Sunday, March 2, 2014

Et Lux Perpetua

If you aren't familiar with Latin, it means (loosely) "perpetual light".  It's an old liturgical term, most often associated with remembering someone after they have died and asking that their light shine on for eternity.  But today, I had a different thought about the phrase.  It came while we were discussion the John Eldridge Book, Waking the Dead and discussing how C.S. Lewis noted we all bear the image of God in our souls ... and we are eternal beings right here, right now.

So you mean that homeless man I pass on the corner has "perpetual light" burning within him?  Well, to be frank - yes, that's what I mean.  We all bear that original mark, the design imprint of God's original plan and that means we all have this light in our soul.  Some may have buried it deep in the recesses of themselves - but it is still there.  It's still calling out to a lost person, saying that God is seeking, knocking, whatever image you want to use.  It says none of us is beyond redemption.

Jesus told us he came to give life - an abundant kind of life we had never experienced and could never find on our own.  Jesus planted this light within us to point us to himself as Light of the World.  He says we are worth redemption because of who he is, not because of anything we've done.  He says he will fan that light into a flame that will burn brightly for him if only we will ask.

You see, that tiny speck of Lux Perpetual is the prevenient grace of God that constantly calls out to a soul so desperately in need of rescue.  It's the remnant of a God who created us for his own glory and pleasure - it's the eternal soul that will live on somewhere.  The question is, what are you going to do about it both in yourself and the next time you see it in the person next to you?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Love is the Foundation

heart drawn in the sand being washed away by a waveMany of us have been told how all of God's attributes are present equally at all times and in all ways.  Yet if we look way back, the emphasis was always on Love first.  The songs like "Jesus Loves Me" and so many others echoed that theme.  The first verse many of us learned (John 3:16) is built on the idea that God, in his Love, did something miraculous, redemptive and enduring.  Yet as we "matured" we moved on to more emphasis on holiness, omnipotence and the rest.  So I have a question ... when did we lose the wonder we had as children that had us focus on Love first?

I think it's time to come back to Love as the very foundation.  It's time to remember all those songs we sang as children and that verse we all have come to blithely rattle off - the one that says God loved us so much that he laid aside all other aspects and standards he held dear and me his standards by himself on our behalf.  That's what I mean when I say Love is the foundation.

I've come to a point where I think I'm seeing this more clearly again.  Love really is the highest order - the most prevalent of God's attributes.  Everything else flows from it, is built on it.  He does nothing outside of the immense provision of his own Love.  He calls himself Love so we can get a glimmer of why he does what he does.  And that's a marvelous thing to consider.

The Crooked Path will bend and turn, rise and fall, grow smooth and rocky at different times.  Through all of that, the one thing I can rely on over anything else is the Love of God.  It is truly boundless as time itself.



Saturday, November 23, 2013

Can It Be That Simple?

"The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them."  Mark 10:13-15, The Message

After over a year with C.S. Lewis (Screwtape and Mere Christianity) my brain was pretty much overwhelmed.  In addition, my pastor has been bringing us some great stuff as the walked us through the Lord's Prayer and several other topics.  But it was in my small home group that the thought struck me last week.  Have we over-complicated things to such a degree that we miss the simplicity of who God is, what he does and how he reveals himself to us?  In our quest to build theologies and codify answers and such ... is it really far more simple than any of us could (or perhaps want to) believe?  I had to answer myself with a resounding "yes".  And that drove me back to this simple recording of how Jesus viewed children.  

It's found in three Gospel accounts, but the one here in Mark really stood out.  Across multiple translations, the tone of Jesus' response comes out clearly.  He is not pleased at the bums' rush his crew is giving the children these mothers have brought for a blessing.  And he uses this moment to offer what ought to be some of the most profound doctrine any of us should ever consider.  Yet it's so simple that we gloss over it and leave it for the children's Sunday School class instead.  And in doing so, I think we miss the true heart of God.

The Creator of everything is rebuking his disciples for their failure to understand the inherent worth of children and their approach to life.  They aren't living in the past and they aren't fretting over the future.  They are content with the "now" and that particular now meant seeing Rabbi Jesus and, perhaps, sitting on his lap.  If I envision God this way, I have to wonder how impressed he really is with all my knowledge and posturing as opposed to me coming to him with the wonder of a child.  How much does God really want me to "vision cast" instead of resting secure in the knowledge that he provides my daily bread?  I'm thinking he longs for us to come as children - and that's exactly what this passage means.

