I don’t know about you, but often when I pray and meditate, I get distracted. Often I have to write them down so that I get them off my mind. Yet this morning I had this tangent thought while meditating that intrigued me. It is a photographic analogy.
One of the most important aspects of a good shot is getting the exposure right. In order to do this, you must measure the amount of light coming into the sensor. Too much light will white out the picture, and too little will cloud it over. Therefore, you have an exposure meter to measure light and therefore adjust by aperture, ISO, or shutter speed. The greater the amount of light, the faster the shutter speed. The less amount of less, the longer shutter speed, because the open shutter needs more time to expose the light available. Some shots with great light will be less than a blink, maybe 1/1250 of a second, while others with practically no light will be like a 10 or 30 second shot. Here’s the analogy:
In the church there is a great amount (concentration) of light. Therefore, many Christians who have their Christianity centered around programs in the church have little need for “exposure” for there is much light around. In this setting, there is only the spilt-second exposure, and that is it. However, Christians who are in the world, who are “outside the camp”, are living in total darkness with their fellow coworkers, peers, classmates, and friends. In this setting, there is little to no light. Therefore, it is necessary to have a long “exposure” of the Christian for the light for Christ to be exposed. It has been said that many Christians today are overly exposed and under developed. I must say that it easy to be in a place where there is great light, for often we seem to “borrow” from that light and assume it is ours. Yet it is only when we are in total darkness that we see how bright we really are.
In the church, frankly, Christians can go in and out and never get “exposed” nor Christ be “exposed”, for there we are active in programs, versed in the lingo, and busy staying “religiously committed” that these work as substitutes for true exposure. In the setting of the world, in the places of rampant darkness and utter depravity, there are no props to lean on, no borrowed light to assume, no substitutes to fill in. If Christ is to be seen beautifully, he must be exposed properly, and that often takes time. Split-second Christians won’t do. Half-second gospel presentations won’t suffice. They need long-exposed Christians whose light, the light of Christ, shines and endures. There is nothing wrong with being very involved in the church; however, the church should not be the place where the Christian lives out their Christianity. We are meant to be Christians, not do Christianity. It is Christ in us, His being, His glory, His face that must shine, for he who said “let light shine in the darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:7).
Anyway, that’s my tangent. I don’t want to be a split-second exposure only. For one day, we will all be exposed fully and eternally, if split-seconds are all that is known of me, then what kind of shock will I be in that day of “revelation”? Lord, expose the sin in me that which remains, that this portrait of grace will appear as a properly exposed Christian where Christ, the Light of the World, is seen and glorified. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but often when I pray and meditate, I get distracted. Often I have to write them down so that I get them off my mind. Yet this morning I had this tangent thought while meditating that intrigued me. It is a photographic analogy.
(Taken from a journal article dated 12.29.04)
As I think about how to invest my life that it may be well spent, I look to Jesus and observe his associations. One thing is for sure about Jesus – he is intimate. He is real, authentic, raw, and intentional. There is nothing superficial about Jesus, nothing haphazard, nothing wasted, nothing accidental. And I have seen how His intimacy is three dimensional with his associations. First, Jesus has unaltering intimacy with the Father (Sovereign). He and his Father are one, and Jesus emphasizes that he can do nothing apart from the Father. In his priestly prayer in John 17, he speaks of his pre-incarnate unity with the Father and how he willingly gave up such eternal intimacy that we could know and have intimacy with God. Time and time again it is said that Jesus went away to a lonely place early in the morning – and late into the night, Jesus departed to be with the Father, to commune, to hear his voice, to be empowered. Without a doubt, Jesus was Father-centered and spent his life for his pleasure.
Second, Jesus was intimate with his students. As a teacher, he did not hide behind podeums or platforms nor get swallowed up by the applause of men, but rather he was well content to be with the twelve he had chosen, men whom he ate, drank, slept, and walked with. He listened to their pleas, handled their objections, and loved them to the end (John 13:1). He not only went into their shoes but went into their hearts and souls to abide forever. He did not call them slaves but friends, and there is no friend who laid down his life like Jesus. He said that he would be with them to the end, that he would never leave them nor forsake them. Truly, Jesus was intimate with his students.
