The Leper

In our passion play we have this scene:
The leper walked toward the crowd, ringing her gong and saying “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN!” The crowd draws away in fear with an audible gasp. The leper’s cry is a horrific recognition that she is outcast from society. It’s a terrible paradox: she must proclaim her desperate state in order to protect the society that she is outcast from because of her state. The leper’s existence is miserable. She is confined to loneliness, yet surrounded by people who avoid her at all cost, whom she must also avoid in order not to taint them.
As she approached the crowd, one man stands apart. He walks toward her. She draws back shaking her head and saying, “Unclean!” As if to say, “can’t you see that I can’t be around you, I’m doing this for you, can’t you see I’m keeping myself from you!?” This man insists motioning with his hand indicating that it is ok, and she need not back away. Confused, the leper stands still as the man lays his hands on her head and she is made clean! Rejoicing! She can be a part of society. She is clean.
We sometimes feel as though we cannot share our struggles with our church or we will taint it. Although often our motives are less for the holiness of the society and more for some ideal picture that we convince ourselves we are preserving. We hide our sins and our struggles, we mask our depression and weakness, we cover over our failures and lacking, we convince ourselves that we are protecting everyone else and preserving out society. It is a miserable state. Lonely in the midst of people who are all masking their sins in order to preserve the community. But we have a great healer. You live in community with other believers so that Christ could cleanse you of your sin, and you could find victory over this death and life in His body! We are to approach our struggles directly within our community and Christ will work through us for the victory.
The beauty of this portrait is in the leper’s cry. She recognizes that she is unclean, that she is tainted with a disease, a death that she cannot get off. The crowd’s response is to run away, but Jesus attacks the death head on. No depth of disease can stop Him and she cannot back away far enough for Him to stop His advance! Her cry of “UNCLEAN!” cannot keep Him at bay. She cannot stay His hand, He is not afraid of the death she is covered in. He deals with that which taints her and cleanses her directly. She will never deal with that death again. For those who believe, this is our story.

Romans 8:1-4
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Hallelujah!!! We are clean!

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Flash Prayers

About a month and a half ago I was struggling with a feeling of anxiousness towards some people and truely a feeling of uncertainty. I shared with my small group that meets on Thursday night (which is AWESOME) and one of the men pulled me aside and said, “I think God just wants you to be quiet and watch Him do it.” So I tried it… Amazing!
I’ve been wonderfully blessed lately to see God answer prayer. Francis Chan explains that one of the differeinces between our God and others is that our God listens to us. I’ve been touched by this reality… especially lately. It has been my delight to lift up seemingly trivial matters to the Lord and watch Him work, without me saying a word. Someone has a head ache… I pray, “God could you heal this, please… that would be awesome.” Someone is depressed, “God could you bring them joy” Somone is anxious, “Lord give them peace” Somone is angry, “Lord give them love and calm them down” Somone is foolish, “Lord give them wisdom.” Someone denies the Gospel, “Lord save them.” And on and on and on.
God is good! He has answered soooo much, just in the last week alone.
So try it… pray. You don’t have to say anything outloud or light candles or speak in a breathy tone voice. Just pray. It’s awesome!

Eastern Philosophy

Sun Tzu: “it is the business of a general to be quiet… upright and just, and thus maintain order.” (Variation in Tactics: 36)
I’ve been re-reading The Art of War and The Tao Te Ching. It is interesting the themes that run through Eastern philosophy. Themes of honor, respect, and slow decisive action are weaved throughout each work. However, in contrast there is a theme of deception, power, and oppression as well. For example, Sun Tzu first explains that the general needs to be upright and just, honorable and wise in order to earn the admiration of their subordinates. However, in stark contrast to this noble reality, he also states that the general should be deceptive and shrewd, manipulative and self motivated. It is encouraged to keep the masses ignorant of everything that you plan, and thereby maintain blind obedience.
Strange how men without Christ need to ensure that they remain in power, and yet men with Christ may apply the first form of leadership without the latter. The greatest leaders need not manipulate, they depend on the voice of the Lord to direct their paths. Although the eastern philosophers can challenge some of our practices, they cannot guide morality or motivation. Those must be dictated by Christ.

When you became my chief poem

When You became my chief
Music began, Noise ceased
Every fruitless thing faded
My glory my name my self was traded

for something…

Something free that cost me my everything,
But grants me more than my eyes could ever see
More than this world could ever give to me
More than our hearts could ever receive

More and more and more…

When you became my Joy
The sound of creation became my delight
Obedience my life
Submission my desire,
and on You I set my entire

Being.

Knowing full well only you can see me. Really see me…

My life, my family, my toys, my successes,
my romances, my self exalting joys,
I count as loss, only You, only You,
only You through the cross!
All else faded save your grace,
entertainment became a waist
Of time, of intellect, of life, of truth
A waist of everything that once was of use

When you became my desire
All material things became as ash in my stomach
As gravel in my soul, weighing me down
No pulling me down, down, down into the pit
Stripping me of my delight while I lay blinded
Until you taught me the joy of Your presence
You answered my cry and pulled me from despair
And I finally breath the air of You… delight
Here earthly treasures fade
My Joy is You, my goal beyond the grave

Now you are my desire, my joy, my chief, and my song
My soul filled with wonder my heart longs
To hear of your Grace, to sing of your beauty
My delight my hope my dreams rest in You

Oh LORD speak now! Let us hear Your truth!
Then turn us with hearts laden with praise
Give our hearts song, give our souls love, give our minds truth
But Lord, Oh LORD give us You.

