Straighten What’s Crooked in Me

Chris Robins:

Ecclesiastes 7:13, “Consider the work of God. Can anyone make straight what He has made crooked?”

The switchbacks can feel endless as you wind up the trails in Yosemite. The path twists you into a vision of the falls, cascading light tumbling through rainbows, and then you’re just looking at your feet again. “I’m getting old,” I keep saying to my shoes and legs, answering the complaints of muscle and knees. But it’s just crooked. The path is as crooked as a mobster’s heart. It can’t be straightened out.

In an odd way that’s a good thing as you hike. You couldn’t just barrel up Yosemite falls the way the crow flies. The walls are too treacherous and the heights are a quick death. So you plod. And there’s a reward for all that plodding. Some of the greatest natural beauty of all our Father’s creation is there for your gawking praise. My life is like this. I’m bewildered at times by the path that winds in strange directions. It’s not one I always know or recognize. I keep wondering all along the way, “how much further is it? How long will this take?” If I wander from the path I’m liable to stumble into destruction. So I keep going. Occasionally the vista opens up. I see the sovereign God wildly answering prayer. The plans and purposes of eternity seem to open up into dizzying panoramic wisdom. My soul says “all is well, and all matter of things shall be well.”

And then I’m looking at my feet again. The calendar has meetings on these days this week at these times, Sunday mornings begin at 8:30 downtown, pay the bills, etc. Life grinds along in the crooked winding roads of disappointments, disillusionments, and despair. I picture Solomon pondering, a look of tired worldliness and boredom in his eyes, with a tinge of regret and longing. He asked the question. I wonder if God let him see our Savior. For that is the answer. Which is amazing – that there actually is an answer to this kind of rhetorical question. Nothing in all of creation’s history was as dark and crooked as Calvary. There aren’t any switchbacks more dirty than the torture, betrayal, and murder of the Son. But He walked them and He makes them straight. He is the One.

Christ is Solomon’s answer, for as Christ said about Himself “One greater than Solomon is here.” Because of this I want to praise Him all of my days, and when my days are done I want to praise Him some more. Pray with me that God will pour out His grace, Spirit, and power to somehow “straighten” (ha!!) what seems so hopelessly bent in me, my city, and this whole generation.

Praise Him!

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No Other gods in My Face!

Chris Robins:

Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other Gods before Me.”

I remember as a teenager reading this. The preposition banged around in my head. Was it “before Me” in a list kind of sense? Was it “before Me” as in front of me? My instamatic idol factory of a brain was kicking out apostasy more quickly than M & M assembly line kicks out colors.

It was years later, translating this text, that it came back to me with a renewed righteous force. The word translated as “before” was the Hebrew phrase “in the face of.” Sometimes the “face” word is translated Presence. When this phrase gets translated in relationship to God, it gets less “prepositional” and more tricky. The basic grammatical form takes on new vigor and vitality. So what hit me was translating it like this “You shall have no other Gods in My Face.”

A new immediacy and intimacy, a new convicting power hit my soul. This wasn’t casual or abstract anymore. I realized, with a sense of fear, that there simply wasn’t any impersonal or abstract sin here. There wasn’t an impersonal or abstract God to sin against! When Moses wrote this it strikes me how it must have had a visceral, immediate, and intimate power. Moses was the one who spoke to Him “face to face.” He knew what it meant down to his toes. The finger of God had etched this in front of him. On stone. In his face. This means that fear can now give way to intimacy. This is what Christ meant when He said “he who has seen Me has seen the Father.” This command could now finally be fully fulfilled in Jesus.

One NT equivalent of this command would be “there is no other Name under heaven by which you may be saved.” (Acts 4:12) We become law keepers the moment we fully put our trust in Christ! With nothing else in His Face. Now intimacy is possible. Now all the commands hang together, and the Face of the Holy One shines on us and makes us holy. Intimacy with God is all our work. We see now that sin is always in His Face. It’s always personal. A new hunger for holiness comes in and a new joy in prayer and worship invades.

