“Eleanor Rigby…Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for”
I can’t recall who it was, but I once head a preacher say that the most important thing that we have is our identity. And I think he was right. Through all we go through and everything that we face our identity, what we know and/or believe about ourselves, is the foundation of who we are. And because of that, when our identity is attacked or changes or shifts so do we. It’s as if Christ knew what He was talking about when He warned us of the dangers of a house built on the sand instead of solid ground.
It’s our identity, who we are or are not, that shapes all of us. It shapes the people we call our friends. The people we love. The places we go. The things we do. It shapes all of us. It’s what makes us, us.
Every preacher has that thing that they say over and over. Some have a few, but almost all have at least one. When I was living in Oregon my pastor would say almost...
Over thanksgiving break I signed up for a record club. I’ve never done it before, but there are no good vinyl shops where I live so I figured I might as well. Last month was a sampler of different artists, but this month it was a full album, The Bird & The Rife. I’m up late listening to it. It’s good, sad country music.
Growing up I always listened to country music with my dad. As I grew older I stopped and began to listen to other genres. For a while I even claimed Phish as my favorite band, but that stopped when I wasn’t smoking weed everyday. Now as I am closer to 27 I find myself listening to more and more country music. Not the crap they play on the radio these days, but the real stuff. The type of music that is made up of tear filled mornings and whiskey filled nights.
A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s Christmas party and they had some friends play music for the party. As they played the room was filled with the sound. Most people sat silently letting the music flow through them...
“So this is the New Year, and I don’t feel any different…
So this is the New Year, and I have no resolutions.
No self assigned penance, for problems with easy solutions.”
If I’m honest I knew that magic of New Years was nothing more than that. Most years I can see it for what it is; just another day. But this year I allowed myself to believe that it held something sacred. I felt like Dorothy approaching the wizard, surrounded by clanking glasses and kissing couples I felt as though there might be something there this year. Some magic moment that would deliver just what I needed. But just as quickly as that moment came so did the one following it. I had stood amazed at the wizard just long enough to be distraught at seeing the man behind the curtain. As with those in Oz who wanted something from their wizard, I wanted something from mine. I wanted a silver bullet with which to put down all that I no longer wanted within me…thoughts, memories, pain, all of it. I wanted it gon...
It was late one evening sitting in the cool of a southern summer’s night when I finally said the words which I though I would never voice since Christ brought me back to Himself almost a decade ago. “I just don’t know if I trust Jesus anymore.” The words fell out like a long held confession ringing through every fiber of my being. If I am honest, these words had haunted me for some time, ringing in my head, my heart, and my soul. They fell from my lips with the weight of truth and taste of bitterness. But these words were true. I hated them, but they were true. I still believed that Jesus was God incarnate. I still believed that He died, and in doing to took all my sin and gave me all that He was; righteous, perfect, and all the rest. I still believed that He was ruling and reigning. Still believed that He was sovereign. But for the first time in my life sovereignty tasted bitter. I still believed in Christ, I just wasn’t sure I believed Him.
When wondering through the forest of the church fathers I have often heard stories of men as Ploycarp, Augustine, Turtullian towering as redwoods above the others. I do believe this to be true, but as I have journeyed into the forest of the fathers I have found a giant amongst the old growth. This giant is Athanasius of Alexandria. Though his name and story may not be as familiar to many, he stands tall as a defender of the faith and a man who was used greatly used by God to preserve the truth of Christianity at a time in Church History when it seemed as if the Christian world had gone Arian. As John Piper puts it, “This is what Athanasius is best known for. There were times when it seemed the whole world had abandoned orthodoxy. That is why the phrase ‘Athanasius contra Mundum’ (against the world) arose. He stood steadfast against overwhelming defection from orthodoxy, and only at the end of his life could he see the dawn of triumph.”
Athanasius was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the...
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.” –Revelation 2:2-3
I have, for a few weeks now, felt these verses speak to me. These are the very words of the glorified Christ speaking to John the Revelator upon the island of Patmos. These are words that carry weight and words that pierce. I wish I above all things that these words of Christ stopped at the end of verse three and went no further. For if these were the only words given than it would be such a mighty encouragement. They would be words of strength the likes of which no mortal man could ever udder. But this letter to the Church in Ephesus goes on to speak to my soul words that cause it lament upon hearing them and near collapse under the weight of knowing them to be true. After s...
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
“Full of grace and truth.” These were the words that John used to describe Jesus to all who would read his gospel account of Christ. John, the one who was called beloved, wanted all to know that the words of Christ rang true and that He was full of such a grace that those who hated a religious system were drawn close to Him. But for us what do these words mean. Are we meant to read them and simply marvel at all that Christ was while he was incarnate? Or, just perhaps, do these words stand as something more?
Before leaving on my venture westward a dear friend of mine, a mine that I hope to one day be more like, sat with me and echoed these words. He told me sternly but lovingly that if I cannot find a balance of both grace and truth that I would not be worthy to be called a minister of the gospel. He told me that people often saw grace...
"No one else holds or has held the place in the heart of the world which Jesus holds."
“But as it is written,
‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him’”
-1 Corinthians 2:9
This is the verse that we run to when we speak of Heaven. When we grow weary we recall this verse and remind ourselves that one-day, far off and far away, these things will be ours. It has been plastered on cheese bookstore paintings of heaven and printed on coffee cups doing the same. But as I sat down and read these verses today I have to think that we have gotten this wrong. And in doing so I imagine that we have robbed the Scripture of its power to comfort and empower us.
There is much in the Canon of Scripture that speaks of Heaven. And all of those verses should speak peace to us but I can no longer imagine that this verse is one of those. If all we had was this single verse my declaration would seem silly and extreme, but I fear t...
"Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation."
When I was first truly exited about Christ as an adult I was 18-19 years of age. At this season of my life I was a big fan of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled cheap grace, although I have come to call it what the Bible does…a doctrine of demons. I enjoyed being able to tell myself that I could do whatever I wanted to do and there would be no repercussions for it. The girl I was dated during this time I dated mostly so we could have sex more and enjoyed selling some weed here and there, just enough so that I could smoke for free. But with all this there was something deep within me that called me to gather once a week with people who had the same belief that I claimed to hold dear to me. I know that the people that were leading this church loved Jesus, but I liked going because I could wake up at my girlfriends house, smoke a joint on the way, and enjo...
"See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God"
In the church we have for long idolized our ‘heroes’ of the faith and told ourselves and those around us that this was the goal. In Sunday school we heard stories of the boy David who with only a sling and stone killed a giant. We marvel at the strength of men like Samson who killed a small town with only bones in hand. We hear fiery sermons telling us that we should, like Peter, leave our nets at the shore and at once become fishers of men. We tell these stories and make for ourselves men who, if Stan Lee were a Christian, would appear alongside the heroes of our youth mask in place and cape tightly fit.
We have done all this for many good reasons, but in doing this we have made heroes of men who saw that they were not. We have taken those who we aspire to be and have forgotten that Christ, not themselves, were the hero of their story. For Willie Nelson, his heroes have always been cowboys. But for me, my heroes h...