Monday, December 6, 2010

Peeling Back the Tinsel

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead sees;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

“Hark the herald angels sing” Christmas Carol was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley founder of the Methodist church, in 1739. A somber man, he requested slow and solemn music for his lyrics and thus “Hark the herald angels sing” was sung to a different tune initially. Over a hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) composed a cantata in 1840 to commemorate Johann Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. English musician William H. Cummings adapted Mendelssohn’s music to fit the lyrics of “Hark the herald angels sing” already written by Wesley.
Wordy, huh... Every year I have a favorite Christmas song, 2008 it was "Angels We Have Heard on High," last year it was "Do You Hear What I Hear?", and this year it is the recurring "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".

I'm not sure why, but I have always been drawn to this song, there was something about the tune that caught my ear as a wee lad, but as a kid, words such as, hark, herald, incarnate, deity, and Godhead eluded my scope of understanding. It was just a fun carol to sing with a catchy tune.

Much like every other song, I sang it, but I did not grasp the meaning, whether for benefit or ill.

This carol is often lauded as being the most theologically accurate Christmas carol, so naturally it carries some weight with me as a Bible College student. I know it sounds pretentious, and this bias based on theological validity in every single facet has been something I've tried to combat over the past two and a half years.

But instead of just approving the song because it is correct; I decided this year to stop and see if I could understand it and actually stop using the song as a carol, but see it as worship and sing it as worship.

I had to say I was expecting a little bit weight, but naturally as the somber work of an Anglican hymnodist I shouldn't have been shocked. The language used is that a joyous reprise steeped in gratitude for the God who sent his son to die. If you have not read my blog on the weight of Christ go back to my first blog and read it, but this song itself was a condensed study of Christ to whom immense amount of glory is ascribed. From who originated the salvation of man and restoration of created to creator; of whom makes justified those who have faith in Christ. This song is in my mind a great portrait about what Christmas is about.

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;

But more so it is worship of the all powerful Creator of the Universe, who did not think that his equality as God was something to be grasped, but whom went from the highest throne to the lowest animal feed trough, endured a messy birth to come into the world as a little baby and endure a childhood far below him, and endure a people that would reject him and ignore him, and endure an intensely painful death. This song reminds me of the fact that Jesus did this not out of being forced, you can’t force God, he wasn’t begrudgingly doing it either, he wouldn’t be unjust in wiping us all out, he chose to come down out of love.

Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”

This song reminds me of the fact that Jesus did this all out of love for the people who turned away from him, the people who could not even follow the Law and stay faithful to him. In his loving state he endured our sins and was mocked for doing so. He made us right with God. He also broke the bondage of Sin, not only did he save us but he came to heal us.

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.

As the Church around the holidays we like to say “Christ, he is the reason for the season,” we like to denounce the commercialism and promote remembering Jesus with our families and goodwill towards all men on Christmas. All of this is well and good, but this song reminds me of another important thing.

Christmas is a message about Christ and the roots from which Christianity sprouts, but it is not a message for the family nor the goodwill of man.
We like denouncing commercialism but we love to focus on family. I want to point out that, I’m not bashing family. I love being with my family on holidays, but the message of Christmas is a message that is meant for the marginalized. This song’s refrain is what reminds me of this:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;

This line is in reference to the appearance of the Angels of the Lord to the Shepherds in the field. Why is this significant; because it was they whom the Lord appeared to, and they who were given the Gospel firsthand? When we look at the nativity story we see that God appeared to Mary, Elizabeth, and the Shepherds. In the day these people were the marginalized.

Shepherds were outcasts that spent most of their lives alone, they smelled and were never wealthy. Few people liked them they came through with their sheep and blocked roads and killed crops.

Elizabeth was an upright woman but she was barren, she had no promise of posterity that would essentially bear the honor of Zachariah her husband and her. In Israel barren women were without much hope.

Mary was very poor; having been pregnant outside of wedlock she was also looked down upon in society.

Yet it was these three whom the Christmas message, God gave the greatest news ever told, first to the people who had little future and no hope, as the Angel of the Lord it is good news that will be for all the people.

This is where we like to throw out the goodwill towards men, we think Christmas is about being kind, but no, it is the promise of eternal life and gaining new hope in Christ.

