At the foot of the cross

I am filled with thankfulness this morning for I’m seeing so clearly once again:

I give him my weakness, for there is nothing else to give but weakness, and I would be kidding myself if I thought that I could give anything but weakness.

I give him my weakness, and he lends me strength.

There is a river of incredible grace and mercy and it flows so freely at the foot of the cross. And you can only get there by bending your knee and bowing your head.

I give him my five loaves and two fish, and he works wonders.

And when my gaze shifts from him as it is so prone to do. When my heart wanders and drifts, I will tell my mind and remind my heart:

I am weak but he is strong.

And he lifts my head and smiles at me, and he says “Arise my son, I love you and you are mine.”

And I am undone.

At the foot of the cross.

Birthday ruminations: Let the wild dancing begin

A few thoughts after 29 years in this party we are all invited to…

“The man who seeks to gain his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life for me will gain it”

There is something that taps deeply into what it means to be a human in this statement. The depths of this statement will never be plumbed but here’s a thought it has sparked: this statement finds expression in the necessity for a human being to not take himself too seriously. I’ve been learning lately a little bit more about what this means. And I’ve thought that, ironically, it is the person who takes himself far too seriously that commits suicide.

And so life should and could be more about the fun that you have along the way. Rather than getting somewhere. The adventure is in the journey. And if I’ve forgotten or been too serious about it all to have fun and be silly then I’ve also missed out on a big part of God’s plan for me. Because in fact he is not mostly sad or mad – but I think that he is most glad and happy when he sees his son laughing and silly.

This is the paradox though – you need to invest yourself in all of your pursuits wholly and unreservedly, and yet have the freedom to hold it all lightly, to laugh at yourself and others along the way. Because actually, the one who has the freedom to be silly is the one who is able to invest himself and do the journey most effectively.

And in this party you can mope on the sidelines, or you can suck it up. You can throw your fear to the wind, and begin to step and move your body to the music of the dance-floor. And perhaps you might then throw caution to the wind. And whirl and spin and move and jump. And laugh into the air. Like a wildman. I know what I’m going to be trying to do every year after my 29th.

For there is a pulsing, flowing and freeing melody that a Man 2000 years ago danced perfectly to. And though today some are out of sync, it is a sound that emanates through all things that cannot be ignored. It is a beautiful sound. More beautiful, more alluring, more freeing, more life-giving than anything we have ever heard. And soon, so very soon, every heart and mind and soul and dog and tree and atom and quark of the universe will be dancing to it’s rhythms and flows.

 

 

 

When Christ says: “Mine!”

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!'” – Abraham Kuyper

This side of eternity, the cry of Jesus is a soft beckoning one of incredible gentleness.

It is a quiet, persistent whisper that is never overbearing nor annoying. It is posed as a question: “Will you trust me with your life?”. And it is asked with the utmost respect and dignity for your freedom. And this creator of the universe stands knocking at our door. Like a gentleman. Never needy, never intrusive or manipulative.

It is a whisper easily missed not because of it’s inability to be clear or heard, but because of our distractedness and our fickleness. And because of the ease with which we are enamored with lesser things – glittering and gaudy, promising but never delivering.

And the time will come, when he splits the sky. Then this same cry – will be a thunderous call.

It shall be a call that is all-consuming and all-pervasive. He will stand no more as a gentleman in waiting. But as a conquering king, he will split the sky in unbearable majesty and breath-taking beauty.
Every ear will hear him. Every eye will see him. Every tongue will confess. Every heart will bow. To Jesus Christ the King of the universe.

It will be a call that ushers in an eternity in which there will be no more tears, no more shame and no more pain. His reign and rule will be complete. Over every society and country, institution and government. Every business and every sphere of society. Every family and every household. Every mind and every heart.

And the critical thing is that now, this side of eternity, we get to choose.

We get to choose. What a glorious mystery this is. We get to choose to open the door to Jesus Christ. We get to choose to submit. We get to choose trust. That’s what it comes down to. We will not submit to someone we do not trust is good and for you.

And it is a choice you make with your heart one step at a time. One inch at a time. There is grace at every inch. And before you know it, you are totally consumed. At the same time with great delight, you will find yourself completely free.

The Son of God is worthy of nothing less. Worthy is he to receive the reward of his sufferings. Somehow perfectly justifiable is this fact – the greatest act of sacrifice in all of history also demands the greatest return for it.

Your kingdom come
Your will be done
Have your inheritance
But first start here
Start with my heart.

An Inconvenient Truth

A rather inconvenient truth is this: that Jesus died and rose again and that he calls us to follow suit every single day of our lives.

It is incredibly inconvenient and yet incalculably lucrative. Inconvenient because nothing else could ever be so disruptive. Lucrative because what we get in return for giving up our lives is incomparable.

And so it’s rather ironic – that we are so precious with our lives. But then again who’s to blame. But here’s the point: in the dying and rising there is a glorious exchange:

Ashes for beauty
Mourning for dancing
Weeping for joy
Sickness for health
Bondage for freedom

It is freedom because we are freed from all other masters who only lead to destruction – the worst of all – me.

And to the extent he reigns and rules over my life
To the extent I choose to lay my life down once again this day
Is the extent I find freedom, is the extent I find desire, is the extent I find life and purpose.

