31 August 2009

A "better" God?

I read an interesting article from the Washington Times over my lunch hour today entitled "On Seeking a 'Better' God." The premise of the article, as I read it, was that twenty-somethings today often favor atheism because 1) they don't like the Christian God they see and 2) in many ways, feel morally superior to God because they see Him as vengeful and vindictive.

As I drove back to Eau Claire, thoughts raced through my head. I wondered to myself, "how could anyone adopt such an egregious, heretical view of God, to the point where they feel that they are better than Him?" Below, I fleshed out two possible reasons why I think today's young people adopt this dangerous viewpoint, fully acknowledging that there are likely other contributing problems as well (e.g., moral relativism, poor theological & philosophical education).

First, I believe that young people today do not understand God's holiness. God is utterly and completely without sin; He is perfect. As sinful beings, we could not even stand in His presence. Consider again Isaiah 6:5 "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” This chosen prophet was filled with dread having simply gazed upon perfection--God's holiness. Isaiah did not respond in this way because God was vindictive or because God was morally inferior, he responded because he was, in an instant, tormented with his own utter depravity. Even a whisper of imperfection (i.e., sin) falls far short of God's magnificence, or as Romans 3:23 reads, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." As imperfect beings, we all miss the target and deserve separation from God. This is not malicious or vindictive, this is justice. Furthermore, God fairly applies the same standard to every human.

This leads to my second point. Today's 20-somethings were raised by a generation of parents who were probably more influenced by modern psychology than they were by their church. They grew up in a child-centered culture that promoted self-esteem and well-being. They were regularly fed a diet of "you're OK just the way you are" or "you can do anything you want to do" without any call to discipline and responsibility. They received this message from their parents, their friends, their teachers, and from television. Because they grew up believing that they were something spectacular, to even speak of their sin, much less their depravity, is unthinkable. As they matured became adults, they adopted worldviews that reinforced their sense of excellence and self-importance. When confronted with the God of the Bible, they simply reject Him saying, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, I'm better than God." They then become atheists, without ever pondering what it actually means to come to the conclusion that there is no God.

Unfortunately, by rejecting God out of a sense of their own self worth and God's perceived inferiority, these young people prematurely miss out on God's grace, demonstrated through Jesus's sacrifice. Even when they do learn of Christ's crucifixion, they reject Him as a fool because to accept Him would involve a) admitting that they are not perfect and b) that God is. We don't need to seek a better God, we need to seek a better understanding of our sinfulness and the only way to life--Jesus Christ.

John 1:12-- But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

(To be fair, I later discovered one of these points fleshed out by Skye Jethani, but I decided to proceed with my analysis anyway, but included his for consideration. It is worth the read).

HT: Zach

30 August 2009


I appreciate sarcasm. I also employ sarcasm, at times when I shouldn't. In fact, when Heather and I first met our small group, there was concern about the integrity of our marriage because Heather and I are prone to freely joking with one another. I began to wonder what role humor and sarcasm should play in my life, if any. I do not believe that God created us to always be dour and serious; rather, I believe that he not only created us to laugh, but that He provides examples in his word of sarcasm.

Consider Isaiah 44:13-18 "The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, 'Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!' And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god!'"

God, through His prophet Isaiah, points out the absolute folly of a man making an idol of wood and in so doing, employs sarcasm. Imagine this carpenter. He takes a block of wood, carving it into an idol and then lights the scraps on fire! I believe God is pointedly demonstrating how foolish this man is.

Although I believe God makes a place for sarcasm and in His perfect design and delights when we laugh, we also need to be cautious with our words. Although words build up and bring joy, they may also tear down.

Psalm 73:8-9: They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth.

God gifts us with language. Words have the ability to entertain, comfort, rebuke, educate, and praise, but they can also harm. Therefore, if we choose to use sarcasm we should be "slow to speak" (James 1:19) attempting to glorify God and love one another consistently.

26 August 2009

Abdication of responsibility

Genesis 3:6 "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate."

