Monday, September 23, 2013

New Blog Site

Thanks for all of those who've followed and read my blog. Like the Jefferson's, I'm moving on up. Not sure if its to the East side of the cyberworld or not. Regardless of the direction, I've switched my blog over to a new wordpress site. It now called "In the Key of H," and the address is simply I'll be blogging there from now on. You can click here to be redirected. Hope you make the switch and follow me there.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Walter White's Worldly Sorrow

Breaking Bad season 5, the final season, is soon to be over. I've said before that I've never appreciated a show as much as this one, and the final season hasn't disappointed. If you're playing catch-up, there is no spoiler alert here, just a common theme: Walt's worldly sorrow. 

Throughout the show, despite the continual hardening of his heart toward anything "good," he never stops displaying emotion. He's not a sociopath. He does have feelings. Yes at times he does things unthinkable, but there are other episodes where we see real tears running down his face. Even in this last season, despite his malfeasance and machinations, he still cries. 

While Paul wouldn't deny there are different types of tears, he classifies two major types of "sad tears."

As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (II Cor 7:9-10)

We see Walt shed many a tear over what he has done: lives he's either altered for worse or destroyed. But not long after those tears, we see him get right back after it. Nothing changes. There is sadness for a time, and perhaps even for a season, but this sorrow only leads to death: the ultimate separation from God. But we see glimpses of this descent into death through alienation with his family, extended family, his conscience, and his partner-in-crime Jesse. In the book of Jonah, every step he takes away from God's commands is a step toward the place of death and separation, known as "Sheol." Every step away from God is a step away from life. This is "worldly sorrow."

When you see Walt's tears, you think you see a glimmer of hope. And then you remember the name of the show is Breaking Bad. Just about everyone gets worse. People left to themselves will often show some signs of remorse, but will only display worldly sorrow. And we are reminded in this scripture passage, this type of sorrow only leads to death. 

If you are a Christian, you are not a Walt. You have definitively passed from death to life and that life starts now. While sanctification is definitive, it is also progressive (please don't think Flo). The life you enter into is never devoid of struggle with the old Walt in us (or Adam to be theologically correct) who will inevitably seek to selfishly cry as a form of show, penance, or shallow regret. 

What's the difference? If death is alienation from God, salvation is relationship with God first, His people next, and then what He's doing in the world today. When Paul speaks of "salvation without regret," he is speaking in terms of reconciliation. People have shown a sorrow that leads to repenting instead of running from God and His people. They have repented from their sins against God and Paul, and are now "back on good terms" with the latter. This type of godly sorrow moves you to deeper relationship with God and His people.

Repentance always has a destination, and that first stop is God. Then His people. Then becoming involved with how God in Christ (gospel preached through the gathered/scattered church) is undoing what the first Walt, or rather Adam, did.

Watching Walt's worldly sorrow should lead me to a examine my sorrow to make sure it is truly leading me to repentance, which ultimately points me to the deepest experience of life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How much ya bench? Struggle spotting

After some time away from the gym, I've finally started getting back into the swing of things. It's been a struggle but I think that I have found a time that works. Until the baby gets here and things, schedules, sleep, (life in general) changes yet again.

Regardless, my favorite exercise is the bench press. It is the most easily quantifiable, measurable, transferable exercise. I can tell, care, compare how strong I am, particularly in relation to others around me. Or in the NFL....Remember the SNL skit, "How much ya bench?"

I haven't asked anyone to "spot me" yet, which is necessary if I'm ever going to actually get much stronger (not just back to what I could do in West Virginia). But I often hesitate even in asking people, because I don't like having to tell people exactly how I want it done. Particularly when I don't know them well. 

Sometimes when people "spot" you, they see you struggle and immediately put their hands under the bar. It then rises up very quickly. It goes from really hard to really easy. You don't need to be a trainer to realize that muscles grow best when they are exhausted. They grow best when and only when there is a struggle. 

So when I get a "spotter" I have to tell him, "Let me struggle. Only help at the moment I absolutely need it. And then barely help it up." 

When someone spots you and keeps you from struggling, it feels like you've just wasted your time. It's easy, but you just won't ever get much stronger.

