Archives For Theology

Inhaled Grace Ignites

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Relentless, I hear the sighs.
The “talentless” noticed by nothingness and its endless siren’s cry.
Sinking into the sands of insignificance,
.          head lowering with
.          a sun and its sinking glow;
.          heart being dragged under by the weight of its undertow.

Hear the black dog that snarls and rides with the incoming tide.
See the fight from within.
As the fire of creativity lights up embers,
.          and inhaled grace ignites.
For this battle belongs the beat of drums,
.          foot soldiers, metaphors, the Rock of offense;
.          the white horse, its rider and the march of the Second Adam.

Once more, embroiled in a stand-off with emptiness.

.        Once more, engulfed in battle against listlessness.

.                 Once more, pushing back echoes that drift through the mist of a toxic past.

This battle is fought in the shadows.
Where fists meet walls in nightmares,
and exhausted silence follows.
Each bit of shade.
Every movement.
One more potential mask.
Insincerity and plasticity,
.               hiding behind ersatz love, fabricated charity and a pristine facade.

Against which there is no retreat; no slide into the dark,
No giving in to the Black dog, its bite or grave digging bark.

Only complete surrender to the scarred rider on White horse;
The alpha, the omega; the finish and the start.


(©RL2017)

‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ (James 4:7. ESV)

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Wings stretch and earth darkens.

From West to East, wrists to wood
From the river of bitter vinegar, to where it merges with blood from the north.

South past open flesh,
.                        before which mockery stood.

To where pierced feet meet;
.                        on branch intersecting branch;
.                        where branch kills the vine,
.                        and the vine is laid to rest.

All within the borders
.            of an empire, and an empire’s hornets’ nest.

To where silent spaces are professionally sealed
For fear of blind and impassioned zeal.

Before the scarlet X.
That marks the scarlet spot;

To the place where men and women,
.                  embalm the unforgettable
.                  with a burial cloth.

Look to the place forged by Light;
.       to the heart of where the darkened,
.       once received their sight.

To where the sudden presence of the messenger
disturbed the guards and the still of night.

There you’ll find that death
.         and boulder was no match for Light from Uncreated Light.

There the fire-born, who stands inside this broken enclave.
turns to humanity and sets its gaze.

“From God comes His own humiliation.
This; God’s self-limitation, now become your exaltation.

This unforgettable vertical collision,
lifts the now forgiven.

Therefore, rise as you are raised.

For I tell you the truth, He is Risen!”


(©RL2017)

‘In the person of Jesus Christ, in the death of the Son of God on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. God allowed this humiliation to come upon Himself and this exaltation to be the lot of the other, humanity […] God could not be more glorious as God than in this inconceivable humiliation of Himself to humanity, and the no less inconceivable exaltation of humanity to Himself.’ 

-(Karl Barth, CD. II:1 pp.662-664)

Homeschooling is an ever evolving journey, not an ever revolving journey.

There are some areas that might fall into the latter description such as, ROTE learning of music theory, chemistry, Latin, Koine Greek and mathematics. For example: formulas, elements, phrases, alphabet, and rapid recall multiplication, addition, subtraction and division.

I wouldn’t be so quick to place Bible memory verses into a revolving journey category simply because they apply to both a revolving and an evolving journey; more so the evolving than revolving, because as we grow and face new life experiences the Bible speaks for itself to us in different ways.

The Bible confronts us. Although God remains the same and His Word remains unchanged, when we are met by this Word, we do not remain as we once were.

Maturity in the faith isn’t being able to rattle off a bunch of scripture verses. Nor is it based on my church attendance record, Instagram followers, vanity metrics, “friends” or high hitting blog stats. Maturity in the faith is recognising how scripture verses rattle us in our sin, out of our sin; out of complacency, apathy, negative stubborn patterns of behaviour and selfishness.

An evolving journey is about character development, whereas a revolving one implies that we’re stuck, immovable. Like Sisyphus forever pushing the boulder.

An evolving journey is still forged by routine. The difference is that in an evolving journey new routines break old ones. This is one of the reasons we observe Lent.