If anything this line of Lyric is the most powerful reminder to me of what Christmas is about, but the renewed hope and of God keeping his promises to the world, a promise of reconciliation, healing and right standing. Not just getting close to your family or being kind (and especially not commercialism).  J

So if you take anything from this, I hope you now have a new appreciation for this song and what it represents. It has theological themes which paint a beautiful picture of which I am reminded of a correct perspective, but if for you, be reminded of Christ a an infant preparing to endure humility on our behalf and to remind to be encouraged and to encourage others and bring them to a knowledge of Christ.

Merry Christmas!
"Where breath is at an impasse, the old self dies and the new self is raised"

Monday, November 29, 2010

How Half-Dome changed my life...

Ansel Adams "Moon Over Half Dome" 1960

For centuries people have been captivated by the stark monolith which is known by the unimaginative moniker "Half-Dome".

My first experience with Half Dome was in the summer of 1996, I was 5 years old. The year previous my father and two elder brothers had summited Half Dome with a group of folks from our church, having thoroughly enjoyed the climb, they had decided to  summer of '96 they were going to do it again. My mother, youngest brother and I were staying at the Tenaya Lodge I didn't hike but to this day I remember a few of those iconic views of Half-Dome that have stayed with me until this day.

From my dad's perspective, it was his favorite day hike he had ever done, the views were stunning the waterfalls abundant and gushing and the forests lush. He loved hiking and especially loved sharing these experiences with his sons. despite the strenuous nature of the hike, he looked forward to hiking Half-Dome with my younger brother and I in the next few years.

Fast forward a number of years during a time when my younger brother and I were in the Boy Scouts. We had been a part of the Boy Scouts for about three years when we both decided to quit much to my Dad's dismay. I had been out of shape as a kid (like seriously overweight) although I greatly enjoyed the outdoors I was loathe to do anything with any significant uphill, and the thought of 17 miles was incomprehensible. Meanwhile my younger brother was not very interested in hiking for hiking's sake. My dad still planned on doing it with us someday.

Fast forward to 2008. After some 20 years in the movie business (greens-work) his shoulder had been causing him some trouble. He was also overweight, he was effectively 60 pounds over his weight when he graduated highschool. He had lost a significant amount of weight and gained significant amount of muscle some 8-9 years previous but it had crept back. At one point he began to shave off the pounds along with me (I had dropped from being a 230 lbs 14 year old to 170 lbs [mainly by metabolic virtue and vertical growth]) and been trying to get into shape. Ultimately the world and life crept up on the both of us (as well as my two eldest brothers). Recently as he had began to run his knees would swell up for days. he spent much of his youth in the Sierra Nevadas. He (my dad) had pretty much given up on being in the mountains and his desire to hike Half-Dome with all of his boys might just go on unsatisfied.

But by the grace of God, my family was introduced to a superfood supplement called Mona Vie. Although initially skeptical, everyone in my family began taking it as as a result the days of discomfort and recovery after workouts reduced and my dad was able to resume a solid exercise regime once more.

Unbeknownst to him, his boys were plotting. For Fathers Day 2008 my three brothers and I gave him the gift of a three day camping trip for summer 2009  to hike Half Dome (and to fly out the second eldest brother out from North Carolina).

The Gregory boys were going to Yosemite.

Although an exciting proposition I began to foster internal doubts. For years Half Dome had been this distant entity of certainty in my life. That doesn't make sense. It was something (a daunting something) I knew I would do someday, but in my mind there was never an affixed date.

That had changed.

As much as I loved the outdoors, the real reason that I had joined the Boy Scouts was going cool places with my dad. I liked the outdoors but the main reason was getting to spend time with my father. All my other brothers enjoyed sports and could identify with him through that. I, on the other hand, abhorred physical activity and avoided it like the plague. I just didn't understand watching people exert themselves either. Being a kid with an aversion to sports had ruled out almost all exercise which was in part the reason for my lacking in fitness.

Before then the longest day-hike I had done was 10 miles on flat ground. I had no idea how I would do. I just knew that I would need to get in shape. I had decided I would focus the couple of months of summer break prior to the hike to devote to fitness. In the meantime there was food to be had; besides I had a full year.