A couple of days ago, I wrote about Genesis 3:1-5 and how in original sin, Satan convinced Eve to conform God's word. In verse 6, we read of the sin itself, but there is something else here too, something that may inform our understanding of previous verses.

It reads, "she also gave some to her husband who was with her." It doesn't say that Adam was off somewhere else living righteously; he was at her side while the deceiver spoke with Eve. And he did nothing. Nothing, that is, except follow her into sin. It was, as my friend Joel said, "the first abdication of responsibility by a man" and you can see how well it went.

The Bible is replete with examples of the Biblical headship of man and how that looks. In today's society, saying that man is the head of the wife is not popular, which I suppose is true of much of God's word. But it works because God designed it that way. He designed us to live in complementarity with each other.

Churches today are plagued by a remarkable lack of men. In fact, in the UK, woman make up about 2/3 of congregants and the gap is widening. Of the men in the church, too many of them act like Adam; they stand by and watch like a bunch of emasculated weaklings. That is, if they show up at all. Many of them are too busy with their hobbies or their work to lead their families.

The church needs men to stand up and be men, to not relinquish their duty. That's what real men do. They don't leave it to their wives, assuming that women will figure it out. Whether they voice it or not, women in the church are desperate for men to lead--in their families and in their church. And if men don't take the reins, they will be called to task.

Genesis 3:9 "But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?'" In standing by, Adam was not let off the hook, he was called out. Men, when you meet God face to face is he going to call to you and say "where were you?"

(For a free copy of Piper and Grudem's Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, go here).

25 August 2009

Guest post-Pushing People Away without Knowing

My friend, Jon, asked if he could write a "guest post" here. Given my recent writer's block, I welcomed his offer. He writes:

I was struck recently after talking to two individuals about coming to church by how they both expressed feelings of fear about what people will think of them when they do come. Both of these individuals are already Christians but are coming back after a certain period. One stepped away from the church for a while due to some struggles in their life that caused them to go off to some not-so-good things, and the other rarely comes because of their job requiring them to work most Sundays but was now nervous about bringing her new boyfriend to church after a recent divorce.

I think you can tell what each is worried about. Both are worried about people judging them because of their past actions.

Whether these are legitimate concerns on their part or not, it got me thinking about how most people, even those who are Christian, think that everyone in the church is very judgmental about them. It's sad because they shouldn't worry about that judgment since there is only One who has the right to judge them. What's even worse, though, is that as a broad generalization, I think they tend to be right about the church casting judgment.

How often do we see someone come into church who maybe looks a little different or who we know has strayed from God recently and immediately think, “Why are they here? Their heart can't really be in this. I bet they don't even want to be here and are just doing it for looks.”? Who are we to say where a person's is heart just from how they look or the past that they've been through?

I'll admit that I'm just as bad at this as others. I try not to show it in front of those people, but I think we all show it just by not being open and friendly with them. They become outcasts because no one approaches them. Everyone is afraid to say the wrong thing and offend them, and in the process we say nothing at all. I think this is what causes the feeling of judgment in them.

There's a problem in the church when we don't welcome people in or welcome them back realizing that we are in just as much of a broken state as they are. Not one of us has the right to judge when none of us have actually had to pay the full price for the mistakes and sins in our lives. Sure, we all feel like we have, but none of us has actually paid the price of death that just one of our sins is worth.

The flip side of this situation, which I mentioned above, is that we as Christians actually let the judgments of others affect us and affect how we feel about ourselves. We know that others' thoughts about us really have no affect on us except to the extent we let them; for there is only One who can actually judge and change and mold us in that way. We go through our lives seeking the approval of other people, especially other Christians, because we feel like we need to look good in their eyes.

We don't.

Live your life seeking the approval of God each and every day, not man. Don't cast judgment and don't let unwarranted judgment cast on you change who you are.

