Friday, April 29, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Professor and psychologist James Loder tells of the case of Willa, a young adult who was hospitalized and classified as schizophrenic of an undifferentiated type. She was born into a home where she was unwanted and abused. She was a bright child, but everyone took advantage of her such that she grew up with no sense of boundary or healthy relationships. Tragically, the very individuals who pledged to help her also became stories of abuse in her life. She was in the second year of graduate school when she finally broke down and could not finish her examinations.Wow. The grace of God is beyond comprehension.
In the hospital, she sat for hours rocking her doll and staring into space. The head nurse on the floor told Dr. Loder that they expected Willa would never leave the hospital. One day, however, while she was sitting in her chair, someone came up behind her, put arms around her and said, "The silence is not empty; there is purpose for your life." She turned around, but there was no one there. The power of that experience began to build sanity, and to distinguish illusion from reality. While no one thought she would ever leave the hospital, she was released after three weeks. She was eventually baptized and returned to the profession for which she was training. Commenting on this encounter with God in the silence when all else seems lost, Loder writes: "The intimacy of the Spirit runs deeper than family violence and neglect, and has immense restorative power."(3) Indeed, the intimacy of God runs deeper than silence.
(3) Story as told by James Loder, The Logic of the Spirit (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998), 264-265.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." (Luke 24:1-7 ESV)
Friday, April 22, 2011
So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. (John 19:16-18 ESV)
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of Glory died;
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
save in the death of Christ, my God;
all the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were an offering far too small;
love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" Jesus answered him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand." Peter said to him, "You shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you." For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, "Not all of you are clean." When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:3-15 ESV)In the Church of God (Anderson) we participate in footwashing (or feetwashing, or foot washing or feet washing, however a person may say it or type it). Typically we only do it once a year during Holy Week before Resurrection Sunday. The men and women separate and each gender goes to a circular set of chairs. We remove our shoes and socks and one person kneels before another with a shallow basin of water. We pour water over each foot (one at a time) and then dry them with a towel. What often follows is a hug and a, "God bless you."
Historically we have taught that footwashing symbolizes servanthood and humility, two vital virtues in the Kingdom of God and Church. Some years ago the late Dr. Gilbert Stafford of Anderson University School of Theology postulated that the washing of feet symbolized the forgiveness of our post-baptismal sins. (Just a symbol, like baptism: in the Church of God we do not teach that physical water can wash away sins.)
When all feet are washed we typically sing some songs, pray and testify to the Lord's goodness. God's Holy Spirit moves during footwashing in a unique way; yes, it can still feel awkward to bow before another and wash his feet in this present society but it is a moving experience. Christians leave feeling that they've "been to church."
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
And I want a 1956 Chevrolet Corvette. Or a '57. A '58 with its quad lights would be nice. I think the C1 series is some of the most beautiful cars ever produced.
Not that I expect to own one, not on a pastor's salary. And not that I need one, either. It's just a wish. A wish I can easily live without. Sadly, many people think their lives are empty without stuff. But it sets them up for failure:
He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10 ESV)The Apostle Paul gives us the New Testament's definition of contentment while languishing in prison:
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (1 Timothy 6:6-8 ESV)Food and clothes. Check. Therefore be content. Doesn't exactly sound like the warped American idea of contentment, does it? Our society is pretty shallow. Paul continues:
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:9-10 ESV)The lust for cash and all of the trappings of that cash will ruin a man, even to the damnation of his soul. Living for stuff is so soul-sucking. And sad to see. And wrong.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.
Monday, April 11, 2011
For all of the uncertainties facing my life right now this short prayer is unimprovable. It signals the death of my self-will and my resignation into the hands of the Sovereignty of God. Whatever—wherever—my future is I want it to be in God's plan.
William Barclay rightly said that the most popular prayer is, "Thy will be changed," but the greatest prayer is, "Thy will be done."
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Even in my dream I was aware that John MacArthur and his church hold significant differences of theological opinion from me. (He/they are Calvinists and I am a Wesleyan. He/they are dispensational premillennial and I am an amillennial. He/they are cessationists concerning "miraculous" spiritual gifts while I am, to use Wayne Grudem's phrase, "open but cautious." But I am extremely skeptical about the nature of what many people claim today to be the gift of tongues.) I was even aware of how I would answer if someone asked me why I would come: Because many Wesleyan churches are hyper-Arminian (is that a word?).
I am a staunch Wesleyan, an Arminian and I do hold to free will. However, I also hold great theological belief in the sovereignty of God. While not a fatalist I do believe God controls this world far more directly than many people of my persuasion accept.
John Wesley, himself, said he was but a hair's breadth from Calvinism. (One of the sermons in his collected work is The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes where it is declared that they are punishment for sin.) Of course, many Calvinists—including George Whitefield of old—may passionately beg to differ about how small that hair's breadth was.
The Apostle Paul said God controls human history:
And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. (Acts 17:26-27a ESV)I believe God's sovereignty and man's free will and responsibility are joined in this passage. Paul is clear that God is the cause for the rise and fall of every nation yet the apostle also declares that people may (or may not) seek God.
I do respect MacArthur's tenacity and loyalty to call it as he sees it even if I don't accept all of his theological conclusions. He certainly isn't afraid to jump into the fray of polemics. Though he has stated that he does not enjoy entering doctrinal disputes it must be said that anyone who writes books like The Gospel According to Jesus and Ashamed of the Gospel knows how to mix it up.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
It wasn't horrible but inconvenient. Electricity was gone and, of course, the Internet. Telephone service was spotty (I'm thankful for cell phones). I was relieved and grateful when power returned!
We live our lives under the convenient illusion of control. But it doesn't take much to destroy that illusion, does it? One storm causes us to light oil lamps, turn on generators and kerosine heaters and pray for relief. I should say, we pray for the illusion of control to return.
Our thin veneer of illusion has nothing to say to the Japanese who were (and are) suffering terribly in the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. It doesn't take much for a human being to feel helpless.
We don't like feeling helpless. We don't like realizing so much is out of our hands and control. Consequently it's often hard for we humans to embrace God's grace. The cross casts its shadow on our lives and whispers, "You never were in control. You have always been spiritually ruined. You can't gain control. Your only hope is to surrender your helplessness to the Christ of this cross to receive what you never can earn or deserve."
Grace is hard. The illusion of control is easier.