“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the LORD has helped us.”
1 Samuel 7:12
Here I will reflect on how the LORD has helped me thus far. Ebenezer litterally means "stone of help."
I've been thinking some about faith lately. What is it? How does it manifest itself? When is faith actual faith as opposed to convenient belief that let's me ignore reality?
I've been a pastor now in some capacity for almost five years and I've seen a lot of un-faith in my time already. I use the term un-faith, because in these instances, I see people wearing a mask of faith, but really either a) are using it as a club for control and manipulation, either of others or of themselves; or b) are using it as a way for them to simply avoid facing the messiness of life and the questions that anyone seeking God must ask. I love that in Isaiah, God asks if people will even care enough about Him "to challenge him when he arrives." I love that God values relationship so highly, that he actually expects people to say, "Yo. This has been AWEFUL! What gives? Where have you been???!!??" God wants to know that he matters to us, even when we don't understand and/or don't agree with Him.
Faith requires the messiness of relationship. So after I've thought about it for some time, I've come to this as a trial-run definition of Faith.
Faith is the endurance of love and hope in the midst of opposition, founded upon reality of God's unswerving commitment to us, even at the cost of his own life.
Posted at 10:33 am by Semeriences
Both literally and bloggitively (yes, just made that one up).
My new mailing address is 162a Cherry Street, Wenham MA 01982.
I don't get cell phone coverage where my apartment is, so you'll have to call my land line if you want to get in touch with me: 978-468-1516
ALSO, I've moved blogs, as I promiced. I won't unpublish this one yet, but I won't be publishing here any longer either.
You'll find me at ebenezermoments.blogspot.com
I'm trying to learn these new ways, so it may be a bit longer before I write. Sorry!
Posted at 04:38 pm by Semeriences
Seeing how my subscription has ended, and I've used up 400% of my allotted space (ooops) I wil be switching Blog locations. I will post one last time with the updated info when I have something else set up.
Posted at 07:13 pm by Semeriences
An afternoon with NT Wright and married life.
Hurrah! I'm married! Life is good. Ariel is amazing and every day I'm more amazed at who God has made her into and continues to form her into. It's a real blessing. It was an incredible joy to have so much love and support surrounding us and hemming us in all throughout this process. I have continually grown assured that marriage is not ment to be a vacuum of escape into "married life" but that marriages are maintained through the support of the community around them. We would not be where we are without the distinct love and support from so many people.
Life is good.
Not only is married life good, but within the first week of being married, I also had the opportunity an hour's private audience with the Right Reverend, Dr. NT Wright. Let me just say, you know you are in brilliant company when the person you are speaking to begins to quote passages in Romans to you IN GREEK. Let me set the stage. Knowing that he would be in town to deliver the Noble Lectures at Harvard this year (spanning three days) I emailed him on the off chance that he would have some time over the course of his stay. I told him that I was taking an Exegesis of Romans course. Knowing Romans was his specialty, I asked if I could pose a couple questions on the passage I am writing my paper on. The day of my wedding, he emailed me back and said, "Come on up after the first lecture and we'll set up a time." I was floored.
So Tuesday at 2 pm I showed up at his hotel, and we sat for coffee and discussed Romans: specifically Romans 9:6-13. It's no wonder so many people consider him a great teacher in addition to a great scholar. Like a great teacher, he asked questions through the text, rather than turning on the water fountain of knowledge and just spewing it out. We talked grammar and flow and logic. But what struck me wasn't his profound knowledge of the text, language, grammar, arguments and what not; but that at the core of our talk he wanted to know how studying this passage was effecting me; how I could use it in my preaching and teaching to build others up. We talked about how at the core of the gospel message; how it's really just "a humiliation of grace." We bring nothing to the table. Yet because of God's humiliating grace he has brought an end to the problem of sin and has brought us along.
Tim: his words to you are these: as far as scholarship is concerned, Paul's understanding of Empire and it's modern implications is something that he personally would like to see more research in generally speaking. But his specific advise is that you have to find something that you are not passionate about, but in love with. Something you can focus on and be married to, because Ph.D. work is like a marriage. Unless you love the focal point of your study, you'll end up spinning your wheels, spreading your love too far around, and tiring of your topic quickly. "I wish someone would have told me this before I started work. My Ph.D. was a sprawling mess. Way too long." SO find a second wife, and make sure your first wife is okay with you becoming a polygamist.
