Friday, July 29, 2005

Story Time

We say we are a covenantal people. A covenant people who wrestle with covenant issues. A covenant issue is one that takes into account past performances. A covenant is the initiation of an agreement on the part of individuals and God, the slow progression over time towards either the fulfillment or breaking of that oath on the part of the individual and the consistent fulfillment of that oath on the part of God. Come what may, God is always faithful to keep covenant and whether or not man is able to do the same determines the fruit produced from such an interpersonal investment--cursing or blessing. The deliberateness of God's relational dealings across time has been preserved, written down just as contracts are so that both parties may stand in accountability before a watching world. A document that can be referred back to in times of crisis, sited when rebellion threatens everything that has been worked for, and recalled to mind when encouragement is simply needed to face the path ahead. Scripture is our covenantal thread--the stories making up The Story, the commands to show us what we are, the dialogue to show us who God is. It is the contract signed so long ago by our spiritual ancestors and our familial forerunners. It is a word that has been sealed upon the tablets of our hearts and stands as a stone of remembrance for what God has brought us out of and a sign of hope for what He will lead us through in times to come.

The way a story is told should have as much a deliberateness about it as the message of the story itself. The means and the message should insist on going hand in hand otherwise the narrative is lost to a sea of talking faces who never intended to put feet to their loud insistence. Inconsistency is the hypocrisy of the day. There is no point in saying "in all things BUT". The world is flooded by exceptions while the absolutes sit stagnant, just to the brim of a thimble. The very nature of covenant demands consistency and deliberateness in every area of life. After all, as Kuyper has said, "There is not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not say: MINE". The Incarnational deliberateness inherent in God's covenant with man can be expressed by no more profound means than through a story. The complexities of such a relationship can only begin to be fathomed in the ordinariness of living out life from day to day--sharing that life with the community surrounding you, and then applying your mutual discoveries to the culture around you. The wonder of Scripture is that while we have been given the principles in covenant, we have been shown the application through stories.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Elijah Concentrate

There is so much here! I am trying to unpack it all and then I realize that I have been jumping around schizophrenic-like as usual. I feel that I have got the whole picture and then it hits me that I am not even sure that I have read the whole narrative from beginning to end. Where did he come from, this Elijah the Tishbite? Where in heaven's name is Tishbe, tell me quick and then I would know! He just shows up in chapter 17 of I Kings and boy, is it a whirlwind ride from there. Confronting the king, praying for no rain, no rain, empty grain barrel one minute, unable to contain the overflow of grain the next, raising a boy from the dead, proposing a duel of sacrifices, jeering at the false prophets when nothing is going their way and then dumping 12 buckets of water on his own sacrifice and having God consume it--bull, wood, stones, water, ditch and all. And then there is the aftermath. He does not just leave it at that, there is cleaning up to do and rebuilding. Oh, and maybe while he is at it he will start a school of prophets with his disciple Elisha just to leave a lasting nagging impression on any and all future kings who decide not to tear down the high places and opt to walk in the ways of their father Jeroboam. Drama, drama, drama.

It never ceases to amaze me how even God's method, His structure, in conveying His message is so revealing and consistent to His character. To put so much in a story. To even converse through story itself is so very potent and unassailable. For the ordinary saint, it is the gospel in interpersonal tangibility. For the theology buff, it is a parable of many faceted ponderables. Either way it is grace concentrate. So deliberate and yet so vivid. The story of Elijah is proof once again that Scripture really is only one story--His Story.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Chalmers: On the Need for a Replacement Warrantee

If our affections for the world are not to be in existence, they cannot simply be striped from us with nothing present to fill the void. It must be replaced with something so much more consuming and desirable lest the vacuum be left to devour itself for lack:

“The heart would revolt against its own emptiness. It could not bear to be so left in a state of waste and cheerless insipidity….You have all heard that nature abhors a vacuum. Such, at least, is the nature of the heart, that though the room which is in it may change one inmate for another, it cannot be left void without pain of most intolerable suffering.”—pg13

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” —I John 2:15-17

“…to bid [a man to] love not the world is to pass a sentence of expulsion on all the inmates of his bosom. To estimate the magnitude and the difficulty of such a surrender, let us not only think that it were just as arduous to prevail on him not to love wealth, which is but one of the things in the world….But to desolate his heart of all love for the things of the world, without the substitution of any love in its place, were to him a process of as unnatural violence as to destroy all the things he has in the world and give him nothing in their room. So that, if to love not the world be indispensable to one’s Christianity, then the crucifixion of the old man is not too strong a term to mark that transition in history when all old things are done away, and all things are become new.”—pg 14

“If any man be in Christ he is a new creature. Old things have passed away behold, all things are become new.” —II Corinthians 5:17

“We have already affirmed how impossible it were for the heart, by any innate elasticity of its own, to cast the world away from it and thus reduce itself to a wilderness. The heart is not so constituted, and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”—pg 17

Monday, July 11, 2005

Grace for the Petty Schizophrenic

I’ve been wondering and unsettled. Moving from one thing to the next, scared that if I let more than 5 minutes laps without productivity I will fall back into my natural habit of slothfulness. I find that when I do not know what to do with myself I find things to do. Stay busy. Stay harried. Fill in the void with pure manual labor—that builds character I hear. When I lose grip on life I start doing petty things to cling to the fruit of my labors. Petty things like fold laundry with particular creases in particular places, or sweep my floors for the 6th time this month when two times would have sufficed. I’ll make dinner for myself using as many utensils, plates, and bowls as possible and then wash them just to see that I have done something—two somethings really…made dinner and cleaned the dishes.