Lent provides an opportunity to reconsider routine; to act against unhealthy habits. It’s a small part of a global commitment from Christians to observe, review and let go of the certain things in our lives that slowly consume us, the more we consume it. Within that comes the humility to recognise that no matter how successful or privileged we may be; we are all still sinners in need of a Saviour.

Participation in Lent doesn’t have to be complicated, overly planned or structured. It just requires commitment. I won’t say simple commitment, for the reason that I know even the smallest of fasts can sometimes be the hardest.

Author, activist, Pastor and urban theologian, Eric Mason wrote:

‘In rabbinic culture, disciples walked behind those whom they followed as teacher. They would literally follow their master around imitating him […] Following Jesus always means abandoning something else that preoccupied our lives prior to grace passing us by and being preoccupied by Him. To follow Jesus is the follow the grace of God. The Christian life is filled with things that will seek to deter us from following Jesus. There must be a point in our lives where we decide we are committing our lives fully to the master.’
(Mason, 2014)[i]

It may not seem Holy, and it may seem too simplistic, but this year my wife and I committed to ditch our after dinner snacks. We like to celebrate our only alone time together throughout the week and this is one way we express that.

Our kids made their own decision. They were asked to come up with their own joint fast. After much discussion, they presented us with their agreed upon proposal. The consensus among them was to fast from streaming movies, including YouTube kids, Netflix etc[ii].

This is what being part of the Church; or as Karl Barth would state it, the Commonwealth of Christ, means to us. Being part of the Church is an evolving journey that sometimes, though not always, involves the revolving door of routine. Lent comes in many different colours, applications and ethnicities. What unites all those in their diversity is Jesus Christ, the absence of Pride.

For Lent to be what Lent is, humility must win. It is a time for a more active participation in the life of God; a time where minds, deeds, hearts and attitudes are directed towards focusing more intensely and intentionally, on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Homeschooling isn’t always filled with routine. It involves random group activities or popcorn and movie marathons like watching Ben Hur. Like lent, stopping to look and listen for lessons as they present themselves requires humility.

As I’ve pointed out few times here in the past, pride is not compatible with love, self-denial and grace go hand-in-hand.

It requires stopping, breathing in grace and exhaling the dust accumulated over the past year. We are set free by God to do so, if only we would ‘submit to God, and resist the devil’ (James 4:7)  and ‘put on (not put out) the armour of light’ (Romans 13:12). Like Bible memory verses the evolving journey involves new routine that breaks unhealthy routines that have long ago over-stayed their welcome.

We are broken by the Word of God, pulled out of mindless routines, soul sucking environments and away from merciless task masters. Called to remember that by, in and through Him; His faith, His journey, His-story, we are made new and called out to live as one who is adopted by a Father who reached for us, so that we may be free, and therefore permitted, to reach out for Him.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ (John 1:5, ESV)


[i]  Mason, E. 2014 Beat God To The Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life,  B & H Publishing

[ii] Lent is 40 days and doesn’t include Sundays due to it being a traditional day of celebration.

Here is a ‘note to self’ recently rediscovered. I wrote this back in 2011. Long before I’d even considered blogging as a means to connect, share, process, and improve on conclusions and thoughts I’d come to through my undergraduate days.

I’ll never know the privilege of having pride in my father; having a father’s loving advice, or an extended family, on my side, that through mutual reciprocity, enriches my own.

What was broken, is broken and the residue of the struggle to move beyond that remains. This has hindered me having confidence in myself, others, even in having hope for a future.

But through it, I have come to know and acknowledge that God, who in Jesus Christ, redeems even the chiefest of sinners, is greater than all this. Greater than words spoken in order to shame and therefore control.

Evident through Word & impossible changes becoming possible, I’ve seen God choose to step in and move me beyond it; to not let my past define my future.

Don’t let the world, friends, enemies or the past define you. God lives & speaks the same different word every time.

As the Apostle to the Gentile;the foreigner; the alien says, God in His freedom sets us up for freedom and empowers us to cry out ‘Abba Father’ (Romans 8 & 12); recognizing that God delivers on His promise to be the Father of the fatherless.