Posted at 11:23 am by Semeriences
There are a lot of things that we all stink at in life. For me, one of the things I stink at the most is keeping in regular contact with those I love the most. I honestly don't know how people do it. I've not fallen off the face of the earth. You are all still fantastically important to me. Because I can't see you on a regular basis does not mean that I don't think about you and pray for you continually.
This I think is the biggest problem with a transient society. Everytime we pick up and move, we have to develop new relationships with the people in your immediate community, because let's face it. LIfe is meant to be lived face to face. And so when you are in a new community, at a new location, you are virtually required to add MORE people onto your love plate. Yet at the same time, images of those whom you love are burned into your retinas, requiring you to think on them. How do you share the love faithfully to everyone that you do love? This is what I suck at.
If you're reading this, please know I love and think of you often, even if I suck at telling you so.
Posted at 08:52 am by Semeriences
Two weekends ago, Dr. Brisco spoke at our preaching conference. He mentioned a British Website that for the life of me, I can't remember. One thing that caught my attention, however, was that this website offered a space where people could post entries anonymously and release any burdens of guilt they have as yet been unable to release. The next weekend (last), I went in to get my haircut. The barber and I were chatting, and I told her I was a student up on the Hill at Gordon-Conwell. A little later in the conversation when she was talking about her life she mentioned a few things, but she shouldn’t be telling me these things because I would probably just tell her why she’s wrong and that I wouldn’t agree with her choices.
Okay. Maybe I don’t agree with her life choices, but shame on our school and us if words of judgment have so preceded the words of grace from our lips that she no longer feels safe to process where she is in life with us. These two instances have made me ask the question, “Where has the ministry of forgiveness gone to in the Evangelical Church?” Forgiveness is perhaps THE major take home of the good news for each individual person.
These two instances have inspired me to create a second blog. This new blog will be a place for people to anonymously post any burden of sin that haunt them. I will quite regularly check in to pray for the posters and offer words of encouragement as often as I can.
You can find the new Blog at http://confessionandgrace.blogdrive.com/Go and tell all your friends the good news. Christ has taken the burden of their sins specifically, individually. Praise the Lord.
Posted at 09:20 pm by Semeriences
I have become convinced ever more so that we are a species specifically designed to be dependent. We are meant to have needs. I don't just mean the ever so squishy abstract emotional needs, though God knows (literally) that those are needs too; but I mean real needs. The kind that say, "Listen. I know you're God and all, but seriously, if you don't come through here, I don't eat today, nor will I make rent tomorrow. I need You."
There is something ever so profoundly powerful wonderful about standing in the dark, feeverishly groping for something solid to put our hands on, while at the same time becoming intolarably frustrated and scared at our sheer inability to find our way out. But then wonder of wonders, a match is lit amidst the dark. The impeneterable flees in terror of the light; a firm footing is finally found. One small act of kindness will burn brighter than the match; igniting hope amidst fantastic despair, chasing it all away.
Thanks, Spindler's, for sparking hope when things seemed bleak.
Ooooooooon another note. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone reading this (but maybe it is) I'm getting married! This fall even! Who's pumped? OH Yeah. Though I realize that I will never fully grasp the total profundity of it all, she is my greatest advocate, and I'm excited to continue to be leveled at the awesomeness that she is.
Posted at 03:20 pm by Semeriences
I went to the Uptown Art fair a second time yesterday. I need to repent of my last blog but only slightly. Some of what I said remains true. There were some booths that showed virtually no variation in color themes or styles. There were also some booths, however that did show great creative innovation. And after some more thought, I realized my issue is less with the artists and lack of creativity, but rather exclusively with the consumeristic culture that has made art into a commodity to be bought and sold.
After some conversation with my professor host, I am more and more convicted that consumerism could very well be a push by the Enemy to forget God. Take for example, the fall at the garden. Eve looks at the fruit and sees with her eyes that the fruit is pleasing to the eye and good for food, and it was desirable to make one wise. In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with Eve's hunger for nourishment or wisdom. On their own, they are neutral at worst, or even good at best. However, the problem is that she is looking for her self to provide for her own needs...she's looking to consume for self... as opposed to fulfilling them through the means that the LORD had and continued to provide. When you take her aims on their own, there is nothing on the surface wrong with them. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with pursuing a good job that pays well. On the surface there's nothing wrong with having the nice house. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with driving a nice car. But when you sum them all together, just as taking from the tree was wrong, so too the bottom line is that, yes, it IS wrong to pursue comfort and ease of life for the self in the midst of hardship or suffering within one's realm of influence. There is an eternal difference between getting for self, and giving of self.
