Saturday, February 08, 2014
comic art comic books comics heroes and artists red hood
Friday, February 07, 2014
Words and Character
As Martin Luther rightly observed, the church house is to be a “mouth house” where words, not images or dramatic acts, stand at the center of the church’s attention and concern. We live by words and we die by words.That statement is buried deep in the Reformation and its thoughts are responsible for much that was wrong with Puritanism. It is entirely contextual. Arts, like all of cultural and society are to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. In the America of old, where we could count upon the artist and those that display the arts to act out of some base of Christian thought and character, then yes, preserving the church as a "mouth house" is a good idea.
But what of a world where the arts and culture are decidedly un-Christian? Should not the church provide space for such things to find redemption?
We are living in an anti-confessional age. Our society and its reigning academic culture are committed to individual autonomy and expression, as well as to an increasingly relativistic conception of truth. The language of higher education is overwhelmingly dominated by claims of academic freedom, rather than academic responsibility. In most schools, a confession of faith is an anathema, not just an anachronism. But, among us, a confession of faith must be seen as a gift and covenant. It is a sacred trust that guards revealed truths. A confession of faith never stands above the Bible, but the Bible itself mandates concern for the pattern of sound words.I agree deeply here that confession are important to institutions, but I must disagree that they are the only way to really experience Christ and His salvation. "Individual autonomy and expression" is a problem not because of the freedom within it that must somehow be constrained by a confessional boundary. Rather it is a problem when the individual involved is not well-formed nor constrained by a God-given and Spirit-nurtured character.
Lies are easy - unless we are the kind of person for whom lies are not easy. Words carry weight only when they are carried by weighty people. Rhetoric is empty unless it is backed by character and action. Confession is not enough. Unless we as the church and related institutions are actively engaged in things that train people not only in confession but also in the means to make that confession a living reality then we are gongs and cymbals.
character confession words
Thursday, February 06, 2014
What God Does and Does Not Need From Me
The biggest lie in all of this is the idea that the size of your platform is somehow linked to the amount of glory God receives. That is insane.Acuff is being kind when He calls this pattern of thought a "big lie." It is grossly egotistical, maniacally self-justifying, and if one wants to get theological - it is blasphemous. Thinking that God's glory needs our efforts to be proclaimed is putting ourselves in God's place. That is the definition of blasphemy.
As if God is in heaven saying, “Awww, I wanted big glory today but Jon’s blog traffic was down.”
Here is a simple truth I constantly remind myself about God:
“God will not be handcuffed by my failures or unleashed by my successes.”
And yet, I hear version of this thought stream echoed throughout Christianity. "If only I had a better sound system, the music would sound better and God would be better praised." "If only we had that perfect stained glass window...." Do I need to go on?
If you really want God to get glory, purge yourself of desire and let Him replace it. Then you, without knowing it, will display His glory in so many ways.
God's glory self
Wednesday, February 05, 2014
Love and Disappointment
Revision is the stage after drafting, before editing, where you search for all the opportunities in your writing – whether essay or story or poem – and realize them.God loves us - this is undoubted, but does He embrace having to revise us? Or is it a chore born of His love for us?
Revision is my longest and favorite stage.
To revise, I start by searching for the weakest, most confused sentence in my work. From the beginning to the end, I hunt meticulously until I find it.
I love finding that broken, shoulder-slumping sentence, because I know what’s coming. I get to take that sentence and cherish it into beauty. I smooth out anything that’s confusing. Strong verbs replace weak verbs. What it lacks, I add. What it doesn’t need, I prune. If it uses some word that’s par, I wrestle with dictionaries and pick through all my experience until I can furnish it with the best choice English offers. Sometimes, I wed it to an adjacent sentence with an elegant transition word that makes both better than they were alone. And if my sentence has great gobs of unnecessary words that drag it down, I slice them off. Anything that impedes the sentence doesn’t stand a chance when I have decided to revise. I leave no preposition unmeditated.
I don’t stop until my weakest sentence becomes my strongest sentence. I build it into whatever it has to be in order to say exactly what it has to say.
It echoes a God who works revision in my life. This search and renew mission is familiar, and you’ve heard the parable of the lost sheep often enough that I won’t waste your time articulating links. It would sound corny written out, anyway. My description of the revision process may already appear burdened with Christian homage, but I assure you I’ve only described the revision experience as it is when you really love what you’re creating. But maybe loving what you’re creating can’t help being a Christian homage.