As the infamous African-American theologian, James Cone once said, ‘we are more than what has been defined for us by broken homes, sin and fatherlessness’ (Cone, p.11) [i]

Posting items and words like this on the internet can be treacherous. I recall Jesus’ wisdom when he talks about “giving to the dogs what is sacred and casting pearls before swine” (Mathew 7:6). Even with the context explained, it’s possibly to misuse my words here. As I’ve mentioned plenty of times in the past, social media, when it comes to community, isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. It’s an ongoing conversation, that can bolster community, but it can never truly replace community; and in it’s current form, will only ever remain so.

[For more of my thoughts on this check out: Fake News Sells: Unfriending Ersatz Community ]

I say these things with confidence because community is best displayed by Christianity, or at least it should be. This is because Christianity is incarnational – where Word meets flesh; where Word meets both deed and attitude. It’s something, or rather, someone, who comes to us; not just pointing to the way, but making a way. God sets this standard and empowers it in Jesus Christ.

I was reminded of this the other day when I read these words from African-American, civil rights campaigner, John M. Perkins’ in his new book, ‘Dream With Me‘:

“I believe the human dimension of God;s work is very important. It’s not that He couldn’t accomplish anything He wanted to do without us, He chooses to [work] with human vessels.We are not the main force at work, yet we are involved. We are present. God uses us in one another’s lives.’ (Perkins, p.96)[ii]

Perkins follows this up with,

‘At a recent conference some of the young people I had met tried to convince me that they didn’t really need a preacher. They’re frustrated with traditional church leadership, [then they appealed to] the priesthood of all believers, which is all well and good. That they prefer a virtual church over a traditional one. I told them, “That’s going to be weak, because it’s going to miss the incarnation [the embodiment of Christ; Word made flesh]. It will not have a human touch (Hebrews 10:24-25).The active presence of other believers contributes to God’s work within us. Again, it’s that God needs us to complete what He is doing – but He allows that human dimension to be a part of His redemptive work.’ (Perkins, p.97)[iii]

Perkins is right. If we don’t speak for fear of the swine or throwing what is sacred to the dogs, then our silence may be motivated by fear, not wisdom.

I’m all for responsible vulnerability; the need to refine what we’re going to say, and then saying that with precision, so as to both guard our hearts with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). However, we also put on the ‘Armor of Light (Jesus Christ), casting off the works of darkness’ (Romans 13:12); ‘building up and encouraging one another, through endurance and the scriptures, so that we might have hope’ (Romans 15:2).

Posts like these display vulnerability, which is why some, such as Brene Brown, might consider it also an act of extraordinary courage.

Whether or not these are unwise or an act of extraordinary courage, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is the raw truth contained it, and the Good News I wish to proclaim through it.

 


Sources:

[i] Cone, J. 1975 God Of the Oppressed, Orbis Books (1997 ed.) p.11

[ii] Perkins, J.M. 2017 Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, Baker Publishing Group

[iii] Ibid, 2017

wedge-taled-eagle-aus-flagThe birth date for Australia as a nation is officially Federation Day, where on January 1st, 1901, the states and territories came together as one.

The 26th, “Australia Day”, marks the landing in Botany Bay of the first fleet, which arrived in 1788, filled with British convicts, their wardens and a few settlers. One year before the French Revolution. 14 years after the American war of independence.

They arrived not to fight an organised army or take siege of cities. When they arrived, they saw bushland that went on as far as the horizon. To this enlightenment age people, this land, although sparsely occupied by clans of indigenous Australians, was mostly empty.  Hostility fuelled by misunderstandings and racism, between Europeans and indigenous people came much later on and with it a history that is not as black and white as white vs. black.

There has been an official “sorry” given for wrongs committed towards indigenous Australians, plus a TON of aid and support in both education and other social programs to empower awareness and positive change within indigenous communities.

Today, Australia Day represents the ownership of those wrongs and the long effort to factually acknowledge and correct them. Australia Day also represents the celebration of freedom, God’s blessings, our rich heritage, the land, new citizenship for immigrants and the importance of  indigenous Australians to our nation’s future.img_0948

It’s also a day that reminds us, we are a people still need of THE saviour.