The Chasm

REVIEW OF The Chasm: by Randy Alcorn

The Chasm  is an abridgement of Alcorn’s book The Edge of Eternity.  In this abridgement Alcorn focuses on one of the many portions of this magnificent allegory.  There is a chasm that must be crossed to reach the city of ”Charis” (heaven).  Ultimate joy lay on the other side of the Chasm and deceit and falsehood lay in the shadow-lands behind.  We follow Nick Seagrave as he travels the red road to Charis.  The characters that Alcorn writes about are vivid and powerfully relatable.  We’ve all met the crazy saints that seem so terrifyingly obsessed with Christ.  We’ve all met the false messiahs who look great and promise life and only deliver death.  We will all see the woodsman who can make away.  The Chasm is a powerful allegory that will encourage any reader.  It is short and easy to read. 

However, due to the nature of abridgement, much of the detail is passed over in The Chasm.  Alcorn strives to catch the reader up to the middle of the larger work The Edge of Eternity, yet the details of the first work are so paramount it is difficult to grasp the second without it.  If this is your first introduction to Alcorn, it is a worthy read.  However, if you are an avid reader, I would recommend finding the larger work and digging deep into the allegory.

How do we judge success?

            I am a 29 year old seminary student and pastor. 

At Seminary a fellow student asked, “How do you measure your success?”  Now, the reality is that every pastor hates this question.  Mostly because every pastor knows that we are judged on the basis of numbers, to some extent.  The people who are in the church, understandably, want to see others in the church as well.  So we think of getting people in as the dominant form of success, and thereby judge the effectiveness of our pastors on this yard stick.  If you ever want to see an interesting response, ask a pastor this question.  When asked the question we immediately feel the need to explain ourselves (as if we have to explain a malady and give an account for every member that we have not seen for a while).  We feel like we ought to say something incredibly wise and profound, but what usually comes out is a stammering blubbering nothing, usually sounds like this, “well, we have a good, you know…  the real measure is…  well, I guess our people are, its not about numbers, we need to provide some.”  There is no good answer to that question.  Precisely because if we have great numbers, we often feel like we are performing for the crowd, if we have low numbers we feel like people must not like us.  (Never mind the fact that people hated Jesus, and crucified Him) 

            The truth is that Jesus measured success in a far different manner.  Constantly, when crowds get to be large, Jesus says or teaches something that turns them away.  In fact one of my favorite stories is John 6 when Jesus goes across the lake at night (seemingly to avoid the crowd and get away from them) and they chase him down and Our Lord’s response is “You’re only following me because you had a good meal!”  In verses 66-67 we see that Jesus teaches something that turns them away.  On another occasion in John 10, Jesus has the opportunity to make friends with the Pharisees by saying something like “turn to the LORD and be saved, let us go to the temple and worship!”  Instead, He intentionally tells them that they are thieves and robbers and that He is God.  This enrages them and they try to stone Him and then they try to arrest Him. 

            So how did Jesus measure success?  It seems like one criterion is love.  How much do we love each other, how much do we love the lost, and how much do we love the work of the LORD?  Check out John 13:34-35, 15:10, and the Lord’s conversation with Peter in John 21:15-24.  Seems like Jesus measured success by love and the way that love poured out on others. 

            Yet another criterion seemed to be obedience.  In fact the first measure is observed by this, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)  And in another place, speaking of salvation, we see Jesus saying: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36) This verse intrinsically links belief and obedience.  Thus, the validity of belief is measured by obedience.    

            Now the reality is that we are not so good at these two measuring sticks, and I don’t really want to be judged on them either.  How much do I love those who hate me?  How much do I love the poor, lowly, and despised of this world?  These are not questions I enjoy.  They are hard to answer and I cannot easily see the results.  You see to answer these I actually have to know the people in my congregation.  To answer these I actually have to desire for my life to intertwine with the people I teach.  To answer that question I have to care about the heart and not just the outward actions of my people.  I have to bleed with them, I have to struggle with them, and I actually have to get into their business with them.  It’s much easier to count them and ask them to check off the boxes.  If I can say, “we had 50 who checked off that they brought their bible to church, did their daily devotionals, and tithed and we had 200 who didn’t do those things.”  Then I have a measurable target.  But if I ask these questions, I have to say, “We have 25 who clearly love other people and obey the Word of God in real and tangible ways, which I know of because I am actively a part of their lives and am involved in their work, and 300 who are just too darn busy to love or who I don’t know.”  The whole conception of measurement gets muddled and nebulous!  After all, how does one measure loving other people?  And when do you know if you’re obeying the Word of God correctly?  We must learn to do this.

            So as we strive to learn to measure success, we can keep the easy model of numbers or we can dig into lives and measure love and obedience.