Thursday, August 1, 2013

Never Happen

The purpose of God in bringing about salvation through His perfect Son was not to be stopped.  The Righteous Branch has sprung up, the Christ has finished His work and now sits upon the throne!

Jeremiah 33:14-15,19-21:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David,The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Thus says theLordIf you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken..."
...and that will never happen.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Under His Own Tree

Postings here at the vertiCALL have been few and far between lately, as I've been spending my small spurts of spare time editing a short story for Kindle. I wrote the story years ago, but recently blew the dust off of it and decided that it would be my first foray into the Kindle market even though I had already started compiling material for another project.  Under His Own Tree only required direct transcribing into the proper format and some editing, so it was almost a turnkey project and helped familiarize me with the world of electronic self-publishing.

Under His Own Tree is about two men, one young, one old, who meet in a cemetery and form a quick and deep bond over the course of only a few months.  The story is rich in imagery and, hopefully, delivers a handful of deep truths about life and death, time and relationships, in its 4000 or so words.

The book is available here, and if you decide to make the purchase, I'd so much appreciate a review from you on Amazon.  Also, if you don't know already, you needn't own a Kindle to buy and read Kindle books.  The Kindle App is available for free on nearly all smart phones and tablets, including Apple products.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Are You The Stone Or The Blade?

Proverbs describes the dynamics of a healthy relationship with a very manly metaphor:  "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." (27:17)  It seems to me that the idea here is that the sharpening is mutual.  You can't always be the blade, and you shouldn't always be the whetstone.  That topic deserves further thought and meditation, but today I have a story to tell.

I have a friend who sharpens me and he doesn't even know it.  His name is Blake and we went to school together in the way back time.  Blake was born with William's Syndrome, a fascinating and rare neurodevelopmental disorder, a fact that caused other kids to tease him in our younger years.  He's a talented singer, and plays a right-handed guitar upside down and left-handed.  He lives with his parents in Florida and he works at his church as their handyman, eager and willing to do whatever he can to help out.  

A couple of weeks ago Blake flew back to Kansas to visit his grandma, and we had the chance to hang out one afternoon.  And so it happened that as we were sitting outside at Sonic chomping burgers and chili-cheese tots, Blake was telling me how good life is and about his friends in Florida, and how he loves his job, and then he outs with this statement:  "I try to make sure somebody else is having a nice day besides me."

I try to make sure somebody else is having a nice day besides me.

Never in my life have I uttered such a statement.  I was at once humbled and encouraged.  I realized in that moment what a rat I am and how beautiful the simplicity of selflessness can be.  With conviction came challenge.  Let me tell you, Blake sharpened me that day, and I believe that's the inevitable result when we live and love as Christ did.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Joy Comes With The Mourning

Mourning the death of a believer can be such a strange thing.

When I was in college, I landed a job in the campus post office.  It was a pretty sweet gig.  I got to miss chapel (seemed pretty sweet at the time), I made enough money to buy the latest Steven Curtis Chapman cdsI became friends with all the faculty and staff, and I had an amazing boss.  Her name was Jackie Long.  She was short, round, and had a smile as big as a southern Missouri sunrise.

Jackie's funeral is today, June 11th.   Cancer took Jackie quite rapidly these past few weeks, and my wife and I drove to Springfield, Missouri to see her one last time.

In the hospital room where she laid sleeping and unresponsive, I held her hand and simply looked at her face while my mind flooded with memories like: the sound of her voice, the ring of the bell at the front desk of the post office, the smell of mail bags, and the taste of Jackie's chili.

I've cried more than once over the last several days when thinking about her, and of course when you weep because you've lost someone, you realize that you're weeping for yourself, not for them.  Still, I always try to work out exactly why I'm crying at times like these, because all of my memories of Jackie are good ones. So why the tears? 

I'm pretty sure I cry because death is still such an enemy - the final one, Paul says.

I know I cry for her husband, who will miss her terribly.

Probably also the tears flow from a sense of honor, as a tribute, because in Jackie's case, she has finished her work on earth, she has done it well, and this guy right here was granted the privilege of being a product of her efforts.  I can point to certain stones that make up the structure of my life and say, "that one there was set in place by Jackie Long, and that one, and that one."

