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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

His Sufficiency in Suffering

People often speak of peace
prevailing after storms
when all the fury 
of the fitful skies 
has died and every cloud
retreats into the distance
with a soft breeze
kissing faces.
Yet my God 
You are not only God
of after storms,
but of and in and through.
So my refuge is Yourself
and I hide myself in You.
The storm rages outside
but within my soul
the fury of the fitful skies has died
and Your peace has breathed on me.
I am alive.  

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Meditation: Psalm 77

Elyse Fitzpatrick wrote a book entitled Counsel from the Cross.  If you don't have it, you need to buy it...it's the best $10 you'll ever spend.

In this book, Fitzpatrick argues that our singular need in counseling ourselves and others is the gospel.  The fact that Jesus took on flesh, lived on earth, died as our substitute, was buried in a grave, and rose again has immediate implications in every area of life, and the author does a great job of walking the reader through reasons behind that argument.

Christ.  The Word.  The Gospel.  They are synonyms and our understanding of their interrelated nature will always lead us to worship if we understand them correctly.  Understanding the gospel leads me to the Word which leads me to Christ.  Understanding my need for the Word will always draw me closer to Christ and give me a fuller understanding of the applications of the gospel to my life.  It's an unbreakable circle.  Paul even says multiple times in his epistles that what people believe about Jesus is the benchmark for their salvation (1 Cor. 16:22).

However, if you're passionate about taking the whole counsel of Scripture (and I'm right there with you...) you might get nervous about that thought.  Because it follows that the Old Testament saints didn't have the gospel as we know it.  They, like you and I, were saved by grace through faith, yet were under the Mosaic covenant.  So when I read my Bible, how can I meditate on the gospel when I'm reading from Genesis to Malachi?  I need this Word of God, and if it supposedly points me to Christ I should be able to find the gospel all over it.

In other words, the gospel itself IS the whole counsel of Scripture.  It is not oversimplification or concept isolationism to recognize the gem of the cross as the climax of Scripture which everything previous to it anticipates and everything after it remembers.  It just takes some understanding of Judaism to help us read our Old Testament well.

GIVEN: Jews look to the Exodus from Egypt as the pivotal event in their history.

God's power is shown in the plagues as He systematically humiliates the gods of the Egyptians. The Passover also marked the beginning of a feast that would remind the people that the blood of a spotless lamb was required to be shed for their deliverance from the wrath of God.  This is not the first time a blood sacrifice  is used as the symbol of substitutionary (symbolic) atonement (Cain&Abel, Abraham...), but it is the first time that it is instituted as a national observance.  Already, in the killing of the lamb, the picture of Christ is present.  Then, God splits the Red Sea and leaves dry ground for the former slaves to walk on.  As soon as they are safely across, the walls of water crash down on Pharaoh's army, and they slaves are literally free.  This event is a picture of the gospel for us in that God goes to desperate measures to rescue His people from slavery by fulfilling His promise and making a blood sacrifice, just like He did in the incarnation and the crucifixion.  So when the Old Testament refers to the Exodus, we can sub in what we know about the gospel and use the Exodus as a frame of reference for our gospel-centered self-talk.  

Now finally, to the point.  Psalm 77.
There are four parts to the Psalm.
1. The dire situation.
2. The questions that rise from looking at the situation.
3. The decision to meditate on truth.
4. The execution of the plan.

In part one, the Psalmist explains his personal situation mostly from the standpoint of how he is affected emotionally and spiritually.  He doesn't mention exactly what it is that causes the distress, but we know that he can't sleep and he's "overwhelmed" by the trouble.  He's so desperate for God to do something, and he cries out to God in his trouble.

