There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

Archive for August, 2005

help? here’s how

Here’s a few ways to help. Click here if you want to contribute to PCPC’s Hurricane Relief Fund. (An initial contribution of $25K has already been sent by our church) Click here if you’d like to house a displaced family for a while (the Family Research Council has recommended this effort, and they’d be unlikely to do so without vetting the organization). We’re waiting to hear from the PCA’s Disaster Relief Team to fill us in on how we can help with efforts on the ground; here’s their application if you’d like to volunteer to go there and help. And here’s their update from Aug 30.

disrobing depravity

I grew up in a very typical Midwest Methodist home, where there wasn’t a lot of hugging and kissing. My life has been a response to that.” –Hugh Hefner, founder and CEO of Playboy Magazine.

You might say that our depravity expresses itself most clearly in how we either shift blame elsewhere for our actions or at least minimize our own contribution to what we’ve done. I know in my soul that when confronted with my absence of integrity, my first response is to look for a scapegoat, or to minimize the significance of my action. So depravity is kind of like the chameleon that wants to blend in and have everyone believe it isn’t really there. It lurks; it slinks, but it doesn’t want to be found.

perhaps our most embarrassing lack

Brother Roger took James’ words of being “quick to listen, slow to speak” and established an entire sacred space around them. Taize is a Catholic retreat center in southern France where pilgrims, both Catholic and Protestant, seek a quieter, more devotedly prayerful refuge. Brother Roger was killed two weeks ago by a deranged woman. His desire to make capacious room for prayer is not thwarted though.

Why do we find lingering silence so unnerving? Why, when we gather in groups to pray do we feel the need to either cut short or fill up the moments of “nothing?”

linking to the Law

Here’s a decent link (make sure to follow the links it points you to also) to an essay that may help clarify the issues related to the place of the Law in the life of the Church. Perhaps lost in the melange of texts yesterday was this simple thesis: the Law, so defined as the character and will of God expressed in the form of instruction to God’s people and in accordance with God’s unfolding plan in history, remains of abiding concern for God’s people, those redeemed by God’s Son. Since God never changes, any instruction to His people consonant with His character remains ever applicable. And since the function of any given Law relates to the place in the story of God’s unfolding plan, then whatever laws were meant to foreshadow what would be accomplished in Christ are no longer necessary since He has now come and done what those laws foreshadowed. Goes without saying, the topic is so vast.

The excuse of being a sinner is getting old.

For many months I have been reading through excerpts from “Spiritual Revival the Want of the Church” by Charles Spurgeon. With each read through I see things that were once hidden to my heart. As Spurgeon said, “We Christians need a revival of piety in our lives…It is well known that it is no guarantee of a man’s honesty that he is a member of the church.” It’s certainly not that we deny our sinfulness so that we all “look” good on the outside. Nor is it that we just accept sinfulness as an excuse. I think the excuse of being a sinner is getting old. Something that I desire is to be more appalled by sin. I’m tired of the church overlooking not only our sin, but turning a blind eye to the sin of our brothers and sisters.

Great, we’re all sinners and we all know it. Shall I start passing out certificates of achievement? Somehow sin has become something that we recognize and we keep on sinning with no expectation to be rebuked. I want to fight against sin and not just acknowledge it. The last thing I want is to be surrounded by people who don’t care enough about my spiritual health by allowing me to continue in my sin. I have found the friends who became the closest to me have been the ones who, early in our relationship, made it clear that they were in my life to be my family at whatever the cost. No amount of my sinful heart would drive them away because it is understood that we are in need of each other. And isn’t that what it should be?

Yesterday, as I wrote the above paragraphs, I sensed that I was leaving out something pivotal. This morning I received a text message from a friend who works at a church in Irving about an article he had written about holiness. And I realized the cause of Christ and the glory of the Father far exceeds our insecurities to be deeply involved in each others’ lives. We need to learn to strive for God’s holiness, rather than attempting to “be holy.” By this I mean God is the object of His own affection because there is no other good. We must not “mistake outward piety for inward purity.” We must seek to uphold and desire that which is most good; we must ask to be made holy after only that which is most holy, God. “I’m a sinner” is a phrase too often used to excuse us from our disobedience to God, rather than confession and repentance of our fallenness to the Father. Our life is about God’s Holiness, and me passionately pursuing that and finding joy in Him. Saying goodbye to self is a difficult path, but one marked with grace through Christ.

