Archive for Bible

A Happy Security

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 1, 2012 by Alex

Whatever good things I do, I can only do so many.  I can serve others, I can be disciplined in my writing (either for blogging or for fiction), I can pour myself out at work, I can save my money for the future, I can give it to others, I can watch my tongue, I can read my Bible, I can pray for my great, great-grandchildren, and I can do all sort of wonderful things.

Sometimes I’ll beat myself over the head with the question “Did I do it with a pure heart?”  For me…  some of them.  Maybe.  I can’t tell.  A more penetrating question for the situation might be “Did you find your identity in who God is and what He’s done or did you find it in your offerings to Him?”

A man who finds his purpose in being the perfect father will find himself purposeless once his children are gone.  And the same man who accidentally berates his children will find himself a failure.

See friends, this is the problem.

We need to pour ourselves out, but we can’t put our flag on top of it.  We’ll find ourselves lying in our beds thinking, “I could have been more loving today.  I shouldn’t have made that snide comment at work.  God doesn’t love me anymore.”

Actually we probably won’t do that.  But we’ll likely meditate upon these lies in our heart.  And we might even think that we’re becoming more Christ-like with how depressed we make ourselves out to be.  Which is really quite demonic when you think about it.

My pastor once said “God is not love with a future version of you.”  God is absolutely wild about the bedraggled nincompoop called yourself.  When you fail, God loves you.  When your duties change, His love remains the same.  This is all because God’s relationship to us is built on what He’s done and not on the activity or cleanliness of our hands.

Consider 2 Corinthians 1:20:

For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory.

Notice how Paul clearly represents the heart of the gospel by saying “in Him.”  God’s promises, for the Christian, are not made in light of what we do.  Quite the opposite.  God’s promises are made “through Him.”  And it is to the praise of His glory.  The careful examination of God’s character and the hiding away of His word in our heart, that is what compels us to action.  It is not from trying to earn anything.  We do not reach God’s favor by climbing a mountain of our own good deeds.

So I’m happy to be serving you because of how God has served me. I need the discipline of writing for you, but I cannot turn it into an idol like I had previously did before the break.  So if I’m mysteriously gone for a day without a word, know that I am happily not worrying that I had let God down.  But do count on me being here for you all.  Discipline is a wonderful, God-honoring thing.

I love you.  Let us continue.

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The Genius of God in Creating the Sexes

Posted in Bible with tags , , , on July 9, 2012 by Alex

Today I found myself astounded in the way God has created the two sexes.  I don’t get these insights every day.  I just remember thinking… wow, I’ve been taking these little things for granted.  Why not just one sex?  God has designed us in such a way that we need each other.  Why not more than two?  God didn’t want factions.  He wanted men and women together.  Not rock, paper, scissors in a perpetual war.

Men and women fit together.  They complement each other.  Heck, they’re even shaped for each other.

I am simply blown away at how the sexes’ forms, temperaments, interests, and functions harmonize with one another.  Like a violin playing a chord.  Or, under a certain light, the Christ and His bride the Church.

The Lord made creation good.  And at its climax in the making of man and woman, the Lord called  it “very good” (Gen 1:31).  He really is a genius!

What, dear reader, has God done that left you suddenly and without warning surprised?

A Wrecking of the Soul

Posted in Bible, Trinity with tags , , , , , , , on July 2, 2012 by Alex

So we went through some major restructuring last weekend at work.  We migrated all the data from one machine to another.  The process was long and I had to come in on Saturday evening.  It did not go smoothly.

Monday morning we found some major errors.  Our salesman were not able to search through their contacts.  And some people weren’t able to clock in for their shift.  We found a band-aid solution and, eventually, the source of the problem.  Quite simple.  It only takes a tiny hole to sink a submarine.  Or a human soul.

This day (read: the whole weekend) was absolutely awful. I want to emphasize that.   But this is the passage that gave me a tremendous source of comfort.  You don’t have to read it all if you don’t have time.  I’ll bold the most memorable part that stuck with me.  I include the rest for the sake of context.