Then spring term came at school. One particular Saturday morning I was coerced by some friends to join them on an excursion to do a 5 mile hike. After reading something on it I felt that it would be a good way to get a benchmark on where I was at for Half-Dome.

I was totally and utterly blindsided.

It was difficult, but the most peculiar thing occurred. I'll be darned if I didn't enjoy it. We hiked to the Devil's Chair, a rocky promontory that juts out some 300 feet over and 500 feet above the Devils Punchbowl on the northern slopes of California's San Gabriel Mountains.

It was spring so the peaks above us, Mount Throop, Mount Lewis and Mount Williamson (not the 14'er) were clad in snow, and broad expanse of the Mojave Desert spread out below us. We were in that curious zone where there are evergreens and cactus side-by-side. As we sat out on the Chair, the breeze gently cooled us from the sun and brought to our ears tidings of adventure. We sat and read out of Job 38 where God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind. It was amazing.

After that my Dad and I began arranging to hike a few peaks to get up to altitude so that we wouldn't be completely unprepared, my eldest brother was planing to do a few with us. My youngest brother was in great shape so he avoided going outside whenever there was mountains and dirt involved. When doing this I realized that i had never summitted a mountain before in all of my hiking. Our first summit was going to be Mount San Antonio (Mount Baldy) which was around 11 miles. It was a month away. I couldn't wait that long.

I haphazardly charged up into the local San Gabriel's to climb Ontario Peak which was a lovely front-range Peak with a view of the sea. I was turned back by snow (although I wasn't too terribly torn up about heading down) I was enamored by being in forests, by water, especially by attaining new altitudes. I couldn't explain it it was as if something that lie dormant for years was finally growing. For once the desire to attain something exceeded the amount of discomfort it would take to get there.

Mount Baldy was a wake up call for sure. Despite my new drive I was still overwhelmed by 100 excess pounds of body fat. I was 320lbs the heaviest I had ever been. I was dying. My dad rocketed on ahead and was encouraged about how he would perform on Half-Dome, he ended up waiting for me just under the summit for almost an hour. My eldest brother only beat me by 30 minutes. There was work to do.

Two months and -40lbs later we drove to Yosemite. It was 4 am when we pulled into Bridalveil Creek Campground and found a single spot open, first-come-first-serve. Thank you Jesus. With time to kill until first light, we decided to hightail it to Glacier Point to watch the sunrise. Words cannot express the beauty that took form:

My brother Andy and I were crying. I know sissy right? ;)

Even these pictures fail to capture the depth of this place. Scattering rainstorms caught the morning light and illuminated an incandescent pink. The sun came up perfectly behind Half-Dome.

I can say that morning is probably the most brilliant moment of majesty I have ever witnessed in this natural world. I wouldn't deny my apprehension seeing the stark proportions and harsh angles of Half Dome in person. It was down-right terrifying. I was going to be CLIMBING that. Wow.

We enjoyed our time there until we picked my brother from NC two nights before we had scheduled to hike. We enjoyed hanging out and observing the wonders of Yosemite Valley and in particular, the Ansel Adams Gallery.I just focused on enjoying things and leaving the hike for the hike day.

Then my dad decided to make a bad joke. What if we did the hike at night?

We had hiked 2 miles up Sentinel Dome to warm up and around 3pm the afternoon on the day before we decided to do the hike. We rushed back up to the campground to get there so we would have enough time to get some sleep. We still had to pack our bags and wrap up our campsite and get dinner before we could sleep.

I admit we were a bit rushed, understandably. Then in a hurry to get dinner going my dad was bust chopping wood when we hear a yell from my dad. We all turn and see my dad gripping his index finger having dropped the hatchet to do so.

Despite my apprehension, the first thought to go through my head was: "Shoot, the hike is over," the second was: "oh no dad's hurt."

It turns out he was okay, he had sliced a sizable flap of finger away but it was closed up by a few butterfly closures. We ate and went to bed.

We ended up getting some 2.5 hours of sleep. We then went hiking into the cold night into the scary forest.

I have to say that the night was beautiful and we saw a big buck (!).

The going in the dark was difficult but the fact was that we  were only able to hike by a 5 foot circle of light. It was spooky but ultimately it made the hike much easier. It prevented us from looking up and seeing how much further we had to go. My two eldest brothers who had not prepared physically, said afterwards that they would have quit if we had gone in the daylight. It also meant that there were less people and the cables weren't crowded.