In part two, he gets very honest with how he sees things.  Based solely on his circumstances, he has legitimate cause to doubt God's steadfastness, favor, mercy, promise (think Abraham...), grace, and tender mercies.  (He specifically mentions each of those in verses 7-9)

In part three, he submits.  "And I said, 'This is my anguish...'"  He chooses to set aside the things he cannot understand that do not apparently align with what He knows about God, and instead he chooses to meditate on what he does know.  "'This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.'  I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old."
He even admits that "Your way, O God is in the sanctuary."  Which is like saying, "Your ways can only be understood from the perspective of the sanctuary where I am submissive and You are Sovereign."
For the next several verses He gives a few general statements of things for which to praise God.  And then spends 16-20 on the one act of the parting of the Red Sea.
NOW, remember that the Exodus is a picture of the gospel for us.
In painting the vivid picture of how the Red Sea looked and felt during this final, dramatic act of sealing Israel's freedom, the writer is evoking for the Jewish reader the entire picture of the Exodus and so, for us, the gospel.  It is also interesting to note that the description of the waters being dark and trembling are foreshadowing in many ways the picture of the weather at the hour of the Crucifixion. (Matthew 27:45)
So in his pre-advent way, the Psalmist is actually meditating on the gospel, just as we are to do!  Incredible.

What can we conclude from Psalm 77?

I will face uncertainties.
Those struggles alone will cause me to doubt.  The questions are normal, but they do arise from focusing on the struggle rather than on God.
I don't have to focus on the struggles, I can meditate on Truth.
The Truth I am to meditate on is the gospel!    



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Honey from the Rock

Daily
in my ignorance
I demand a thousand
things
destructive to Your Glory
and my Good which are
the same.
Sovereignly
And in Your Grace
You decline dogmatic
and heretical 
requests for peace,
for portions thought enough,
prosperity in all my ways-
until I should, with bloody hands
from beating on the floor
raised empty, desperate in the silence
ask for nothing but Yourself.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Some Days are Like That

Normally, my biggest complaint about being here at Northland is the weather.  If you've never been in 20 below with gusts over 10mph, you won't understand why I am very tempted to lose my sanctification over something as "small" as the weather.  After you've had your face freeze and your insides quiver for several minutes just walking to class, you'll be able to dig around in your heart and find some empathy.  But recently, the weather hasn't been so terrible.  It's wet.  It's cold.  It's not Virginia.  But it's okay.  Today, my problems are mostly personal.  And it looks like this...

I like oatmeal.  The good, hearty kind with the clusters and nuts.  Just about every morning, I tumble out of bed and turn on the teapot so I can get ready while my oatmeal gets hot.  
This morning was no different.  The usual battle with the alarm clock was followed by a refreshing drink from Psalm 89.  Then time to face the day.  

Teapot full of water. Check.
Click the button "on."  Check.
Begin the process of taming my static ridden hair.
Decide which shoes will match today's outfit. 
Teapot clicks off and the water is hot. 
Grab a bowl and a packet of oatmeal...
Tear open the package and pour it instantly into the trashcan.

WHAT!? Wait! NO!  That is NOT what I meant to do! (Panic sets in.)  Save it!  Somehow!?  Gather the oats!  (Followed quickly by despair...) How?  They are all over the trash....and falling to the bottom of the can...no....it's....hopeless. Sigh...

Begin the process again.  

I don't know.  Some days are just like that.  
Some days, you breeze to class and take thorough notes with full comprehension and lots of enjoyment. 
Other days you start out by emptying a completely fresh packet of oatmeal into the trashcan for no reason other than your brain isn't communicating well with your hands.  

As my mom says, "Every day can't be a party."  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Connections



Somehow it all connects,
dead bodies
golden coins
nails blood and wood
dry bread dipped in wine
and dirty sandals still untied.
Somehow these are
vital to
poverty, depravity,
drought, confusion,
friendship bread and tea,
the lust of love and war
cities built unbuilt and sunshine.
All echoes to what was,
what could have been, what will be.

It is no easy thing to live this side of entropy
where everything is all potential
and "life will find a way."
Why are we convinced as yet
of hope that will not die,
Resurrection fulgurating from
these tremors in the earth?



Visions Singular

I am destitution that pretends
to opulence
clinging to this fading legislative light,
afraid to bask in blazing gospel glory
sin blind and stubborn
longing to become
Light blind and dependent
(eyeballs burned by coruscating grace)
consuming and consumed by
light of
Inefficient Love.