Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grandpa's House

Rows of brick, each laid with care,
Post and lintel plumb and square,
A quiet garden, beds of roses,
Rhododendrons, pansies, posies,
Picture windows down to boats,
Closets full of games and coats,
A hug, a kiss, the warmest smile,
Canning jars in rank and file,
Cherries, pears, and apricots,
Applesauce in burbling pots,
Grandma's paintings on the walls,
Running cousins in the halls,
Tools and toys, the Buick, too,
The Chevy truck, so clean and blue,
The smell of oil on all the saws,
Grinder, chisels, lumber, laws,
"Hold it so, not thus, and squeeze",
Rod and rifle, fields and trees,
Christmas feasts with pies and cakes,
Pancake breakfasts, streams and lakes,
The house my Grandpa built was so,
He built it well, he did not know
how else to work, the only way
was do it well and square today.

The house is gone, or much the same,
My Grandpa's gone, and bricks and frame
are drained and loveless, cold and spare,
without the loving builder there.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Over-Under-Around-and-Through

This is a post about Jesus.

More specifically, it is a post about Jesus as the incarnate Word of God.

This is mystery, no doubt.  The locutionary Word of God that spoke all things into being (without which noting was made that was made) became a human creature Himself.  This is far off and very deep, but it is the plain declaration of John 1, Paul, and Christ Himself, who claimed to be one with the Father.

The question, then: what are we to do when we encounter the Word?

Due to the presence in my home of a small child (mea culpa), I find myself reading many "prepositional books".  You know, like the inimitable Bears in the Night, and Bear Hunt, or 22 Bears (there is a common theme here, though I can't quite put my claw on it).  These cheerful books contain characters depicting a variety of phrases, typically prepositional ("out the window, down the tree, over the wall, under the bridge, around the lake, between the rocks, through the woods, up Spook Hill..." - Bears in the Night by Stan & Jan Berenstain, and I guess it took two of them to write that...). 

When we come to the Word of God in the historical, factual, brutally real person of Jesus Christ, what do we do? 

Do we stand over Him and declare "textual inconsistencies and grammar make you implausible, so you're probably mythic or projectional, good bye, perhaps you can apply for an opening as a prophet down the hall..."?

Do we go around Him, and excuse ourselves but "we really appreciate the work others say you did (see above), and you're really nice (not like some of your followers - I've got a bumper sticker, see), but what I'm after here today is religion and spirituality and that's where I'm headed, so I beg your pardon - or rather, I suppose I don't have to..."?

Or do we sit under Him, and beg earnestly for even the crumbs which fall from the children's table, knowing that it is better to be a doorkeeper in the house of God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness, and a day in His courts is better than a thousand outside?

Do we go through Him to the heavenly country, knowing that He is the door of the sheep, and all who come over the wall are crooks, and we would much rather be with Him, better still, in Him, and be quiet sheep (an intentionally offensive picture then as now) content to graze where the shepherd puts us?

Our poor fallen postmodern world would have you believe that you can pick your preposition.  Sit under a text or over it, who cares but that you are engaging it!  Go through the system or around the system, we just reward those who get results!  Make your own place in the world, fill it with voices you love, and dwell there forever, in your cocoon of identity, never ruffled by so much as a breath of wind, much less that guy on a horse with a two-edged sword coming out of his mouth...  Turn up the music, maybe the rocks will fall on us.

But facts cannot be changed. You will be no-place else but under this Jesus.  No future does not go through Him.

But come now, when mercy may be found, not later, when justice alone has the field.  Today is the acceptable time, when you may look forward to His "Well done!", not the chilling command to "Depart, I never knew you".

We do not sit over the Word.  Let us sit under it, and approach God through Him.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Holy Sonnet 14


Batter my heart, three-person’d God; for you
As yet but knock; breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne (1572–1631)

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Book Review

I just finished Rosaria Champagne Butterfield's The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (available here).

This book is dynamite.

This book is dynamite because the grace of Jesus Christ is powerful (like RDX?  Tsar Bomba? I'll abandon this analogy now if you don't mind).

This book is NOT trite.  If you want a story of "worldy bad-girl comes to Jesus and becomes normal", you may not like this book (but you should definitely read it).  If you want a story that is anything more or less than painful and bloody redemption through the cross of Christ, well, why would you want a story like that?