Is there any hope of escape at worst, or redemption at best for our culture, or is this the Enemy's greatest trick yet. Because when you look at it, as a culture, we could immediately tell that Marxism and Stalinism was wrong. The attempt to forcefully stamp out religion, and lack of regard for the human condition we know/knew in our bellies to be evil. But this evil of comfort, self-love, getting and gaining is much more insipid. Much more subtle. Much more evil. The pursuit of comfort has then led to the condition where standing and saying that there is one truth and one way causes discomfort and therefore ought to be either dismissed as undesirable, or rejected and persecuted as being problematic to the movement of society.
When we stop to look at the layers of lies that have been piled up, it should give us the goose-bumps. Its the enemy that looks fair, but when one stops to feel it out, feels foul. And the bottom line is that I don't have an answer for this because I am equally the greatest sinner of them all. I like, I want the nice house, the nice car, etc.
Posted at 01:49 pm by Semeriences
Is there any hope for American culture to be redeemed, or are we cursed to sit in our own stew of consumerism? I spent the afternoon at the Uptown Art fair, and the precious few moments of profound beauty I found were almost as quickly destroyed when I realized the couple behind me were discussing their option to purchase this particular painting amidst the other "contenders." They were trying to decide whether it would look good in the living room.
In a day when art is just a masking for further self-love and self fulfillment of gratifying one's own desires... where art is degraded to the place of "home decor" ... where recycled musical styles are available again and again at the new low price of $.99 per track...where the artists themselves are required to play the capitalist game by finding a niche and producing multiple but limited copies of slight variations of each work... I wonder if we have bought the Wal-mart lie and have culturally lost our creativity
Long ago, I posted how Creativity is a vital and essential aspect of the Imago Dei, the Image of God. If we have fallen so far from the tree that we have lost even our ability to be truly creative, truly innovative, have we then lost what last remnants of the Image we once bore? Have we forgotten what heart-stopping beauty is? Or is beauty also a commodity to be bought and sold? Do we know what it means to hope any longer? Or have we driven ourselves to the despair of staring straight into the eyes of consumptive meaninglessness and opened our arms wide? Like it or not, what ties my Sacramento brother to my Concord, NH sister are the movies I see, the TV I watch, and the stores I shop in. My culture is only as deep as my ability to consume.
Perhaps we have our eschatology (study of the End) all wrong. Perhaps the antichrist we are given strict admonition to maintain vigilance against has never been a person or people, but rather is a system of thought, a mode of being, or a cultural milieu. Jesus says that the days will be such that even the elect would be lead astray if the days were not cut short. That “The blood of the martyrs is the seed with which the church is born," teaches us that overt oppression and domination won't stamp out the Cross. Wanton consumerism, however.... that's another story all together. In the day when consumerism has eaten away even into the very core of our Image-ness, our common giftedness and mandate to "tend the garden" and partake of its beautification, I wonder if there is indeed any hope left to redeem our culture, or are we doomed to eat ourselves up in our need to consume.
The antithesis to all of this of course is the Cross and Resurrection. The Cross screams against everything consumerism is, because the cross is about giving, not consuming. Its about self-sacrifice, not self-love. It’s about eating last when the food is short. And then after we have died to self, Almighty Creator God finishes the story. For the Resurrection is about the life-giving creativeness of God as he re-creates humanity through love of Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. When the stone is rolled away, the new day begins and new life abounds. But that life is a constant dying to self so that life might abound. This is art in its purest form, for at the resurrection the world is most beautified.
Posted at 04:43 pm by Semeriences
I gave the sermon at Hope Community Church last Sunday, July 2. If you're interested, they post all the messages online. Go to hopecc.com, click on messages and then find July 2, and there I am!
(p.s. it's really, really weird hearing your own voice over the web...)
Posted at 01:49 pm by Semeriences