My dad and youngest brother made it to the top in time for the sunrise, I summitted an hour after they did (I lost a lot of gas on the cables, otherwise I had felt fantastic) my two eldest brothers some time after. They stuck it out, I have to say, but my eldest brother was pushing it. He ended up hitting the wall on the way down (I say this about him here, where 5 people might read about him, because he can easily crush me now).

All in all it was a profound experience all around. My dad got his wish, I developed a passion (and to a lesser extent my eldest brother) my brother from NC got a glimpse into understanding the will of God (sometimes he hides his will from us for a reason; sometimes we hike in a 5 foot circle of light because the massive extent of what is in out future would overwhelm us and cause us to give up) For my younger brother it was an uncomfortable outdoor situation that grew him. For three of us it was a call to get in shape which I am currently keeping up on (to a very minimal extent).

those of you who know me will understand how big a part of my life this has become. This one experience was the thing that gave me a reason to be well physically. It gave me an outlet for pent up energy. It became a goal to strive towards. Mountains constantly are a tool in which the Lord awes me instructs me and ministers to me.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stopping to Smell the Roses

Strange title...

So today one of my classes ended up praying for a staff member here on campus. The Spirit empowered folks and there were numerous scriptures, songs, and words of wisdom.

I'm sure there are those of you out there who think I'm mental or those of you who are respectfully Dispensationalist, Cessationalist, Atheist, Catharist and I know some of you would disagree with me strongly. Though in this prayer time I learned something, and I would very much like to share with you.

How to begin as always is the tricky issue. So naturally I'm going to go with what I know: hiking reference. :)

In life we have trials and hard times, some which are loads of fun, unremarkable and others that are absolutely abhorrent.

Hiking is very similar sometimes. With respect to the difficult times which God uses to grow us. In trials and difficulties we will mature (James 1:2), and God does this because he loves us.

But this man in particular expressed the feeling like God was kicking him around.

Through this trial I got the impression that this guy was rushing through this season of his life. When praying for him an image of the Merced River below El Capitan in Yosemite popped into my head and a connection was made.

Who doesn’t want a rough season in life to end quickly? Who doesn’t want to go from a middling season to a better one? Even in the good seasons we may blow on through because we either don’t realize the place we are in is good or we feel there is something better is ahead. We may even quit and give up because there is elsewhere we want to be.

Much in this way, people who hike long and hard and are breaking down. They are running out of steam just because they want to get the place they are at over with, or move on somewhere else

In truth this can actually break you down faster when hiking. You keep pushing you don’t stop to eat and nourish yourself; you don’t stop to clean yourself, to recharge.

We tend to have the mentality that these seasons are so bad that there is nothing here that will benefit us.

In the good seasons we don’t stop to enjoy and learn about the place we are in because we are expecting something better up ahead. We are so busy climbing a mountain that you don’t stop and take in the view.

In the rough and bad you move so fast that you don’t learn from your mistakes, or you don’t remember the way you came and you get lost in this bad place. Even the bad times can have their own beauty through the pain and suffering can bring insight and reveal beauty in ways unexpected.

We don’t value “stopping to smell the roses” so to speak.

In good times we don’t take it in, and be rested be comforted and we charge into a place where we don’t want to be and we are caught unawares because we are so wasted by the fast journey.

In middling times we don’t appreciate the balance or the beauty that is available to us.

In bad times we don’t learn, so we can’t warn others. We may even miss the beauty of how God brought us out of it.

As a day hiker I’m usually averted to stopping and just enjoying the place I’m at. I sometimes am mentally elsewhere so I quit or rush through the process because I’m not focused.

The best way I can describe this is the water dynamic. In hiking when you are in a mountain place or other wilderness you feel kind of disjointed from it even when you are in it because we set timeframes and hope to be out of there by a certain time.
We are conscientious observers nothing else.

But when you stop and engage the place climb a rock you didn’t plan to climb take a break from a stream and drink from it soak your feet. You gain a sense of oneness and reality of the place you are in. You are no longer rushing through you are taking things in stride. It shows you that you are not above the situation.