Finally, Jesus is intimate with sinners. He is a Physician who loves to have patients who realize that they are sick and want help. He is a host who loves to prepare a banqueting table for those who are hungry and thirsting. He is a great light for those groping in darkness. Jesus dined in the houses of sinners and tax collectors and what some would call “the scum of the earth”. He shared conversations with them, embraced them in His enveloping compassion, and welcomed all who would come to him for forgiveness of sins. A leper felt the transforming touch of Jesus, a prostitute heard the redemptive words of life, a tax collector was accepted when the world rejected him, and a thief received the promise of paradise with Jesus. And the sinner hears the scream of intimacy in the cross. The invitation is for all sinners to come. He says, “Give me your filthy garments, and I will give you my perfect robe of righteousness. Come, for it is I who came from heaven to you.” Truly Jesus is the most intimate friend of sinners, closer than any brother, and if I am to live life well, then I must be intimate with the Sovereign (Father), with students (those whom I disciple), and sinners (the lost world around me) every day of my life. These three folks Jesus knew well, knew deeply, knew truly. I must know them as well if I must live well. God help me.
Lord, I come to you as a student and a sinner. I come because Your throne of grace irrisistibly draws me to come. In spite of me, you want intimacy. Sovereign Lord, out of my emptiness may I experience your fullness; in my dependence, let me know your power; in your constraining love, let me live a relentless passion to practice random acts of compassionate dumbness. May I not waste this day with trivial investments with no eternal beneficence! Have me that others may have you I pray, for the sake of Jesus and His glorious name – Amen.
“Chronological snobbery is the presumption, fueled by the modern conception of progress, that all thinking, all art, and all science of an earlier time are inherently inferior, indeed childlike or even imbecilic, compared to that of the present.” Owen Barfield in Worlds Apart, p. 148
“Chronological snobbery is the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to your own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy ch. XIII
“Chronological snobbery is the arrogant notion that the ideas of our own day are better than the ideas of a bygone day just because they are ideas in our day. It feels that things are truer because they are newer. And so it is both irrational and naive.” John Piper, in a sermon dated Sept. 8, 1985.
“Chronological snobbery”, I believe, is a serious problem today. The idea that whatever is new is right and what is old is irrelevant is totally fallacious. Since when did dating determine whether something was right or wrong? Yet this seems to be the case today, and the consequence to this snobbery has produced a rootless Christianity.
Christianity becomes rootless for several reasons. For instance, many Christians today could not explain the pilgrimage of the Church throughout the ages, especially the high points (Patristics, Reformation, Great Awakening, etc.). If the only thing we know of Christianity is what is going on today, then we are the greatest snobs of all. Because we live in the 21st century does not entitle us to greater inclination to the truth nor alleviate the responsibility to testify to the truth as others have done before. Another contribution to rootless Christianity is the hype of the trend and the dismissal of trans-generational literature that has influenced folks for ages. For example, why does Bruce Wilkinson sell 6 million books in The Prayer of Jabez and Rick Warren set the record for most hardcover books sold with over 20 million in The Purpose Driven Life? Yet I dare say that they will not remain and longer than the trend does. What about Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress or Augustine’s Confessions or Pascal’s Pensees? These you won’t find on the front shelf of the local Christian bookstore, because we mark what is the latest, greatest fad, not what is rooted in historical greatness.
C.S. Lewis offers a (not the only) remedy to chronological snobbery, and that is, every third book your read, let is be a book over a century old. For instance, if I read Piper’s Desiring God and Packer’s Knowing God, then I will read Calvin’s Institutes. And so on. Another help would be to buy a book on church history. I good buy that is easy to read is Justo Gonzalez’s The Story of Christianity (two volumes in one by Prince Press). As the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “there is nothing new under the sun.” For someone to think that there is an “original thought”, beware: for he is either ignorant of historical thought or has an idea that for thousands of years the greatest minds didn’t think of. Sure, you can come up with your own recipe, but don’t think for a second that you came up with the ingredients.
