|Photo Friday: Portrait|
Photo Friday... today's topic is Portrait.
Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear - fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands, there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.When you understand the nature of worship, and then couple that with the fact that it is commanded, we suddenly become acutely aware of our own need for genuine heart-change.
I fear that many Christians view their brothers and sisters who battle with SSA (Same Sex Attraction) as a threat to the community. Therefore, many SSA strugglers are phobic about homophobia. They agonize alone, for fear of rejection. However, the community needs their transparency - and they need the community. God surprises us with unexpected insights when the unspeakable is spoken. Our serene picture of community is shattered; the reality is more earthy, disappointing, and fruitful.I love that: "... the reality is more earthy, disappointing, and fruitful." Almost sounds like a cup of coffee, doesn't it?
My favorite Jonathan Edwards sermon is "The Excellency of Christ." Edwards homes in on two words in Revelation 5:5-6, where Jesus Christ is called "Lion" and "Lamb." These two animals differ greatly from one another. One "excels in strength, and in majesty of his appearance and voice." The other "excels in meekness and patience ... suitable to be offered to God." One is a hunter; the other is hunted. This unity of disparity leads Edwards to his thesis, "There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ." Characteristics that usually don't appear together merge in attractive symmetry: infinite exaltation and limitless condescension, highest glory and lowest humility, supreme sovereignty and perfect obedience. He is light and He is love. He is victor and victim in one. He is the just Judge and the merciful Savior. He confronted sin, overthrew tables, and walked out of His own tomb, yet He was born in a barn, ate with sinners and died as a criminal. This vision of Jesus is gargantuan and captivating, yet it is often concealed by the church.I love this big view of Jesus. To use his word, it is "captivating" my own preaching. Even though I still have applications in my messages, I am finding myself focusing more and more on the great worth and supreme majesty of Jesus. But Peter Hubbard is saying that this view of Jesus "is often concealed by the church." Do you agree? In what way does he mean this? He goes on to say:
The body of Christ generally prefers a more manageable, monochromatic vision of Jesus. Our religious sensibilities seem to prefer either the Jesus who can "tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them," or else the Jesus who desires to care for rebels "as a hen gathers her brood under her wings." We want only one or the other, not both together.
Whenever Jesus' followers exclusively reflect Lion-ness or Lamb-ness, the "admirable conjunction" dissolves into ugliness.It is so extremely important to maintain this focus on the true Jesus. Not a Jesus that we decide on, but the Jesus of the scriptures.
Three great classics from the annals of science fiction - Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation - describe the events which transpire over a period of more than a thousand years, resulting in the erection of an ideal universal ruling corporation.
In Foundation, Isaac Asimov draws a compelling portrait of the Foundation's embryonic development and rise to peripheral power - domination of kingdoms on the outskirts of the Galaxy.Unlike most books that I have encountered, there is no real attempt to stick with one or two main characters throughout the series. In fact, even in the first book, there are several smaller stories that deal with different "crises" in the timeline of the Foundation... the Foundation being the establishment of a small colony at the far edges of the Milky Way Galaxy, planted there by a scientist attempting to shorten the "dark ages" between Galaxy-Wide Empires.
For what is weakness? The idea from first to last is inadequacy. We talk about physical weakness, meaning that there is a lack of vigor and energy and perhaps bodily health so that one cannot manhandle furniture or tackle heavy yard jobs. We talk about intellectual weakness, meaning inability for some forms of brainwork, as for instance C. S. Lewis's almost total inability to do math, and my own messiness in that area. We talk about personal weakness, indicating thereby that a person lacks resolution, firmness of character, dignity, and the capacity to command. We talk about a weak position when a person lacks needed resources and cannot move situations forward or influence events as desired. We talk about relational weakness when persons who should be leading and guiding fail to do so -- weak parents, weak pastors, and so on. Every day finds us affirming the inadequacy of others at point after point.He goes on to state:
The truth, however, is that in many respects, and certainly in spiritual matters, we are all weak and inadequate, and we need to face it. Sin, which disrupts all relationships, has disabled us all across the board. We need to be aware of our limitations and to let this awareness work in us humility and self-distrust, and a realization of our helplessness on our own. Thus we may learn our need to depend on Christ, our Savior and Lord, at every turn of the road, to practice that dependence as one of the constant habits of our heart, and hereby to discover what Paul discovered before us: "when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10).As I already mentioned, the remainder of the book plays out three other topics as they relate to weakness. These three focal points of weakness aren't arbitrarily chosen, they come from an expository look at 2 Corinthians to discover what this life of weakness looks like in those three areas.
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me...
"In our culture, formal names do not carry the same significance as in the Bible. However, we know what it means to be named. The 'wimp,' the 'fat kid,' and 'the loser' all feel the shame of living with an undesirable identity. The kids who are labeled 'gifted' and 'brain' feel the waves of approval and pressure that can shape how they view themselves and perform. As adults, these labels do not typically disappear. They become more subtle and convoluted. Our hearts long to 'make a name' for ourselves. We gather fragments of desire, reputation, and accomplishments and glue then together into an identity: 'rebel,' 'jock,' 'supermom,' 'entrepreneur,' 'life of the party,' 'chick magnet,' 'gay guy,' etc. Most of us feel a mixture of fatalism, assent, and chagrin about our not-always-chosen but fully operative identities.
But in Jesus, we are renamed.He leaves that last sentence as a paragraph in itself. He goes from there to explain how we are renamed in Jesus. It is fascinating. It is remarkable. And it draws me to worship.
"Hope springs eternal in the human breast," declared Alexander Pope in his usual pompous way, but that is not all the story. For the first half of people's lives, spontaneous hope does indeed spur them forward. Children hope to do this and that when they grow up; teens hope to go places and do things when they have some money; newlyweds hope for a good income, a good place to live, and good-quality children; established couples hope for the day when the children will be off their hands and they are free to cruise, tour, and see the world. But what then? There comes a point at which the elderly and those who, as we say, are getting on realize that of all the things they wanted to do, they have done all they can, and the rest are now permanently out of reach ("life's too short," we say wryly).
Yet life goes on. Today, indeed, people live longer than once they did, but the common experience is that extended and extreme age brings only bleak boredom and a diminished sense of the good life as consisting merely of three meals a day, television to watch, and a bed at night. Whether, as bodily health fades and minds and memories run increasingly amok, any better, more enriching experience of old age is possible is a question that secular social theory has shown itself unable to answer.
But the Bible appears to have an answer...He goes on from this point to begin to describe the Bible's teachings combined with his own perspectives on aging and hope.
"Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word."
~Psalm 119:74This is King David writing. In this passage he says that those who fear God will see him (David) and rejoice. The reason for this rejoicing is because David has hoped in God's Word. I find this to be quite interesting. I mean, could I (and should I) be able to say this as well?
"Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies."
~Psalm 119:79 ESV
One of the occupational hazards of pastoring a church is the necessity of delivering bad news. If you love your people, you desire to encourage them and tell them news they want to hear. But since you don’t get to decide how God feels about things, your words are not always your own.
~Peter Hubbard (Love into Light)