This is something people who get lost fail to do. They are in denial and keep thinking the car the camp or whatever is just around the corner and they get themselves further away and they get to a place with no landmarks they feel that they are in control and they will figure stuff out.

As Christians it is of sorts a failure to trust God.

“God I’ve got this, I will persevere through this situation.” Even “I will dedicate myself to you, I will figure out a way.”

That is too many “I’s”. Ultimately it’s unscriptural (from the Greek perspective so many of the Greek words that indicate our salvation or our sanctification or our redemption are in the passive voice which indicates an inability on our behalf to do… well… like pretty much anything for our eternal benefit).

We transcend that which we are hopelessly immersed in. We fail to acknowledge our God-given limits (that’s right God limits us)  ;)

We wonder why there are so many references in the Psalms to God as our spring, or spring of life,  etc.

In living dying let me bring, my strength and solace from the spring - Aaron Shust

Also at issue here is our thinking. I can’t tell you how many hikes, homework assignments and assorted obligations I’ve quit because I kept dwelling on where else I could be; or how much better another thing was. We see this dynamic kill us with regards to going to the gym ;) .

C. S. Lewis greatly adds to this:

“A more Christian attitude, which can be attained at any age, is that of leaving futurity in God’s hands. We may as well, for God will certainly retain it whether we leave it to Him or not. Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment ‘as to the Lord.’” - C. S. Lewis "Learning in War-Time" 
The first time I ever thought that I would be able to hike over ten miles was when I threw aside my desire to be fast and decided to enjoy the process. I would get to the top at my own pace, which kindled a love for hiking that has burned in me since I was able to realize that it was feasible.

In these seasons we should not fail to recognize the beauty and value and lessons from trials in every season. We should not be above our situations and soberly judge our circumstances for the benefit of the kingdom and educating others to protect them from making the same mistakes. But simultaneously we must guard our minds and slow down to prevent burnout and be at peace. Lean on God and focus on tasks at hand.

Joseph Gregory

Selection from Lewis'  book "The Weight of Glory".

Where breath reaches an impasse, the old-self dies and the new self is raised…

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Well it's time to blog again, naturally because I have homework to do.

I guess the purpose of blogging goes beyond dropping crazy insight into complex issues that I am quickly learning all of the answers to. I guess it is just sharing in the humanity which is out lives. On that note I must ask myself: "What is going on in my life?"

The answer in plain-speak is I'm doing fine. There so if you are bored and have to do others things feel free to go.

The real answer is a bit of a double-edged sword. Adulthood is happening (0.o) after over a year of a very dry period of my journey with God he has begun a process of softening my heart and simultaneously hardening my resolve (in him). This has been a season where I have begun to draw near but it is much like warming yourself with a campfire; I have been out in the cold which has caused me to bulk up with more layers but still not getting the warmth I need. Now I have a fire but as I draw nearer the heat is turning up and I have to shed some layers to get closer to this heat which is keeping me alive.

Much in this way His holiness and my sin are frequently coming to an impasse (HA! That is half of the name of the blog!). There is much love and growth but there is a lot of conviction about my behavior, (which, for a time, I had began to accept as core to who I was) how I though about things, how I have been treating God, and others through this (for a great resource on this check out C. S. Lewis' essay "The Weight of Glory") and the need to confess my sin and repent.

This last one has been the biggest point of contention for mw. For the most part I have considered myself a person who didn't care what other's thought about me. I have a very off-beat sense of humor and as a teenager (and still to this day) I like (d) getting attention good and sometimes even negative attention. But as the Lord began to convict of particular things I have done in the past (that could have serious ramifications on my current and future life in ministry) I began to realize startling truths about myself.

Until about a month ago there was one sin that I had never told anyone because I was so ashamed; and one month ago if you had asked me about confessing any un-confessed sins I would have been honest and told you there was one and I would have quickly qualified that statement by saying, "But I will never tell anyone what I did."

This past month a series of Chapel messages at my school were given on the situation surrounding the Ted Haggard fiasco. ( And seeing the negative effects sin could have on people in ministry and all those who were under their leadership, ultimately shocked me. I had always realized the influence church leaders have in their congregations but as I was sitting in Chapel I realized that despite my own assurances I am just as capable of committing every sin as any other person. I also realized that through keeping that sin cooped up inside it will rip a person to shreds.

