Friday, February 18, 2011


is this thing still alive?
should it be ported to the digital grave of sites like friendster and geocities?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jesus my Savior

I was reading My Utmost for His Highest this morning (side note: I always want to say “upmost.” Doesn’t that make more sense? Who uses the word utmost anyways.) Well, Oswald said that one problem we have today is celebrating the person of Jesus and trying to imitate him as a kind and worthy person to imitate, but removing the focus away from his saving grace and how we desperately need his salvation. He is first our Saviour and second our Pattern for who we should be in the world.

This was particularly striking to me because my deepest prayer for the past six years has been “Lord, please make me more into the image of Christ.” I realized as I was reading MUfHH this morning that I have been very focused on becoming more Christ-like, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I am no longer focusing on the fact that I have a deep need for a savior. We all do. This also ties in with Brian’s story and his message he gave last week at HC. It’s hard to need Christ when we don’t really need him. We think we’re fine on our own. However we all know that we cannot earn our own salvation. I know that Christ has paid the way for me. But sometimes I forget about that. I stop being thankful for that. And instead I focus on how I can get on with my spiritual maturation. This year, during Advent and Christmas, I hope I am able to grasp and remember deep down how truly blessed I am to have not only a Pattern, but also a Savior. Maybe this will become my new prayer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wondering if we give thanks the right way

Peruse the internet for even seven seconds today and you'll see list upon list of things people are thankful for. I think you're likely aware of this.

What strikes me with these lists (and in my own) is how thankfulness tends to be expressed as a dichotomy (big word) towards another fate.

You're thankful for family because not everyone has one
You're thankful for food because not everyone can eat today
You're thankful for warm clothing because there are people freezing outside

And so on.

What strikes me is in all these scenarios, we're not truly thankful until that thing is taken away from us. I mean, we can go through the motions of being thankful. It usually feels to me like 10% truth and 90% lip service. I find this problematic.

Let's extend this problem a little further:
Do we do the same thing with receiving God's grace? Where we only truly feel it when we've screwed something up?

I'm guessing the answer is 'yes' for most people. That seems messed up. God's grace is not reserved for people with extreme testimonies. As someone whose testimony tends toward the extreme side, I wish I'd been walking on the path since day one.

There's got to be a more accurate way of feeling thankful. There's got to be a better way of feeling God's grace.

My guess is we'd rather worship extreme situations and function in opposition to them. It's a much better story that way, right?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introverts in church

This short article posits that many Protestant churches have conflated spirituality with sociability, mistakenly making a situation where extraversion is good and introversion is bad. If the author is correct, then it might also have something to do with the lack of men in the church. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what others think about the article.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A few bits of church history

I heard an old college professor, Jerry Sittser, give some talks about church history this past weekend. Even though it happened in Vancouver, Washington (really, things happen there?), hearing Jerry lecture is usually a good idea, and it was a very worthwhile event. He talked about things from the first to the eighteenth century; here are a few things that stuck out to me:

-The early church catechumenate. Way back in the day, when the church was relatively just getting started, people didn't just start attending services. There was a long, involved training process for newbies where they were taught and discipled, tested for genuineness and eventually baptized and given the Eucharist. The whole thing sounds rather foreign--I mean, who gets "trained" when they become a Christian these days? But, really, we could do a better job in giving direction to new believers, and even not-so-new but immature ones.

-The church in the Middle Ages. Medieval Europe was basically a mess, literacy was low, and Bibles were scarce. This led to three things (yes, only three (just kidding)).

*First, the church developed a number of material, especially visual, aspects to faith. Go look up Gothic cathedral architecture sometime; the shape of the buildings, high ceilings, gargoyles, window placements, stained-glass salvation stories, it all had meaning and was meant to benefit the believer. And that's to say nothing of the images, songs, and other non-written features that the church employed. With the appreciation for (obsession with) various media (say, the internet) that our society has, sometimes I wonder if the church is really botching something important here. Obviously things have changed since Medieval times, and there is just a lot more media out there in general, and I'm not saying that we should move away from literacy, but it is an interesting topic to think about.

