Archive for December, 2009

Joy to the World

December 24, 2009 1 comment

I’ve been more than a little grouchy this week. I’ve had some kind of allergies/cold thing that’s not only stopped up my nose but I sense my ears getting fluid in them as well. Oh, and then there is the whole matter of Christmas and the end of the year – worrying about travel, family, church (including making budget!). Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy.

A little while ago I saw one of my colleagues had written “Joy to the world!” as his Facebook status. I almost typed in, “What’s so joyful about it?” In my Grinch-like heart, all I can think about is all of the snow about to be dumped on us and what that means not only for our Christmas Eve service tonight, but also our travel plans to see my family tomorrow.

So, why should I be joyful?

What comes after “Joy to the world!” in that Christmas hymn? Oh, right. “The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King”.

The sad part is, this isn’t the first Christmas I’ve been tempted to forget that Christmas is about the earth receiving her King. I found something I wrote on Christmas Eve 2005 that was a helpful reminder today:

On the surface, this was the worst Christmas Eve of all time. My wife vomited three times. My daughter, well, I don’t know what is wrong with her. She’s crying and obviously in pain. Sleep has not come for her for any great period in over 24 hours. No family around to help and we’re looking at a three and a half hour drive to my mother’s tomorrow. Arguing over petty things when I know better than to provoke a sick person. Not exactly our finest hour. We might as well forget about Christmas Eve and maybe even Christmas.

A little melodramatic, I know, but sometimes when life gets a little messy, the last thing I want to do is celebrate the birth of Christ. But, something inside tells me I am wrong. What is the incarnation if it isn’t God entering into the vomit, diahrrea, sickness, and death of humanity? The incarnation isn’t sterile, it’s not above the filth of life. To think otherwise is to fall into the trap of docetism. No, God entered into human flesh, born bloody and screaming, pooped and wet his clothes. He might have even got sick and puked.

I’d laugh if I hadn’t just realized how short of a distance I’ve covered in four years.

I’m reminded both by Christmas past and Christmas present that Jesus didn’t come to meet any of my expectations. He didn’t show up to be Buddy Jesus who should don a Santa suit and meet my holiday expectations. He came to save the world and as I sit at my desk, waiting for a winter storm to ruin those holiday expectations, I’m thankful that Jesus ignores what we think we want in order to be exactly what we need – a Savior.

Joy to the world, indeed.

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Primal by Mark Batterson

December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Primal – Mark Batterson

I enjoy looking back to see where God has been at work in my life in ways that I didn’t notice at the time. I seem to have a lot of those moments lately and they have served to expose a deep spiritual issue that I have – a bad attitude. I’m usually one of the most optimistic people I know and I don’t tend to dwell on the negative as much as some people I know but as the year end draws nearer and nearer, I get cranky. Ask my wife.

Sometimes a collision of my cranky attitude and God’s seemingly covert work in my life collide and I’ve nothing left to do but chuckle, repent, and thank God for his providential ways. That’s where I am as I type this review.

A month and a half ago I had lunch with a friend of mine who is doing the crazy non-traditional thing in life and is preparing to lay it all out to be a full time photographer. A catalyst for this Spirit-movement in his life was a book by Mark Batterson titled In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars. He suggested I read it and I did. Now I can’t shake the sense that God is calling me to greater trust and faithfulness. It’s a scary thing. In the process of acquainting myself with Batterson I find out that I can get a free copy of his newest book if I write a blog post about it (here it is!). Now, I love free, I enjoy writing, and I figure if Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity gets me more engaged in God’s work in this world, well then, sign me up.

So, here’s where the intersection of God’s work and my understanding of it come into play: there were pages and chapters of this book that I 100% without a doubt needed to hear. The book itself is a call for the church to remember the primal elements of following Jesus which often gets crowded out by “101 leadership tips for growing a church like a business but forgets the gut-wrenching call to deep, deep, self-denying, hard dying to self” discipleship. Batterson reminds us that we are called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and live out that love by loving our neighbors.  This is what’s missing from the practice of our faith and it’s time we recover it.  Quickly.

Sounds simple, right? Except that if it were so simple we’d be doing it.

The book is divided into heart, soul, mind, and strength and the corresponding chapters focus on what it means to love God in each of those ways.  For example, the “heart” section reminds us that loving God cannot be separated from loving our neighbor and that what the church deeply needs is a “coup de compassion”.  The section on “soul” was convicting as it moved me to consider how well I am doing in connecting to God in private and public worship.  It’s never a fun exercise to check out how I’m spending my money like Batterson challenges us to do (“If you really want to know how I’m doing spiritually, all you need to do is look at my checkbook.”  Ouch!).

We also have a look at loving God with our strength which considers our service to the world in inspiring ways, some of which I intend to use in challenging my church.  If you think I skipped over “mind” you’d be wrong.  There were two chapters dedicated to “mind” but I found the whole book to be a challenge to the mind.  Batterson has a unique curiosity about scientific things which made the entire book a joy to read.  One can definitely see that Batterson loves God with his mind and the scientific observations he makes challenged me to be a more observant person who sees in creation the glory of God.  He reminded me of a passage I wrote in the front of my Bible from John Piper’s 1998 address to the Evangelical Theological Society: “Plead with God that he not leave you unmoved by the glories revealed everyday in the sky and in the Scriptures.”  Batterson helped me see both in this book and I think you will see God’s glory, too, if you pick it up.

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