Look at us, dear Father! Stare at us Lord Jesus! Teach us not to look away, or drag any unholy and ugly thing into our field of vision. Your shining smile is an answer to all our prayers. Hear us as we ask for You to look at us, turn Your radiant face on San Francisco and our whole generation, turn us now to look at You – with not one idol in the corner of our eye. In Christ.

Amen.

Silver Refined in a Furnace Seven Times

For the next few days I’ll be posting some articles from my seminary pastor and friend Chris Robins.  Always insightful, refreshing, and well written his articles will do your soul much good.

Chris Robins:

Psalm 12:5-6, “Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise,” says the LORD. “I will protect them from those who malign them.” And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”

David isn’t writing a systematic theology.

No dusty books were strapped to his horse’s back in the hard days of little food, zero comfort, and eluding Saul’s manhunt. I picture the hot Palestinian sun overhead, the banging sound of the smithy nearby, watching the slow pour of pure silver worked and reworked until it was bright as ice. David was a man of the fields and streams, of war and work. All of those experiences created poetic images for worship and the metaphors he used to describe God’s love. So he describes the word, the Scripture. Something without any imperfections, beautiful to adorn and a treasure for whoever owns it.

We call it by the names inerrancy, sufficiency, and infallibility – and that’s good. Those are clear words, describing in detail what exactly the Bible is. But our passion for those ideas should be like David’s. Inerrancy is just an abstraction until you sit weak and needy, and your heart growls with fear. Inerrancy becomes the treasure beyond price, for it means no promise, big or small, can ever fail. When you don’t understand what’s happening to your kids. When your marriage feels more fragile than ever. When conflict is more common in your life than friendship. That’s when you need inerrancy. His word can speak no errors. Silver would have to stop being on the Periodic table first. It’s elemental to all that is or can be.

I say this to my heart right now: know this, your God has spoken about your need and has seen your weakness. He will arise. He will get up and do something about it. His promises and His answers are flawless. And who has made this more true than Christ Himself? Our Word who arose on the third day? In His name I ask You to protect and provide.

Amen.

Falling Into Grace

Ezekiel 1:28, “Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”

Chris Robins:

They’re always falling down. It’s always like that. It isn’t like the popular near death stories you hear today, where folks tell us about when they saw God – it’s usually bright lights, pastels, and good feelings. Not really the stuff that knocks men to the ground. It’s always burning like molten bronze in the prophet’s vision, a voice like the roar of a thousand lions in his ears, majestic terrifying creatures with many wings and many faces zipping around, with the twinkle of a panorama of glittering sapphire beneath a rainbow garlanded throne. And the prophets always fall down.

Ezekiel’s vision is especially compelling. You can try translating it, but good luck. The tortured syntax and halting vague language is challenging to the best scholars. I think that makes sense. He’s writing down something that truly overwhelmed him, and the sense of his confusion, the sheer magnitude of the sensory input makes writing it down difficult. Then there’s the subject matter itself. We’re at the very limits of human language. Ezekiel’s descriptions say over and over “it was something like,” giving you the sense that he just doesn’t have the right tools. There just isn’t a thesaurus that’s going to help.

But I wonder. He fell down. I don’t think Ezekiel’s problems are only finding words inadequate and being floored. I think his problem is far worse than that. I think he can’t get his theology around it. The Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, were his bible. Moses was his prophet, the one he studied and read. And Moses was told “no man sees my face and lives.” Moses even asked to see God, and God told him no. He could only see the “after effects” of God’s passing. So you’ve got to figure, Ezekiel knows he’s seeing and describing what he simply should never be allowed to see. Ever. God is terrifyingly holy. Man is horrifyingly unclean. It is a practical, biblical, and theological problem that a glimpse of God means you’re finished. So Ezekiel doesn’t just fall down. He throws himself down the way a marine does when the alarms sound off for incoming mortar fire. What Ezekiel doesn’t know yet, what is implied and promised in the vision, is that God would become perfectly visible to men. In Jesus. Which means the unclean can be made clean, and the Most Holy has touched the unholy. In Jesus. Which means that falling down also means you get picked up. In Jesus. And guess what’s happening in heaven, in John’s vision of Christ in heaven? Everyone is still falling down.

