, I've been there, please don't fall into the same sin trap I did; don't make that mistake."

Another relevant passage that comes to mind is Christ's warning to those who would cause a child to stumble (which is probably applicable not only to children in the ordinary sense but also to those in the spiritual sense). I'm also reminded of His comment that we will be judged for every careless word we speak (Matthew 12:35-37), which, while not directly applicable, certainly speaks to the responsibility associated with our words. Last but definitely not least, there are numerous cautions to those in authority throughout the epistles to be careful in our handling of the word of truth - particularly in 2 Timothy and Titus. That doesn't directly speak to the issue at hand, but I nevertheless find it fairly relevant. Combined with the admonition that "Not many should presume to be teachers" because of the increased responsibility of that position (James 3:1-2). We will be judged more strictly. And we are explicitly commanded to deal with our brothers when they sin: see Luke 17:1-4 and Matthew 18:15-20.

All of that lays a foundation, but Scripture never explicitly says, "If you don't hold a person accountable for sins in their life, you will be held accountable for those sins." As such, we should be careful making sweeping statements of that variety. Of course, if we're in the position of teaching someone, we have a great responsibility for that person, because he or she (and God) has entrusted himself or herself to our care, and as such are somewhat relying on us.

The problem with following that argument too far is that, unlike in the Old Testament, each of us as believers has the Holy Spirit personally speaking conviction into our lives, and we are responsible ourselves for the way we respond to His correction: others' input is secondary to His direct work on our hearts.

The problem with not following that argument far enough is that it can really put us in the position of saying, "Well, it's not my responsibility to try to fix his/her sin," when very clearly that's part of the function of the body of Christ both corporately and on an individual level with one another. We are responsible for each other even as "regular" brothers and sisters in Christ; how much more so when discipling someone!

In my own relationships, I really distinguish not only between the relationships but also between the issues in a believer's life. I'm not responsible for every issue in the heart of a guy I'm discipling (that's crazy!). On the other hand, if I see a guy who is sleeping with his girlfriend, I had *better* say something - but I'm probably not going to be spending as much time worrying about relatively minor sins in his life at that point. If I'm dealing with a fairly mature believer who is largely doing well, but has niggling sin issues around the periphery, I'll be dealing with those more intensely. If I see a deep pride issue underlying those, I may address those issues and simply pray for his heart - or I may, after prayer, directly address the pride issue.

That's a long pseudo-answer on the topic of accountability in discipleship, and I don't know that it necessarily clarifies that much, seeing as it's something of a big, "Sort of!" I believe that we do have considerable responsibility toward each other, simply as brothers and sisters in Christ, and the more so in the case of discipleship relationships. We are held accountable when we are teaching for those under our authority. I think, however, we must be careful to judge whether another believer is or is not fulfilling their accountability responsibilities: that's really between them, God, and the person they're holding accountable. It's an issue we should teach on, to be sure, and one we should be mindful of - but not one we should let become an issue of contention. Ultimately, the responsibility is on each individual believer, because we have the Spirit speaking into our hearts. Any other culpability is secondary.

- Chris

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Steadfast love

I learned something amazing tonight, something I didn't know before. This is life-changing, but so incredibly simple at the same time. (That's often true.)

God delights in His steadfast love.

He delights in loving us, continually and faithfully. He loves loving. He takes pleasure in loving us - unchangingly, unflinchingly, despite all we do.

Simple. Obvious, in some ways. But I didn't know it before tonight. I still don't know it, in the sense of a deep-seated conviction that has transformed my life. That will come...

Grace and peace be with you all. May you know the depth of God's love for you!

- Chris