Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Let's skip the apologies and get right to it.
Some helpful things this week -
1) Spending a little bit of time on Sunday talking with Norman and Deb J about the Bible. I realize that, in a very sad way, I do not spend a lot of my time talking with people about the Bible, and the difficulties, struggles, blessings, glories...This is a bad thing. We discussed how I didn't know how to read the Psalms (no joke. I don't know how else to explain it. Still struggling.) and Deb didn't know how to read the Gospel according to John. It was helpful, however, to hear their hearts and perspectives on both. Why don't I do this more? It was excellent!
2) I've read Psalm 27:4 about 50 times in the past five years. It became my favorite verse for a while, but it wasn't until yesterday that I got a little bit of the meaning more deeply.
In it, David is crying out, saying that he has one single desire - to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. The thing that never ever struck me until yesterday, though, was that it was in the midst of him being in turmoil, being pursued by enemies, that he most desired to see the face of God.
The implication being: we desire Christ's beauties the most when we are in the midst of our greatest struggles.
Maybe praying for suffering isn't such a dumb thing after all.
3) I want to add one more thing to this post, but I need to get back to work. I'll try to post it when I get home tonight!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
"The absolutely free and unconditional nature of the choice of Abraham is emphasized, and thus the presence of the divine will as the power which shapes and directs all history is at this point made perfectly clear." - William J. Dumbrell.
"If grace is an obligation, a structure or an entitlement, it is no longer a gift, and no longer grace...God is never obligated to redeem." ~ Michael D. Williams.
Whose story is your life? Your's, or God's?
Monday, January 26, 2009
I had two errors, one REALLY bad exegesis, and one rather loose one.
Hopefully, God'll anoint me to get better at this...
I'm also learning that leading people on this level is totally different, and I have no real clue how to do it.
Hopefully, God'll anoint me to get better at that too...
Friday, January 23, 2009
Do we seek discipleship for the sake of discipleship, or do we seek discipleship in our lives for the sake of following after Christ?
I think that there is a certain pressure in our church for discipleship, accountability. These are both excellent things. You should seek to confess your sins to one another (James 5:16), and we ought to meet to continue to exhort one another (Hebrews 10:25) .
But when was the last time we asked ourselves, "Why am I doing this?"
If, at the center of it, the pursuit of Christ is not first and foremost, then we can easily just become behavior modifiers, or a good-people factory.
Today, I realized that there was a lot of me that wanted to be sanctified for the sake of being sanctified, not for the sake of being more intimate with Jesus. And that broke me.
"If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing."
My works are as empty as the Pharisees, my sacrifices just as horrendous and offensive as the Israelites. But, with Christ in the center, then...it's all in focus. It's all with reason. It then changes from a yoke of slavery, thinking that I need to be someone, thinking that I need to be that amount loving, that amount outreaching, that amount generous...into me admitting my brokenness, my weakness, my selfishness, my arrogance, my complacency, but still thanking God for the grace of His easy yoke and light burden.
When I look at Jesus, when I stare intently at His face, then do I learn how to deny myself and pick up my Cross, because His beauty is enough to make me pick up anything to get just a little bit closer. It's enough to make me drop anything just for the sake of being a little bit nearer (Hebrews 12:1-2).
I won't just walk blindly. I will follow.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
6:16 PM Anna Gui: we dont have christmas service
6:16 PM Anna Gui: yea
6:16 PM Anna Gui: we're chinese
6:16 PM Anna Gui: or something
6:16 PM Anna Gui: i dunno
6:16 PM Steve(n) Choi: LOL.
6:16 PM Steve(n) Choi: WHAT?
6:16 PM Anna Gui: nothing
6:16 PM Anna Gui: i dont know why
6:16 PM Steve(n) Choi: You're chinese so you don't have christmas service???
6:16 PM Steve(n) Choi: HAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
6:16 PM Anna Gui: hahahaha
6:16 PM Anna Gui: i just made that up ok?!
6:16 PM Steve(n) Choi: OMG.
6:16 PM Steve(n) Choi: I'm putting that on my blog right now.
6:16 PM Anna Gui: lololol
6:16 PM Anna Gui: WOWWWWW
If the thought that there was a Savior who indeed forsook EVERYTHING to come and make us His own didn't move me to absolute tears, I would say that there's something seriously wrong with me. Today is another opportunity to be reminded (over and over) just how much He gave up, and how much I gained through His love.
Thank You, Jesus, for Your love, Your kindness, Your humility, Your patience...
10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, 12saying,
"I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise."
"I will put my trust in him."
"Behold, I and the children God has given me."
14Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Think about that for a second. What He did in His 33 years here on earth was an all-encompassing, all-inclusive, absolutely TOTAL work. He did it all. He dismantled death. He put the rulers of this world to open shame (Colossians 2:15). He established, and now mediates, a new covenant that was perfect and allowed us to freely enter in (Hebrews 12:24). He rewrote all of history, and continues to, without fail.
Is there any other proper response we can have but to say that He can have our absolute all?
Monday, December 22, 2008
Note: A lot of these thoughts were going on in my head prior to Young's sermon yesterday, but he did elucidate a few of these himself. If you didn't hear it, you can grab the sermon here when they put it up later in the week.
This is entry to make me sound like a scrooge (it is a pretty long rant, I admit), but I've been having a really hard time this year being into the idea of Christmas. Don't get me wrong; I love the fact that Jesus was born in order to die for me (if I didn't, there'd be some serious issues...) However, the idea of Christmas has been rubbing me the wrong way, and I think it may be because I think the way we view Christmas illustrates some key issues I'm having right now with the Church (note the capital C).
