Destroy all Avenues of Retreat

Sunday Afternoon Musings

Pablo Piccasso

Pablo Picasso

“Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.”

– Pablo Picasso


The only way forward in Christ is to destroy all avenues of retreat, to abandon all interest in a life apart from Christ.  

In paying the price for being Christ’s disciple, you too must purposefully destroy all avenues of retreat. Resolve in your heart today that whatever the price for being His follower, you ware willing to pay it.”

Disciples are Made Not Born,
—Leroy Eims, 40.

Christ doesn’t want a part of you. He wants all of you, body and soul. He wants us to look at the cross (Rom. 5:8) and be entranced by the display of love for us and to respond with a complete abandonment to Him and His will. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Cf. Luke 10:27) and that means destroying all avenues of retreat away from the wonder of His love.

The destruction of avenues of retreat clears the ground for a new creation. It is a destruction that is the dawning of the new horizon that only Christ can give that is filled with joy and transformation. 

C.S. Lewis on How Friendship Reveals Christ

Friends Helping a Friend Cross the Line in a Race

Friends Helping a Friend Cross the Line in a Race

Friday is for Thinking

.          Yesterday, I read a quote from THE REFORMED PARISHIONER that showed the genius and insight of C.S. Lewis in a new way. The author was summing up an observation from Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God (highly recommended).

C.S. Lewis’ quote is a reflection on the results of the loss of his friend Charles Williams.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”

Keller sums it up:

“Lewis is saying that it took a community to know an individual. How much more would this be true of Jesus Christ?”

This is what should inspire us to be engaged with other Christians, with all of their foibles (and ours too) and problems. We need one another to fully see Christ. This is why we need to involved in what I refer to as “burden-bearing fellowship” with one another. When we buy too deeply into the America stream of individuality and privacy we cut ourselves off from the opportunity to know Christ better.

This is certainly part of what Jesus implies when he says in Matthew 25:40: (cf. vss. 34-40)

 ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

We gain greater visions of Christ as we serve one another and the needs of those around us, particularly the poor and oppressed. So let’s be found building friendships with one another. Let’s be found stepping out of endless TV watching and entertainment-pursuing lifestyles and become engaged in the messy pursuit of love of imperfect people made in the image and likeness of God–a God who took on flesh and died for sin so that reconciliation between God and man and man with man could take place.

The Presence of an Absence

Thursday is for Thinking

If-my-People“[In] one of Sherlock Holmes’ mysteries, … the key to solving a case was the fact that when a man was murdered a certain dog didn’t bark! Some called it the presence of an absence!”  

quote from the I.D.E. Thomas book:
William Shakespeare and His Bible

It is an arresting phrase–“the presence of an absence.” It suggests all kinds of ideas and directions but I keep tracking in the direction of the church and what is present as an absence in the church. The list, in my experience is, tragic. It includes …

  1. The absence of any real hatred of sin
  2. The absence of any real passion for the lost
  3. The absence of a willingness to sacrifice
  4. The absence of a real passion for worship
  5. The absence of a commitment to burden-bearing fellowship
  6. The absence of disciple-making
  7. The absence of an ability and willingness to overlook an offense
  8. The absence of ministry beyond the four walls of the worship space
  9. The absence of faithful investment in Bible study and doctrinal clarity
  10. The absence of preachers with the willingness to stand on the Scripture
  11. The absence of a real fervor in prayer.

That’s a lot of “presence of an absence.” 

But God is still God. The Holy Spirit is still at work. The Gospel is still transformative. God is not impotent. It is we, the American Church, that have the presence of an absence of all the things God delights to bless.

Lord, make me and make the people I influence swim against the tide of this ungodly pattern. Revive our hearts. Revive our practice. Give us a passion for prayer. Give us the will to seek after You and the will to turn from our sin. I ask this is the name of Christ, our Savior. Amen.

The Gospel is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever (Just Like Jesus)

DiognetusYesterday I re-posted a five year old post that garnered a lot of interest based on page views and re-posts. That one was a late first century gospel synopsis. Here is an early second century gospel presentation.

Maybe you can use this the next time you talk to a neighbor.

For more see:  The Gospel is the Same Yesterday, Today and Forever (Just Like Jesus).

Coffee Pot Ponderings on Time and Worship

Read Psalm 39

Copper PotSitting in a coffee shop, (The Copper Pot) and thinking on the brevity of life. The older I get, (about to celebrate another decade’s end), the truer these words feel. They, the words of this text, have always been true of course. But their impact on my spirit grows deeper as I watch the sand go through the hour glass.

I can look in the mirror now and see the ravages of time. Muscle tone is harder to keep. Pounds are easier to put on and harder to lose. Sleep is shorter. There is a growing thinness to a small circle on the middle-back of my head. The doctors have explanations for these things, these subtractions from an earlier vitality. 

But I’m more interested in what God wants to teach me in this season of life.

And that’s when I ran across David’s echo of Moses’s wisdom from Psalm 90 (a previous post here). David sounds like he has been listening to the same Spirit. And of course, he has. And that’s why I need to receive these words for what they really are, the word of God, and the reminder that days are short for all of us wise people live differently in time than those who are foolish. Wise people pray prayers that are like verses 4 through 7.