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?” - Matthew 7:1-4

18 August 2009

Don't conform God's word

The third chapter of Genesis is a goldmine. We can learn a lot about ourselves, the nature of God, and the nature of Satan in those 24 verses. In the first five verses, we are introduced to the serpent (Satan) as a great deceiver.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan begins, "did God actually say?" He calls into question the word of God. Eve rightly tells Satan what God said, but if you go back one chapter and look, God didn't tell them, He told Adam (Gen 2:16-17)--Eve wasn't even on the scene yet. In the interim, Adam must have shared with Eve God's admonition regarding the tree.

Nevertheless, she knows the rules. In fact, she relayed them clearly, yet Satan twists them. That is what Satan does, he makes sin look palatable and calls us to question God.

It is easy to look at Eve and think, "how could she have been duped? She knew God's word and yet she let herself be deceived." The reality is, though, Eve's experience represents our world. How often do we read of people saying things like "Jesus may have lived but he was never resurrected" or "a virgin birth was impossible." Perhaps more insidious are examples like, "the Bible never really says that people shouldn't have sex before they get married; plus their culture was different than it is now."

Satan loves it when we water down God's word. He loves it when church bodies make allowances for sin (e.g., recent ELCA decision). Offering an alternative interpretation is his forte. Nothing makes Satan happier than deceiving people and making them question God. The Bible describes 2 alternatives for how to respond to Satan when he twists God's words. Genesis 3 provides an example of when his deceit worked. If you want to see a right response, consider Jesus in Matthew 4 when Jesus was tempted.

Much like Eve, God's word has been indirectly revealed to us through the gospel writers, yet His word is true. Do not let Satan convince you to water down, reinterpret, or write off God's holy word, which is as relevant to us today as it was to Adam and Eve in the garden. Seek to conform to God's word, don't seek to make God's word conform to you.

17 August 2009

II Thessalonians 2:11-12: Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Tonight, a friend asked me to read these verses and give my impression. This is a hard passage. I don't claim to have the right take on this, but what I have arrived at came from pondering the passage, but also reviewing a few commentaries (particularly John Calvin's) on the subject.

I think it is first important to say that we need to be careful not to analyze the verse by itself, which should be true of all of our Biblical study. We need to consider the context.
  1. In the preceding verses of 2 Thessalonians 2, we read about the coming of the man of lawlessness (i.e., the antichrist), who figures importantly here.
  2. With the antichrist as the backdrop, in verse 3 we read of people who "let themselves be deceived." An even stronger statement appears in verse 10 where it says "because they refused to love the truth and so be saved." In other words, it suggests that these people possess a knowledge of the truth, yet are engaging in willful, volitional rejection of God.
Now, consider verse 11 carefully. It begins with "therefore." In other words, because of or as a consequence of their refusal to love the truth, God deluded them. God takes an active role in responding to their rejection of Him.

This line of thinking intrigues Calvinists and makes Arminians squirm. It provides a key to the doctrine of reprobation, which is an extension of predestination (see Romans 8:29 among others). If God elects some to His kingdom, there are also then non-Elect, or the reprobate (Romans 1:28). An amazing thing about this verse to me is that it allows for both free will and predestination.

So bottom line, God rejects (in fact deludes) those who reject Him.

What do other people think?

15 August 2009

Banana Bread

Earlier in the week, Heather bought some bananas. Actually, a bunch of bananas--more than we would typically eat. What does one do with extra bananas except let them become overripe and then make bread, of course. I contemplated making a single large loaf for our family, but instead decided to make several small loaves to share with our neighbors. One neighbor, in particular.

I confess that following a recent uncomfortable interaction with this neighbor, I have had a negative attitude. In describing that conversation to several of my friends, I have not treated him honorably. Although I have not felt vindictive, just by presenting the story in the way that I did, I did not demonstrate Christ. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of tension in my few clipped interactions with the neighbor ever since, due in large part to my attitude, I am sure.

As I read the passage from Luke below, I was convicted to change my approach. Too often, in our fallenness, we treat others how they treat us, but that is not how we are commanded to act. Rather, regardless of how others deal with us, we are to deal with them consistently, in Christlike love.

Luke 6:27-31--“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to the them."

