Elon Musk Owns Twitter? Okay.

I haven’t been on Twitter for two or three years now. I haven’t missed it. Elon Musk takes over, and now people are asking if he can “save” Twitter, if he can somehow transform it into something other than the cesspool it has become.

I doubt it.

But the man isn’t an idiot. And he doesn’t seem to care what certain members of the elite class think about him. That’s admirable.

Statements calling Twitter the world’s digital commons or the global public square are, in my opinion, wrong. Cal Newport, on a recent podcast, alluded to an essay by Jonathan Haidt, where Twitter was likened to the Roman Colosseum, a place where elites once gathered to watch one group of people draw blood from another group of people for the purposes of spectacle and entertainment. I think that’s more accurate.

Twitter is a mob scene. It is a digital avenue by which “Legion” is allowed to invade one’s mind and take possession of one’s soul. A few algorithmic tweaks here and there might make it better. But what it really needs is an exorcism.

We’ll see how Elon does as the internet’s digital priest. We’ll see if digital openness and transparency on policy has the effect of light casting out darkness.

Or, we’ll find that even Elon isn’t enough, that a visit to Mars is more attainable, and Twitter will go the way of the dinosaur, the dodo, and Tom from MySpace.

“Dearer than all that is nearest…”

Dearer than all that is nearest,
Dearer than dear, or than dearest,
Dearer than sight,
Dearer than light,
Is the communion with Jesus.

Oswald Chambers, as quoted in Wesley L. Duewel’s Heroes of the Holy Life: Biographies of Fully Devoted Followers of Christ

I’ve been reading and researching the life of Oswald Chambers, an artist, poet, preacher, Christian educator, and Baptist minister, born in 1874 in Aberdeen, Scotland, and died in 1917, at the age of forty-three. He is most well known for his devotional work, My Utmost for His Highest, compiled after his death by his wife, Biddy Chambers.

One of his students at the College of Dunoon recalled, “As one entered the room it was like stepping into heaven. Then Mr. Chambers spoke, leading us straight to God, and I afterwards found that this was very characteristic of him. In every lecture or meeting he brought one right into the presence of God.”

I’ve met a few men and women like that. I’d like to meet more. And, I’ll confess, I’d like to be a person like that. Chambers had a deep conviction that his life was a product of God’s activity and grace, that God had worked for reasons he did not understand nor grasp in response to prayers that he did not nor could not know to appoint him as a worker in the church, in schools, and in the world. Chambers not only taught people about God and pointed people to the Scriptures, he was a man of profound and rich spiritual experience.

Chambers dedicated himself to the life of faith. He also trusted that God’s outside power had come in, had shaped him, and was continuing to conform him to the likeness of Jesus. This is a yielding, of heart, mind, soul, and spirit, and taking up a cross, dying to self, and following Jesus wherever he leads.

A Prayer: On the Occasion of “Remade”

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This invocation was offered in Truett’s chapel service on April 26, 2022.

Lord of all creation,
Maker of heaven and earth,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

We enter your presence with gladness,
For all you have made is good.

As we come before you to worship, as we enter into your courts, as we lift our voices in song, as we open our eyes and our ears and our hearts to you,
Grant us your grace, your strength, your wisdom, your guidance, and your power.

We confess you as our Creator.
We confess you as our Redeemer.
We confess you as the one who sanctifies us, sustains us, preserves us, and as the one who alone brings ultimate peace, justice, restoration, and renewal.

In a word: Salvation.

If we turn toward you, if we behold you as you truly are, we are compelled to lay our hearts low, to fall upon our faces and to admit we are unworthy, that we do not honor you as we ought, that we fail you, we sin. We serve other gods. We do not love our neighbor as ourselves. We do not keep your commands.

And yet, where we are faithless, you, O God, are faithful.

And by your great, unending, and unceasing mercy, you have unleashed the power of new creation through the life, death, resurrection, and reign of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You have undone death.

You have cast down the devil.

You have disarmed the powers, principalities, and authorities.

You have renewed your covenant.

You have extended your salvation to those who were once far off.

You have taken our hearts of stone, and given us hearts of flesh.