Unless you are hiding.

This book does not condone hiding. 

If you are hiding in your sin, beware that God will find you out, and for your sake I pray it is in this life and not the next.

"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done."  (Revelation 20:11-12 ESV)

If you are hiding in your church, beware that Jesus has harsher words for the bad good guys than he does for the plain-old-bad guys. 

"Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it." (Revelation 2:16-17 ESV)

"For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17 ESV)

"And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you." (Matthew 11:23-24 ESV)

If you are hiding in your family (and for the record, I am and have been guilty of all three forms of hiding), beware that God does not call you to comfort, He calls you to obedience, submission, and the way of holiness.  We are guaranteed no ease until the final Sabbath rest.

'Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.' (Matthew 19:28-30 ESV)

This book will challenge you.  I am confident in saying that, because I think there is no Christian on earth who does not need further sanctification, and godly wisdom comes in part by hearing the godly tell of their redemption (see Ps. 107).  This book is timely, for though the author's academic career at Syracuse "peaked" in the late 1990s, she was so far out in the vanguard of LGBT-feminism that the mainstream is just now catching up. Thus, the issues that surrounded a few thousand avant-garde in her day have now enveloped our society.

This book is not about Rosaria, though.  This book is about Jesus.  She (and I, too) holds firmly to God's sovereignty in saving His people.  No true "conversion story" is about how I found/chose/sought Jesus.  That's never the story of God's people.  The summary story of God's people is found in Ezekiel 16.  It is a story of God's faithfulness, God's choosing his bride, God's making her beautiful, God's chastisement of her sins, and God's eternal covenant of grace - to love her.  To love her so boldly, so thoroughly, so (dare I say it) humbly, that He Himself promises to atone for her shameful sins.  Ezekiel must have been left on tenterhooks, wondering HOW, LORD?  As he later confesses, when asked if the dry bones can live, "Lord, you know."  But thanks be to God through Christ Jesus our lord and savior, that the bones are not left scattered, that the harlot is not left in her bloody skirts, that the sinner, me, you (I hope), Mrs. Butterfield, and all God's people, are not left to ourselves, but made Christ's.

But what does that mean?  We are not left to ourselves (which would be, in fact, the worst-thing-in-the-world, to borrow from Orwell, the thing for which Job foolishly asked and God graciously denied him).

Think that through.  We are not left to ourselves.  We are made Christ's.  What becomes of ourselves, then?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4 ESV)

Ourselves, as we knew them, are dead.  God's people are a new creation in Christ.  Our sinful nature, in which we once walked, is NOT redeemed.  It is put to death!  Our new nature in Christ is not a modification, an improvement, a healing of the old.  It is the glorious new life that Christ plants in us by His Spirit, and in so doing, kills the old sinful nature.  The two cannot coexist.  Mrs. Butterfield makes an excellent point, especially regarding sexual sin - sin cannot be redeemed - it must be punished by a just and holy God.  The serpent must be killed (not caged) for the garden to be safe.  But thanks be to God who has given us the victory in Christ Jesus!

In fine, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is an excellent book for Christians new to the faith, old in the faith, middle-aged in the faith, and everywhere in between.  It would be disingenuous to say "don't let your kids read it", because kids are already exposed to so much filth that an honest look at it would probably be helpful.  (And if you think you have successfully sheltered your children from the sins "out there" in the world - you are wrong.  I guarantee it.)  But read it yourself first, and exercise wisdom.  That's not the same as timidity.  If you recoil from it, or think "I couldn't share this stuff with my kids/spouse/dog, it's dangerous", take a long look at yourself.  What are you hiding (or hiding from)?  If Christians cannot deal with sins and sinners, who will? 

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."  (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

All of us need the gospel.  And Jesus is mighty to save.  If we believe this, will we not be bold in the strength of His might?  Shall we not always be ready to give a defense for the hope that lies within us (yet with gentleness and respect)?  We may never write anyone off.  The book of life is the Lamb's, and the gospel of peace is ours to proclaim.

Thank you, Mrs. Butterfield, for a challenging and excellent book.  May God bless you and your family.