As I travel the Crooked Path, I need to open my eyes, mind and heart to the wonder of "now" and embrace freely the God who gives it.  I need to trust in the present (Peter has something to say about that) and stop trying to figure it all out.  I need to come and jump into the lap of the Almighty - knowing full well that it will make him laugh and he will embrace me with his massive, redemptive arms of love.  I need to quit worrying about the complex and get back to the simple.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Storms and the Peace

They come in all shapes and sizes.  It seems they come at the most inopportune moments of our life.  But we all agree the do come ... and how we perceive them an react to them makes all the difference.  Yes, storms are as much a part of life as breathing.


A few weeks back, my pastor Sam gave a message about storms.  He talked to us about that familiar story where Jesus was sleeping in the stern of the fishing boat during a pretty violent blow on the Sea of Galilee.  It's a tale we've heard ever since we first saw the old flannel-graph board.  But I learned something new as I listened.

Storms come at us primarily from four perspectives.  The Enemy certainly sends them as part of the work he seems to enjoy so much.  He intends to do us great harm, mainly because he knows he can't win us back.  His goal is disruption - plain and simple.  He's out to steal our joy and make us focus on the storm.

Storms also come from choices made.  Sometimes those were the choices of others and sometimes I made the choice.  Either way, I'm left to work through the reality of the storm and all it brings with it.  These kinds of storms are often very difficult to deal with because our pride gets in the way and the blame starts flying around.

Storms are also a part of this fallen world.  It's broken, folks ... and it won't be completely fixed just yet no matter how hard we try.  Those kinds of storms can leave us in doubt about God himself - and that's tough to deal with and work through.  But in all these storms, especially the ones coming because the world is a mess, I need to remember that I still have Jesus "in my boat".  And that's where today's message from Dan came shining through.

I had intended to write just about the storms a few weeks ago.  For whatever reason (I now see God's hand in it), I didn't do it before now.  And today, I get to incorporate not just the message on storms, but the thoughts of Peace.  The words Jesus spoke to his troupe asking, "Why  did you doubt?" come back into play again.  This time, Jesus is in the Upper Room giving what amounts to his own eulogy and last will and testament.  And among the gifts he gives, the greatest one is Peace.

The way he frames it is beyond what I usually think about.  John records for us (14:27, NLT) these words, "I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."  Other translations say it's "not like the world's peace" which I interpret to mean the Master is offering something far different than what they've ever experienced.  It's the kind of Peace he had when he was napping in that storm-tossed boat.

Life on the Crooked Path means storms.  That's a fact I can't turn away from or ignore.  But my Divine Brother has promised me two things that I can count on during those storms, no matter what their source.  He says he'll be with me through them.  He may not stop them all like he did in that Gospel story, but he's not going to leave the boat.  And he gives me Peace - not some temporary fix, mind you - a lasting, deep Peace that reaches to the depth of my soul.  I just need to bring my storm to his feet and lay it there.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Dance

I'm reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately as the Sunday School class I teach is working through Mere Christianity.  This week's portion is the essay he titled "Good Infection" (Book 4, chapter 4) and he's continuing his efforts to try and convey the Three-Personal-God to us.  He's striking up images and analogies that make me think (and make my brain hurt at times), and he's exciting the senses with many of them.  Lewis talks about Eternal Love being the pre-existing basis for the Father begetting (not making, mind you) the Son and that Love being the perfect expression as well.  And it's all in some sort of perpetual motion that he likens to "a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama.  Almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance."

No, I don't think that's irreverent at all.  I think it rather captures things in a unique way that perhaps we can see from our human perspective.  We see "the dance" in the way our solar system rotates and moves through time and the seasons.  We see it in the way our own Earth prepares in the coming weeks to "sleep" for a season so it can awaken to new life.  And we see it in children dancing perhaps demonstrating the purest reflection of all.

Now, here's the great part.  This "Triune Dance" Lewis eludes to has been going on since before there even was time.  It's the communion between Father, Son and Spirit that not only gives life and motion but is life and motion!  It is the heart of the Story where God the Author writes us a part and then enters the story himself to win us back.  And it all comes because he wants to show us who he is and to invite us to come back and join in the dance like we were designed to in the first place.  When we do that, we'll dance with the reckless abandon that only children know.  We'll return to that place of innocence that looked so foreign but now feels like home.

