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    Entries in Holiness (4)


    "It's So Quiet Around Here."


    A photo posted by UBC Student Ministry (@ubcfwstudents) on Mar 1, 2015 at 7:28am PST


    The past two weeks in Fort Worth have been a little slower and quieter.

    We've been on the receiving end of two winter storms.

    Texas isn't equipped like our neighbors to the north. We don't have a fleet of snow plows and salt trucks, no seasonal workers equipped to clear parking lots and shovel sidewalks. So, we are rendered helpless. Stuck.

    And we wait for the thaw.

    I enjoy the wait. I enjoy being home, even if I am working.

    My children are young, and delightful to observe. They enjoy television (Wild Kratts, Curious George, and Thomas the Train Engine are favorites), and will gladly watch movies. But they also play with one another. David led everyone around, pretending to be the engine of a train. Joy arranged pillows and gave gymnastics performances. They included Molly and me, if not as primary actors, then as spectators.

    On Friday morning, as snowfall in our neighborhood exceeded the projected totals our family decided we would remain indoors. No trips to the store or gym for us. The television was off. Joy began an art project. David was in his room, playing with his cars. Molly was in our bedroom putting things away. I was in the guest bedroom, writing. And I heard Joy say, "It's so quiet around here."

    And I thought, "Yes, it most certainly is." 

    The residual noise had faded. Fewer cars on neighborhood roadways. Less traffic on major highways. Wildlife, tucked away, preserving energy. Our phones did not ring.

    Quiet invigorated our activity, engagement, and focus. There was creativity and play and work taking place. Quiet was an enhancement, a welcome change, thanks to forces beyond our control.

    Many of us say we desire quiet, but we do not seek it. We tell friends and neighbors we want rest, but our actions belie us. We want busyness.

    But quiet is good for the soul. Sediment and dust settles. The Spirit leads us; attention sharpens. By God's grace, of course.

    Quiet is a great context for learning, for growth. It is a wonderful context for listening.

    For in the quiet moments, I have been reminded that my life is a blessed outcome of God's good will. The lessons wrought from my little life, the ones I have learned well, have come under the instruction of Jesus the Nazarene, the Blessed One.

    In these last days, I saw afresh that Molly is a gift from above, that my children are so very precious. Both, together, have made me more gentle and kind, and though I am still learning the meaning of virtue, I find myself better with them than I would be without them. Marriage, fatherhood, are avenues for moral and spiritual formation.

    I have also been affirmed in my calling, to serve others as part of a congregation. My love for the church has grown, and not in the abstract. At first, I regarded church as theory, and reveled in theology. But now, I marvel at people, and the gritty nature of grace upon grace, working itself out in handshakes and smiles, hard work and good humor, truth telling and comfort. For all the flak the church receives, some deservedly so, she is quite a beauty. Academicians and theologians should serve her well, but they are not the only servants, and only a part. We need good pastors and leaders. We need saints, young and old.

    These are thoughts I would not have had if not for the quiet, for the slowness. The God of grace, working always, even in the busy, but profoundly in the quiet, teaching lessons and dispensing wisdom, even to those, like me, who are slow to learn.


    Book Review :: Yawning at Tigers by Drew Dyck

    Next time you sit down for a conversation with a friend, old or new, ask them what they think about God. You'll likely hear that God is loving and forgiving, though you might also hear about God's wrath or anger. Maybe your friend thinks that God is distant and disengaged from our lives, if they believe God exists at all. There's a range of opinions about God.

    Within my tribe, however, the popular view of God is a bit fuzzy. God loves us, and it is a syrupy sweet kind of love. We mess up, sure, but God is right there to pick us up, dust us off, pat us on the butt, and urge us on. God wants us to have our best life, and if we spend time in the Word and claim the promises found therein, this loving, sweet God will deliver us everything we desire. God is here to wait on us, or to push the right buttons when we need things to fall our way.

    But that's not how God works, or is.

