Monthly Archives: September 2008

Homesick At Home

Earth

Earth

God has placed a homing device deeply embedded inside your heart that longs for home. There’s a restlessness that we feel. Paul called it a “groaning” for the time and place when our questions will be answered, we will no longer be alone, and we will be released to live up to our fullest potential as redeemed human-beings without the results of the Fall. By blessing us with a deep dissatisfaction, God holds our attention. God gives us many pleasant inns to stay in, but does not want us to mistake them for home. It would be a tragedy to be satisfied prematurely, to settle for earth only as it presently is and simply live for the now. We’re not happy here. Why? Because we’re not supposed to be. This is the first step toward honest spirituality. The confession that I can’t quite get the life I want sets you up for the life you need. This longing for happiness and home leads us to so many places: geographical places, vocational places, relational places. But even the best of them, leave us longing for something more. Our longings leave us restless because the place they are looking to find rest is not here. It’s OK to hurt and feel sad and feel unmet longings. We can deny “homesickness at home”; we can cover it over with busyness and pleasures, but we cannot get rid of it. C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not mean the universe is a fraud…earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing (The Quotable Lewis).”

Earth is crammed with heaven, but what we experience in this world is merely a scent of a flower we have not found; the echo of a tune that we have not heard; news from a country we have not visited. This life is full of mere remnants left over from the Fall. Every joy on earth is an inkling, a whisper of greater joy. Think of the most awesome, thrilling thing you can do and it is but an echo of a greater pleasure to come, a fallen remnant of what once was. The best parts of the old world are sneak previews of the one to come. Homesick at home.

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Filed under Desire, Happiness, Heaven, Home

Fall in Love

The key that unlocks your chains, that removes your blindfold, is relationship. The secret to come out from hiding and to live for a greater pleasure is simply this: to fall in love. This relationship is superior to all others. I argue today that if the primary thing keeping you from running to the sins you love is the prospect of shame or of being exposed, you’ll never consistently beat it. Oh, these reasons may work for a while, but the relentless pursuit of the Evil One will eventually catch you and you’ll cave in. All of the good sense and logic and prohibitions against your sins will never work. Self-denial alone will not work. Something more is needed to energize our hearts toward what is right. That something more is a Someone. The fight against the sins we love is really a fight to stay satisfied with God (Storms, Pleasures Evermore: The Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God27) – to love the story that He has caught us up into.

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Sin – God’s Gifts with a Twist

Paul said in Romans “I do what I hate and I avoid what I love (7:19).” We know what’s right but we won’t do it. It’s easier to do wrong than it is to do right. This tendency drives all of us to brokenness and self-destruction. We are sinners and by that I mean that we have a chronic condition. We don’t reveal Gods glory like we once did, nor do our lives serve his purposes. We contradict His design for how things ought to be because our good hearts have become depraved and distorted. The issue of sin is all about distortion or a perversion of the good. For example, God calls us to work and be productive in order to make a better world; we twist the call into workaholism. God calls us to enjoy the gift of sex; we have twisted it and distorted it into an act of selfish gratification and lust, rather than intimacy with a life partner. God calls us to enjoy food and things; we are now suffocating in our stuff and shortening our life-spans because of our eating habits. God calls us to love. Love is a good thing, but perverted, possessive love results in pride, envy, rage and control over others. Insufficient love results in sloth and apathy; we don’t love the right things with passion – like God, His Word, His World, His Priority. Excessive love of things in the world leads to greed, gluttony, and lust (Rowland, The Sins We Love: Embracing Brokeness, Hoping for Wholeness7). I like what God has provided, but I want more. So sin is a distortion and a perversion of the good – it’s God’s gifts with a twist. It’s right to be hungry, but not be a glutton. It’s right to desire intimacy and sexual relationship, but not to consume someone for your pleasure alone. It’s right to renew and recreate, but not to be given to laziness and sloth. It’s right to love your work, but not to be a workaholic. It’s right to acquire things, but not to serve things.

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Confession and Authenticity

Confession simply means that we tell God the truth. We are willing name it. We are willing to name our failure for what it is and also to name what was going on inside us when we failed and take it to God. If you are harboring some sin – if you are keeping hidden a few secret regions of wrong – don’t expect to enjoy freedom from guilt. Secret sin cannot coexist with inner peace. Restoration can only consistently happen when I take all of my sin to God. Deep friendship with God can only come when I am completely honest with Him. Confession lets me have a close walk with God. American essayist Joseph Epstein says “We all exist on at least three levels: there is the person as he or she appears in public; the person as he or she is known to intimates, which include family and dear friends; and that person, deepest of all, who is only known to him or herself, where all the aspirations, resentments, fantasies, desires, and much else that is not ready for public knowledge reside (McKnight, The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others 68.).” Confession is simply telling God the truth about each of our levels to God.

