Who wrote your gospel

Who wrote your gospel?  Think about what you believe about Jesus: who told you that was true?  Did you pastor determine that for you?  Did John Piper or Beth Moore or Christine Caine?

In the church in Galatia, they had a problem. They had trusted in the truth, but then people they admired and respected came to their church and preached a slightly different version, and they went with it.

Paul spends a lot of time explaining why the Galatians shouldn’t tweak the gospel God brought to them just because someone who seemed influential came along with some edits.  The people, just like us, had two problems: they were (1) blinded by influence and (2) blinded by ignorance.

Blinded by influence

Protecting gods from God

And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” (1 Samuel 5:7 ESV)

The men of Ashdod saw how things were.  They saw that their lame god kept getting knocked over by the real God.  And so, seeing the weakness of their own god in the face of the God of Israel, they did the only logical thing: sent the presence of God away so that they could live in their delusion, feeling safe with a piece of rock.

Wish you were here. But glad you’re not.

I’m writing this in a small cabin in the Scottish Highlands.  And I might wish you were here so that you could see it, but I could never wish that because I am so glad that no one is here.

He’s here of course, heavy and thick around me and impossible to ignore. That’s the way He tends to be when all you see is His creation, uninterrupted in all its unfiltered glory; when all you hear is His voice and no other voices or sounds, but the wind and the rain.

It’s 2015 now.  The year of promise.  Promise of flying skateboards and floating cities in outer space and borderline immortality. Instead we have the internet and cell phones and other such tools that offer unlimited options and one single obstacle: being truly and deeply alone.  It feels almost impossible to find a place in this world where you become unreachable to others, and they become unreachable to you.  It feels unnatural and borderline unhealthy to even try to find such a place.

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It’s an important discipline: solitude.  There is this space we all must carve out where we cannot be reached and where we will not reach out.  Places we will go into alone and take no one and nothing with us except our souls and the Soul Maker.

It’s a terrifying thing for some of us: solitude.  We are kept from it by fear of boredom or loneliness or isolation blaming our personality or our schedules.  It is a discipline for a reason, because it’s against our flesh – to be cut off from the things that distract us; to be forced to listen and forced to hear.  A terrifying and necessary thing.

We live in an extroverted world.  And how grateful I am for the gifts of the extrovert-culture.  It forces introverts to live out their worst nightmares.  Forces us all to push through the challenging work of sharing ourselves with other humans so that we might receive the blessing of being known.

But have we stopped forcing one another to push through the challenge of solitude and silence so that we might receive the blessing of deeper intimacy with God?  When was the last time you were alone? Really alone. Not driving in your car, not before you fall asleep at night, but dedicated and pursued time alone with your Maker?  Phone turned off.  Unreachable.  Willing to miss out on all the world that you might gain Him.  In your closet or in your cabin long enough that you began to run out of things to say or think about.  Because there is something to discover in the panicked fear of boredom and strange fear that creeps in with extended isolation.  There are things to learn if you will push through the feelings and wait until there is nothing left to do but talk and listen to the God who hungers to speak to you.

There are words you have read a thousand times that demand to be heard and will not compete with the noise of the world.  There are truths to feast upon that refuse to hurried, refuse to be rushed.  There are spiritual meals so complicated and glorious that they cannot be prepared and consumed in the five minutes you throw heavenward before you rush out the door to work.

There is Man who wants more of you than you feel comfortable giving.  And He longs to get you alone so that you will have no distractions and no where to hide while the crushing weight of His presence pushes down on you with all it’s weighted glory until you find that the thing you fear most is the thing you were looking for all along.

The image of the invisible God

Tell me true and glorious things this Christmas Eve, Jonathan Edwards:

Therefore as God with perfect clearness, fullness and strength, understands Himself, views His own essence (in which there is no distinction of substance and act but which is wholly substance and wholly act), that idea which God hath of Himself is absolutely Himself. This representation of the Divine nature and essence is the Divine nature and essence again: so that by God’s thinking of the Deity must certainly be generated. Hereby there is another person begotten, there is another Infinite Eternal Almighty and most holy and the same God, the very same Divine nature.

Answered prayers and tearful gratitude

This verse made me cry this morning:

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth, (Psalm 138:4 ESV)

Psalm 138 is a psalm about thanking God with your whole heart. That feeling of heart-fullness that you experience when deep gratitude overwhelms you – that feeling is one of my favorite feelings in the world.

And this morning, I cried when I read verse 4 because it isn’t crazy to me. I totally get why kings would feel their hearts full to the brim with gratitude because of the gracious gift of God letting them hear the words of His mouth.  And that is crazy.