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

~Mark 6:30-45

What kind of teacher would tell you to go ahead in the only boat?  What would you ask?  Heck, how would He have responded? “It’s fine.  I’ll just walk there.”  What kind of teacher is obeyed by the wind?  What kind of teacher walks on water?  Seriously, what kind of teacher could do that?

I look at this passage and find tremendous encouragement in it.  God puts us through these trials so that we might know Him more.  In the case of the apostles sitting on the other side of the resurrection, none of it made sense.  But on our end, it’s very clear.  God is here and He has provided Himself as the Bread of Life.  And the comfort from knowing that is truly heavenly.

What was it that made today so stressful?  It was a rotten day.  But it became a joyful thing to know I find my sustenance in Him.  Not in whether our server is leaking binary all over the floor.

I think there are plenty of times to cry and to worry.  Let’s not forget how Christ suffered immense spiritual trauma on the cross.  But we can’t be given over to it.  We just have to know Jesus is here.  And take heart in that sustenance.  He is much more than just a good teacher.

My question for you reader, how is Jesus sustaining you?

The Power and Goodness of a Truly Free God

Posted in Bible, Sovereignty with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2012 by Alex

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps.

~Psalm 135:6

 

God is the one truly free being in the universe because whatever He wants He does.  He is never limited.  Personally, and I cannot verify that some of you might be different, I have a multitude of limitations.  For one thing, I would prefer I had more time to be able to read.

But I can’t.  If I took off a year to read and enjoy every book I currently want to read at a slow pace, writing reviews on my favorite titles, and having time to reflect in between each book, I wouldn’t finish half the list.  It would likely take decades, if not the rest of my life just pouring myself over book after book.  But I can’t.  I need a job.  And time to do it.

So I had something I wanted to do and found I wasn’t able to do it.  Thus I’m not utterly free to do what I want.  God is, however, free to do whatever He wants.  He’s the one who we never say, “He might want to, but He can’t.”

 

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.

~Psalm 145:17

 

God is also good in whatever He does.  To bring in the above verse, God does whatever He wants which is always good.  Once again, I’m different.  I can’t do everything I want and some of the apparently good things I’ve done were not done out of love.

For example, I hate the sight of dirty plates and cups.  Sometime I offer to clean up dishes because I can’t stand the sight of them.  Hanging out with friends, sometimes they’ll marvel in that I get things off the table and start washing.  But many times I just can’t stand the sight of them.  I’m not being charitable.  I’m being a neat freak.  And the fact that I sometimes think highly of myself for doing so doesn’t help.

But not so with God.  He only does good.  The sending of His Son to save the world was good.  The Exodus was good.  The creating of the world out of nothing was good.  On the flip side, the drowning of Pharaoh’s army was good.  God commanding the Israelites to stone a man for picking up sticks on the Sabbath was good.

And God wasn’t just behind those events.  He’s behind everything.

 

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?

~ Lamentations 3:37-38

 

And here’s another…

 

34  At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”

~Daniel 4:34-35

 

Okay.  One more, just to round ’em off.  This one is about the crucifixion:

 

26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed

27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

28  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Acts 4:27-28

 

Wow.  God does whatever He pleases, its always loving, and its actually everything.  Now there are many questions this can lead to, but I want to leave it here.  This is why I know the Bible to be true.  No other system puts man at such a humorously low level and something that-is-not-man to a perfectly high level.

A couple of things to consider:

God disciplines us because He loves us.  (Heb 12:6)

What others mean for evil, God means for good.  (Gen 50:20)

Everything has a purpose.  Even evil.  (Prov 16:4)

Wild.

God loves us.

Absolutely wild.

He is big.  He cannot be stopped.

Crazy!

He is always good.  Always kind.  And He does what He wants.

Let your head explode!

Watching Our Words

Posted in Bible with tags , , , on June 25, 2012 by Alex

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.