11 August 2009

Crisis of Faith in Psychology

When I was in college, I don't think I asked the right questions about what it meant to be a clinical psychologist. I pursued psychology for a host of reasons, I suppose. The desire to figure myself out, insightful and caring faculty, or perhaps a draw to understand people may have been the genesis of the decision. Whatever the reasons, I found myself proceeding in a stepwise fashion from bachelor's to master's to doctorate, all with the intended goal of helping people, but without the needed exercise of introspection. I think I lacked the reasoning required for such self-examination at the time. In particular, I prematurely concluded that the goals of psychology and faith were similar. What I failed to process was that although they both deal with soul care on some level, their methods may be diametrically opposed.

So now I sit, ensconced in my career as a neuropsychologist, pondering. The methods of neuropsychology are different from psychotherapy and are, in many ways, easier to reconcile with faith. Yet, when I work with patients where there is not a clear organic process, spiritual issues often surface. How I deal with those issues as a psychologist is frequently quite different from how I would deal with them as a Christian and therein lies the rub.

I contacted 2 former advisors, Christian psychologists themselves, to seek guidance. The first, my dissertation advisor, directed me to a web resource, which essentially said, the goals of cognitive therapy and Christianity are not contradictory, yet failed to address the issues I struggle with. Next, I sought counsel from my undergraduate mentor as well, and the conversation was much more cerebral and esoteric, as might be expected from someone who studies the psychology of wisdom. I think his perspective is that of an evangelical (I'm not sure he would still describe himself that way) whose systems of thought have morphed over time, such that he is both more reserved and more confident about both his theology and his psychology. In other words, he seems confident in not knowing. He cautioned me against accepting counsel from people who are sure of the truth.
Needless to say, that leaves me in a place of uncertainty regarding the intersection between my faith and my career. I pray for truth. I pray that regardless of the counsel I receive from others, God reveals Himself. I pray for His patience with me and patience with myself. I pray that God provides wisdom to my unsettled soul. I pray that God helps me to ask the right questions even if, for the rest of my life, I never come to know the answers to them.

Proverbs 2:3-7
if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;

09 August 2009


I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now
-Homesick, Mercy Me

In recent weeks, I have shed tears at the slightest provocation. It may be something I read, a conversation, or a song. During worship this morning, I stopped singing four times because I could not hold back my emotions. I have a river of feelings that flood my being and I don't know where to go with them. I believe the source of these feelings, however, is a sense of "homesickness".

As I grow closer to God and desire to be in His presence, the rest of my life fades by comparison. By the world's standard, I have an amazing job that more than allows me to provide for my family. I have a beautiful home and nice things. Yet I feel out of place. I feel unworthy gratitude for Christ's sacrifice. I feel eager anticipation about heaven. But I feel less and less satisfaction in my earthly dwelling or my accomplishments. I want to spend my time reading about God, talking to God, and thinking about God. I know that I need to keep at my job, but on some level I don't want to. As I wait for heaven and shedding this earthly shell, I just pray that God allows the benediction to the Thessalonians to dwell permanently in my soul.

I Thessalonians 5:12-24--Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

07 August 2009

Good friends

Proverbs 27:17--"Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another"

Yesterday, we shared dinner and fellowship with our dear friends, Zack and Sara. Over the past several years, I have come to love them. We share a relationship wherein we can, and often do, discuss hard topics. Last night, in typical fashion, we stayed on the surface briefly, but then proceeded into deeper spiritual waters. Our questions challenged each other, encouraging mutual growth. I find the persistent thoughts and questions I have after they leave to be particularly beneficial. I believe they help me to be a stronger Christian.

Relationships like these are important for Christians. We may enjoy superficial conversation from time to time, but it is the intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually challenging topics that sharpen us. When pointed exhortations proceed from acquaintances, they are often perceived as judgmental, but in relationships founded on trust and mutual respect, there is exceptional opportunity for growth. I am thankful to be a part of a small group and a church where I have more of these relationship than I deserve.

