July 19, 2013
"Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see!
Where have you not been ravished?
By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers
like an Arab in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your vile whoredom."
Here, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God chastises his people. And he does so in a way that many church folk (or anyone) might find offensive. He calls them whores.
Coming across this as I read in my devotions this morning did not exactly bring a case of the warm fuzzies to my heart. It called me out, forcing me to look at the sin in my life, and it furthermore reminded me that this is not an uncommon use of language for God. The use of marriage and sexual metaphor to explain the covenant relationship of God to his people, and the way in which his people violate that covenant, is found throughout the Scriptures. Ezekiel 16 being perhaps the most notable case. There God explains his calling of Israel unto himself, adorning her and loving her, cherishing her. It then goes on to detail her pride in the beauty that God gave her, and her clamoring in lust after other suitors. In verses 30-33, God puts it this way,
"How sick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like the prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side in your whorings."
This is shocking language for a loving God to use toward his people, is it not? I want to ask two questions. First, why would God use startling and potentially offensive language to address his people? Second, why would God use this particular sort of offensive language?
Why so blunt?
I believe the reason God uses such blunt and bold language in addressing sin is quite simple: he loves us. Romans 3:23 tells us that the wage sin earns is death, and thus to continue in sin means one thing: death. Eternal, conscious, tormented, damnation in hell. That simple.
If God is love (1 John 4:8), and that love is directed toward the world (John 3:16), is it unreasonable then to assume that God would tell us that our actions are going to kill us? Furthermore, is it not obvious that in response to our pig-headed rejection of this fact (Romans 1:18-19), some severe language may be necessary to communicate the point? The short version in this: God is honest with people in the Bible, and through the Bible is honest with us, because our sin is damning, and he desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4). Can't be saved if you don't know you need it.
Why does God use this particular metaphor in relation to our rebellion and sin? Because marriage and sex are themselves designed as metaphor. In Ephesians five Paul explains that the union of a man and a woman in marriage, and the “one flesh” sexual, emotional, and spiritual union that is a part of that, are designed ultimately to display the love of Christ and his church. Which means that when God calls Israel "whores", he does not mean that our sin is simply like whoring, but rather, our sin is whoring in the truest sense of the word. That revulsion you feel when a woman is loved by her husband and yet offers herself to other men is pointing to something deeper than her just physical adultery, as bad as that may be. It speaks of a spiritual whoring which is more revolting than anything you have ever experienced or could imagine.
This is the whoring we are all guilty of.
We don't want to admit this, or deal with it. It feels icky. It is icky. And we need to realize this. We need it held before us that our sin is whoring, and even our good works are as dirty tampons (Is 64:6). We need Jesus. We need the loving husband who pursues and pursues, to the point of laying down his life for his bride (see Ephesians 5, as well as Hosea 1-3). We are lost without him.
July 12, 2013
This is a reworking of a poem I wrote almost three years ago. I'm still not much of a poet, but I have improved. The emotion in this poem deserved better than my original words conveyed.
They had marched and fought for months with little food to eat
And several weeks had passed since they last had tasted meat
They marched ore fallen logs, and through the powd'ry fresh snow
Praying the morn to see, along with sun and its warm glow
The howling wolf and freezing fog, had beckoned in the night
A time that ev'n hardened men must wrestle fits of fright
That great and mighty men should fear, is unbelievable you say
Yet through fear they pushed on through conflict night and day
Courage, it is said, means not the lack, but rather, facing fears
This these men had done, holding fast through blood and tears
"War is a Scourge," we hear is what the wise men have all said
They'll be shown right, when in the morn, our heroes are all dead
July 11, 2013
Prayer. Bible reading. Meditation. Fasting. These, along with a number of other things, are what we refer to collectively as "the spiritual disciplines." What an obtuse term. Who really wants to practice spiritual discipline? The idea of discipline seems so boring, restrictive, and terribly un-modern. Patience, discipline, toil- these things have become somewhat akin to curse words.
Shouldn't religion or spirituality be more free flowing than this? More free flowing, perhaps, than any part of life? And more gratifying, too. Right?
I don't have any data on this, but it is my assumption that most Christians would like to know God better. I have a simple question. Why do we think that it would be easy? Don't get me wrong, God isn't grading us on a "he tried harder than she did" scale. The only basis for a right relationship with and forgiveness by God is the finished work of Christ on the cross. Nor is a relationship with God difficult in the same way human-human relationships are, because with God we're the only sinner in the equation.
However, our hearts are still sinful. Our desires are, as CS Lewis said, are too weak. We do not long for God or pursue Him naturally as we ought. And so we discipline ourselves. We do things that consciously turn us toward Him. We pray, we open our bible, we occasionally deny ourselves food. Because these are magic sources of otherworldly euphoria? No. Because we know that while often these things seem rote and mundane, there are times that God moves mightily in our hearts through these means of grace. But those moments do not come apart from the discipline. It's akin to plowing the field and praying for rain. Do we cause the rain? No. But we can be ready for it. Raining and tilling are not the same. But without first tilling, we will never enjoy the fruits of the rainfall.
July 09, 2013
The day of death is better than the day of birth
Death is someplace we all arrive - are you ready?
The only way to find your life is to lose it
I take that to mean serving others and abandoning my pursuit of fulfillment is the only way to be fulfilled.
To live is Christ, to die is gain
Jesus has a purpose for me here, a design that I may find life in. But it will never compare to eternity with Him.
Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
They will know we are disciples by our love. We are disciples by virtue of fearing and following God. One way we display that fear of God by honoring those authorities He has ordained.
The Lord is my Shepherd
Nothing can pluck me out of the hand, or the sheepfold, of my loving Shepherd. I can have rock solid trust in my God.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
God is the transcendent Lord of all creation. He predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies His children. He ordains not only that we believe in Christ, but that we suffer for His sake. No opposition hinders this.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
We cannot live wisely apart from God. We cannot know God without beginning to see who He is. And any honest look at who He is will have us on our face in fear.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.
Jesus is exclusive. He's the only way. He's also inclusive when he makes clear that He didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus wants you. Come to Him.