Friday, December 28, 2007

All Things New

I've posted before about the prep work I've been engaged in for a class I will be teaching starting in January. Frankly, the work has had a major impact on my heart. I've found myself thinking many, many times "Pat, what gospel have you actually been living out the last few years of your life." That question alone provides great insight into where I've been in my heart. I believe I've been a lone wolf when it comes to my understanding of what God wants to do to me. In other words, I felt as though God left me alone for a bit to fend for myself, to teach me more. Oh boy, was I dead wrong!! He never left my side. Proof? I've been given some great gifts in the way of repentance and forgiveness, for the purpose of stripping away yet more deep sinful attitudes I've held on to, toward life in general and God himself.

These last few years have been an internal battle, with the last year or so showing external signs of the struggle. I write this post today because I have been humbled and I just want to express my deep (grace produced) gratefulness for the work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike 2006 and 2007, I am looking forward to 2008 - for what God has in store for our lives! May you know him more!

I found the following poem at Shepard Press and it seems to speak to my anticipation for God-glorifying times in 2008:

God's Resolution (for any year)

New Year.
New toys.
New gadgets to play with.
New things to do.
New things to tantalize.
But what happens to the old?
Thrown away, trashed, burned.
"But it's broken, worn out, used up; it''s old!"

And into this world that prizes new things,
which has junk heaps for mountains,
come the words from the One who sits on the throne:
"Behold, I am making all things new."

And that's what he does, doesn’t he?

He takes old things - like you and me,

things that are broken with sin,

things that are used in the ways of selfishness,

things that are tired because of vain pursuits...

And instead of holding us at arm's length

with disdain - over the trash can - saying:
"It's's old!"

He says, "Behold, I am making all things new."

And then He does it.
He takes on body to experience getting older.
He endures the older-than-time taunts of the one
who delights in destroying, in tearing apart.
He knows the age-old temptations to sin.
He hangs on old wood.
Why this throne-leaving to intimately know "old"?
So He can take old hearts and transform them.
So He can make old, sad hearts dance with new joy.
So He can make guilty hearts
know newness of starting over again.
So He can make all of us old sinners
(well practiced in old paths of sin)
know new life.
So He can make all things new.

©Kelly Knowlden

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

White as Snow

Glorious Snow!!

I post these pictures for a friend to help him reminisce Christmas past. (I confess, as well, that I am tempting him to finally comment on this blog.)

Tom T in Louisville, KY, remember these beautiful days in Minn-eee-soo-ta? We've been getting dumped on the last few days - fresh powdery fluff. I wept after the last time I talked with you and you mentioned your children have never really seen snow as it piles up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Clang Clang Clang Went The Trolley


I posted this video back in July. Since Christmas is truly just around the corner, allow me to share the joy once more.

What's your favorite element in this skit? Perhaps it makes your skin crawl, that's o.k. too.

For me, its the swanky-showcase-overacting! Beautiful! Brilliant!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Jacob and Jesus

I've been preparing diligently for a class I'll be teaching coming up here in January. For lack of more profound prose, I am having a blast!

God is on the move in my own heart and I can't wait to teach this class. I've been listening to a fantastic series from Tim Keller on evangelism and I'd like to share a little gem I wrestled with this morning. I love working through links between the Old Testament and New Testament - especially how the Old Testament stories all have something to do with pointing forward to Jesus.

Genesis 32 tells the story of Jacob wrestling with God. At first he's not sure who it is but when Jacob discovers its God he holds on and will not let go - Jacob has finally found the source of the blessing he's been striving for his entire life. God tells Jacob he needs to go because the sun is coming up. Jacob knows if he doesn't let go soon he will die at sunrise, because everybody knows no one can see God in the light of day without being killed. Jacob clings to God, continues to wrestle with Him, about to be killed willingly, because God is his life and he wants Him more than anything. What does God do? God blesses Jacob, and renames him Israel.

During the match, God touches (that's touches, not punches or kicks) Jacob's hip and blows it out of socket. Jacob realizes there is much more power in the "man" he is in combat with and the man is holding back, and yet Jacob holds on and keeps wrestling. This is amazing because it seems like any reasoning man would let go if he thinks he is about to die, right?