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Earth Is Crammed with Heaven

Eugene PetersonIn Eugene Peterson’s book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, he tells about a lady in his church, Sister Lychen. He described her as five feet tall and shrinking. She was an older saint that lived in a small house in his neighborhood. The shades were always drawn and she never came out of her house except on Sundays. In the service, she would always stand and testify about the coming of the Lord and how she was going to witness it before she died. Eventually she died. Years later, Peterson said he imagined himself as a 10 year old again and before Sister Lychen dies. He went to her house and she invited him inside. He threw open the blinds. He then led her across the street and down a trail to a swampy place. Turtles and frogs, a nesting osprey and the downy heads of chicks just visible on the nest. In his imagination, Sister Lychen is amazed. White-tail deer leap from a tangle of cattails. The next Sunday, she stands up in worship but she doesn’t say her usual words. Instead she says “An angel visited me this week and showed me wonders I’d never seen. He said he’d come back and show me more. I’m not sure I want to leave and be with the Lord just yet.” Every Thursday, Peterson said he imagined himself going and releasing her to enjoy the world God made. And every Sunday, he imagined, no longer was a rehearsal of escape about the second coming; it was an exposition of her week. Her concluding words week after week were: “I’m not sure I want to leave quite yet.” Says Peterson: “If the blinds are drawn while we wait for Sunday, we aren’t in touch with the work that God is actually doing (71).” “…Sky and earth, plants and trees, stars and planets, fish and birds, Jersey cows and basset hounds, you and me!” If you want to know what a New Earth is going to be like, look around you! Subtract out the disease and death and you begin to get an idea. This present earth gives us a foretaste and glimpse into the New Earth. Every joy on earth is a whisper of a greater joy. The Grand Canyon, the Alps, the Amazon rain forests, the Serengeti Plain – as glorious as these are, they are all marred remnants, a shadow of what is to come. Earth is crammed with heaven. “The best things of life are souvenirs from Eden, appetizers of the New Earth.” “Just like the Garden of Eden, the New Earth will be a place of sensory delight, breathtaking beauty, satisfying relationships, and personal joy (Alcorn, Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions).”

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Cultural Mandate

John Eldredge states: “Adam and all his sons after him are given an incredible mission: rule and subdue, be fruitful and multiply. ‘Here is the entire earth Adam. Explore it, cultivate it, care for it – it is your kingdom…’ Talk about an invitation. This is a permission to do a heck of a lot more than cross the street. It’s a charter to find the equator; it’s a commission to build Camelot. Only Eden is a garden at that point; everything else is wild, so far as we know. No river has been charted, no ocean crossed, no mountain climbed. No one’s discovered the molecule, or fuel injection, or Beethoven’s Fifth. It’s a blank page, waiting to be written. A clean canvas, waiting to be painted.” Adam and Eve were called to take the raw and wonderful elements of God’s creation, develop their potential, and fill the entire earth with His glory and joy. They were to transform the untamed and untapped resources of nature into a social environment that would reveal the glory of God. They were to release the hidden potential of God’s creation. They were partners with God (Chapman, Restoring Broken Things). God put the planets in their orbits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeks grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship (Wolters). Colson calls this a “cultural mandate.” Human beings have been able to accomplish many wonderful things, we’ve also made a mess of this cultural mandate. Our rule is a tarnished rule. We’ve been deformed by sin and Satan. We don’t run the world right. What we call “civilization” is a smoldering heap of violence constantly on the verge of bursting into flame. This is the true picture of the fallen human will (Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ).” God wants to redeem the fractured history of culture-making, through you the New Community, the former broken ones who have been called out of the mess and into the adventure of restoration. Imagine a world filled with redeemed artists, God-honoring scientists, principled lawyers, God-fearing construction workers, politicians who really serve the public, educators that explore God’s creative work, parents who love. It all starts in the New Community. The Adamic human race perverted and twisted the cosmos; the Christian human race restores and renews it! The church is to be a kingdom invasion into the brokenness and suffering of fallen creation, calling people out to restoration.

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Free Will and Evil

God is not a chess-player God, moving both his pieces and our pieces too. God does not force his will upon us. God created human-beings with free moral agency – a freedom to choose. We are not wind-up toys that regurgitate back to God what he wants to hear when you pull our string. We are humans. “The only way God could create beings that are fully human was to take the risk that they would use their freedom to choose evil (Colson).” We can make decisions that may or may not please Him. To have made us any other way would have meant creating robots that could spit out all that God wanted to hear from them. No. God made us with the capacity to surprise and delight Him or reject and disappoint Him. Evil comes from the abuse of free will.

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Filed under Evil, Free Will