You have mended bone and sinew, muscle and flesh, and you have moved us from death–death in our transgressions and sins–to life–life in and through Christ, and through the Holy Spirit, who indwells us and who has sealed us for the day of your redemption.

Your work of new creation is evidenced here. All we need to do is look around and witness those you have gathered as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

You have anointed, appointed, called, and equipped us for your kingdom work. You have gathered us to worship.

We trust you are sanctifying us, even making us perfect and complete in your love.

We know one day you will glorify us, and welcome us to your banquet table in the City of God, the New Jerusalem, the new heaven and the new earth.

We wait for that day. We hope in it.

Give us patience, Lord.

Grant us diligence, as workers in your field.

And as we wait, and as we work, remake us in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

May we adore him, and worship him, this hour, and discover our hearts being made new.

We pray these things in Jesus’ name, the worthy one, the honored one.

Amen.

The Paradox of Limitation

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In Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, Oliver Burkeman defines the paradox of limitation this way:

[T]he more you try to manage your time with the goal of achieving a feeling of total control, and freedom from the inevitable constraints of being human, the more stressful, empty, and frustrating life gets. But the more you confront the facts of finitude instead–and work with them, rather than against them–the more productive, meaningful, and joyful life becomes. I don’t think the feeling of anxiety every completely goes away; we’re even limited, apparently, in our capacity to embrace our limitations. But I’m aware of no other time management technique that’s half as effective as just facing the way things truly are.

p. 32

Facing the way things truly are is the key for a life of wisdom. That insight applies to more than time management.

But let’s stick with time management for a moment. When I was a seminarian, I was introduced to the idea of a well ordered life. I was challenged to think deeply about calling, purpose, and discipline. I was invited to make commitments that would place me on a trajectory that, over time, would make a difference.

One of my professors had a plaque on his wall that said, “As now, so then.” This principle was applied to the spiritual life: your choices in the present have implications for your life in the future, for who you are becoming, and who you will one day be. Those choices can be intentional, or we can drift along.

The real challenge in applying this principle wasn’t necessarily the “now” (though an inventory of present practices can be complicated), but the “then.” What are we made for? Where do we want to end up? What is a life well lived, who is living that way, and how do I do it?

Answers to those questions will vary. But the answer will make all the difference. If we could envision where we’d like to land, could we better plot the course from A to B?

For Christian people, we are made by and for God, and our purpose is to bring God glory. We glorify God when we live as reconciled creatures, a reconciliation made possible in and through Jesus Christ. Once reconciled through the cross, we leave behind our old way of life. We live in keeping with the “new creation” as citizens of God’s kingdom, remaining in step with God’s Spirit, walking in rhythm with God’s reign and rule.

Our “then” is the then of eternity. Our “now” is bound up and constrained by time. Our life is where time and eternity intersect, and in Christ, time and eternity are brought together. His path becomes ours. His salvation takes effect, not in the ledger of the afterlife, but in the here and now. When we receive this grace, our bodies remain mortal, even while our souls are enlivened and awakened to another plane. Our days in this mortal coil remain numbered. But they are given additional weight, a weight of glory. Our days become more significant, not less. Our work, that which is done unto the Lord, not only counts for a moment, but forever.

A truth I often speak to young ministers comes to mind: “We’re all interims.” Here’s another one: ” We’ll all be held to account, for both the good and the bad that we do.” Our work is appointed for a particular time; it will be weighed and measured by the standard of eternity. Be diligent. Choose wisely. Do good.

There are several Scripture passages I could quote here, but it suffices to say that we want to be good stewards, making the most of the time. As finite creatures, we trust the outcomes to God, who is eternal. We manage our time knowing we are given a finite amount.

Our limitations constrain us. We cannot possibly do it all.

But acknowledging our limitations also frees us. It frees us to trust in God, and to differentiate between what is ours to do and what is ours to leave undone.

If you try to manage your time in order to bring everything under your control, you are attempting to be God. You are not. You are mortal. But if you embrace your limitations, if you acknowledge your mortality, you are free to be productive, to find meaning, and to experience joy in those things which are uniquely yours, appointed for you and your life. You are invited to enjoy the life you have been given and to trust that God, who is eternal, is perfectly capable of handling the rest.