Now here is where this whole story gets really interesting.

Verse 28 says,
Then he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."
First off the blessing is wrapped up in Jacob's new name, but look at the reason God provides for giving the blessing - Jacob prevailed over man and God!

Jacob prevailed? God lost? Here is the amazing part. Of course God did not lose. God held back. As Keller says "God feigned weakness". In other words, God faked being weak so that Jacob could get a blessing.

What makes this very significant is that this wrestling match foreshadows what Christ did in his life and death - but there is one major difference that adds perspective to what Christ accomplished.

Philippians 2 talks about Jesus humbling himself by becoming a man, then even more, by dieing cursed on a tree. Furthermore, in all of his other writings, Paul's relates what Jesus did to his own life of suffering and is content with being weak so that God's power can be perfected.

Here's the crest of the wave I've been trying to ride...

In Jesus, God became weak, and died, he held on and suffered all of God's wrath and judgment - all of it. Jacob's hip was disabled but Christ's life was taken, smeared and crushed. God did not pretend with weakness this time. God did not hold back. Jesus became weak so that we can receive a blessing we do not deserve - God's love.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Of First Importance

Each new day.
Every hour.
Every Minute.
Remind Me.
The reason for everything.
What's of first importance?
What am I to do?
Be reminded.
Of first importance.
The Gospel.
The real Gospel.
Only that.
Always that.
Be reminded.

To help with the reminding, be sure to add this site to your rss feed reader and/or daily blog reading: Of First Importance

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Which Gospel Is My Master?

First, this is a long post.
Second, it is a personal post.
Third, my purpose is to tell a part of my story to help - no one in particular, but in humble worship of Christ, everyone in general.
Fourth, to some it will read as a typical conversion to Jesus story. I confess it has some of those elements, but that is why I am telling the story - because there is so much more to it! If you choose to read to the end I am confident you will understand.
Fifth, you must promise me you will read the corresponding link I show at the end of this post.
Sixth, enough with the disclosures...

Thirteen years ago, about this time of year, I was desperate. I had a plan for my life but things were so messed up. I was messed up. Even at age 24 I felt I needed to be so much more in control of my life than I was - but all these bad things kept happening to me (I reasoned). Drinking and doing drugs was the only activity that kept my dreams alive. When I drank I could "see" my grand future and my problems did not seem so insurmountable. When I drank I really was the person I wanted to be and I accessed an illusionary power inside of me that convinced me I could "make it all happen"! In the bar, as the drunken haze warmed my tongue and dulled my fear, I'd tell myself that tomorrow I'd start working on what I really wanted in life. I'd go after what's been missing all these years (I was 24).

But I had a problem thirteen years ago. The power of vision I got from drinking was turning on me. I started to see a gap between my dreams and real life. I started to notice that I was getting no where with my plan. Even though drinking was still fun I began to see it had much more power on me than I thought. Drinking was keeping me from my plan. Drinking became my enemy. I killed the intense drinking-to-get-drunk almost immediately. How? I turned to Jesus to help me. Instead of the grandiose visions produced by drinking, I saw now how belief in Jesus would not only straighten me up, but He would help me achieve my goals. I heard from others how my life would be much better if I had Jesus. I accepted that and took on a new attitude toward my goals. I never let my goals go. I still had a wonderful plan for my life and Jesus was going to help me.

For the next eight years I soaked it all up, responded to the calls of right living through Christianity, and fashioned a belief of how God works. Life was remarkably different for sure! Life was better. I no longer had problems outside of myself. I was saved! But, soon enough though I could see my attempts to achieve my life goals were still falling short. The harder I tried the more elusive were my goals. I became aware of a crisis! My whole live I've been characterized as melancholy but this crisis pinned me down into some very dark corners for roughly three years. I wrestled with despair realizing that Jesus was not helping me with my life goals. I struggled yes, but to cut to the chase, in the end I wanted to die and suicide was a logical option at the time. I faced the reality that from a young age I thought death would be better than life. Sometime, early on in my life, I committed myself to whatever it took to save myself from myself. I had remedies to my biggest problem. I thought my biggest problem was that life wasn't working the way I thought it should - there should be only happiness, achievement, and easy fixes for suffering and pain.