So what I don’t get, as we stand here between the vision of Ezekiel in 586 BC and the vision of the end of time, why we aren’t falling down now? Half the people I know are taking a stand on bogus issues and the other half are just standing around being casual about God. We need a theology of falling down. This is real gospel prayer! If you grasp the greatness of God, down you go. If you perceive the criminal you are in your heart, down you go. And if you grasp with joy the wonder of our Savior, down you go. And that’s what I pray now for San Francisco and for our generation, for our time. That He would knock us down like only He can, so He can stand us up like only He will. By the Spirit. Before His Son.

We ask in His Name. Amen.

The Posture of Prayer: Waiting

Isaiah 26:8, “In the path of Your judgments, O LORD, we wait for You; Your name and renown are the desire of our soul.”

Chris Robins:

Really? I mean, that sounds like sitting on the tracks of a bullet train. You wouldn’t even know what hit you. But then I realize my heart is exposed by that response. I don’t love Him that way, like I should, like Isaiah does. “Don’t judge” is the mumble and mantra of our whole generation, and we often sheepishly look at our shoes when the judgments of God are criticized or mentioned.

Part of it’s the religious idiots. Christ dealt with them, the trigger happy Judge Judy’s of religion, eager to point their finger like its God’s finger – claiming this or that about Katrina or AIDS or elementary school murders like they were the prophets of old. Honestly, their condemnation is the three fingers pointing back at them. What, are they here to correct our Savior about His teaching?

Christ Himself was clear. Bad stuff happens, yeah, and you’d better be wondering every time you hear about it on CNN “huh, how did I dodge that bullet? That’s what I deserved.” The other part is the religious cowards. They’ve got a burden to soft sell and spin the holy judgments of God in the bible. They’re at the wedding supper of the Lamb, but the Lamb’s actually getting a little embarrassing at the table the way He’s making a scene about the Amorites and all, so they’re apologizing to the rest of the restaurant. Who, in their right mind, would imagine apologizing for the Lord of Hosts? Makes me nervous just thinking about it. I don’t want to be seated anywhere near them at that table. There are bouncers. Jesus told us.

Anyway, Isaiah wants to sit on this judgment road of God, and it’s all about the Name and remembering God. And it’s all the desire of his very soul. Wow. And there’s this glorious waiting, the posture of prayer for all true children of God. Then I get it. Then I see the gospel, dazzling Isaiah’s eyes by the Holy Spirit. Yes Father. The path of Your judgments went right to the cross, and I’m sitting on those tracks for dear life. Yes Father, the path of Your judgment on me was walked by Jesus and I’m waiting for that train. Yes Father. Show the path of Your judgments to us by showing the mercy of the cross to thousands. We plead with You like Abraham did on the road to Sodom, that same path of Your judgments You have walked many a time. We say with him “shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” In Jesus Name do right by Him. Amen.

Praise Him with loudest Praise!

A Worrying God

Chris Robins, one of my mentors (who is planting a church in San Francisco), giving us an insight into his own heart and how God’s heart calms it:

Isaiah 62:6–7, “I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”

There’s a focus, a kind of raw delight mixed with fanatic intensity, that a dog has with a bone. Nothing else in the world exists in those chewing and cracking moments when the marrow is just out of reach. He growls at you if you grab for his prize. He begins at one end, using the leverage of his jaw and paw to split open his treasure. That is an old way of using the word “worry” as a verb. “That pup is really worrying that bone,” you would say.