Sara Kerens

(Check out the article by Brandon Florey at http://www.macarthurchurch.com/index.php?id=99.)

goal: say more with less

Skip was back yesterday (Incidentally, the comparison with Mick Jagger–I’m not seeing it), and aren’t we all glad. Here’s a devotional of his (Molly Goodson kindly unearthed and forwarded it to me) that says in far fewer words what I tried to explain yesterday about Israel and the Church. Consider the dramatic irony in speaking to this issue considering what Israel faces even this very day!

Into the breech: let’s discuss the Law

Prep for this Sunday’s exploration of the Law as it pertains to the Church: Have a look here at the West Wing’s comment on the Law. What’s credible about Bartlett’s portrayal? What’s conveniently left out of his tirade that might undercut his case? We’ll try to nail down how the Church ought to regard the Law–Law as the instructions God gives us. And we’ll also try to make sense of all the different kinds of laws–some as odd as they are old to us–we find in the Old Testament: which laws are no longer binding on the Church and how can we, if at all , discern the difference.

weights, measures, and you

In case you weren’t at vespers last night, here’s my meditation on Deut 25:13-16. I still have a lot to learn about finding unity in a message, and then not making all these complicated shifts in the message.

Deut. 25:13 “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. 15 A full and fair* weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God.

We find in the Book of Deuteronomy, laws on the grandest scale, as well as those pertaining to the smallest of details. But every Law Moses enumerates from the Spirit of God has the same function: to provide and preserve true life in the land God’s chosen people were about to occupy. From the majestic dimensions of the Tabernacle to the fabric of the tassles worn by the Priesthood, there is no aspect of Israel’s life in the land for which God has no concern. That concern extends even to how people conducted themselves in commercial transactions:

13 “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small.

In our day we stand at a gas pump and assume the measurement of the gas it says we’re getting is true to the amount of gas we’re actually purchasing. Imagine the chaos that would follow were we to discover that we’d been defrauded in our purchase. That’s why you see a sticker on every pump from, ironically, the Bureau of Weights and Measures, certifying its accuracy. Especially now, when gas costs so much, accurate weights and measures are so essential. It is to our advantage to have accurate readings.

For Israel, stability would issue from trust—trust in their Lord and trust in one another. In all things, fidelity. In all things, equity. That’s why two unequal kinds of weights and measures are here unequivocally banned. To purchase grain in ancient Israel, you would place your weight on the merchant’s scale, and he would keep adding grain to his side of the scale until the scale balanced. But if the buyer’s weight was actually heavier than he admitted, the seller would unwittingly place more grain on the scale to offset the difference. In the end, the seller would be defrauded of grain. This defrauding could be practiced by buyer and seller alike. If the seller misrepresented his weight, the buyer would leave with less than what he’d paid for. So the practice of using inequitable weights and measures was for one’s personal advantage. Therefore God outlines succinctly the integrity that must be between fellow Israelites, and then broadens its consequences both positively and negatively.

15 A full and fair* weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the LORD your God

At issue here, of course, is integrity; dishonesty is the vice that threatens a society. But there’s a theme contained herein whose implications far exceed that of commercial interests. It’s the theme of right and true measurement. For Israel, life—true life—would issue from an appeal and a submission to right measure.

So, consider: Each of us brings into the world, so to speak, one kind of measure—a self-made measure of ourselves, our value, our rights. From our earliest days, we consider ourselves to be worthy of finding true and satisfying life in the world. And in our first considerations of God, who doesn’t at first assume we’re worthy of His favor? We tend to see ourselves as essentially good, or at least, unworthy of anything unfavorable to our condition. And even if we don’t intuitively arrive at that conclusion, surely we are immersed in a culture that, like the tide, continually washes over us with the notion that our hearts are just fine, good enough, even untainted. And in that air of positive thinking, we are likewise prone to measure the holiness of God too lightly, or to conceive of it too arbitrarily.