Much of the modern-day fascination and glimmering gold-dust will blow away in the breath of time, and we will look back and think, “Why were we so foolish to go along with what seemed to be so right, so ‘emergent’, so relevant?” In order to bear fruit in our day, we must have well-established roots not only in the Scriptures, but also placing our feet on the paths of those who have pioneered the way, thinking the thoughts that have endured throughout centuries, and read of the lives whose legacy transcended their generation, their modern-day trends to make a mark with which we all are affected. That is one reason why I love biographies. If you compare yourself with those around you or the “norm” of Christianity today, then it would be easy to think you are running the race hard. But check out the lives of William Carey, David Livingstone, Adonirum Judson, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John G. Paton, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther, David Brainerd, Jim Elliot, etc. These are the folks who are our pace-setters, or at least should be.
I look at the paths we are on today, and I fear that American Christianity could be taking the path of least resistance, the path of popular culture, the path of appeasement and capitulation, and this causes me great concern. If we but rid ourselves of the chronological snobbery and see what price has been paid, what blood has been shed, what sacrifices have been made for us to be where we are today, then maybe, just maybe we will repent and turn back to the ways of the Lord, the path of life. A rootless Christianity is as strong as a tumbleweed in the winds of ideological storms and cultural tornadoes. We are left to be swept away. Yet there are giant redwoods who roots are miles deep and forever strong that can and have withstood nature and the passing of time and will survive even us. And there we can find shade and learn the lesson of finitude and brevity of life and leave our snobbishness to truly be ‘grounded’ in what lasts. We must get past the fluff and see beyond the trends. We must live with more gravity than to be swept away with novelty and niceties. We must know where we have been to have an orientation to know where we are going. We must live our lives with an apprecation of what God has done and long for him to do even more with us as we continue in their train. I leave you with four verses in conclusion:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
“You have made known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
“O LORD, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all of the people of the land. To you, O LORD, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O LORD, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the LORD our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
. . . Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O LORD, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary which is desolate. O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O LORD, hear; O LORD, forgive. O LORD, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
The prayer of Daniel (Daniel 9:4-10,17-19)
* Yahoo has just updated their free e-mailing service from 250MB to 1GB! Isn’t that great?! Now I don’t have to delete all that recycled emails and forwards I inevitably get.
* I have been graciously given the opportunity to shoot a little with Todd Pellowe, a new friend and fantastic photographer. He exlusively shoots weddings and is one of the most sought after photographers in Lousville and Western Kentucky. He has become like a mentor to me in the world of photography. You can check out his work at his link on the sidebar.
* John Piper has written the 4th edition of The Swans Are Not Silent, a series of books with biographical sketches of great history makers of our faith. This edition, called Contending for Our All, includes the lives of Athanasius (298-373), Church Father of orthodoxy, John Owen (1616-1683), great Puritan pastor and theologian, and J. Greshem Machen (1881-1937), 20th century theologian. Secondly, he has also written a new book called God Is the Gospel: Meditations on the Love of God as the Gift of Himself. I am especially pumped about reading this book. Both are expected to be in print later this year.
* Albert Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (which I am a student), has been in recent days under fire for his comments on Catholicism as well as “Justice Sunday”. He has been given the mantle to carry the gospel into the very heart of the culture war and contend for the faith amongst competing ideologies and worldviews. I encourage you to check out his site and blog at www.albertmohler.com.
I guess that’s all for now. I will post these randomly as random stuff comes to my mind. I will just try to be randomly consistent for the sake of randomness.
Ever heard of people getting disillusional? People who have been disoriented to reality and been trapped by the haunting shadows all the while groping for substance. They want light yet only seem to be aimlessly wandering in the darkness. Webster defines an illusion as “the act of deceiving; the state or fact of being intellectually deceived or misled.” It is a person’s perception assumed to be reality but in actuality it is false, a hoax, a lie. What is real and true is misrepresented by a counterfeit, a substitute that gives the appearance of the real but lacks the substance and essence of the real. It is a false idea based on a false reality.