Matthew 18:20--For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

06 August 2009

Amongst Thorns

Luke 8: 5-8 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.”

In the Spring, at the urging of my daughter and perhaps out of a desire to connect with my agricultural roots, I planted a few tomato and pepper plants. Apart from a cursory hoeing, I made no effort to prepare the soil. I simply dug a hole and dropped them in. I had good intentions of tending to the plants, anticipating their bounty, but I ignored them. You can see what happened; they grew up among the weeds. The largest tomato plant has a single fruit, which is barely appreciable amidst the overgrowth. I am no longer able to discern the pepper plants.

In Crazy Love, Francis Chan exhorts "My caution to you is this: Do not assume you are good soil. I think most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil. A relationship with God simply cannot grow when money, sins, activities, favorite sports teams, addictions, or commitments pile on top of it" (p. 66).

Thorny soil is not irreparable. When the thorns are removed, it becomes good soil once again, a place for seed to flourish. The soil cannot rid itself of weeds, however. It is only the Gardener who can root out the thorns, improving the soil for the seed to grow. We need to pray that God would reveal the weeds in our lives and then ask Him to remove them far from us, so that the Word of God may flourish. Further, we need to be attentive (I Peter 5:8), persevering in our prayers, as weeds have a way of quickly re-populating untended soil.

There is still hope for my tomatoes. If I attend to them, removing the weeds, improving the soil, and nurturing what is left, they have a chance to grow and bear much fruit. If I continue to neglect them, however, they will fade away and will be worthless. The same is true of my life.

Matthew 3:10-"Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

05 August 2009

Urgency-part 2

When Heather and I decided to actively pursue the adoption of Tessa, we became aware of several other orphans in need of families. The agency we are working with even sent us video of a malnourished little boy who recently came into their care. As the doctor examined him, he maintained a happy disposition, but he was so weak. When lifted from the bed, he appeared as a damp rag, his body giving way to gravity without capacity to fight against it.

Though she already views Tessa as one of our children, this fragile little boy also found a place in Heather's heart. Our intention has always been that we will adopt again, but Heather wanted to pursue this little guy. She prayed to God that if He wanted us to adopt him as well, it would be clear. Our social worker in Eau Claire told us that they do not like to do "artificial twinning" and so recommended against it. Heather then shared these thoughts with Sue, the Ethiopia coordinator who is helping us to bring Tessa home, who deferred to our social worker. I felt as though God had decisively answered, "not yet". Still, Heather did not relent, asking me again if we should press the issue.

All of this led to a discussion of God's timing, male headship, and the call to adopt. In Adopted For Life, Moore wrote about the sense of "survivor guilt" that is sometimes experienced by adoptees, who wonder why they were chosen and what has happened to those left behind. I believe Heather's sense of urgency represents a parallel process--the desire to adopt as many children as possible, to pour herself out for them, yet wondering, worrying, about those who remain orphaned. I also feel a sense of urgency to care for these little ones, but as the visionary and leader of the family, I responded to Heather with a decisive "no," and gently (I hope) confronted her on how her persistence challenged my leadership, the clear message from the social workers, and God's apparent plan. She apologized and we talked about the interaction, but it has remained on my mind today and I needed to share the following with her:

Heather, I pray that through these conversations, you can appreciate that I share your sense of urgency to adopt. Without doubt, your perseverance in prayer over the past many months changed my heart such that I am becoming a passionate advocate for adoption--globally, locally, and at home. Largely because of you, I am all in. I ask that you continue to trust my direction, timing, and Godly vision for our family. Likewise, I will continue to cherish your passion, love for others, and willingness to pray continually for me, knowing how monumentally God directs my heart because of your fervent prayers. Love.

04 August 2009

Sin that clings

Hebrews 12: 1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Introspection, when guided by God's word, frequently illuminates pockets of sin in my life. Thoughts and behaviors once unrecognized as contrary to God's will enter my awareness and demand action. Sometimes, God allows me to deal with these sins quickly and decisively. I am able to confess them, recognize their negative effects in my life, seek forgiveness from the Father, and move on. Sometimes, though, when sins come into focus, I do not want to deal with them or even acknowledge them as sinful. These are sins that cling.

