Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On Squirrels in the Attic and the Holy Spirit

When was the last time you went in your attic?  (I know…that sounds like a pest-control commercial, but hang with me…).  If you’re like me, you hardly have a clue what’s up there.  Who knows?  You might even be housing a family of small, baby squirrels somewhere between your Christmas decorations and old tee-ball trophies.

I spent the day cleaning out my grandmother’s attic—something that obviously hasn’t been done in years.  I tried hard to get out of it, but to no avail.  You’d think after my brother and I broke four separate glass items that my mother would’ve just asked us to stop, but that didn’t work…

It’s amazing how much junk you can accumulate over time.  There was stuff in that attic from over 50 years ago, most of it completely useless, evidenced by the avalanche of trash out by the street. 

However, every once in awhile, we would open up a box and find a treasure.  We found a box of old “LIFE” magazines from the ‘60s.  We uncovered some of my grandfathers childhood pictures.  There was even an old Nazi Germany dagger in one of the boxes.

The treasures were there all along.  They were just covered up by years of neglect.  To get to these treasures, though, we had to dig.  We had to sort through piles of worthless old stuff to find what really mattered.

I think we’ve done the same thing with the Holy Spirit.  We’re told in 1 Peter 1 that upon our salvation, we are given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” through the Holy Spirit.  In other words, we are given a great treasure.  However, as time passes, we cover that treasure up with junk until we forget that it’s even there.  We don’t feel it anymore.  We don’t hear it anymore.  And we certainly don’t follow it anymore.

But what would happen if we uncovered it?  What would happen if we dug it out and starting using it again?

Where have you placed the Holy Spirit in your life?  What’s covering it up?

Maybe it’s time to move those “Christmas decorations” out of the way so that you can rediscover the treasure that’s inside of you.


[Note: I must thank Francis Chan for making me aware of this dilemma.  Please check out his latest book “Forgotten God” for more on this subject.]

Monday, September 21, 2009

On Haircuts

Imagine that you are a sheep.  Baaaaah.  As a little ewe lamb you wander around, munching on grass and clover until your plump little belly is satisfied.  You lie down on soft patches of moss, watching cute little bunny rabbits frolic around in the surrounding pasture.  You spend all year long growing a beautiful, plush coat of soft, fluffy wool.  All the other little ewe lambs are jealous of your fine follicles of soft goodness.

Then along comes an ugly, old shepherd dude with a rusty pair of shears and whacks it all off.  Gone is your outer garment of beauty, and you are left with nothing but naked shame.

That describes my life exactly.  OK, maybe not EXACTLY, but I had a similar experience.

I got my hair cut after going 3 months without a single trim (yes, I know most of you noticed that a long time ago…).  Now suddenly it looks like my grass does when I forget to put the lawnmower blade on level 4 instead of level 1.

Don’t get me wrong, the lady who cut it did a good job, and I really like her.  It’s just that I haven’t had short hair in a long time.  And in reality it’s not even that short.  It’s no shorter than it was the last time I got a haircut.  It’s just that it looks like a drastic change to me.  I’d gotten so used to my long hair, I’d forgotten what it was like to have short hair.

The same phenomenon tends to occur in my spiritual life.  I get into a pattern of holiness and spiritual discipline, being diligent in my walk with the Lord, and then I allow sin to start growing in my heart.  Before long, it’s grown so much that I don’t look anything like I did before it grew out.

But I don’t even realize it…because it happens so slowly.  I get so used to a lifestyle filled with sin, I forgot what holiness looks like.  On top of that, when I do realize my need to “cut” my sinfulness, I’m hesitant to do it because I’ve kind of gotten attached to the rugged, “good-looks” of my growing sin problem.

I’m pretty sure there are better ways to describe sin than by discussing the process of whacking off hair.  Nevertheless, it reminds me of my need to stay pure and the ease at which I allow sin to grow in my life.

In conclusion, I want to be spiritually bald for 2 reasons.  For one, I’d even more closely resemble the physique of Mr. Clean than I already do.  And secondly, I wouldn’t let sin grow in my life at all.

If only…

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On Unfaithfulness

There are two things that I know for sure:

1. I can’t fly.  Tried that one before…

2. I am a terrible blogger.

It’s been awhile since my last post and even longer since I did a true post according to my usual blogging style.  Why the wait?