*Because of the illiteracy, etc., laypeople depended heavily on the monks and clergy, who prayed for them, sang for them, basically did everything for them. Granted, that probably wasn't an ideal situation, but what caught my attention was Jerry's empathy for those people. Jerry once dealt with the sudden deaths of his mother, wife, and daughter in a single car accident, an experience that was of course highly traumatic. In the aftermath, he says, he felt unable to pray or sing or do anything faith-related other than take communion. It's not that he stopped believing; he was just too tired, so he suspended belief, and the church carried him along, temporarily singing, praying, and believing for him. "And that," he says, "is when I understood the Medieval church for the first time." I don't know how that all works out theologically, but I think Jerry is on to something, and it's a good thought for those who might tend to expect too much from themselves.

*The vanguard of Medieval Christendom was the monastery. There are lots of things to say about the monks, but what caught my attention recently is that they 1) scheduled regular prayer into their days, and 2) did regular things in the context of their faith. I could be wrong, but it seems like a lot of people try to do more Christian things, when what they really need is to do things more Christianly. I was reminded of Brother Lawrence, a monk who talked about doing things like washing dishes as acts of worship. You don't have to be a monk to do that.

-In the revival that John and Charles Wesley were involved in, they had small groups. They were called "holy clubs." Just thought I would mention that.

-Also, I heard that Luther's Large Catechism is good reading. I haven't read it yet, but it might be worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Self-awareness, Christ-awareness

I was reading some thoughts from Oswald Chambers the other day that are actually related to my last post. He's being a little disjointed and mystical, but I like some of his ideas about how we view things. (Read the full texts here and here) He says:

Never allow anything that divides or destroys the oneness of your life with Christ to remain in your life without facing it. Beware of allowing the influence of your friends or your circumstances to divide your life. This only serves to sap your strength and slow your spiritual growth. Beware of anything that can split your oneness with Him, causing you to see yourself as separate from Him. Nothing is as important as staying right spiritually. And the only solution is a very simple one— “Come to Me . . . .” The intellectual, moral, and spiritual depth of our reality as a person is tested and measured by these words.

And again:

Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once, asking Him to re-establish your rest. Never allow anything to remain in your life that is causing the unrest. Think of every detail of your life that is causing the disintegration as something to fight against, not as something you should allow to remain. Ask the Lord to put awareness of Himself in you, and your self-awareness will disappear. Then He will be your all in all. Beware of allowing your self-awareness to continue, because slowly but surely it will awaken self-pity, and self-pity is satanic. Don’t allow yourself to say, “Well, they have just misunderstood me, and this is something over which they should be apologizing to me; I’m sure I must have this cleared up with them already.” Learn to leave others alone regarding this. Simply ask the Lord to give you Christ-awareness, and He will steady you until your completeness in Him is absolute.

I appreciate Chambers' directness, and I like the way he characterizes closeness to Christ as "rest." I'm still chewing on the Christ-awareness-replacing-self-awareness part, but it seems to speak to the subject of self-definition that I raised in the previous post. If any of you have thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How do you define yourself?

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago in which the pastor said that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures. We have to let them go, he said. Discussing it afterward, a friend asked me if I think I do define myself that way or not. I don't really think I do, and I said so, but for some reason the topic still made me a little unsettled.

Well, I was thinking about it again the other day. I agree that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures, and I still don't think I am in a habit of doing that, but I think I do define myself by my successes. And, looking around, it seems that we're taught to do that on a social level, and more or less innately want to on an individual level (I'm not going to try to prove that it's innate right now, but it makes sense, right?).

There are two problems here.

First, if you define yourself by successes and not failures, then your philosophy of self is incoherent. It can be both or neither, but picking one and leaving the other is invalid.

Second, and at least equally important, is that we, as Christians, are not supposed to define ourselves by our achievements. I know the Bible talks about crowns and whatnot in heaven, but success does not define us as much as we would like it to. This is difficult to come to terms with, at least for me, because even within the church, success correlates with rewards and praise, good things. And I want those good things to be mine. If the success is mine, then the rewards are mine as well, and suddenly I am defining myself by successes.

Obviously the answer is not to fail at everything, but to have a new perspective. And that is the hard part...