For reconciliation to mature beyond words and gestures, forgiveness must follow that genuine apology. This won’t happen, though, for as long as Leftist elites and their sycophantic allies are allowed to control a skewed narrative and direct the hearts of people through their often biased politics.

Yes, Australia Day does remind us of the negative side to our nation’s history. However, that’s not something to run from, it’s something to be acknowledged; something that leads to Australia Day bringing not just patriotism, but humility; something that should rightly trigger solidarity of suffering, respect and reconciliation.

We aren’t beyond being mature enough, as a people, to hold the right and the wrong in both hands, being able to learn from both, being humbled by its mistakes and using them to empower our future.

To move the date to, May, or make it ”Wattle Day” is to jettison all the benefits that can come from redeeming the past for the present and the future. Effectively taking the negative aspects of this nation’s history and burying it does nothing for progress, unity or reconciliation.

Moving the date or renaming the day will only unnecessarily divide us, ripping from our hands and hearts, the potential to fuse together and be fused together by a solidarity that the Australia Day, as an event, brings and can bring.

We aren’t beyond redeeming the day or the date, because we still stand under the God who redeems, has redeemed, and will redeem.

If you think the day is offensive, don’t reject it. Aim to redeem it.

 ‘…Transgression. Redemption. One island’ – Midnight Oil, One Country.

Happy Australia Day.


Notes:

Artwork credit: Artist TBC, otherwise unknown.

Image: Australian Governor-General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, Australia Day, 2017: “A great privilege to be welcomed as part of a traditional smoking ceremony at the National Flag Raising and Citizenship Ceremony” (source: Official FB page)

rl2016-karl-barth-cd-2_2-page-625Like Facebook, over the past two weeks, this blog fell into my list of last priorities.

I’ve met 2017 with mixed emotions.  I looked forward to resting, but as I am quickly learning each year, the end of school, Christmas, and New Year, have a completely different routine. It’s just as busy and very often a lot less comfortable.

Christmas is unpredictable. It is not tame, nor can it be tamed. It’s not tame because it disrupts all our routines, whether they be healthy, mundane or toxic. Christmas forces us to be with people we normally don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with.

It confronts us with memories that come to us as both great and sometimes painful. Christmas draws us together. It frees up time for us to be free for others. Through our participation or even non-participation, we are affronted with the reminder that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

That Christmas is not tame, is part of its spiritual reality; which is the free God at war against all pseudo-divine masters that seek our slavery. Every part of our world is impacted by Christmas.

Our physical, emotional, economic and relational world is disrupted by having to stop, go, sell, give, rest and follow. In this place we are met, not with an exhausting what, but a joyful Who.  It’s the encounter with the One, who is the Spirit of Christmas, that draws us out of an anesthetized insular bubble of self.

The spiritual reality of Christmas is the freedom of God. As such Christmas remains beyond our control. We can only respond to it.

If 2017 seems daunting, it’s helpful to step back and think on the things that God can do. Stop for a moment and look upon what God has already done. His will may not always meet in agreement with ours, but He is willing and able to hear us out. He gives us permission to call upon Him, as a father, as one would a Good Shepherd.

If we feel wounded by the events of 2016, it’s helpful to remember that God may say “no”, but He never does so without also raising to life those things in us, for us and around us, that are far better than the things we’ve resolved to create, follow or do for ourselves.

In His freedom, He is the author of peace, not confusion (1. Cor.14:33). It’s not a question of God meeting my will, but me seeking to align my will with His! Calling out once again, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”.

It’s from humility and gratitude that we see the pathway ahead. This is true obedience to the Who of Christmas and His loving gift of new mercies for a new year. Despite whatever fog might be enveloping us, perhaps, by grasping a glimpse of what God can do, through what He has already done, we may be able to see and allow ourselves to be grasped by what He is currently doing.

