Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If I Had Only Known You Better

Lord, I crawled across the barrenness
To You with my empty cup
Uncertain of asking
any small drop of refreshment.
If only I had known You better
I'd have come running with a bucket.

Nancy Spiegelberg & Dorothy Purdy in Fanfare: A Celebration of Belief

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is God Self-Centered?

I have struggled with this question. God demands that his creatures give Him undivided worship and yet, when we humans have the desire for personal glory, He condemns us for being self-absorbed. The only way I have been able to justify this command is that He alone is worthy of such loyalty as the supreme being in the whole universe. All life finds its origin in Him, therefore all life should look to Him with complete devotion.

In reading Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God, he has helped me to see that I have understood this question simply from a monotheistic perspective. "Christianity alone among the world faiths, teaches that God is triune. the doctrine of the Trinity is that God is one being who exists eternally in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The trinity means that God is, in essence, relational."

The Scripture describes these three persons living eternally in a community of mutual honour and joy. John especially paints a portrait of intimacy within the divine community (1:18; 16:14; 17:4-5). What does John mean when he says that the Father, Son, and Holy spirit glorify one another? "If we think of it graphically, we could say that self-centeredness is to be stationary, static. In self-centeredness we demand that others orbit around us. We will do things and give affection to others, as long as it helps us meet our personal goals and fulfills us.

"The inner life of the triune God, however, is utterly different. the life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love. When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires of the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom move around the other two. So it is, . . . each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love."

This truth has profound implications. "If God is triune, then loving relationships in community are the 'great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.' (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity). . . Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another. That is what the universe, God, history, and life is all about. If you favour money, power, and accomplishment over human relationships, you will dash yourself on the rocks of reality. . . . You will never get a sense of self by standing still, as it were, and making everything revolve around your needs and interests. Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitation that comes from being in committed relationships, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of things. . . . The world was made by a God who is a community of persons who have loved each other for all eternity. You were made for mutually self-giving, other-directed love. Self-centeredness destroys the fabric of what God has made."

Moreover, there is a greater personal significance in this truth. "Jonathan Edwards, in reflecting on the interior life of the triune God, concluded that God is infinitely happy. . . . because there is an 'other-orientation' at the heart of his being, because he does not seek his own glory but the glory of others."

This idea creates an apparent conflict with the many references in Scripture to God calling us to glorify and serve Him. The answer is resolved in the reason for this demand. "He wants our joy! He has infinite happiness not through self-centeredness, but through self-giving, other-centered love. And the only way we, who have been created in his image, can have this same joy, is if we center our entire lives around him instead of ourselves. . . . God did not create us to get the cosmic, infinite joy of mutual love and glorification, but to share in it. We were made to join in the dance. . . . We were made to center our lives upon him, to make the purpose and passion of our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling him. This growth in happiness will go eternally, increasing unimaginably (1 Corinthians 2:7-10)."

The rich will need to live more simply so that the poor may simply live. (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Do Not Be Discouraged by Your Feeble Progress

"No one in this earthly prison of the body has sufficient strength to press on with due eagerness and weakness so weighs down the greater number that, with wavering and limping and even creeping along the ground, they move at a feeble rate. Each one of us, then, proceed according to the measure of his puny capacity and set out on the journey we have begun. No one shall set out so inauspiciously as not daily to make some headway, though it be slight. Therefore, let us not cease so to act that we may make some unceasing progress in the way of the Lord. And let us not despair at the slightness of our success, for even though attainment may not correspond to desire, when today outstrips yesterday the effort is not lost. Only let us look toward our mark with sincere simplicity and aspire to our goal not fondly flattering ourselves nor excusing our own evil deeds, but with continuous effort striving toward this end: that we may surpass ourselves in goodness until we attain to goodness itself. It is this, indeed, that through the whole course of life we seek and follow. But we shall attain it only when we have cast off the weakness of the body and are received into full fellowship with him."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Smoke by George MacDonald

Lord, I have laid my heart upon thy altar
But cannot get the wood to burn;
It hardly flares ere it begins to falter
And to the dark return.

Old sap, or night-fallen dew, makes damp the fuel;
In vain my breath would flame provoke;
Yet see - at every poor attempt's renewal
To thee ascends the smoke.

'Tis all I have - smoke, failure, foiled endeavour,
Coldness and doubt and palsied lack:
Such as I have I send thee! - perfect Giver,
Send thou thy lightning back.

"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest upon me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Whatever you can do with a clean conscience, you can do to the glory of God. No work is so menial that it cannot be rendered as worship. Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God. (Colossians 3:23-24). I drive truck for Jesus.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Life's a journey, some paths have deep ruts and are very difficult to abandon. Choose wisely! (Colossians 3:1-3)
A Story of Personal Sacrifice

The stories that always seem to move us most deeply are those in which someone faces irremediable loss or death in order to bring life to someone else. John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meaney is another example of this motivating genre.

It's the story of two friends who grow up in a small town in New Hampshire. One of them, Owen Meaney, is peculiar by his smallness in physical stature, squeeky voice and quirky personality. His whole life is relentlessly moving toward a destiny of personal sacrifice. Irving portrays him as a prophet and ultimately as a messiah. The book is intriguing as the events of Owen's life all move toward a redeeming purpose: he sacrifices his life in order to rescue others. As imperfect as he is, his destiny is fulfilled.

A sub-theme that runs through the book is, for lack of a better description, "armlessness." The native chief who sells his land to the founder of Grave's End, NH, is represented by the graphic of a armless totem pole. Owen removes the arms of the statue of Mary Magdelene. Ultimately, Owen loses both of his arms in his fearless act of heroism.

The story is very moving. It stirs within me a desire to do something of worth in this world; to expend myself for the good of others. However, I find it difficult to follow through with my resolution to live more courageously. My heart's basic patterns stay the same. I am still driven by selfishness and the need for the approval of others. As long as these fears and needs have power over me, all my intentions to change will never be accomplished.

But the Gospel is a different story. it is not just another moving fiction. It is the true story of us. I am the one who is in peril and Jesus has come to give his life to rescue me. Despite my unwillingness to be saved he has taken my place. When I think of what Jesus has done for me I find transforming and liberating strength and inspiration for personal change. The fear and pride that enslave my heart is dislodged. I am humbled by the necessity of his sacrifice. I am thankful and joyful for his desire to willingly give his life in exchange for mine.

The Gospel is unique because Jesus' death is not the end of the story. He is not dead and armless. A Prayer for Owen Meaney concludes with the narrator's longing to have Owen back. He will forever remain an armless dead hero. In Contrast, Jesus is alive and forever remains the one "who holds the seven stars in his right hand" (Revelation 2:1), and the one "who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut and what he shuts no one can open" (Revelation 3:7), and the one who "is able to open the scroll and its seven seals" (Revelation 5:5), etc. It is he who Moses refers to with his glorious benediction, "The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Remember in the dark, what you've learned in the light. (Psalm 119:105).

Monday, March 15, 2010


Life is a journey, not an event. God works in you and others slowly. So slowly, that unless you reflect back, you will never notice the changes.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


"There are many angles at which a man may fall, but there is only one angle at which he can stand straight." G.K.Chesterton (Matt. 7:13-14)