Thursday, October 22, 2009


"We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us."
A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Cold, hard stone--
Coagulating blood--
The dwelling place of death.
I grip the ledge
And hoist myself
Up to the top.
Crawling like an animal,
I lay myself before You:
On this altar,
Let me die.

Monday, October 19, 2009


“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,

to undo the straps of the yoke,

to let the oppressed
go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry

and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness shall go before you;

the glory of the
Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the
Lord will answer;
you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted
then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the
Lord will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in."

Isaiah 58:6-12

This morning, I drove to Panera Bread to meet an incredible woman of God for some coffee (or, to be true, tea) and conversation. I followed a steady line of cars into a shopping complex and watched people routinely pull into the parking lots of Panera and Starbucks, many of them inevitably here to order "their drinks" as they do every day before returning to their shiny cars and driving off to their careers.

I have a hard time with suburbia. There is such an air of presumed sophistication present here. And I am not referring to Briargate specifically. I am speaking more generally of an attitude that prevails in our society. Look at our nice vehicles: they are shiny and modern, and the payment we are obligated to make on it every month is well worth the status we associate with it. Look at our $4 coffees in recycled cardboard cups; our perfectly placed, chemically coloured hair; our laptops and SmartPhones. How sophisticated we are!

I am not condemning cars, coffee, or laptops (I am typing this on my year-old MacBook Pro). But I do feel that we tend to glorify and idolize our advancement, as if technology and the marketplace are the standards by which we measure the sophistication we value so highly. SUV+latte+iPhone=sophistication?

Hardly. What if we shifted our thinking to believe that the truly sophisticated thing is compassion? That our advancement is in the growth of our love? That the number of people we have genuinely helped is more important than the figure in our bank account?

Ultimately, who cares about the rest of the mess? Is eternity concerned with your social status or fashion or ability to acquire? There is nothing spectacular about buying and owning and storing. What is unique and beautiful is to give and aid and sacrifice. Eternity is looking for what Brennan Manning in the book The Furious Longing of God called "a community of prophets and professional lovers."

Please, be sophisticated. Be so advanced in love that it is a remarkable gift to a dying world. Cultivate such a rich compassion that souls are redeemed by the display of God's kindness you live before the hopeless. Develop a disregard for the trivialities and trappings.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I just watched "The Story of Stuff."

I think I need to rethink the way I consume.

I've grown up around arguments against any redefinition of consumption my whole life. Such changes have always been associated with a radical leftist view that, in the context of my developmental years, was necessarily anti-God. If you're challenging the economic system and pushing for "zero carbon footprint" and "sustainability," you are a Godless liberal. So, essentially, the thinking went.

I am beginning to think differently.

Slowly, it is becoming clear how deeply rooted our western preoccupation with materials is even in the people of the Church. It really is an addiction, and it is disgusting. It's poison.

For example, I was having a discussion recently with some friends about people who move to America and don't learn our language. These friends are amazing and have beautiful hearts for God. But as we discussed whether or not immigrants should be required to learn English upon their entry to America, the heart of the matter was exposed: unrecognized materialism.

The question I posed was this: "If we view ourselves primarily not as Americans trying to function in an American, English-speaking society, but as citizens of heaven with a message of hope for people of every tribe, nation, and tongue, should we not attempt to learn their language first?"

(We discussed this at length and unpacked arguments for both sides. If you wish to engage this topic with me, I would love to talk about it.)

The discussion carried on for a substantial amount of time, and when we reached the end, the final example given by my dear friend was this: "I agree we should be reaching out to these people with the gospel. But when I am working at a grocery store, and someone comes in speaking Spanish, and I can't understand them, it keeps me from doing my job."

That was when I realized, Oh, my goodness. That's it. The problem is consumerism. We want people to know our language so we can keep the flow of the economy.

And this isn't just my friend, one person, who has some shocking mindset. That is the mindset I have heard all my life. It's not that she is a bad person possessing an unusual degree of selfishness. This is the way most of us are.

How did this get into our hearts? my heart?

