Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Listen


Last week, I went to a conference and the unexpected happened. Most of the speakers were very predictable. If you have been to a ministry conference, you often know what to expect. Conference speakers have their own jargon, they have "sugar stick" moments in their talks, and they look and dress the part. This particular conference happened to be for student ministers, so the testosterone was heavy, the facial hair was manicured, and the hair cuts were spiky and hawked up. My friend Joe calls this "Sexy Church." It was.

But just when I thought all hope for something different was gone, the unlikely happened. The Word of God spoke and all that were there heard.

As the last session began, the speaker came out, and in a tone of humility began to talk of how the Word of God used to move people. Its words were read out and people fell on their faces and repented. No music, no candles, no mood setting. Just the word of God spoken over the people.

He then said, to understand Romans 9:1-5, you must understand Romans 1-8.

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." -Romans 9:1-5

He spoke briefly about the urgency of the Gospel. He talked about being willing to throw yourself into Hell so that others may hear the Word. He then set his bible down on the pulpit, and began to speak...

"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God..." and he proceeded to recite Romans chapters 1-8. Eight chapters of the Scriptures, memorized. Beautiful.

He did this with a posture of humility, and yet his words were passionate. It read like a sermon, and felt like the Spirit was washing over us. I followed in my bible for a few lines, but then sat back closed my eyes, and let the Holy Word of God wash over me like the tide. I not only heard, but I listened.

I have never been a part of anything like this before. You might think that this might be a boring thing to listen to, but to hear the passion in his voice, and to truly listen to the Word was incredible. A few months back, my friends Josh and JD and I were at the Abbey of Gethsemani and JD talked to us about the power of memorizing and reciting Scripture. To hear His Holy Word spoken by the mouths of His people must please our Father. Even more so to have it written on our hearts and for our lives to reflect it.

My friends and I are working to commit Matthew 5-7 to memory. This has been a difficult task, but my experience last week has given me a new strength, and I have seen the power of God's Word spoken through and to His people. I have begun to read it aloud, and I even have it on CD and listen to it in the car on the way to work. I am trying in every way to memorize the Sermon on the Mount, but more than that, I am trying to listen.

"Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, that you may live..." -Is. 55:3

Monday, September 15, 2008

Alison's Article


Some of you may know that my wife, Alison, writes. She writes very well.

She has been writing for a webizine called UNGRIND for a couple of months now.

Check out her latest article here and check out her blog in my blog links.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Suffering and the Cross



A couple of weeks ago, I read two books back to back: My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev, both by Chaim Potok. Potok was a Jewish writer and literary genius who often wrote of the Jewish cloister life in New York City.

Asher Lev, the protagonist in the stories is a prodigy child artist that paints things that makes his Hassidic community quite uncomfortable. He draws pictures everywhere. On the walls, in the margins of the Torah, everywhere. He brings much grief and embarrassment to his family, and he is pressured to stop drawing and painting.

When he is about 18, Lev is painting artwork for his first show and attempting to depict suffering in a painting and cannot think of a Jewish depiction of suffering that is strong enough to communicate his pain, so he draws from Christian imagery; the Cross. Lev paints a crucifixion. He comes under such criticism that he is forced to leave his community, because good Jewish boys never paint, and if they do, they most certainly never dabble in the goyish art world.

This story, for me, reminded me of the cross and what it represents. We can commercialize the cross into wrought iron renditions and paint them and decorate them, adding gems and rhinestones to them. You know what I am talking about. You might even own one. I do. But the cross, in its pure form, embodies humility, suffering, and love.

For the Christian, to embrace Christ is to also embrace the cross. It is to be “crucified with Christ,” and it is meant to be the death of us. But it is also the source of our life. Asher Lev searches the art world to find suffering in artistic forms and eventually comes to recognize that the crucified Christ is the best representation of suffering. But he misses the “why” of the cross. It is God's love for His people that leads Christ on this path of suffering.

The second photo is White Crucifixion, by Marc Chagall, 1938. He was a Jewish artist who actually painted the Crucified Lord.