Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lessons From A History We Choose To Ignore

It certainly has been a long time since I've written a blog.  With the everyday work I have to do, there never seems to be time to let my thoughts rest long enough for something intelligent to emerge.  Nevertheless, after doing some reading on the history of my denomination (The Evangelical Free Church of America) I realized something.  There are a lot of things in history we attempt to forget.  Whether it be the bombing of Hiroshima, the dark history of Slavery and homelessness in our country, or the sex trafficking that happens right under our noses during every Superbowl season, there are countless examples in our history that we neglect to consider.  Perhaps that's because we choose to look on the "bright side" of things.  But I think there's more to it than that.  Too often we don't want to acknowledge our history for fear of what it says about us.  We want to be the country where everyone is treated fairly and has the same chance to succeed, and perhaps if we were to look at the full scope of what happens here in America we would see that there is plenty of distress to accompany the success stories we here praised so often.

This post, however, is not about our American history.  It's about our religious history.  I was reading about the beginnings of the Free Church in Denmark and about how much tension there was between those who thought baptism should happen to infants and those who did not.  In fact, it went so far that some religious individuals were kidnapping children in order to have them baptized.   I was shocked to hear this.  These are not the things we normally here when learning about the history of the Church, and this isn't the only example of Church history that we try to brush aside.  From the Crusades to indulgences to corruption, there are many things we choose not to focus on.  In fact, we often have a visceral reaction when non-Christians bring up this history.  We think it unfair and antagonistic to highlight our failures when so much good has happened through the spread of the Gospel message and through the local and global church.  We Christians tends to respond with equal antagonism highlighting either the faults in the other's religious history or trying to turn the conversations away to the good things about Christians.  I think both of these are mistakes.  A common saying is that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."  We throw this around but we ignore our own history.  We share the history of our lives with our children in hopes that they can learn from our mistakes, but we try to pretend that the Church has been perfect and that any mistakes are anomalies.

Instead of hiding from the failures in our history, we should embrace our failures.  2 Cor. 12:9 highlights that God works most powerfully in our weaknesses.   How can we claim this for our own lives yet ignore it when it comes to our history?  We should learn to boast in the weaknesses in our history.  It is a perfect example to show others that just because we love Jesus does not mean we are perfect.  Only He is perfect.  We are on our way there, but we will never reach perfection until we are in the presence of God in eternity.  Yet His perfection shines through in our weaknesses, whether they are personal, communal, present, or historical, we should not be proud that we fail, but we boast in our weakness because God can display His strength where we are prone to fail.  So next time someone points out a shortcoming, whether yours or the Church's, tell they their absolutely right.  Use it as a chance to share the Gospel; Jesus came to save sinners, of whom we are still the worst.  Yet Jesus uses us as examples of His great patience and calls all to repent and turn to Him (see 1 Tim 1:15-17).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

One of those days...

Today I am reflecting on "one of those days" where nothing seems to go quite right.  It isn't today, today has been fine, but I've had a couple of those in the last month worth reflect on.  I won't go into two many details, but let's just say that I came pretty close to losing my job one day, and I didn't exactly speak with care to my lovely fiance and upset her quite a bit another.  Granted, those weren't the only things that "went wrong" those days, or they wouldn't be "one of those days," but let's just focus on the big ones, shall we?  What makes those days so hard?  Why does it feel like the world is against us?  Why do we end up failing so badly when we try so hard?  Well, perhaps this is connected and perhaps not, but I was listening to pastor Tim Keller this morning and he had some convicting words to say.

1) We should be angry
2) We do not change through willpower, we change through worship

We should be angry?  Yes.  Paul says so.  The first half of Eph. 4:26.  "Be angry and do not sin."  Now, if you really wanna hear all about what Tim says about this, listen to his sermon "Forgiving and Forgiven."  It's on Itunes, shouldn't be hard to find.  What hit ME so hard about this was that I wasn't admitting that I was getting angry about things.  I'd mask my anger in "disappointment" or "depression" or basically anything but "rage."  Eventually, like what happened with Bethany, something that isn't really a big deal will make it all spill out of me at once, and I will certainly sin in my anger.  God forgive me.  But, as Tim points out, if I can focus my anger on what is not glorifying God in the situation and allow my anger to be righteous anger over injustice, then perhaps that can be avoided.  But first I need to admit I have a problem: an anger problem.