Ignore the Naysayers

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‘There’s no book so bad,’ said the young graduate, ‘that there isn’t something good in it.’

‘About that there is no doubt,’ Don Quixote replied, ‘but it often happens that men who have deservedly achieved and won fame by their writings lose it completely or find it diminished in part as soon as they publish them.’

‘The reason for that,’ said Sanson, ‘is that printed works are read at leisure and their defects are easily spotted, and the more famous the author the more closely they’re scrutinized. Men renowned for their genius–great poets, illustrious historians–are usually envied by those whose pleasure and pastime is to pass judgment on what others have written, without every having published anything themselves.’

‘That is not surprising,’ said Don Quixote, ‘because there are many theologians who cannot preach, yet are experts at identifying the faults and the excesses of those who can.’

Miguel de Cervantes, The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha

The Cross: The Center of the Story

The cross itself, in short, stands at the center of the Christian message, the Christian story, and the Christian life and mission. It has lost none of its revolutionary and transformative power down through the centuries. The cross is where the great story of God and creation, focused on the strange story of God and Israel and then focused still more sharply on the personal story of God and Jesus, came into terrible but life-giving clarity. The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth was a one-off event, the one on behalf of the many, the one moment in history on behalf of all others through which sins are forgiven, the powers robbed of their power, and humans redeemed to take their place as worshippers and stewards, celebrating the powerful victory of God in his Messiah and so gaining the Spirit’s power to make his kingdom effective in the world.

N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion, p. 416

Change on the Inside

Recently, I learned that one of the most prominent leaders in an important segment of Christian life ‘blew up,’ became uncontrollably angry, when someone questioned him about the quality of his work. This was embarrassing, but it is accepted (if not acceptable) behavior; and in this case, it was the one who was questioning him who was chastised. That is in fact a familiar patter in both Christian and nonChristian ‘power structures.’ But what are we to say about the spiritual formation of that leader? Has something been omitted? Or is he really the best we can do?

[ . . . ]

The sad thing when a leader (or any individual) ‘fails’ is not just what he or she did, but the heart and life and whole person who is revealed by the act. What is sad is who these leaders have been all along, what their inner life has been like, and no doubt also how they have suffered during all the years before they ‘did it’ or were found out. What kind of persons have they been, and what, really, has been their relation to God?

Real spiritual need and change, as we have emphasized, is on the inside, in the hidden area of the life that God sees and that we cannot even see in ourselves without his help. Indeed, in the early stages of spiritual development we could not endure seeing our inner life as it really is. The possibility of denial and self-deception is something God has made accessible to us, in part to protect us until we begin to seek him. Like the face of the mythical Medusa, our true condition away from God would turn us to stone if we ever fully confronted it. It would drive us mad. He has to help us come to terms with it in ways that will not destroy us outright.

Without the gentle though rigorous process of inner transformation, initiated and sustained by the graceful presence of God in our world and in our soul, the change of personality and life clearly announced and spelled out in the Bible, and explained and illustrated throughout Christian history, is impossible. We not only admit it, but also insist upon it. But on the other hand, the result of the effort to change our behavior without inner transformation is precisely what we see in the current shallowness of Western Christianity that is so widely lamented in the notorious failures of Christian leaders.

Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p. 79

Simultaneously terrifying and freeing, the only way to come nearer to wholeness, healing, and conformity to Christ is by asking the Spirit of God to assist us in plumbing the depths of our own souls, reveal to us the truth about what is there, and to guide us as we seek to put off the old self and to put on the new self, a person made radiant in Christ.

I’ve thought about Willard’s analysis, quoted above, often, as I’ve long wanted the person I am on the outside to correspond to the person I am on the inside, and the person I am on the inside to become more fully cast in the image and likeness of Christ. In other words, I have wanted to be a person of integrity.

I have also wanted to be a person of depth.

Willard writes, “Real spiritual need and change, as we have emphasized, is on the inside, in the hidden area of the life that God sees and that we cannot even see in ourselves without his help.” The transformation we most need is brought from the outside, in, then put on display from the inside, out. It is shared work, and it is firstly God’s work. And it only seems possible when by grace and through grace we yield ourselves to grace, expressing to God our deep longing for union and communion, humbly asking that God would make us whole, heal us, make us well.