It’s a funny way to use the word, because it kind of describes how we cope with anxiety. You worry about your daughter’s school, or the lump they found in your abdomen, or whether your house will sell at the right price. What do you do? You worry the problem. You chew on it by thinking about it before you go to sleep, talking it through with your friends every day, clicking every link you can find online for hours to find more info. You chew and gnaw at it until your chewer is sore. I just did that. I had insomnia for the first time in my life this month. Night after night laying awake. It was awful. I hated it. I was worrying this church plant to the bone. But I absolutely love this little passage from Isaiah. I love it.

This is God speaking. Actually I think it’s even more than that. This is a perfect script for Christ. It was written about Him and for Him. Which makes incredible sense because one of Christ’s strangest commands, along with equally bizarre stories, is about worrying God. If you call on God, this God, don’t give yourself a break. Don’t rest. Don’t quit. Don’t stop. In what? Bugging God about what He says He will do. Asking, pleading, reminding, and then after you’ve grown tired of that, asking, pleading, and reminding some more. The religious word for it is “importunate.” The ordinary word for it is “obnoxious.”

Christ owns this command in Isaiah as the model for all real prayer done by His people. Don’t. Give. Up. Not until the skies are rolled back like a scroll. Today I went back to old prayer lists from years ago and I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper in His word: Don’t. Give. Up. Isaiah 62:6-7 is printed at the top of my old prayer list. It was good and sweet and strangely restful. What does this kind of worrying God do? It finally puts to rest all those little worries of our unbelieving hearts. Knocks them down. Kills them. Relentless pleading with eternal love is an antidote to anxiety. I’ve got better things to do than worry about our worship service tomorrow. I’ve got a God to worry about all of this. Where are the conversions Father? Where are Your people? Who’s going to do childcare? When will San Francisco know the power of the reviving God?

I am praying to (read worrying) God with relief about all of this. I am not giving Him any rest, just so I can sleep tonight. I pray for a raw delight and intensity for you with the Lord now. In Jesus.Name.Amen.Praise Him.

God Watches Over His Word

Chris Robins:

Jeremiah 1:11, “And the word of the LORD came to me, saying “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said “I see an almond branch.” Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

I watch boiling pots. I’m not proud of it, I just always have.

I remember my mom telling me that they never boiled, and for some reason that bugged me. I had to prove her wrong. It’s a testimony to my attention span I was able to do it. It’s also a testimony to my stupidity that I tried. When I read a text like this it startles me. It’s a bit of wordplay in Hebrew, and if you keep reading there really is a boiling pot. The wordplay is part of a vision. God asks Jeremiah what he sees. There must have been an almond tree sitting in front of him. “Almond” sounds like “watching” in Hebrew. They’re pretty trees when they’re flowering and remind me of budding dogwoods in the south. So our Father is making a pun. That’s startling itself. But the frankness jars me.

Jeremiah is looking at an almond tree, and there’s two reasons you look at a tree like that. To see how pretty it is and to see if there’s something getting ready to eat. The second reason is far more popular among almond farmers. Hear God say “that’s how I watch My word.” What God says always happens because He is paying attention. If it’s written in His almanac, you can count on it. This is how alive and powerful His Word is. It moves with that much certainty. Our Father and God is a farmer watching over his crop. He’s cultivating and attending to every syllable like it’s a prize-winning flower. It isn’t merely data and He isn’t watching because He’s curious. We tend to abstract providence and sovereignty as doctrines impersonal and impenetrable. It isn’t like that for our God. He’s telling us He is intimately involved with how it all works out.

We get frustrated by our progress. Other folks kids are doing so well and look so good. Everybody else’s vacation on Facebook looks like it was planned by Travel and Leisure magazine. Our own spiritual rut feels like we’re a pickup stuck in mud 20 feet deep. Get your bible. Go and see, go and read it, go and tell yourself what it says. All of the promises great and small are personal. There are no impersonal promises, because there is no impersonal God to make them. He plans all His Yes blossoms in love. Picture this God, attentively scrutinizing, checking each flower of His promise for fruit, watching every moment in your life to see it bud. Hear God say, “What do you see?” Let’s tell Him we have seen the season and fruit of our forgiveness, our rescue in Jesus’ blood. And let’s ask for a new harvest of His promises! So He can say to this generation “see, I am watching over My word to perform it.”