The Crooked Path provides many opportunities to see life and motion and dance.  If I stop to take them in, I can see the image of what is yet to come.  My steps should grow a little lighter when that happens ... and I might just do a little dance myself.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

God - Raised to the Third Power



"God created human beings;
he created them godlike,

Reflecting God’s nature.
He created them male and female"

Genesis 1:27, The Message

I learned some new perspective on things these past couple of weeks.  First, I learned that God provides in his timing and it is what we need.  Think of the concepts of daily bread or manna and you'll get the picture.  I have some work again after a bit of a drought.  I have no idea if it will be permanent or if I want it to be.  But I know it is provision from a loving Father and that's what's important.  But bigger than that, I've learned something new by the way of my C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity study.  And it isn't so much the concept that is new as it is the perspective I've been given.

We've had it drilled into our heads that God is a Trinity since we first saw our names on a Sunday School role.  I was in parochial school since the 4th grade and had it hammered home more than many.  But the concept seemed a bit "out there" and this past week, I believe I understand why.  It's because it is "out there" and that's the way it will stay.  And a simple geometry lesson brought home the concept for me in a fresh way.

If life is a one-dimensional world, then all we see are simple lines.  There is no shape defined and that's what the world is.  But add a second dimension and we get shapes - shapes made up of lines.  It is possible then, to draw a square and see it as it's own thing.  But we overlook that it actually is four perfectly equal lines arranged in a certain way.  Move to the next level of complexity, and you can take four squares and assemble a cube.  That three-dimensional world takes on all kinds of possibilities that were never conceivable in the one-dimensional existence, yet even the cube retains the traces - the image if you will - of the simple lines that make it up.

God, all three persons or personalities of him, exists in a far more complex dimension than we do.  Yet, when he created us, he said among himself (yes, you read that right), "Let's put the image of us in what we create.  Let's put traces of our divine dimension and existence inside this man so he will have the opportunity, at some point, to see he is a reflection of us."  And so we have what we read in Genesis 1 about God breathing his life into a lower, less complex dimension and it forever having the shadow of God inside it.

Now, to make it even more bizarre - and I say that in a good way - God doesn't stop at that.  Knowing full well this creatures choice will be his undoing, God's second person reduces himself to the dimension of the created world, proves who is king once and for all, and provides a redemption.  He invites us to live out our current existence in his grace so that we can one day transcend this feeble dimensional existence and go on to live forever in his dimension, seeing him face-to-face.  And that, is one of the "mere" points of Christianity.

My Crooked Path is so far beneath where God dwells.  And yet he chooses to enter my world and invite me into relationship.  He offers me the gift of a different life now and the promise of something beyond my imagination to come.  It's as if a cube could somehow tell a line, "I know you can't see it at the moment, but you will escape your limited dimension and know exactly who and what I am.  Just trust me on that."  OK, God, I think I can handle that much.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Father

(Matthew 6:9-13, NLT) Pray like this:

"Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one."


It's quite a thought on any day, let alone the day that marks what would have been my Dad's 85th birthday.  Jesus has just brought a whole new dimension to the way his rag-tag band of disciples are to think ... and pray.  They are to approach the Almighty, Sovereign God of the Universe as they would their own fathers.  I'm quite sure they are dumbstruck at the mere thought, let alone carrying out simple but elegant prayer.

And we're not talking some distant, hard-hearted patriarch here.  We're talking an intimate, present, active person ... the one they could call "Abba" or "Daddy".  He isn't angry or judging (like a friend of mine who is struggling with a pastor that seems to represent that point of view).  He's welcoming and accepting.  Sure he is holy, but he makes that holiness accessible to us in a wonderfully simple way.  And he calls us his children, allowing us to address him in this very personal way ... "Our Father ..."

I've lived more of my life without my Dad than I did with him.  It has softened a bit over the nearly 27 years, but it still embodies a rather deep ache - a longing for something lost.  If I let the concept Jesus is offering sink in - really take over my soul - I will find some level of relief for that ache.  I will look ahead on my Crooked Path and know that my Father is very real, very accessible, and very interested in me.  He loves to hear me pray a simple prayer like this one.  I can trust him as I would my own Dad because that's who he is.