Another crisis entered my life. I did sincerely believe I was a Christian, chosen by God for life. But I could not act on my desire to die as there would be dire consequences. I began to realize I've always held an Ace card in the hole. If things ever got bad enough I could quit life. With this card I still retained control of my life. Oh, I've since ripped the card up and so it has no ultimate power. I still carry the card but only to keep tearing it into smaller pieces.

For the last five years I've been rethinking this gospel of Jesus - the gospel I had put together with the support of emotionally charged evangelicalism. It is a therapeutic gospel. Have I been believing the wrong gospel? Do people I know believe in the wrong gospel? NO. This is not a matter of who is really saved and who is lost (ultimately I suppose it is, but my aim is not the enter that debate with this post.) It all comes down to the matter of which gospel will master me! The therapeutic gospel can bring someone to see their need for Jesus but it has no real power to change a person's heart. The real Gospel of Jesus Christ changes lives by changing all the inclinations of the heart so that Christ is sufficient and THAT is what I am after in my life and yours.

P.S. For more understanding of the therapeutic gospel please read this article by David Powlison. Let me encourage must read it and wrestle with it!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Do I Get It? The Gospel?

This quote helps me be reminded that I don't always "get it" (the Gospel)in real life. If I am not practicing my knowledge of the Gospel in real life and wrestling with the profound truths I am just, once again, looking to some other savior that will never save.

“Christians come to see that both their sins and their best deeds have all really been ways of avoiding Jesus as savior. They come to see that Christianity is not fundamentally an invitation to get more religious. A Christian comes to say: “Though I have often failed to obey the moral law, the deeper problem was why I was trying to obey it! Even my efforts to obey it has been just a way of seeking to be my own savior. In that mindset, even if I obey or ask for forgiveness, I am really resisting the gospel and setting myself up as Savior.”

To “get the gospel” is turn from self-justification and rely on Jesus’ record for a relationship with God. The irreligious don’t repent at all, and the religious only repent of sins. But Christians also repent of their righteousness. That is the distinction between the three groups–Christian, moralists (religious), and pragmatists (irreligious).”

The quote comes from Tim Keller's paper The Centrality of the Gospel.

Do you get it?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Story of Jonah Is Historical Truth Because of Jesus

I believe in the Bible. The entire Bible is total truth revealed by God. Easy enough! My belief is supported by reason, historical facts, and ultimately true Biblical faith. I take the approach that if something in the Bible seems implausible, that's a problem, but the problem is with me, not the Bible.

I've always had a problem with the story of Jonah (you know...the whale thing). Because of the whale I've always wanted to ultimately treat this story as something other than historical narrative. I've reasoned: Jonah is in the Bible, I believe in the Bible, I believe in Jonah. But, why then, up until now, have I dismissed certain parts and not taken seriously the full meaning of the story? I have not been able to solve my big problem - until recently.

Now I see that Jonah is not allegory. Jonah is not historical cultural commentary. Jonah is not an Old testament parable. Jonah is historical fact. Seeing Jonah this way changes how I read the story! That's important. Soon I am teaching a class on understanding the Gospel and I'll be working through parts of Jonah. I am obligated to solve my own problem before I can teach what the class is about.

How can I now say Jonah is historical fact? Because of the historical truth of Jesus and how he treats the story of Jonah. In Mathew 12:38-45 and Luke 11-29-32 Jesus teaches using the story Jonah - as fact! Simple, but amazing!

(A big HT to Porter)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Saying What You Mean

I always prefer to know where I stand with someone. I find it completely exhausting trying to "read" the real meaning of what a person may or may not be saying - especially in times of conflict. Likewise, I am working hard at communicating my own ideas more directly in love so that others do not have to guess at what I mean.

I found this to be a very helpful post on delivering criticism.