When I was a little kid (some of you still think I am one), I used to have birthday parties at McDonald’s, and there always was a clown or magician who would do magic tricks for us. Being little kids, we did not know that the tricks were not really tricks. Everything the entertainer did was an illusion. Yet we did not know it. For us it was reality, for thus we perceived it so. But it was a false idea based on a false reality. The adults, well, they knew exactly what was going on. They knew from an objective understanding that the tricks and magic was only an illusion.
So I bring it home. I am concerned for believers today who are dillusional. They, like myself and friends, are spiritual babes who look at some spiritual tricks being done today (like the Prayer of Jabez among others) and believe it to be real. Others are thinking that their 3rd “salvation experience” fixed things between them and God. Yet others still perceive what is popular and assume it is right. This phenomena of the dillusional crisis is precisely why Christians need to grow up, including myself. We are so easily convinced of the entertainer’s shenanigans even though it is not based on reality.
Many Christians today, I am grieved to say, have a false idea based on a false reality – and what scares me most is that it often deals with their eternal destiny. It is one thing to be disillusional about a magic trick; it is quite another thing to be disillusional about a matter of eternal consequence. Only those who are grown up can know the difference between the truth and a lie, the substance and a shadow, reality and an illusion. Yet the reverse is happening. We are going even further and further from infancy to an imbecilic status. If this dysfunctional cycle continues, we will forever be wowed by an illusion and have believed a lie. When reality comes, we won’t believe it, for we have perceived reality already by being convinced that the illusion is true, for if you believe it enough, you will convince yourself that it is true.
I don’t want to be a disillusioned believer. I want to be exposed to what is real and not duped by a substitute that is nothing more than a facade. We must be grounded and growing, striving and pursuing. If we stop in this race to be entertained by the sidebar attractions and entertainment, then we will find ourselves gazing into an illusion and end our lives without ever having known the essence of life. Don’t me misled. Refuse to be intellectually and spiritually infantile and deceived. As Paul said, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20). Let’s expose the lies and acknowledge the illusions for what they are, that in doing so, we and others likewise may be grounded in reality and growing in truth so as to never be dillusional again.
First, much Christian pursuit of timeliness has become trivial. Following trends passionately but promiscuously, many Christian leaders have become trendy. Obsessed with the new, they have produced only novelty. Staggering from one high of excitement to another, they have become jaded.
Evangelicals were once known as “the serious people.” It is sad to note that today many evangelicals are the most superficial of religious believers – lightweight in thinking, gossamer-thin in theology, and avid proponents of spirituality-lite in terms of preaching and responses to life. What started out as breathless and excited is ending as exhausted and out-of-breath.
Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 77.
As in the ages of the Reformation, people are indulging in the worship of relics – the gods of good luck and high superstition. Below you will see just some that I have been able to discover though a little research. Many of these have sold on E-BAY and other auction sites for tens of thousands of dollars, on high-security displays in casinos, and adorned with worshippers everyday. This is an interesting yet alarming commentary on the world and its quest to have “spirituality” but not knowledge of the One True God. In our post-modern time, people feel that it is quite all right to invent for themselves deities that they can worship, or even sell, even if they are found on a grilled cheese sandwich.
And by the way, if you are looking for another image of Jesus – look for a Christian, for in them you will find the image of God reflected through the glory of Christ in them. The only image God is concerned about is the likeness of His Son seen in the lives of His children.
(taken from a journal entry I wrote dated 01.01.05)
“Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all depths.”