“O Lord, make me know my end
.       and what is the measure of my days;
.       let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
.       and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
.   Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Surely a man goes about as a shadow!

.       Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
.       man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!
“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
.       My hope is in you.

I need this. I need this slap in the face that this flesh I walk around in is fleeting. I need this reminder that it is “nothing” (v. 5), a mere “few handsbreadths”, a “shadow” (vs. 6), uncertain (vs. 6b), the whole of my life is a “breath” (vs. 5, 11). I need such a reminder because my soul leaks and I tend to think that I will always have tomorrow to redo what I didn’t do today.

It’s an illusion.

I need to take the measure of this day and use it now for the glory of God because every day, every moment is precious. Today is the day to love my wife, my children, my church family, my neighbors. I’m not guaranteed tomorrow.

There is one future event that is guaranteed. It is more certain than my next breath and yours too. It is certain, beyond all doubt that Jesus is coming back to receive His own to Himself. He is coming back to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1). And because He is coming I want all my hope and dreams to be centered in He who is coming.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow
Later
Someday
When I get to it
When this is done
When the stars are aligned
When my chores are finished
When my health is better
When my bills are paid
When my schooling is finished
When I’m established in my career
When the weather turns
When my strength is spent
In my old age
When I retire
When I have time to think
.     as if we know how much time we have.

The follies of our when’s and ifs and somedays
.     mount up from mole hills to mountain ranges
And we kid ourselves into thinking that they make sense 
.     that it is reasonable to not place You at the center of everything.

Give me a ruler, a tape measure,
.     something to weigh out 
the days You allot
.     so that I might use them well

And find all my joys in You.

Go to Psalm 40

Is There Any Reason to Think Jesus Didn’t Mean What He Said?

Monday is for Discussion

luke9-23“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Luke 9:23-26 (NASB 1995 Update Ed.)

Questions:  

  1. Is there any reason to believe Jesus didn’t mean what he said?
  2. Have you embraced the fact that you can only gain your life by losing it?
  3. How does a life of losing ourselves manifest itself to the world?

“Stress and Danger are Normal”

Saturday Musings

Every day I hear stories of pastors or churches proving unfaithful in the task of proclaiming the truth once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Denominations ordaining practicing homosexuals, a pastor running off with someone else’s wife or church funds. Some, I fear, where never believers in the first place. They convinced themselves and others for a time but now the truth is out and they are revealed (1 John 2:19). Pressing onOthers stumbled because they found the way hard (Mark 4:16-17) and left the faith. Others found friendship with the world more appealing than friendship and suffering with Christ (James 4:4). But Jesus warned us that following Him meant taking up a cross daily (Luke 9:23). 

“One way or the other, Christ will bring his church to realize that ‘in the world you will have tribulation’ (John 16:33); that ‘all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’ (2 Timothy 3:12); that we are called to ‘share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God’ (2 Timothy 1:8); that ‘we . . . groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies’ (Romans 8:23); that ‘whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for [Christ’s] sake and the gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:35); and that ‘through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).”  

John Piper, The Roots of Endurance, 19

Let us be a people who press on to the upward call of God in our lives (Phil. 3:14), no matter what the cost. We only gain our lives by losing them for Him (Luke 9:24).

There are Songs You Hear that Change You

There are people we meet who change our lives.

There are experiences we have that change our lives.

There are thoughts we think that change our lives.

In the early 70’s, when I came to know Christ, there was a song I heard that changed my life.

This was that song.  Words and melody still resonate and challenge my heart.

Fighting the Good Fight the Good Way

“To be right with God often meant
to be in trouble with men.”

—A.W. Tozer

Wiley CayoteThe world has changed. As boomers and their grandparents die off the culture is about to take a huge leap off a cliff as the forty-year experiment in relativistic thinking yields it final fruit. Like Wiley Coyote chasing the road-runner, we are headed for a rude awakening. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago puts it this way:

“We have crossed an invisible line and there are no signs that we are capable of turning back. Like a boat caught in the mighty torrent of the Niagara River, we are being swept along with powerful cultural currents that just might put us over the brink. Seemingly irrevocable trends put in motion forty years ago continue to gather momentum and speed. Our Judeo-Christian heritage that gave us the freedoms we have enjoyed is for the most part gone, and in its place is an intolerant form of humanism that can boast of one victory after another. The ‘cultural war’ we used to speak about appears to be over, and we have lost.”

Cited in Prepare: Living Your Faith in an
Increasingly Hostile Culture
by J.Paul Nyquist, p. 15

Part of the function of this BLOG is to alert its readers to worthy books for their time and edification. Recently a friend at church came back with multiple copies of J. Paul Niquist’s new book Prepare. My wise and intelligent wife started to read it and was impressed. That was all I needed to  begin. I have started to read it now and can not recommend it highly enough.

If you are looking for a book that will help you understand what is happening in the country, how what is happening is different from the past, and how you ought to respond to it as a believer in Christ—and you should be—this is the book you ought to read.