I've heard the "faith is like a muscle" comparisons my whole life. But I've never really through the fact I actually seek such a spotter in the weight room. Such a spotter is loving. Such a spotter cares about me getting stronger more than he cares about easy lifting.

Yet such a spotter is there for a reason. I need him. I trust him. I have confidence he'll let me struggle, but I also have confidence he won't let me get pinned (that's not much fun-there is no more helpless feeling in the world!).

Church planting is not easy. But neither is life for most people who aren't church planting. Marriage, parenting, work, etc....Jesus is the spotter who seeks us out, but he does so because of His great love. I'm learning to see Jesus as a spotter and not get so mad at him when he lets me struggle. It's not that he's not there, but much the opposite. After all, that struggle is the best thing for me: conforming me to His image. That's what He cares about most in the end anyway. When I begin to line up His vision for me with my vision for me, I'll begin to appreciate his style of spotting a lot more.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Cade, Goliath, and a Giant Penguin

I have two boys who love the bible stories. I have one who really loves one bible story more than any others. My almost three year old Cade can't get enough of David vs Goliath. Most of the time, it's the only one he wants to hear. He rehashes the story over and over. Of course, he pretends to be David (I guess that's better on a number of levels than pretending to be Goliath). And I can see why. He's a little guy for his age, and he, like all of us, wants to be the winner of the story. 

Last night Cade set up a giant stuffed animal penguin (though not quite as big as the penguin in Billy Madison), and pretended it was Goliath. He of course struck him down down dead. Thankfully he didn't decapitate it, because that could have been costly as well as messy.

Cade's impersonation is cute. Once again, he's a little guy.

But when he gets older, would it be good to let him continue to think of himself as David? 

I don't think so, and its not just because I'm an anal pastor type concerned primarily with theological precision. The reality is that most people exegete the passage the same way my three year old does. Most people find themselves to be David in this cosmic good/underdog vs evil/overdog saga of life. And its natural that we see ourselves as such. 

But let's consider what's really going on.

In Cade's Toddler Bible he has begun to notice certain people. Who are those guys Daddy?

Those are the God's people, scared to death.

No one can face this giant.

That picture tells much of the story. God's army is on one side, the Phillistines are on the other side. One representative is needed. The Jesus Storybook Bible (the dialog of which Cade has basically memorized and recites when playing with his toys-its really pretty cute if I can say that) depicts Goliath looking to fight a representative of the people. If that representative will fight and beat him, the Phillistines will become subject to slavery. If that representative loses, the opposite will become true. 

The point of the story is not that you or I can rise up and be that brave person and beat our own personal demons, Goliath's, or El Guapo's in our lives for that matter. The point is that God HAD to send a representative, who would become King, who would do battle for us. If we are on this brave King's side, then we are on the right side. That was the message to those who first read the story. Get on David's side (Davidic line of kings). But of course, the story doesn't end there. 

Jesus, the brave King, also born in Bethlehem, said "I will fight" for God's people in order to deliver them. I will be their representative. I will not let this cup pass from me.

Our representative had his shot and blew it in the Garden (Romans 5). Yet Jesus does exactly what David did, but this time on a cosmic scale.

If we would begin to find ourselves as the army which was too scared and faithless to fight, we would begin to see Jesus more clearly in our lives. He is the one who fought for us while we were not only scared and faithless, but while we were yet enemies (Romans 5:8). Instead of trying to muster up the courage we may never have, it's much more freeing to see how Jesus points us to David. And if that is so, we don't stand up and lead a bunch of other people who simply can't get their stuff together. We humbly get in line behind a conquering Savior and point people to Him. There's plenty of adventure in following Jesus (a la Steven Curtis Chapman) because we can't see the end of the story except through faith.
If Cade wants to dress up like David for Halloween, I'm OK with that. After all, my five year old already has some sense that David did "big sins" and Jesus is the real hero of the story. So it may not be too long....

But in the end, let's not forget those scared Israelites waiting for someone to "step up" and deliver them. That's us. Not a very glamorous start but the end sure is. 

Here's a video of Cade Vs the Goliath Penguin