Such is the weight and measure of ourselves we bring to the scales.

Our Lord, however, brings another weight and measure. In Him is the true weight of God’s holiness displayed. Jesus walked the Earth as a sinless Man, showing all who saw Him what God was like in ways no one had seen before. Jesus’ attentiveness to the Father, His confidence in the Spirit, His perseverance through suffering for the glory of God—every step He took meted out to us a little more of the measure of God and the weight of His glory. Add to that His Zeal for God’s name to be revered and His righteousness to be manifested in His people—surely God’s Holiness was of foremost concern, and in Him we feel the true weight of that holiness.

But so, too, is the true measure of our condition revealed. Jesus didn’t pull any punches in His assessments of those He encountered. Among the irreligious, he awakened them to the folly of their pursuits. Among the religious, he warned them even more strenuously of mistaking outward piety for inner holiness. He confronted them. . .and he confronts us at our deepest level, incisively addressing our hearts—dissatisfied with effecting mere behavioral change or slavish mimicry. But why should He be so up front with us? Why call out so unflinchingly the darkness He finds in us? Because He knows who and how we are. He knows the games we play, the lies we tell ourselves, the pretense we cling to, the fear we won’t admit. The longer we cherish our version of ourselves, the longer we live lives out of the balance He means for us.

The Table from which we are about to partake—think of it again as the scale by which God measures several quantities. In the broken bread and the poured out wine—in this, Jesus’ body and blood spiritually represented to us–He places before us how weighty is God’s holiness and how devoid we are of it.

And it is in seeing that disparity between what we have and what God requires that we see the other quantity that brings balance to the scales: His grace. Only love, expressed in grace could supply what was lacking in us. And in seeing that disparity resolved we are nourished—nourished deeply by the Spirit who means to keep us mindful of His holiness and His ability to overcome our lack.

The measure of ourselves we bring into the world we use for our advantage—not unlike the scurrilous Israelite who would seek to defraud his neighbor: the longer I think my version of myself is true, the longer I can think what I deserve is true. Yet, in the end, we must concede that God, seeing all things, shall not be defrauded of His will, or His Justice, or His Glory. The Cross bears that out. The Cross tells us that God would not be defrauded of the holiness He sought from those He created. God’s zeal for equity explains why it took such a radical and costly sacrifice to bring balance and reconciliation between man and God. He would not be defrauded by those who bring faulty and false forms of measure.

So, as you come forward momentarily, think of your approach as placing your weight upon His scale and seeing its utter weightlessness. And as you are handed the bread and wine, think of them as God’s placing the weight of His Holiness upon the scale, and see its immeasurable weigh. And then as you partake, consider the grace He supplies to bring balance to His scale—not only to bring balance, but to bring life. For Israel, rich life had to do with right measurement. It is the same for you today. Submitting to His true measure is the only way to find and enjoy His true life. For it’s in the Grace we receive through this sacrament that we find the life He meant for us. Appeal to His measure. It is to your advantage.

Lacuna, Inc.

Remember Lacuna Inc. in that movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Lacuna means “gap” or “missing piece,” which explains the name of the industry promising to impose a gap in that part of your memory you’d rather forget. I confess a 24-hour bout with a lacuna of the mind as I explored unity of the Church with you Sunday. We lament the lack of unity among the churches who claim Christ as Lord. But how does our attention to unity in the local church have any impact on the lack thereof in the worldwide Church? I’ve got no good answers for you, save the curt, optimistic idea that unity in the local church can somehow cause “good infection” elsewhere. Do you think unity will or should emerge from the top-down (leadership of various denominations)? Or do you seeing it happen as a “grass roots” effort–congregations, presbyteries, dioces, communions doing the grunt work and beseeching their clergy to make overtures toward other denominations? Share your thoughts. While you’re at it, have a look at an editorial (you may have to give your email address to see the article, but its free) from Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News. It is the lament of an African-American man who’s grown weary with a church’s misplaced priorities. Inasmuch as he addresses African-American churches, his words should give any church pause. Ours included.