Consider this picture of ivy growing on our trellis. Notice how, even though it appears delicate and fragile, it accomplishes its amazing growth through repeatedly weaving itself in and out of the slats. If you have ever attempted to remove ivy, you understand the power that it has--it pervades. Even when you succeed at removing much of it, there can still be small tendrils, which initially go unnoticed, but when left can grow back as strong as before.

Although I could probably start a blog entitled A laundry list of Jason's sins, I will provide a single, but chronic sin from my life--my ivy--gluttony. Nearly as long as I can remember, I have struggled with food, specifically with eating too much of it. When I entered college, I gained weight rapidly for the single reason that I ate more than my body required, failing to respond to God's perfect design for me. After Grace was born, I lost weight through my own power. I maintained it for a few weeks. Then I gained some, lost some, gained some--always through a process of self-discipline contrasted with an utter lack of control. I have followed that same pattern for over 5 years. I still feel a lack of mastery over food.

In a broader context, I think we conceptualize big sins and little sins. For example, we may see murder as a "big" sin, but gossip as a "little" sin, though even our righteous actions are filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). It is probably more relevant to our lives if we try to think about the sins which cling to us, because they reflect our heart and our relationship to God. As we read in Hebrews 12, the only way we will be able to deal decisively with these sins is to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Moments after I wrote this, I read a prayer in Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love. "Jesus, I need to give myself up. I am not strong enough to love You and walk with You on my own. I can't do it, and I need you. I need You deeply and desperately. I believe You are worth it, that You are better than anything else I could have in this life or the next. I want You. And when I don't, I want to want You. Be all in me. Take all of me. Have Your way with me."

02 August 2009

Tarnished heaven

Have you ever pondered what it will be like when you get to heaven? In our humanness, even as we imagine heaven, we see a place full of glory for ourselves. Whether it be pearly gates, clouds and lyres, or endless golf courses, we think about how much of a paradise heaven will be for us. Some anticipate an endless buffet of heavenly food. Others seek a coffee talk with Jesus, a chance to ask Him all of life's unanswered questions. Whatever our interest, hobby, or avocation, we seem to find a place for it on the other side of death.

But consider Revelation 4. We read of One seated on the throne who appears as jewels. He is surrounded by an emerald rainbow, torches of fire and a lake of glass. On each side of the throne were living creatures who, day and night, sang "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty, who was and is, and is to come." And whenever these creatures gave glory and honor and thanksgiving to the One seated on the throne (in other words, always), the 24 elders, who were each there with their own throne, fell down on their faces worshiping Him forever, saying "worthy are you oh God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created."

Consider the awe of this. We worship a God who is so magnificent, so awesome, so holy, that in His presence, heavenly bodies fall prostrate to worship Him continually, day and night, forever. As humans, we have no concept of something that incredible--something where our only desire is to offer up praise without ceasing, for eternity. When Isaiah the prophet encountered this scene, his response was to say, "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people with unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts" (6:5)

Nothing in my life commands awe, even for 5 minutes. I have had my breath taken away by majestic sunsets. I felt utter gratitude on my wedding day that my wife was willing to commit her life to me, in spite of my flaws. I felt inexpressible joy at the birth of each of my children. Yet, the luster of each of these things faded quickly. I have no concept of permanent awe. In my sin-stained humanity that knows nothing but fallenness and imperfection, I cannot fathom a God who is so incredible, so holy, so perfect, that when I meet Him, I will desire nothing else but to praise Him forever.

I believe that we will discover our vision of heaven, and consequently, our vision of God, has been too small. Our expectation of perfect representations of earthly things will prove profoundly absurd. We will instead discover the perfection we have spent our whole lives seeking after, not in idealized versions of earthly things, but in God Himself. Because of His holiness, we will seek after nothing else...ever again...except to cry "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty!"