May a church be planted in San Francisco because of that! May revival spread in our time because of that! May Christ be praised because of that! Then we can say to this generation: just watch, with careful undistracted love our great Farmer watches to make sure His Word blooms with blessing in our lives. Amen.

Chris Robins: That God’s Glory Would be Our Glory

10389026_1404638386490290_5919238322534058991_nPastor Chris Robins may likely be someone you have never heard of.

I do not have a bio for him, only my experience of him so this post will be a bit different than the others.

He was my pastor during seminary, and I was one of his interns during that time.  He probably had one of the biggest influences thus far in my life.  Which is telling for a number of reasons.  Our largest influences as Christians ought to be the pastors preaching to us week in and week out rather than authors we’ve never met.  Chris was this for me.  He knew me, spent time with me, counseled me in good and hard times, and showed me what ministry looks like.

The number one lesson I learned from him is that God’s Glory ought to be our glory.  God’s glory is an objective fact, it is who He is in all of His splendor and majesty and holiness streaming forth publicly.  I ought to glory in His Glory, and if I do so, my soul will be infinitely satisfied.  Chris also taught me to learn and love the Westminster Confession, to love on people during preaching, to counsel people well, and to pray often and with as many people as you can.  I remember always seeing him prayer during those days I was his intern, and it confronting/challenging/comforting to me to see it.  But all of these things are merely an outpouring of our desire to glory in God’s Glory.  That is the fountain of life, and once we stand under it long enough, God’s Glory will ooze out of our bones onto those around us.

Here is a link to Chris, answering some common questions at his church plant in San Francisco:

Go here.

Forgiveness Leads to Fear

Chris Robins:

“But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” (Psalm 103:4)
Isn’t that backwards? I know that this brief line of Biblical poetry puzzled me when I first heard it. Today it would be written differently. Something like “with You there is so much love and forgiveness, therefore: I will praise You, love You, want You to be my best friend, etc.” No fear would come up. Wouldn’t even occur to us. We worship like we’re using hallmark cards for our bulletins. So why does this ancient poet say this? Or more to the point, why don’t we? Because we’re backwards. The text isn’t. Someone will say, “oh, that’s just a primitive understanding from an ancient book, not the loving God that I worship. He isn’t like that.” Oh really? Is that why Jesus, as the reality of the cross grows in Him, as He weeps in the garden right before it happens, as He pleads with God – is that why He shakes with a terrible blood sweat? No. Jesus knew forgiveness had to be forged, and therefore He feared – truly feared – because of what only He really knew. When He looked down at his hands, that just held His head as He prayed and cried, He saw a horrifying smear of blood from his face. That’s terrifying, and the presence of a holy terror was in His soul. He’s staring into hell, and knows He will drink all of hell itself. The dark truth I know is this – I should be facing that. It shouldn’t have been His Son. The greedy gullet of hell should swallow me whole. But then comes a disturbing reality. It doesn’t happen. My God forgives. He shuts hell’s mouth with the blood of His Boy. Joy of joy, my God forgives. Backwards and forwards, my God forgives! It is just at this moment of wonder that something happens. Fear enters in, because there’s just no way to make sense of that kind of love. The cross is an awful sight, God’s own Son dying in pain, rejection, and abuse. If He exacted that cost from His Dearest, to call me His beloved, what is He capable of? This isn’t servile fear I feel, flinching at a raised hand. This is awe, realizing that I have no control over this God, not even over His mercy. This is knee knocking fear, where all the grandeur and purity of Holy love is now given to a man who isn’t pure or grand or holy. Even as I imagine I must slink away from His presence because of who I am, I’m free to boldly walk across the sapphire floor at His feet. Jesus loves me! Fear now aches in my gut with a sense of joy at His Name and His throne. I can toss good sensible prayers to the wind! Why not?!?! The Son of glory dies to set the wicked free! That’s me! The sensible stuff is all gone now. I am made holy when I realize I’m not. I’m accepted when I see I shouldn’t be. I’m heard when I ought’ve been ignored. Backwards after all and all glorious, in Jesus’ Name. Amen. What can keep you from praying now? Amen.