By no stretch of the imagination was it difficult for me to keep the secret that I had but the effects it would have on me later in life and just the fact that I could only begin the healing process was through confession. I also knew that I needed to face the consequences and in whatever way right the wrong which I had done.
I cannot express in words how difficult my struggle with myself was.

I couldn't understand why. As I prayed and thought about it I realized that I cared too much about what people thought of me. The way I thought about what I had done was very clear in my head (by the way I just was able to confess to a close friend last night so I’m not quite ready to air out my dirty laundry just yet) but the way I would clearly express in words what I had done conveyed me as a truly evil person and I couldn’t reconcile that with myself.

Even through numerous offers by a dear friend to talk about it judgment free, I couldn't bring myself to do it. In truth I knew how I had to start but I knew that I could just stop at the telling.

But by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God I was given the opportunity and the courage to seize it a chance to confess. I won’t lie those have been the hardest words I have ever uttered. She was kind and listened and didn’t pretend to know the answers.

I still don’t have the answers, I still need to pray and to seek counsel on how to repent and make right to the best of my Christian ability the wrong I have committed. It doesn’t stop here. But I am encouraged, because after the tears, and the turmoil roiling inside me with a sin that had been eating away at me for 7 years, a trespass against His creation, the King greeted my filth with  abundant peace.

Psalms 32
Blessed Are the Forgiven
A Maskil of David.
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Christ: My Only Joy, My Only Hope

Living the life of a disciple is hard work. 

I've been in the church twenty years, ever since I was born, and I have been blessed to go through many blessed seasons and many hard seasons. By no means is my life one of drama nor was I in the eyes of the world, the great sinner whom God radically transformed in a short period of time. I had always seen my life as very plain I realize that I had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but it was never a very apparent thing. It has been a very slow course where God has been showing me how deprave I am. How disparate my situation was and how immense his love truly is. 

Though through my seasons of faith I have began to grow and understand the things of Him. Just reflecting on my life I remember the different times and things God taught me. I remember as a kid I slowly began to love God. The first thing that drew me to him was worship. I would sing and pray and his Spirit would draw  me in woo me, so to speak. I was an emotional worshiper and even though a few times it might have been at my own conjuring but there were other times which He revealed himself.

The next aspect of God that gave me hope was the Spirit, when I was 10 it hit me in a burst of illumination and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that God was real. I ran up to the front during worship in tears and fell on my face KNOWING that I needed him. I was prayed for later that night and I received the Holy Spirit. For a while after that I was operating in the empowerment of his Spirit and my hope was renewed.

Then came a dark time for me, in retrospect it was insignificant and I overreacted to what I misinterpreted as love (at 15!) naturally for the old self, I ran and I just wanted to be angry and feel unloved. Then his scripture kept me going. The very girl I so convinced myself whom I loved gave me a scripture years before and ironically it got me through the aftermath of my immaturity: 

Is. 41:8-10  
"But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, "You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off"; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - ESV

It was like God knew I would be selfish. Though I was neglecting my duty as a disciple his love and beckoning brought me back to a community of people loved me through my own self-disdain and his Body began to be my comfort and hope.

But as I came back to him his calling kept me going. At his urging I decided to for go my own desires for my life. His promises and will have thus carried me through 2 1/2 years of Bible College. Even through some incredibly stressful times. Through my arrogance with the small amount of knowledge he himself gave to me.

But lately I've become increasingly aware of Christ. to think through 10 years of Christianity not once was Christ and him crucified been my focus and my hope. The very cornerstone and head of the Church had never really hit home. Over the past year Christ has grown on my mind and my heart. The word says that christ is our joy and our hope and I took him for granted.

It has been very enlightening to see how our culture portrays Jesus. As a guy, as a lie, as a good moral teacher and as a homeboy. I want to explain Christ a little bit, I want to talk about these portrayals.

What about us being friends with Jesus... Doesn't that mean Jesus is my homeboy? Yes, Scripture says that we are counted as friends but read the coming scriptures, and read Revelation 1, John saw Jesus in partial glory and fell down as if dead, and he was an apostle who has experienced salvation! So remember Jesus has called us friend, but he is Sovereign Lord and King, work out your faith with reverence, for the King out of duty and even more so, out of gratitude.