~Proverbs 17:27

 

You know how to be wise?  Slow down.  Stop talking.  Say what you need to and then stop.  Consider how James describes communication and its effect on the heart:

 

19  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

~ James 1:19-20

 

If you find that people don’t like speaking to you, perhaps its because you haven’t been hearing them out.   James says be quick to hear.  That means being around people with the intention of listening to them.  Other peoples words are not a springboard to your own.

Instead, listen to new the other person and then very carefully speak out a response.  If not, tempers can flare and dampen the hope of the gospel.  James says to avoid this entirely.  Slow yourself down, listen, and then speak.  Even if what the other person is saying is inflammatory or obviously wrong, hear them out.  Then speak.  And yet Jesus takes the matter even higher:

 

33  Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34  You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. ~ Matt 12:33-37

 

You speak what’s inside of you.  And what you say will be presented during judgment.  All of it.  Every careless word.  WOW!  How terrifying is that?  Let’s make it simpler.  If all of your words for last week were covered in a news report on CNN.com, how well would you fare?  The good news is that someone has fared well in our place.

 

For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Cor 5:21

 

And that’s all you need.  No fear of judgment.  Grace liberates you from needing to perform for other people because you already have the Ultimate’s approval.  Grace snatches you from anger because in reverent fear, you know that you can’t build a kingdom of your own.  You seek the Kingdom of God!  How truly blessed are we to be the righteousness of God in Christ!  Reader, preach this to yourself.  Every moment.  Slowly.  He did this all for our sake.

Half-handed Cloud

Posted in Music with tags , , , on June 19, 2012 by Alex

Half-handed Cloud is the name for the “economically complex, avant garde Christian pop” musical act led by John Ringhofer.  It’s also my current musical fixation.

I want to meet John.  I have complained that most “Christian” music is lame because it is.  But Half-handed Cloud is strange and beautiful in its own very unique way.  I’ve never heard songs before about circumcision or cutting off toes, but even if I had I wouldn’t suppose they would be anywhere as funny.  Or anywhere as catchy.

Half-handed Cloud takes a bit of Psalms, a bit of Old Testament narratives, prophecies and runs it through a Play-Doh machine.

Half-handed Cloud is also keenly aware that it that doesn’t need to be any bigger than it has to be.  Most of the songs are only a minute long or two.  And it just works.

John’s a man who is very sure that he is what he is by the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10) .  He has no use for being anything other than that.

http://www.myspace.com/handycloud

If you’d like to listen to more Half-handed Cloud, you can hear it like I do through Spotify.  Which is free if you don’t mind the occasional ad.

The Riches of His Glorious Grace

Posted in Bible, Sovereignty, Trinity with tags , , , on June 18, 2012 by Alex

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.      ~   Ephesians 1:3-10

This is one of my favorite Bible passages because it reveals God as enormous.  God has specifically chosen us in adoption and is glorious for dispensing grace.

We have redemption not through a system of lying on beds of nails, kneeling, taking communion, praying, evangelism, reading the Bible, living in freedom, living in righteousness, but through the person God Almighty manifest in the flesh as Jesus Christ bleeding out for our sake.  This redemption is lavished upon us and is overwhelming.  In view of His glorious grace, other things (i.e. other gods) become simple and trite.  God sits above all the puny gods of this world who demand the hands of men, but not their hearts.  The great lie (and perhaps the only lie) is that of prostitution: do this and receive this.  What we receive will, on the surface, look and feel like love.  Enjoy it while it lasts.

How truly backwards is this from God’s plan!  God is mighty to save.  The Lord works with the dead hearts of men and makes them new.  And this Gospel is the foundation, present trial, and aim of our hearts.  The work of the hands follow this transformation with a fiery, passionate love.

And the Gospel is also the great revealing of His mysterious will.  Why did God create the world?  Why did God save us?  Why did God do anything at all?  What is going through His mind?  The Apostle tells us in the person and work of His Son is in effect over all time, both backwards and forwards, and is one of unity in Him.  Not under a principle.  In a person.  God’s plan is to suffer for our sake and this plan is the at the root of the intention of creation.  It was once here beautifully, it has now fallen terribly, and it will be saved gloriously.  To God and God alone be the praise.