Laziness.  Plain and simple.

My blogging pattern closely resembles that of every other aspect of my life: a pattern of unfaithfulness.  I lack discipline.  I lack motivation.  And consequently, I lack faithfulness and the ability to see things through.

This is not a new development.  It hasn’t just sprung up in the last couple of years.  Looking back on my life, there are very few things that I’ve been faithful in seeing through to completion.  I always seemed to get my schoolwork done or finish projects at work, but if there was no immediate consequence for not seeing something through, then it often did not get done.

Examples: I stopped working out after about 3 months of doing it faithfully (I know, my bodily physique defies that fact).

I never did learn Spanish.

I quit swim team as a child because I looked too good in a Speedo and was a temptation to the girls around me…or because I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

Time after time I start something and don’t follow through.  This has never been more evident than in my spiritual life.  Lack of discipline has led to many a failed attempt at quiet time routines, Scripture memorization, or simply being holy when faced with temptations.

Praise the Lord that he is faithful.  His love never fails even when I fail miserably.  Great is his faithfulness.

So, what to do about my unfaithfulness?  Work at it, try harder, do better?  I guess those are all noble goals.  However, first I must understand and appreciate the grace that God shows me.  Then, I must seek him.  It is only by the grace of God that I can approach him, much less be faithful in following him.

May his grace sustain me, and may that grace help me to be faithful.

No promises for better blogging habits—just letting you know about my problem.

What are you unfaithful in?

Monday, August 10, 2009

On This and That

Sorry for the absence. I was on a missions trip with my youth the end of last week and couldn't blog.

While I was gone, I decided to do something different. I'm going to keep posting up journal entries from my China trip, but I'm also going to try to resume my regular blogging style of daily musings if I am able. I'm not going to make any promises, but I'm going to do my best.

Just thought I'd keep you guys that actually read this in the loop.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Television (from John Piper)

I read an interesting article by John Piper this morning about television and its effects on our faith. Understand, I'm not hyper-critical of TV, but I think Piper raises some good questions.
If you want to go the actual page, here is the link.
However, for your viewing pleasure, I've copied the article and pasted it below.

Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies

By John Piper June 25, 2009

Now that the video of the Q&A at Advance 09 is available, I can look at it and feel bad all over again. Here’s what I regret, indeed what I have apologized for to the person who asked the question.

The first question to me and Mark Driscoll was, “Piper says get rid of my TV, and Driscoll says buy extra DVRs. How do you reconcile this difference?”

I responded, “Get your sources right. . . . I never said that in my life.”

Almost as soon as it was out of my mouth, I felt: “What a jerk, Piper!” A jerk is a person who nitpicks about the way a question is worded rather than taking the opportunity to address the issue in a serious way. I blew it at multiple levels.

So I was very glad when the person who asked the question wrote to me. I wrote back,

Be totally relieved that YOU did not ask a bad question. I gave a useless and unhelpful, and I think snide, answer and missed a GOLDEN opportunity to make plain the dangers of the triviality you referred to. . . . I don’t know why I snapped about the wording of the question instead of using it for what it was intended for. It was foolish and I think sinful.

So let me see if I can do better now. I can’t give an answer for what Mark means by “buy extra DVRs,” but I can tell you why my advice sounds different. I suspect that Mark and I would not agree on the degree to which the average pastor needs to be movie-savvy in order to be relevant, and the degree to which we should expose ourselves to the world’s entertainment.

I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.

If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.

There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them.

I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father.

I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29).

Brothers, that is serious. Really serious. Jesus is violent about this. What we do with our eyes can damn us. One reason is that it is virtually impossible to transition from being entertained by nudity to an act of “beholding the glory of the Lord.” But this means the entire Christian life is threatened by the deadening effects of sexual titillation.

All Christ-exalting transformation comes from “beholding the glory of Christ.” “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whatever dulls the eyes of our mind from seeing Christ powerfully and purely is destroying us. There is not one man in a thousand whose spiritual eyes are more readily moved by the beauty of Christ because he has just seen a bare breast with his buddies.

But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.

One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.