I don’t hear this spoken much in our spiritual pop-psychology and theraputic gospel. At the heart of the contemporary crisis of defining God lies the issue of freedom. Man does not want God to be free, for if He were to be free, it would bring profound consequences on man’s freedom – our sacred cow. But if there is anyone who has the right to be free, should it not be God? Yet we are more inclined to our itch than the counsel of God’s Word. Because it irks us, it derides us, it displaces us; it provokes us, it subjects us – thus we fight against it, deny it, and choose to see God only through our presuppositional lens. We all have read and agree with Rick Warren when he quotes, “The LORD has made everything for His own purpose . . .”, but the problem lies squarely on the fact that Warren cited only the part of the verse that appealed to him. But what about the rest of the verse when it says, ” . . .even the wicked for the day of destruction.” Trust me, you won’t find that in any of his books, because it is not what people want to hear. Wicked? Destruction? In God’s purpose? “That’s not the God I know.” So they say. We like the God who is loving because it benefits us and comforts our fears. Thus, we cannot believe in a God of wrath who consumes His foes and casts them into hell. Wrath? Foes? Hell? “That’s not the God I know.” We love the Jesus who picks up the children and says, “Such is the kingdom of heaven,” but forget about the Jesus who turns tables and scourges businessmen in the Temple. “That’s not the Jesus I know.” We say yes to the invitations such as “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavey laiden,” but never dare speak of, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and he who does not deny himself and take up his cross is not worthy of Me.” We all so quickly announce, “God so loved the world . . .” yet tear out the pages that say “Jacob I have loved and Esau I have hated.” Hated? God is not a God of hatred. God didn’t say that. “That’s not the God I know.” We believe a “whosoever will” gospel yet skip over the part that says, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by the Father.” So what if God chooses not to save everyone. What’s that to you? So what if He has prepared beforehand vessels of mercy for glory and vessels of wrath for destruction? The same God who softens and draws hearts has the freedom to harden hearts if He so chooses. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?” But this cannot be so! Or can it? Who are we to instruct God on what is loving? just? right? fair? Are we the final determing authority on what is love, what is right, what is good? Have we not arbitrarily assigned to ourselves this authority and imposed it on God? The fact is, we want everyone to be free but God, who in all actuality is the only one who is free. We attempt to bind the Giver of freedom by our feelings and pretense and have the audacity to box in our minds He who formed us and created the world for His own good pleasure. To much of the world, God is dead because we do not know the God who is alive. We want the gods who suit us, who are manageable, suitable for our liking, alleviating our fears and worries, and make us feel good. We don’t want the reality of hell but the eternal bliss for everyone because God is too good to create hell, condemn sinners, and pour out His wrath. Our gods have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, hands but do not touch – and they are dead! And the one true God has been shrouded by charlatons speaking half truths to fatten their pocketbooks, and we as a culture are doomed for it. A God who is not free is a God who is not real, who is not true. We have deceived ourselves and doomed ourselves in hopes of preserving in ourselves what is not there – man’s freedom. We think we can choose God, choose our salvation, when and where and how. We don’t know God truly, thus we don’t konw God really. And such is the consequence and fate of those who err in not knowing the total truth of a radically free, entirely sovereign God. “Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable are His ways!” And I add, “Oh the greatness of the freedom and finality of God! How true is His choices and how right are His purposes! This is the God I know and I love. A God bigger than me or my pretenses, who busts every box and confounds every mind, and silences the mouths of the skeptics and those purporting half-truths and lies. The true God is free from the itch and is not served by the twitch of man’s idolatry in himself to make him free from Him who is the source of freedom. Indeed, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. O man, you should fear, for your freedom is an illusion. The pretense you are beholden indicts you. O sinner, whose freedom only leads to bondage, Jesus calls out sinners for the kind intention of His will. The Father will accept you when you come to His Son because the wrath and hell that is in every way real has been experienced by Another, that in this Lover who loves you best has chosen you most freely, not only the basis of your worthiness or faith or anything in you, but out of free grace and radical love. And in that love there is assurance, for perfect love casts out all fear. Yes, he who is most free and deservingly so, is also the best lover, who loves you more than you could every know.
The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is not inadequate technique, insufficient organization, or antiquated music, and those who want to squander the church’s resources bandaging these scratches will do nothing to stanch the flow of blood that is spilling from its wounds. The fundamental problem in the evangelical world today is that God rests too inconsequentially upon the church. His truth is too distant, his grace is too ordinary, his judgment is too benign, his gospel is too easy, and his Christ is too common.”
David F. Wells God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 30.