My most recent impulse might well be the most life saving side-track of productivity ever. It is thirty pages long with an introduction of 2 pages and a title and copy right page taking up 2 before that—so really it is only 26 pages. I just got it in the mail today. Published in 1910. Looks fun. And, hey, if I sit down to read it now I can say that I read a whole book in one sitting and I wouldn’t even be lying. What a sense of personal accomplishment!

That is what I was thinking as I read the introduction by one Dr. John Angus MacVannal. I should have know by the heartiness of the man’s name that I was in for a confrontation with substance, but I did not think that through. And then I got to the line, “What we love we live”. The impetuous impulse vanished, the hunger emerged. It was then that I actually stopped to think about the title of this small book I held in my hands—“The Expulsive Power of a New Affection”. I knew I was doomed, or at least my bout of schizophrenic-egotistical-harried-habitual-impulse-to-petty-productivity was doomed:

“The heart must have something to cling to, and never, by its own voluntary consent, will it so denude itself of all its
attachments that there shall not be one remaining object that can draw or solicit it.”

Chalmers goes on to talk about how we belabor ourselves with pleasurable sensations and petty indulgences that we grow tired and numb to any sensation at all. The genuine longings of our heart then become either lost in a mess of overbearing excess or indistinguishable from the affections of our self-sufficiency. My heart had lunged out once again to find that one thing to side track and numb, and true to grace that one thing, this time, has brought me to repentance and contentment.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Model for Word and Deed

If God is God then He is consistent in every way, imaginable and inconceivable to the human mind. If He has said that His word will endure the test of time we must conclude that there is something in both communication and content to make it so secure and lasting. What is the means of His message? Is the means an extension of the message? Do message and means compliment each other? To a world that is self-satisfied with the diatribe that the end justifies the means God gives a deliberate and singularly perfect model that the means of the gospel not only justify the ends but weave such beautiful coherence that the end is more fully complete for the narrative of the thing. The message of the gospel wouldn’t be the same without the tangible realness of relational narrative. While it is normal and often expected that men say one thing and seldom if ever are seen to follow through, God deliberately shows His people what it is like to live in covenant faithfulness by not only building interpersonal relationships Himself but recording them so that the generations may know of His steadfast love and purposeful intent.

As a people so deficient in matching word and deed, we could stand to study a bit more the model for life and godliness that has stood the test of time. It is not just a book. It is a handbook for covenant relationship. The model covenant between God and man is to be applied in every aspect between man and man, on earth just as it is in heaven.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Peru Paragraph

Mr. Wilbur wanted me to write a piece on my Peru trip for the King's Meadow newsletter he's doing. I was shooting for a paragraph, but once again it ended up being a bit longer:

If education is a transfer of a way of life, there is definitely something to be said for how Joanna has gone about this missionary endeavor. I am amazed at the courage she has shown in picking up her life in the states and moving to Cusco, Peru, to dedicate at least a year of her life to a group of people whose language, until quite recently, she could not understand. That fascinates me.

If the gospel is true, I suppose it best manifests itself as a genuine transfer of a way of life just as Christ demonstrated in His short time on earth. It takes hold when you share your life with some one by living with them rather than living around them. When you eat their food—no matter how many talons are found in the chicken foot soup. When you hold their hands—no matter how many warts you may get. When you listen to their stories—no matter how long, even if you can only understand half or less. To be submerged in the lives of the people she is trying to get to know, I am sure, is among the chief and most lasting impressions Joanna will leave in the lives of these people. It was so fun to be a fly on the wall for a brief time. I did take notes, because this is stuff you definitely can not learn in missions 101!

My goal in going to Peru—aside from learning and taking in as much as I possibly could—was to encourage the encouragers. The small band of missionaries working with MTW (Mission to the World) are in the midst of their busiest time of year. Summer is always a consistent stream of short term church or youth groups eager to assist in VBS, clinic work, construction projects; eager to experience for a time the inspiring cultural and spiritual flowering that the long term missionaries are immersed in day in and day out. Those long-term missionaries in Cusco see extraordinary growth at times when the Gospel comes to fruition in tangible ways, but they are also capable of being weary in well doing. So I decided to come and bring a taste of home with me.

According to the list the missionaries in Cusco had given me, I had my two seventy pound bags all but packed practically before the transaction had gone through to purchase my tickets! The list consisted of some ministry items, but mostly treats for the missionaries themselves that can only be obtained in the states: From corn tortillas to coloring books. From Dr. Pepper to double-fudge brownies, shampoo and Starbucks, nail polish and Nutri-Grain bars…I even managed to bring Joanna some specially packaged Krispy Kreme doughnuts on my way out of the country that were hot off the line when I picked them up.

Travel is most assuredly an educational experience, and both education and good friends are a part of the gospel graces that were the source of this adventure. To take part in the ordinary affairs of life in a different culture, to see a friend who has chosen to take a year of her life living out the gospel in tangible ways along side those who have dedicated their lives to such an endeavor—that is indeed the most beautiful picture of the Kingdom of I have witnessed in quite some time.