Boy that could be a whole post by itself, but let me continue.  This has so much to do with #2 that I'm going to go right there.  We do not change throughout willpower, we change through worship.  How many times have we tried, and tried, and tried to change something about our lives?  I'm still trying to change 15 or so major things about my life that I know aren't good (no I'm not going to list them for you).  We, at least I, constantly fail and wonder if I'm just not trying hard enough, so I give up for a few days and try again.  NO!  We do not change through willpower just like we did not come to Jesus Christ through willpower.  We are not a moralistic machine within the cogs of organized religion we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom living in response to the light of the son emanating from the cross!!!  Thus, it is only by responding to him in worship in every moment, in every area of our lives, that we can hope to change anything.

Well, that's probably enough for one post.  Think about that.  Worship God in this moment.  What else are you doing with your time?  Wasting it reading the blog post of a silly 24 year old pastor wannabe?  You should talk to Jesus about what's going on, not read about what's going on in my life, sillies.

In Him,


Monday, March 26, 2012

A Break from Lawrence for Isaiah 58

'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please..."

We are good at that question. Why? Why Why Why? Why can't I get a better job? Why can't I afford a better apartment? Why am I stuck with this car? Why did I get stuck with a hairy chest? Why am I so blah blah blah blah blah. I do it all the time. "Why am I so undisciplined?" "Why don't you help me with this God?" Why?

What does Isaiah 58 say? Well, you are good at asking why... but what are you doing after those words leave your mouth? Well, its not my fault, its too hard, that's why I'm praying!

If we just look at this in perspective it all makes sense. If I asked my dad for $1,000 to get some books for school, I think he would first ask how my job was going. If I said, "well, I quit my job because I needed more time to play basketball, but if I just had some more money I could finish school and then I can work more." Thats not even a good illustration, but its enough to show how ridiculous we are when dealing with God. Really, this is more for me than anyone else. The point is, if we want God to listen to our prayers we must back up our prayers, our faith, with action that proves our faith, our prayers. Got is NOT a divine gumball machine and prayers are NOT quarters. He is a father and we are his children by GRACE. He will discipline us in love and he will give us good gifts in love, but he will not simply give us whatever we ask for whenever we want it. Thank God for that.

Thank God that he didn't stop with Isaiah 58 as well. Thank God that he also inspired Isaiah 59. When God saw that his people were incabaple of doing good, in capable of saving themselves, totally inadequate, he did not sit idly. He does not sit idly. This is the Word of the Lord:

The LORD looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.

17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
18 According to what they have done,
so will he repay
wrath to his enemies
and retribution to his foes;
he will repay the islands their due.
19 From the west, people will fear the name of the LORD,
and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory.
For he will come like a pent-up flood
that the breath of the LORD drives along.[a]

20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the LORD.

21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.

It was by his own hand that Jesus came. He comes both in wrath and in love to punish and to cherish so that his Spirit might never depart from his people and he may wipe every tear from their eye and JUSTICE might truly reign. By the LORD'S OWN HAND will this be accomplished. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

D.A. Carson Inspired Blog on Devils as Angels of Light

Sometimes the devil will attack us via suffering and trial. It is quite unlikely that he will approach us clearly and say, “this is a big lie, believe it.” More often, he will do whatever he can to take a “good” thing and have it take you away from the sufficiency of Christ. 2 Cor 11:14 – “Even Satan himself pretends to be an angel of light. 15 So it doesn't surprise us that those who serve Satan pretend to be serving God.” This is not to accuse anyone reading this that they may be serving Satan, but it is to open their eyes to the methods of Satan. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis makes the following comment:

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

2 Cor. 11 points to the truth of the former, namely, that the devil may not be involved in my choosing to spend my afternoon relaxing since I need it or reading that great book by so and so to further my Christian experience, but when it takes me away from the centrality and sufficiency of the Gospel, it is nothing but a trick, a trap into weakness and the pathway to sin. Does that mean that all things but the gospel are evil? Hardly, but we can never lose sight of the centrality and sufficiency of the Gospel. Paul counted all things as loss of the sake of the Gospel. We must only turn to good things in light of the sufficiency of the Gospel. In light of the words of Brother Lawrence I mentioned in my last post, we must keep the love of God at the forefront of our minds at all times in all occasions, so that we might not be tricked when Satan dresses himself as an angel of light. It is easy to become distracted with arguments about social justice, predestination, arguments for this or that, things that are good, but are not the heart of the Gospel.

1 Tim. 1:15 – “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--and I am the worst of them all.” This is the heart of the Gospel.