TV consumes more and more time for those who get used to watching it. You start to feel like it belongs. You wonder how you could get along without it. I am jealous for my evenings. There are so many things in life I want to accomplish. I simply could not do what I do if I watched television. So we have never had a TV in 40 years of marriage (except in Germany, to help learn the language). I don’t regret it.

Sorry again, for the bad answer. I hope this helps.

Pastor John

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On (Dead) Animal Crossings

About a week ago, I was driving down the road, headed into town from my house. All of a sudden I see this fox squirrel run out in the middle of the road. He kind of sits there in the road, as I approach him. Then, another care comes around the curve, headed towards us. So there sits the squirrel in the middle of the road as both cars bear down on him. He turns left, no right, no left again, hesitates for a second, then darts left--only to get hit by the other car.

Fast-forward a couple of days.

I'm driving down the same stretch of road, when I see a buzzard in the distance, sitting right on the yellow line in the middle of the road. As I approach, he doesn't move. There's another care coming towards him from the other direction. He still doesn't move. Then right before the other car got to him, he finally flew off to the left--right into the bumper of the oncoming car.

Weird, huh? I'm thinking that if I were that buzzard, I'd see that squirrel sitting there and think to myself, "You know, that squirrel is pretty fast, and it got its brains splattered on the road because it was too stupid to move. Perhaps I shouldn't go out there on that dangerous road." The buzzard obviously was thinking differently. Whatever he was eating in the middle of the road was just too good to pass up.

How similar are we? We stand by and watch our family, friends, peers, and mentors fall into traps of sin and get crushed by it. However, instead of getting away, we find ourselves standing at the same intersections in life, trying to get as close as we can to sinful things without getting hit. After all, that temptation may affect them, but it surely won't affect us.

Pride is a dangerous thing.

We are reminded by Paul in 1 Corinthians that we should be careful: "Let him who stands take heed before he falls."

We ought to take a lesson from the people around us. We are too weak to stand that close to sin and not get burned. We ought to run as far away from temptation as we can. Don't stand near it. Flee.

Otherwise, you'll just end up as spiritual roadkill.

Monday, June 22, 2009

On Pumping Too Much Gas

The other day I was at the gas station filling up my truck. I went about the routine process, starting to pump the gas and clicking on the automatic holder that keeps the gas flowing while you walk away. I then went up to the front of my truck and leaned inside for something (I think it was to clean out some trash---which should be a surprise because my truck never gets trashy......ahem.....).

Suddenly, I started hearing this splashing noise, and my feet started feeling sprinkles. Could it be raining? skies. Perhaps someone had emptied a bucket of water. No, because no water smelled like this, not to mention there was no one around me. Then, I poked my head back out of the truck to see a dismal sight.

To my shock and horror, gas was spouting out of my gas tank like Old Faithful. A river of unleaded fuel was pouring down the pavement onto my feet. I was just waiting on the serial killer to light the match that would send me up in smoke, when I realized that it was just the handle's automatic shut-off obviously not working. I quickly shut off the pump and assessed the damage.

Other than gasoline all over my feet, a dollar of wasted money, and a little bit of embarrassment, everything was OK. I started to curse the pump like Jesus cursed the barren fig tree, but I figured that the people next to me would probably find that a little awkward. So, I just drove off.

How many times had I pumped gas before and had it stop exactly when it needed to? Several hundred at least. I'd done it so many times before, I thought I knew what I was getting.

I was wrong. I got more than I expected. Then it hit me.....

What if God wants to do the same thing?

How many times do we go to church or spend time in prayer, expecting a set amount of God. OK, God, we want 15 gallons of you this week, and that should fill me up. Or, God, I'm pretty full this week, so why don't you just give me about 3 gallons?

Imagine this, though. What if God doesn't just want to fill up the spot you've offered him? What if he wants you to have so much of him that you overflow, drowning in the goodness of his presence?

I know. It's not what we expect. Most of the time it's not convenient. It will cost more than we're used to paying. It will cause us to have a certain "odor" about us that might be a little different. And it could even mean that you're in danger of catching on fire....

David said in Psalm 23 that God had given him so much that his "cup overflows." That's what I want.

Not so much for my gas tank as for my heart, but still. Whatever it takes to get the point, right?