    Drew Dyck, in his book Yawning at Tigers: You Can't Tame God, So Stop Trying, challenges this soft notion of God. He claims that our deepest desire is to "know and love a transcendent God," and to encounter a God worth worshipping. Dyck has caught on to the fact that our polar swing away from distorted depictions of God majoring on judgment and wrath have led to a different form of misrepresentation--a God we can control and confine to a cage.

    I happen to really like Dyck's approach and overall tone, not only in YaT, but in his work at Leadership Journal and in Christianity Today. He's open and honest, inquisitive and opinionated, and has a deep concern for the world. That's why I was excited to read this book. In his acknowledgements, Dyck concedes the immensity of the challenge of writing anything about God, and candidly admits that he has never felt so out of his depth. This spirit shines through in YaT. Claims about God are made with confidence and humility. That kind of attitude, I think, give testimony to a knowledge of the true God.

    YaT explores God's person, human beings, and how the two have been brought together in Christ. Dyck challenges us through story, the examination of Scripture, and through the work of astute theologians, pastors, and scholars like Eugene Peterson, Matt Chandler, Miroslav Volf, and many others. He launches salvos toward those flippant in prayer or shallow in their representations of the Christian way, and calls us toward holiness. Dyck's thoughts on holiness, woven throughout the book, were particularly encouraging to me. We are called to be holy because God is holy (a truth woven throughout the Scripture), yet many today seem content with a lax spirituality that is as boring as it is feckless, a far cry from the eternal type of life Jesus has made possible.

    Dyck's writing in YaT will draw you to reconsider your own notions about God. You may find yourself disagreeing with some of his claims. But don't miss his message. God is wild and free, far grander than we have imagined. But God has also revealed himself to be trustworthy, wise, and good. God is love, and is loving, of course. But the meaning of that love is more earth-shattering and awe-inspiring than we have let on.

    Through relationship to this God, you will find that life is a grand adventure, lived in the company of the Redeemer of all things, who brings about his purposes through his people. Once you have beheld God, revealed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you won't even be tempted to yawn. You might find your mouth agape, oh yes, but for far different reasons. It will be due to the glory you encounter, a glory that is yet to be fully revealed.

    Read this book, find encouragement, and recheck your theology.

    Set God in your sights, and worship.


    Future Hope, Our Horizons, and Present Holiness :: A Review of Skye Jethani's Futureville

    Our approach to eschatology has changed. Or at least it is shifting. In articles, books, sermons, and conference presentations, I have noticed that the collective future of the human race is a common theme. That future is no longer spoken of, at the popular level, with a strong emphasis on the unfolding of events running parallel to a charted assembly of Bible passages, or within the framework of a pre-, post-, or a-millennial system. Instead, there is general interest in how we move from the garden to the city, how the vision given at the conclusion of the Book of Revelation is realized, how the death and resurrection of Jesus is itself a hinge, and how the present work of Christian people takes shape in light of our future hope. Along the way, some traditional theological constructs are alluded to and set aside as necessary ground-clearing before raising a related, yet unique edifice. Skye Jethani's Futureville: Discover Your Purpose for Today by Reimagining Tomorrow runs along these lines, and is one more contribution to this conversation.

    This is a book about today, how one lives, and the reality that we all live now in light of some vision of the future. Our choices reveal our orientation. This is true for all people. As Jethani writes:

    This book is not about the future. It is about the present. It is about determining what sort of life is truly meaningful. It is about rethinking the way we relate to the world and our purpose within it. How we decide what matters today, however, cannot be separated by what we believe about tomorrow.

    This is good and right. But our orientation toward the future is complicated, the result of factors within and outside our control.

    To illustrate, Jethani begins his analysis with the narrative of his own upbringing, compared to that of his grandparents, showing how his outlook on family, relationships, marriage, career, church, and more have been absorbed. His grandparents were shaped more by the Great Depression. In 1939, people of that generation were given an alternative at the New York World's Fair. For those living today, we need something even more compelling, more robust. Jethani believes Christians already have been given such a vision, "we believe that a meaningful life is one spent participating in what God is doing--God's mission. But the scope of God's mission is defined by what we believe the future looks like, by what will endure. So we cannot begin to define how we should live in this world without exploring what we believe about the world to come."