Any other way of doing life that doesn’t involve the giving up of self fundamentally misunderstands human nature. It does so in a number of ways, but the most key – is that no other framework can deal with the element of human pride (the crux of most if not all of our issues) in the way that self-denial does. This could be developed further, but perhaps not here.

And with my daily death, my sin, my shame, my fear, my brokenness, my disease also dies. And I rise, I rise with him, in desire, in glory, in hope.

Yes, rather inconvenient, but incalculably glorious.

Redefining the Gospel: The Gospel and Surrender

Before we even broach the topic, we should note the influence the individualism and narcissism of our culture has on our thinking about surrender. Not only that, no one surrenders their lives with ease. We are too precious about our lives – our dreams, our desires, our aspirations. And only naturally so…

The problem is, a reading of ‘the gospels’ and the epistles that takes it at face value would reveal no other way of walking out the Christian journey besides surrender. And in a sense, it is only natural for us to drift away from the right understanding of the Gospel as the surrender of your life. This is something the church does at large, but something which we all do on a daily level. Jesus call to ‘take up your cross daily and follow me’ is something pierces through our culture and its weaknesses, and it pierces through our humanity and its weaknesses. It is the perfect salve.

We have conceived the gospel as something that does not involve the constant giving of our ourselves. We have become a society of the saved, rather than following Jesus to the cross. And so far as we try to declare and live out a cheap and false grace Gospel, we lose the essence of the Gospel and it’s redemptive, unstoppable, freeing power.

I don’t think Jesus ever expects someone to surrender completely and fully the first time. It’s meant to be a beautiful life-long journey of discovery – about self and about a God who wants to be fully given to, and who wants to fully give himself. But several thoughts have helped me in my journey, and continue to help me:

1. We surrender our lives for the reward of Jesus’ own – and in that transaction – we give up so little to gain so much. This is the grace of the gospel. We give up brokenness and ashes to gain life and beauty.
2. We surrender a step at a time. There is room to bargain with God. He is not a tyrant who wants to take everything, but rather a father who is waiting for greater and great trust.
3. To surrender is freedom. To surrender is mercy.

May he give us the grace to give ourselves afresh to the only one who knows how best to lead our lives every day. May he gives us the grace to give more and more of ourselves every day. May he plumb the depths of our hearts, search every nook and cranny and find it surrendered to his good purposes. This is our only hope. This is our only life.

 

 

 

 

Follow up to The Gospel and the Church/Men: The Costly yet Restful Gospel

What I wrote was a critique of the condition of the church and of men in the church in the west, but the critique and the solution is equally true for all people everywhere, anytime. The task of surrendering to the Lordship of Christ is a necessity for all people everywhere, anytime.

The human condition does not change over time, and we are essentially a drifting and fickle-hearted race. The problem of the wandering heart of Israel, in the face of the conspicuous faithfulness and goodness of God, that we see in the Old Testament is the same problem in our own hearts. And hence the call to return and surrender to the truths and the goodness of God expressed in the gospel is one that is pertinent to all people everywhere, anytime. It applies to pastors, it applies to so called “men of God”, it applies to churches, it applies to lawyers, and it applies to dentists. It applies to them in the morning, it applies to them at church, it applies to them in their prayer time, it applies in bed.

No matter the perceived/actual ‘spirituality’ or ‘holiness’, the chasm between a human being and a perfect, righteous, saving God from whom the gospel flows is infinite. Cf Isaiah 6.

Here is the critical point: the immensity and impossibility of the task is not something to despair at. The beautiful paradox is that there is grace at every moment, and hope at every dead-end. It is Christ who gently helps us surrender, and Christ who leads us to himself. And the seemingly impossible task of self-denial and complete submission is made possible by the equally vast rivers of grace and mercy that flow from the righteous and eternal being who tells us uncompromisingly to “be holy, and I am holy”. In a sense: the costly price the gospel demands can only be attained through rest and dependence.

As an aside: I am not talking about a ‘works’ gospel. Here let me borrow some words from Bonhoeffer on ‘costly grace’:

  “Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.”

And so we see the beauty of the Christian walk. There should never be boredom, and there should never be exhaustion. There is something to seek and attain to that takes our everything right now, and that will take wholly the rest of our lives. Yet there is constant help along the way. He meets us in our weakness and inability, always right where we are at. Here, we can put together two statements of Jesus, that, to me, exist in perfect synergy:

      “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

       “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24-25

My final point is: what the gospel creates is the freedom for tenacity and responsibility without the usual accompanying side effects of anxiety and being burnt out – for there is also perfect rest and constant help.  What is important to note also is that the gospel creates this freedom for us spiritually, but also physically in our practical day to day living. I should elaborate, but this is perhaps another post another time.

It is never easy, but this daily dying and living, resting and striving, feels to me, incredibly like how we were supposed to live, and how we were created to function. And here we have another glorious paradox in the Christian life: fullness of tenacity, fullness of industry, fullness of responsibility, and fullness of rest.

Now that is freedom, and that is what a generation will be called into – when the gospel is adhered to in all its glorious fullness – then the world will see a generation unlike any this world has seen. It will be the most productive and industrial and responsible, yet humble, and rested and joyful generation to ever exist.