Well I don't know about that. Jesus was just a good moral teacher...

C.S. Lewis: take it away...

"We may note in passing that He [Jesus] was never regarded as a mere moral teacher. He did not produce that effect on any of the people who actually met him. He produced mainly three effects—Hatred—Terror—Adoration. There was no trace of people expressing mild approval." C.S. Lewis, "What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?" (1950)

"What kind of good teacher spoke in parables that no one understood?" Pastor Damian Kinsella (thanks PDK!)

Well what about Jesus as a lie? (Well that is a blog for another day). What do we think of Christ now? I know this blog is already lengthy but here is some scripture. These scriptures are heavy and their implications are far reaching but I only want to demonstrate why Christ is our hope. I'm sure there are holes in my theology and I know I will not adequately do justice to these passages. "God may my own agenda fall by the wayside and only your word ring true."

Colossians 1:11-23 
"May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister." - ESV

Philippians 2:5-11 
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - ESV 

Eph 1:15 - 2:10
"For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."
2:1 "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--  among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - ESV

Jesus was God. Simply put, but out of fear for misinterpretation I'll expound :) . Jesus was God, He was in the image of him but in him the entirety of God dwelled. 

In what some theologians call the Great Parabola, Philippians illustrates: Jesus was the highest of highs, although he was God he did not count himself God(that doesn't me he didn't know his deity, or that he rejected it, but he chose to humble himself) and humbled himself, not only to humanity but out of obedience to the Father he was humbled to the point of death. Not just any death, he died the most gruesome of deaths. Being at the lowest of the lows, God, through the glory of the Father (Rom 6:4) raised Christ from the dead, that we who choose to believe might be saved though faith, which is a gift. And from the dead Christ was raised, and the Father exalted him to make his name greatest and put him above all. In him death has lost it's power, Jesus wasn't simply taken in death and now those who call on him won't have to die. Jesus' dying was a seizure of death itself, it no longer has any power over those who he (Christ) calls his own.

When we who rebelled against the Father, from whom we were given life. Christ king of all forsook his glory to save us... Why? Because he loves us. He did not count us as so un-valuable as to cast us away. He who ascribes all value still found us valuable.


Now he who is Christ Jesus, is put over all, that one day every knee will bow and tongue confess that he is God. Why is this significant? He is Christ who is in glory, he is sovereign King, but he is still the one whom the Father sent out of love, and out of love he came. Never forget that The sovereign God of the universe is for us, He loved us in humility and facing death on the cross by our hands, and loves us even in his Sovereign Lordship. All we have to do is believe in him, (something we can't even do on out own!) not that we are to stop in our pursuit of Him after salvation, the work is not done yet... ;)


More than that! If we have believe we have died with Christ, so we will live with him also (Rom. 6:5-10)! We have an inheritance with him! What's better, we don't yet have that inheritance but until that we have his Spirit, which is comforter, teacher, counselor, anointer, sustainer, and empowerer that we might be comforted, taught, counseled, anointed, sustained, and empowered so we can go and tell the world so that they might know Christ as well. (The Holy Spirit is the most awesome Swiss Army Knife ever, and He never breaks, and keeps on giving. Way better than a Mac (=P))

Since we live with him we should also live like he did, as the perfect example of obedience to the Father. After all we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10). The true love of Christ does not enable us to sin, it compels us to complete obedience, but this obedience is not with out joy nor is it easy. The truth is we face the retribution of our sin, an eternity of torment. But in Christ we are no longer on that path, our sins are not counted against us.

Christ is our everything. Not so we can neglect other tenets of the faith, but that we might be fully changed from our old ways but to be more like Christ. How I had gone so long and not acknowledged him still astounds me. If anything I hope these words will give you hope and a better understanding of Christ, if you are already saved; or if you are not, that you might realize the great sacrifice and the immense love which is for you from Christ and how much you need him.

Before I get back to the business end of a 10 page research paper I want to pray.

"Christ we need you greater than we need life, Thank you for your love and the death which you died. Let us not take you for granted, and take with the proper respect your sacrifice to heart. May we continue in our growth and our knowledge of you, growing in boldness to proclaim your word. Your will be done. Amen (Oi)"

"Where breath is at an impasse, the old self dies and the new self is raised"