John 3:16-18 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

So listen to the words of 2 Tim 2:20-21 – “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”

Beware of what is good being used for Evil (Remember Peter in Mark 8). Turn to the Gospel, to the love of God, to Jesus Christ, and make him the center, and take up the shield of faith (Eph 6) so that the Evil one, dressed as himself or as an angel of light will not be able to stand against the Gospel of the Lord.

In Him, D.P.S.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brother Lawrence and Practicing the Presence of God

What is it called when you just start typing and let whatever comes out come out without editing or any mind to what you are writing? Free verse, or free thought, or poor writing? Something like that. Anyway, that is what I am setting out to do today - mostly because its 80 degrees outside and I wanna see the weather/run/get strings for my guitar before I meet with Luke and Andy (and Emily) over lunch.

So what is the topic of this disjointed spam of words? Well, I've been devotionally reading The Practice of the Presence of God, a collection of thoughts and writings and conversations from a monk named Brother Lawrence. I’m going slow so as not to waste it, but I wanted to put forth a bit of insight that I have gleaned thus far.

Brother Lawrence had one basic premise: that God is with us everywhere so we should learn to realize that and bask in his presence (my paraphrase, of course). Anyway, there is one quote from the opening pages of the first conversation that I thought I would share. “[A]t any moment and in any circumstance, the soul that seeks the companionship of God may find him.” Now, being a philosophy major, a host of unhelpful questions immediately arises in my mind. “How do we seek the companionship of God? Are there prerequisites? Do we always know when we have achieved said companionship?” Well, I don’t think Brother Lawrence would care about any of those questions, so I’m going to do something very unlike myself and not try to answer them. Rather, I will simply say that if we do anything at all with the devout desire and purpose of seeking the companionship of God, we are going to get somewhere. Good old B. L. sought God even as he did the dishes and served meals, and he found him. So whatever you’re doing today, do it will all your heart as to the Lord, but also see if you can find him in the midst of what you’re doing. I know I’ll be doing my best to do the same (should be an interesting day at the mall in any case).

In him,

D. P. Swartz

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Am a Reactor

No. I am not a source of limitless energy. I am not a location in which atoms are torn asunder and where fission occurs in rapid succession. In fact, I am quite the opposite. I am of the sort of person that chooses the past of least resistance, although perhaps not the "easiest." I am of the sort that allows what happens to happen and happens to work with what happens. I am one that sees effects and takes them, but rarely foresees a cause. I am also of the sort that I am not happy with this situation.

I've read a few books on leadership, watched people I respect in leadership roles, talked about it, walked in it, been told I need to practice it, and so on, but leadership has never been as natural for me as one might think. The problem, as I see it, is reaction. It takes a lot of work for an ordinary person to foresee problems. It takes a lot of work to change a habit or lose weight or gain a virtue. These are things which take more than reaction. So how does one move from reactor to actor? Well, that is where I am currently at. The answer that comes to mind seems a bit too simple, but I tend to think it is true. What fuels a reactor is inability or fear. The reactor simply does what he can to keep the situation from unraveling. For example, I react to the assignment due tomorrow by staying up all night. I react to upsetting my girlfriend by trying to make her feel better. What fuels the actor is purpose.

1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. an intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. determination; resoluteness.
4. the subject in hand; the point at issue.
5. practical result, effect, or advantage: to act to good purpose.

A purpose can change a reactor into an actor. But this belies another question: where does purpose come from? Well, that is an age old question and has many answers. I am not about to supply the meaning of life for billions of people in a 1,000 word blog post. What I can say is that for the Christian, the meaning of life is a simply creedal direction "to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." If one truly believes that, then the the purpose which arises becomes a driving one. In short, a thing finds its purpose from its creator. We, in a slight unforeseen turn of events, have a creator who both gives us purpose and gives us freedom on how to carry out this purpose. While he gives us purpose we are given the freedom to find our purpose and to carry it out. The trick, for us reactors, is to live in the light of this truth.

There is no to magic button to turn a reactor into an actor. But if one stays in The Word, in prayer, and keeps in mind the gift of freedom which we have, then I think a actor we will have. Only time will tell, but my prayer is that an actor I will be.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No mas por favor

Once upon a time I tried
to write a rhyme
so that I might
get emotions out alright
and feel alright inside


it turns out I'm not sublime
at artful line
hard as I try
and worry not I will not lie
I've wasted all your time.