May 2017 be one of those years that justifies all kinds of Jesus-grounded joy and hope.

rl2016-karl-barth-cd-2_2-page-625


 

rl2016-christmas-letter-with-borderInstead of writing letters to Santa Clause, we write to the Grinch. The aim is to persuade the Grinch to give Christmas a second chance.

This is our second year of using such a brilliant, practical lesson in persuasive writing. [i]

It’s quirky and fits well with our homeschooling style.

I had another focus for craft last year around this time, which meant that I had to leave out the part where we get to make a Grinch face.  This year, however, I needed a craft-filler with some level of serious coolness, so it was full steam ahead.

If, like us, you haven’t sold your kids the line about Santa Claus “bringing nice things, only if you do nice things”, this is a real alternative to the Dear Santa petitioning.

Let me follow that up by saying that I have no issue with who the modern myth of Santa is based on. Nikolaos of Myra did exist. He stood by his convictions, made some mistakes, such as punching a heretic or two and gave to help those who couldn’t help themselves.  He’s my kind of Saint; the John McClane of all Christian forebears.

What I stand opposed to is teaching kids something that will cause them to question their trust in us as parents later on in life. If we manipulated them with the Santa line, it’s only right that they’d wonder whether there were other areas where their parents weren’t being completely honest with them.

This is as psychologically abusive as any Christian parent misrepresenting the fear of God in an attempt to encourage a child to behave.

Santa Claus isn’t the problem, the lie perpetuated by the modern myth of Santa is.It’s the packaging, not necessarily the content of that packaging.

For parents, teachers and homeschoolers, speaking the truth in love should be of paramount importance. Even when there are family members who might get angry with us for not wanting to become co-conspirators in what is, in all bluntness, an outright Westernised, excessively commercial, lie.

This may seem heartless. It does to some in my own family. I ask, though, isn’t it heartless to raise kids to believe in a lie; to abandon them to figure out the truth for themselves? Isn’t it heartless to misconstrue the truth and distort reality? Not just this, but then consciously employ that lie to manipulate a child’s behaviour?

Coming from a highly dysfunctional family, I’m more accustomed to the effects of this. I acknowledge that this has left me with a slight bias. For reasons other than Santa Claus, I’ve not only experienced it, I’ve also witnessed the harm done by parents who don’t tell their children the truth and instead lead them to believe a lie; the impact of which is made worse when that lie is used to control a person’s behaviour. It doesn’t end well for either the parent or the child. [ii]

If I am going to be teaching my children about faith and reason, these need to be taught with integrity. Believing in the modern myth of Santa Claus isn’t an example of what a faith that seeks understanding looks like.

There is nothing heartless in teaching our kids the truth about Christmas; teaching them about Jesus Christ and the fuller meaning of Christmas is part of a rounded holistic education. The nativity alone confronts our inhospitable tendencies, doubts, weariness and need for rest.

In answer to the charge that I’m simply swapping belief in Santa Claus for belief in Jesus Christ, I would say, no. The context is totally different.

To begin with, I’m not teaching my kids about Jesus Christ for personal gain. It’s a gift given to them to benefit them. It’s not something I’m taking from them to benefit me. Secondly, my sources come from authorised, written historical recounts about a real historical person. Thirdly, in contradistinction to neo-Pelagianism and some well documented bad theology, I’m not teaching them that they’ll get nice things, if they do nice things.

There is no anxiety about whether Santa is happy or sad because of their behavior. There is joy in a deeper learning about the immanence of God, in Christ, who is Immanuel [God with us]. One extended by the fact that on the 25th December every year, most countries in the Western World and the church in the majority world, join together to mark what is generally considered to be the birthday of Jesus Christ.

It unifies ethnicity and draws together cultures. It opens doors and hearts to the good news, has even prompted a ceasefire, brought respite to busy workers and seen both, rich, poor, king and queen bow equally before the one who is, and was, and is to come.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
– (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

If choosing to do this makes me the Grinch or someone like a Dickensian Scrooge, so be it.

grinch-christmas-rl2016


Notes:

[i] How the Grinch Stole Christmas Persuasive Writing Project

[ii] Sir Walter Scott’s, ”O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive” from  ‘Marmion: The Battle‘ comes to mind.