Now I am seeing this consumer mentality everywhere. And I am seeing that is not an issue of right or left. In fact, I am seeing that left and right may just be two different words for "wrong."

I am reading Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy, in which the author unpacks a substantial explanation of the "gospels" of both the right and left as unsound gospels focused on sin-management. Of the right, he says, "Being let off the divine hook replaces possession of a divine life 'from above.'" Alternatively: "This is the gospel of the current Christian left: Love comes out on top."
(I don't have time to explain these in full, but I highly suggest you read the book if you are interested in understanding both fatal flaws.)

What I have begun to see in the general mindset of the people of God I have known is a certain measure of identity which is found in possessions.

"The system of production is flawed," one says. "People are losing resources and living in poverty and we are polluting our surroundings and ourselves."

"That's all social gospel" is the response. And so our right to continue buying more than we need and wasting perfectly functional, if aesthetically obsolete, resources is protected because we are unaffected by any state of well-being outside of our own.

But my primary concern here is not even whatever level of natural resources we may or may not have consumed, or the effect that is having on local economies where our production occurs, or how full national landfills are or are not (though I think that each of these issues possesses a level of importance). My first concern is that it appears we have God further from the throne of our hearts than we might admit or even perceive. The issue is that where our treasure is our heart is as well.

In other words, why don't we care?

Do we dismiss movements for green living, sustainability, and fair trade because we have a just argument against the way these causes are conducted? Or is it because we draw a certain amount of our identity from how much, how big, how often?

If we were free from materialism, as we so often pray and profess to be, would it not be of great importance to us that workers receive fair pay and that the production of American goods across the globe does not negatively impact the people and environments involved in that production? And from what I can see, these things largely do not concern us as we sit in our right-leaning, evangelistic perch.

I am not attacking the American church or the people that compose her. How could I claim to love the Man and not also love His Bride?

What I am asking, mostly of myself, is this:
Why is it so important to me to purchase new clothing?
Why don't I cultivate more of my own food? Because I am unable? If so, why am I not careful to ensure the food I buy is produced in a manner that is not harmful to those actually doing the work?
Why do I replace things that I already have?

Or, to put it succinctly, do I live like He is my portion?

Questions that need to be answered.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
Ps. 27:4

Or have I?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


If we go to coffee anytime soon, be prepared for a lot of David. "David said..." "I love that David recognized this..." "Well, it's the same as what David saw..."

A few weeks ago, I looked at the Psalms and was struck by the preoccupation this man had with God. Shepherd or king, warrior or poet--in every stage of life, he maintained an utter fascination with the Almighty. He wrote things such as: "O sons of long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception?" [Ps. 4:2] Such unprecedented questions and statements of devotion. I began to ask God, What was it about You that so captivated this man?

When David was out in the fields tending sheep, what revelation did he receive that birthed such obsession? What did he see? What did he hear? With what was he so engrossed?

To uncover the answer to these questions, I've begun a bit of a detective hunt through the Psalms. I printed out all David's Songs (as this hunt has been dubbed in my mind), hole-punched them, and put them into a big white binder. High liter in one hand, pen in the other, I'm reading through them all to find the clues to David's revelation.

I am only roughly twenty psalms into the study, and I am already ruined by what I am discovering. Among other things, I am learning to see David as a man. I see him as a teenager out in a field, thinking about the stories of his forefathers. Reliving the Genesis 15 promise to Abraham that God would be his shield and great reward. Pondering the Exodus 33 prayer of Moses: "Show me your glory!" And I see his heart coming alive to the invitation of God. Thinking, "If there have been those that have encountered God, then it may be that men may still know God in this way. If this is true, I will be among those who know Him."

David dared to be swept up in the revelation of a beckoning God. All his words about satisfaction and righteousness were born of a heart so intent on knowing the Almighty face-to-face that no cost was considered a sacrifice. God was literally David's reward.

There is so much to say about all of this, but I have already written more than I anticipated. More to come on David, holiness, obsession...

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Matthew 13:44