    Once Jethani has fixed the gaze of his reader upon God's future, and set their orientation toward the fulfillment of all history, he fills in the details. He tells the story of the Bible, from garden to city, and points us toward our hope, named in Revelation and made certain in Christ, as the moment God makes his dwelling place among people. But Jethani also names the alternative narratives, or dangers, that both compete and pull us off track. He names how assumptions we carry with us after the Enlightenment, and secular applications of evolution as an all-encompassing theory, can lead us toward destruction. He names how theological pitfalls, such as the belief that God will evacuate the faithful from this Earth, and discard it as inconsequential, can lead to apathy and disengagement with our neighbors and the created order, which we are called to steward. Jethani treats the Christian doctrines of resurrection and vocation as antidotes that combat the impulse to discard our weaker members or distance ourselves from the world's hurting, and lend dignity to Christians in their present work and calling. His thoughts on order, beauty, and abundance call faithful Christians to work for the common good of all people, to love their communities, to create in ways that point to the Creator, and to share resources with all who have need.

    The final note sounded is that of ultimate hope--Christ. Christ has redeemed the world, and is working within it through his people to set it to right, until the day he comes to bind up wounds, heal the brokenhearted, give judgment on behalf of the poor, reprove the wicked, and establish peace. Until that day, "we pray for the eyes to see the evidence of the garden all around us in the lives and faithfulness of Christ's people and their works, and we seek to cultivate those glimpses for others as we listen to and obey his calling for our lives."

    Futureville is a well told, compelling theological narrative, marked by sound exegesis and clear illustration of theological truth. Jethani is also vulnerable and transparent, open concerning his own journey. Some readers may disagree with his overall framework, or take issue with his presentation of some Christian theological pitfalls. But, overall, I found this book instructive. Christian people are in need of a vision encompassing the need for personal piety and social engagement. We need a vision that inspires us to work for the good of all people--even those who do not believe like us. We need to see Christ as the redeemer of all things, including souls, yet extending to all of creation. We need to see that the world, though fallen, was created by God and named good. We need an imaginative horizon that enables us to conceive where our world might be headed--and we need this horizon to be defined by the gospel of and about Jesus Christ and his kingdom.

    Most of us doubt we have much power to shape or impact the world in a grandiose way. But Jethani's work reminds us that in our careers, families, churches, and communities, every interaction has the latent capacity to bring healing, flourishing, and a future that more keenly resembles the reality Christ will establish as normative at the end of the age. Let us be agents of hope, faithful and true, committed to Christ, and vehicles of his grace.


    Will Bible Study Change Your Life?

    Bible study

    Will studying the Bible change your life?

    Yes.  But.

    Trevin Wax offers a meditation that should be read, reminding us that Scripture is intended to lead us to holiness, and the study of the Bible alone does not guarantee the bearing of the fruit of the Spirit.

    Mr. Wax states it well:

    Bible study alone is not what transforms your life. Jesus transforms your life. Of course, He does this through His written Word to us. So we must affirm that life change doesn’t happen apart from God’s Word. But the reason God’s Word changes our life is not because of our personal study but because in the Scriptures we are introduced to Jesus, the Author. That’s why every page ought to be written in red, as every section is breathed out by our King and points us to Him.

    It might help to expand these thoughts with a word: grace.  The Bible itself is a gift of grace, a written and recorded testimony that gives witness to the acts of God and thereby has standing as the revelation of God, always graciously pointing beyond itself to the One who inspired it, if we have eyes to see it as a signpost rather than as an end.  The Bible is a grace that points us to Grace, revealed most fully and completely in the person and work of Jesus Christ, both in what he has done and in what he is doing.

    The Bible is the best of books.  Like Wesley, I hope to be a "homo unius libri", a man of one book.  And I hope to never forget the Someone to whom the Bible points, so that I may be shaped according to that Someone's grace.