1) Christmas is all about the peaceful, charming, picturesque nativity scene.
I think a lot of us, when we think of Christmas, all we see is that nice, quaint nativity scene, while "Silent Night" plays in the background.
Sleeeeeeep in heaaaaavenly peeeeaaaaaacceeeee...
I'm going to be honest. I am not really feeling that image.
Read Luke 2:7 - And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Isn't that tragic? Think about this for a second. You're having a kid, and you've got no place to put him. Your forced into having him in a barn, because there's no space anywhere. On a purely human level, that is pretty tragic. But, this isn't just some kid, which would be enough to break your heart, but this is the very King of Kings, Lord of all Lords. Hebrews 1:3 says that "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." And you're telling me He chose to be born like this?
Young and I were having lunch yesterday, and we were talking about his sermon, and he said something really interesting. He commented, "Isn't it strange that Jesus decided to become FULLY human, and subject himself to all human things? Even being a baby, and subjecting himself to a baby's faculties? The very person who's words uphold the universe made it so that He would still have to cry to be changed, to be fed...Philippians 2 tells us that He made Himself 'nothing' by taking on the form of a human."
Tim Keller has this illustration that he used for something entirely else, but I'll co-opt it for this: If a human were forced to become a dog, he would consider that a serious downgrade in life. If a dog were forced to become a plant, they would consider that to be a serious downgrade in life. Jesus, Himself, took an infinite downgrade in life by making Himself into the form of a human. And not even a great human, born into royalty, but one that Isaiah 53 calls "a scrubby plant" (the Message).
The nativity scene is not charming. It's heart-wrenching. It's sad.
But that's not the kind of scene we want on Christmas. Oh no.
Here's the truth: I think a lot of us would rather have Santa Claus on Christmas than a Savior who came only to be beaten, torn to shreds, mocked, tortured, and ultimately drowned in His own blood by us. We would rather have something that makes us feel good about everything than be confronted with the fact that, staring at the reality of our Messiah's birth, we ought to do as James 4 directs us:
Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
MEANING: We would rather have a Jesus that makes us feel good and happy than have a Jesus that tell us to execute ourselves and lose our lives.
2) Many of us would honestly prefer Christmas to be more about being thankful, being around family and friends, and generally having a good time, being generous by giving gifts.
I think that there is a horrible problem in the Church right now. Maybe it's always been there. I would imagine so.
Religion tells us that if we follow a code, a morality, an ethic, a set of principles, we achieve salvation, happiness, fulfillment. We earn, we get a result, we attain.
Jesus tells us that we don't get that. He freely gives us salvation, but the response must be that that causes us to abandon it all and follow Him. Not a protocol, a person.
Religion is easier, because it demands less. It demands an action, it demands a fulfillment, but it allows us to check it off the list. It requires nothing of the heart, and if you happen to follow the religion of Christianity, well, darn it, if you try hard enough, God's grace'll cover the rest.
Following Jesus is not any of those things.
But, when we do something like take the birth of our Jesus and make it about a set of ideals, a set of good things that ARE involved with following Christ, but aren't Christ Himself, it's the same exact thing.
MEANING: If we make things more about the things that are involved with Christ rather than Christ Himself being the center, all we're doing is making it a religion, no matter how good and God-given those things are.
It's either that a) we want the benefits of following Christ without the cost, which is math that just doesn't work, or b) we can take Christ entirely out of the equation by thinking of "good" things but, in the end, making them ultimate.
3) Ultimately, Christmas (as we know it and celebrate it) pasteurizes Jesus by presenting only parts of Him to the world, rather than Him in His entirety.
I don't disagree with the idea that Jesus was kind. He was extremely kind. He was so compassionate for His friend Lazarus that He broke down and wept when He found out he had died. He comforted the woman who's son had just died, right before He raised him from the dead. It even says He had compassion on entire crowds, because they appeared to Him as "sheep without a shepherd." He invited little children, He ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, Pharisees...It didn't make a difference.
But, He also says in Luke, "Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division."
That sort of takes the wind out of that line in "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing."
How do we reconcile these things? How do we reconcile a Jesus who came and rode into town on a borrowed donkey with His image of being the King of all Kings?
God doesn't need us to defend Him. He doesn't need a PR makeover. "I like the whole King of Jews thing, I'm digging the miracles and healing, but I don't think the whole bloody crucifixion thing is going to go over so well, so let's hold back on that one for right now."
No, no, and no.
Remember that part in Revelation? They all starting proclaiming that here comes the Lion of Judah, the great and powerful one who would come and tear the enemy apart, and when He's unveiled, what does John see?
A small lamb, bloodied, looking as though it had been killed.
It's in these seeming incongruous parts that we fail. We think we need to reconcile them, to make them fit together, to have them all sorted out. We think the only way the world will accept our Jesus is if we make Him nice enough. What we end up with is the Jesus you always hear about on Christmas, the one who's nice and peaceful, calm, gentle...These are parts of Jesus, but not the whole. We aren't supposed to present the parts, but we think we need to because the whole is just too darn offensive, too darn scary.
1 Corinthians 1 tells us:
18For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart."
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
MEANING: We (the Church) need to give the world Jesus, not the Christmas Jesus, and not the Easter Jesus, because those "holiday Jesuses" aren't really Jesus at all.
Jesus always lived in the shadow of the Cross, and did everything knowing where He was headed. It's why He got so darn mad when Peter tried to tell Him otherwise. For Jesus, the Cross was intrinsic to what He was here to do, even in His birth. I think we need to keep it there, too.