May God Interrupt Your Prayer

Chris Robins:

Isaiah 65:24  Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.

Can you even imagine that? You’re mid-sentence with God, about to explain what you need, and He just says “Sure, I’ll do that.” It’s like my crazy family at Christmas.  Every person talking over each other.  I’ve heard folks complain that they feel prayer is meaningless.  It’s usually Reformed people, who have somehow let God’s omniscience and omnipotence be an excuse for prayerlessness and passivity.  Their condemnation is just.  Explain this in a systematic theology: God talks over you in His own eager love.  What God “knows” is obvious: absolutely everything. He wouldn’t be much of a God otherwise. He can create a better punch list of your needs than you can.  So when our sacred writings talk about God “knowing” us, it’s more than just data.  It’s not just a fact sheet bio.  It’s the way you personally know a friend and can predict what he’ll say.  This is what Abraham knew haggling with God along the dirt road to Sodom.  This is David curled up in a cave asking God for directions like you’d ask a cabbie. This is Moses hiking up Mt. Sinai to tell God to His Face that he wanted to see more of His Face. And God, our God, like an attentive Father, was already signing off their requests. Before they finished their sentences.  This was all before Jesus!  How much more can I now ask because of the Son?  What will He not give me?! Imagine this picture in all of it’s beautiful absurdity. The Eternal Creator, who needs nothing and knows everything, is falling over Himself to answer His children.  The Almighty, Ancient of days, leaning forward with a sense of anticipation about your next request.  That is ridiculous and wonderful.  That is what the cross did for us.  Yes, He knows what I need.  Yes, He knew what I was going to write in this letter before I started typing.  Yes.  And for His own glorious pleasure He was already answering me, mid-sentence, in His love.  Doesn’t that make you want to spill out your heart to Him now?

Do it.

May God interrupt you in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Fantastical Non-Fiction

Chris Robins:

Genesis 3:22-24
Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
I know that we are uncomfortable with the metaphysics implied here, that there was thus and such mystical tree and that its fruit could be eaten in some literal and plain sense that would give you eternal life.  But there you have it.  It sits in the craw of modern sensibility, and so it should.  Let everyone know: such a tree really stands, and not merely in some allegorical or symbolic sense.  Why insist on it?  The story is no fable, and our prejudice against the fabulous is wrong.  Genesis is fantastical, yes.  Fantastical non fiction.  But the story is the thing.  It’s a historical sort of report – there is no “once upon a time” cue to tell us we are reading fairy tales.   So we insist on the tree on its own terms.  Scientific, historic, realistic, and mystic.  But more than that, it has always had to be this real.  All of salvation and eternal life is real.  Real in a tangible, tastable, and biteable sense.   The tree of life is as physical a piece of wood as the cross.  Why?  Because our rescue had to be real, for we were real sinners. What if the tree has an allegorical and symbolic truth? Good! That kind of truth does not reject physical truth.  In the same way we eat communion and believe the molecular mass of bread and wine holds the eternal ineffable truth of God’s love.  The tree stands. No scientific doubt could chop it down.  And so does the cherubim with his flaming sword.  Or perhaps he sheathed it the day our Savior died.  These are the physics of faith.  And as real as Einstein’s math.  And because that tree had bark, and the snake had words that bite – we have a Savior that bled and died on timber – and rose again from death.  Fantastical non fiction indeed.  We live and pray and walk with fabulous truths: a God stoops and hears all we say.

Give ear! Shine! Stir up! Come! Restore! See Our Christ!

Chris Robins, church planter in San Francisco and one of my mentors has written a wonderful piece on Psalm 80, enjoy.