I am not enough of a writer to talk about revision of my "works." Let's talk about my wood working. I start a project with a vision. I work meticulously to realize that vision. It goes very well. Then something goes wrong. An unseen flaw in a particular piece of wood causes it to crack. Most of my woodworking ends up as gifts. I have had some returned because they were broken in shipment. Do I love fixing this stuff? That is to say revising it? I love it and I love the people I am giving it to enough to put in the effort, but it always is a bit of a disappointment - it represents a plan gone awry - a compromise of the original vision. Once I am finished fixing the problem, the general observer will never know that it existed - but it is all I see when I look at the piece. It is restored, but it is no longer perfect.
But then I am not God. I cannot make the imperfect cracked piece of wood perfect again. God can. So, unlike my creativity, God's can be revised to its original perfect state. But I still cannot help but think that He is just a little disappointed that He has to bother. His vision was perfect.
I don't think that love erases disappointment, but love does overcome it. Love does not make flaws disappear, it embraces the flawed.
We fool ourselves if we think God is not disappointed that we need so, so much revision. The fact that He puts in the effort is the measure of His love, not His lack of disappointment.
disappointment love perfection revision
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
Fame and Influence
It’s the difference between Matthew 6:1 and 5:16. To fame-seekers, Jesus says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). To influence-seekers, he says, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).Normally, I like Piper, but I find this annoying and irritating. In the first place, a blog post setting up a question and not providing an answer, purely to pimp a conference does not seek influence - it seeks promotion. The thing is logically in consistent.
I am looking forward to our National Conference on C.S. Lewis for lots of reasons. But one of them is to probe more deeply into why this man was so amazingly influential. And how might we be more influential for the glory of our Father because of what we learn?
But I sense more than a little rationalization in this differentiation between fame and influence. It is what influence is based in that matters. Lewis, frankly, sought neither in the sense that we seek them today. He sought truth, and he sought to communicate that truth. The influence and the fame took care of themselves.
Influence is, I think, of the Holy Spirit. It's the old, "You can lead a horse to water" thing. I can name countless individuals that have influenced me and perhaps no one else. Individuals that are smart, rooted in the Lord and just flat out good people. Moreover, I can name many individuals in influential positions (like college professor or preacher), preaching truth and reason with the same veracity and clarity that Lewis wrote it, and yet they have nothing like his influence. In fact, were Lewis working today, I think you would find him falling flat on his face.
Lewis' influence was a gift - pure and simple. To seek to replicate it is to remove the element of grace from the equation. It is to attempt to create by natural means that which was produced supernaturally. It is, in some sense, to put ourselves in God's place.
That's a problem.
Call it influence, call it fame - accept it if it comes to you, but seek it not for such comes with big ego problems.
fame grace influence
Monday, February 03, 2014
Cause and Effect
You see, Jesus did not just “save” Paul directly through a personal spiritual encounter, a “born again experience,” a private conversion. It was not Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience that did the trick. It was what happened there plus what happened when Paul went into Damascus. On the road, Jesus got Paul’s attention in a dramatic fashion, introduced himself to him, and then sent him to the Church. There, through such practices as fasting, solitude, prayer, the laying on of hands, baptism, and public witness, Paul became a thoroughly converted, changed man..James was quite direct about this:
As Cyprian of Carthage famously said, “He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother.” In today’s world of free floating spirituality and narcissistic consumer-oriented religion, wouldn’t it make sense for the Church in all traditions to make things clearer and more definite for people by presenting them with a structured Gospel rather than the nebulous “personal commitment” we so often hear being recommended?
Again, this is not to be confused with legalism. To paraphrase what someone said in one of our comment threads last week, when you sign up to be a Marine, you enter their world and take up practices that are demanding and life-forming. You don’t get to define the structure of Marine life. It is made clear to you from the start.
Jesus’ Gospel call contains this element too. Not only did he say, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” He went on to make matters clear: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me” (Matthew 11:28-29).
Rest. And a yoke. I know, the two sound incompatible. We usually associate being put under a yoke with the law. But apparently there is a Gospel yoke — signifying a structured, embodied practice that issues forth from the announcement of Good News. There are means of grace to receive, a path of grace to follow, and a community of grace in which to dwell
James 2:18-26 - But someone may well say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.The gospel of Christ does not separate faith and works - rather it joins them into an immutable sameness. We cannot take hold of one and not take hold of the other. Either our faith has results or we do not have faith at all.
That last statement will undoubtedly be read by some as a judgement - it is not, it is an observation. We often analogize the wind and the Holy Spirit, but the wind provides us with a good analogy here as well. If there is wind, there is an air pressure gradient. They are inseparable. You may not be able to measure the air pressure - that takes complex instrumentation and technical training. But you can be assured that a pressure gradient exists in your area. If there is no wind, there is no gradient. You cannot separate a cause and an effect.
cause effect faith works