What truly endears my heart to her is how much she loved this bumbling college kid who worked for her in the campus post office. She cared for me and the handful of other students that worked there like a mother. She scolded us if we needed it, she had us over for supper, she called me "son", and she loved my firstborn child and my wife. Her home was always open to me, even when I'd visit years later and need a place to spend the night. "There's the fridge, have whatever you need!"
And so as I looked at her laying in the hospital bed, I thought, that is a person who loved me unconditionally.

She genuinely was my mom away from home.   And although I use that term, she doesn't occupy the real estate in my heart that my own mother does, but she was among the few human beings that have had profound influence on my life.  Her secret to success wasn't because she read a stack of John Maxwell books, but simply because she was a sweet, sweet woman who loved Jesus and knew for sure how good He is.  Thinking about all these things, there definitely is joy in the mourning.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Not Just Forgiveness...

If we spent the majority of our time thinking on one great Scriptural truth over against all others, it should be the doctrine of justification and imputed righteousness.  The most mind-blowing act revealed in Scripture is that of the Great Exchange described in 2 Corinthians 5:21.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

You can begin by watching the video at the crucial moment by clicking here, or watch it The power of the Gospel goes far beyond our sins simply being forgiven (as if that weren't enough!). Almighty God goes to the full extent and applies to believers something that they did not, nor could they ever, possess in and of themselves: righteousness.

R.C. Sproul delivers this point with passion and clarity in the video below.  You can join the conversation as R.C. begins to drive the point home by clicking here, or listen to the talk in its entirety:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Emotional Responses

My eyes open wider when I smell coffee brewing.  My mouth actually waters when I smell cinnamon rolls.  I think of my parents' house every time I catch a whiff of a burning charcoal grill. These are trained responses that my senses have, and I enjoy them, along with a thousand other food-related stimuli.  They serve me quite well.

Our emotions also provide constant stimuli. But the thing is, if we trust our emotions like we do the smell of mom's home cooking, we might be tempted to follow whatever pleasing thing comes along.  Similarly, we may plunge into despair when something as simple as a headache or indigestion is causing us psychosomatic stress.  However, if we're trained to trust in Truth before anything else will not be so easily swayed. 

Now don't hear what I'm not saying; emotions are a fascinating and wonderful gift from God.  Emotions are the reason we love the symphony and sunsets and sad love stories.  The down side is that emotions aren't a very good gauge of truth.

So, while I'm not promoting stoicism, I do worry (there's an emotion right there!) about a few things.  For example, I worry that we love the warm fuzzies when the band strikes up in church and we mistake the fuzzies for the presence of God.  I worry that we love the jokes the pastor tells and mistake that for good preaching.  I worry that eventually all we'll really want are warm fuzzies and funny jokes and will have no time for anything else.

Maybe there's a fine line here, and maybe there isn't.  Ideally, our hearts will be moved - no, shaken! - by Truth couched in beautiful music and our souls will be nourished, challenged and changed by the Gospel preached in a winsome manner.   Personally, I want more than anything for any music that I play and any message I preach to be grounded, anchored and rooted in Truth so I don't step into that dangerous territory where leaders look for an emotional response as a sign of success.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Christianity + Suburban Living = Suburbianity

I can understand and accept that Christians and their practice of Christianity will be flavored by the culture in which they live.  This is natural and basically harmless.  There is a serious problem, however, when a sinister syncretism takes place that allows the ethos of a culture to infiltrate and corrupt the pure practice of Christian community and teaching as described and outlined in Scripture.  In the "West" this infiltration and corruption seems to be most prevalent.  Byron Forrest Yawn describes this effect and the resulting monster he has dubbed "suburbianity":
Suburbianity is the general conviction among professing evangelicals that the primary aim of Christ’s death was to provide us with a fulfilled life. We came to this perspective by persistently reading the mindset and aspirations of the suburbs into the biblical story. It relentlessly seeps into our Christianity. It comes through in nearly all forms of Christian media, including songs, books, movies, and sermons. God has big plans for you. You are important. You should not be discontented, There’s more out there for you. This is the suburban gospel. By it we’ve saved countless sinners from a poor self-image but not much else.