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel! You who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine! (Psalm 80:1)

I remember a Korean friend describing how his language had a very strict form of reverence shown to your betters. It’s all about respect. We seem to have missed that today – from our families to our faith. I think the bobble head Jesus that sits on your dashboard and glows in the dark is disgusting. The King of kings is not your ornament.  He made the universe and gave Himself for sinners. Shouldn’t be surprised I suppose – we treated Him that way the first time He came. But then I’m somewhat taken back by the poet Asaph. In the first line he uses two commands. Listen!  Shine! These aren’t polite posturing. This is how you order a servant around. The Hebrew imperative is just as urgent and in your face (or rather His face) as our language is.  In the lines that follow are four more.  Stir up! Come! Restore! And shine!  But this bold, almost impertinent tone, is mixed with awe and wonder.  He calls God “Shepherd of Israel.”  Then he has a vision. God enthroned on burning angels!  What does this ancient worship teach us?  Any reverence that isn’t bold is not from the cross. It’s merely custom.  It’s a posture, beggared by its own grandiose words. On the other hand, any boldness that isn’t breathing with a sense of awe is folly.  A familiarity that has drifted into its own contempt.  

What this poet so beautifully does is amazing. Now grandeur magnifies the imperative.  Now the urgent commands startle us with a the vision of glory.  Now we begin to glimpse a deep redeeming truth: transcendent image alongside immanent language is nothing less than Christ.  Christ prefigured. He is, in Himself, what Asaph blended in his poem. Christ is yes and amen to the imperatives, and Christ is crowned and exalted above all things. What do we do with this?  First, there is no limit to His glory. Therefore there is no limit to expressing it.  Praise Him abundantly by the Names He has given. Do it freely and often.  Christ taught us to pray “Hallowed by Your Name.” Fill your prayers with this poet’s imagination and a sense of wordy wonder. When we pray we are in bright places of burning glory! But mix that with an urgency that somehow feels presumptuous.  Our need is so great and immediate!  Our access is so incredible! Use these very commands, these imperatives today with our Father for yourself, for me, and for San Francisco.  Give ear!  Shine!  Stir up! Come! Restore!  Shine with Your very Face!!! Because it’s in Jesus Name we come to You, Great and Holy Father, enthroned forever in the glorious fire of the angelic hosts!

Total Depravity: Two Fantastic Illustrations

These are two illustrations of Total Depravity that stick with me daily, both are great.

1) Benjamin Joffe’s “Lion in a Cage”

If a lion is in a cage, and you put before him a bowl of meat, and a bowl of wheat, which one will the lion choose to eat? ”The lion will always choose the meat, he would never choose the wheat, because lion’s don’t eat wheat, that is who they are.” Right, a lion will always eat the meat because of who they are. Total Depravity is like this, in that our nature, using it’s freedom of choice, will only choose sin! Why? That is who we are! It must take an act outside of ourselves to change what is going on inside of ourselves.

2) Chris Robin’s “How to Kill a Wolf”

Do you know how a eskimo kills a wolf? No, tell me. They take seal blood and put it in a bucket, and then dip a knife into that bucket. After this they put the knife outside to freeze. They then take the knife and stick it into the seal blood again and place it back outside to freeze. They do this about 5 times until a thick frozen coat of seal blood is around the knife. After there is a coat of blood, they stick the knife into the ground, with the blade up, and watch. A wolf smells the blood and comes to eat a seal but finds this little frozen seal popsicle! They lick it over and over and over until it numbs their tongue, and when they get through the blood and hit the knife they will not feel it until it is too late. They bleed to death and die. Total Depravity is like that in that we will always choose what will kill us, sin! That is, unless God intervenes and changes the desires of our hearts!

We cannont change our own nature on our own, it will always choose sin, and that is precisely the problem that needs to be fixed! Thank God that in His mercy to us in believing in His Son, He changes our hearts so that we will no longer choose the meat, or the seal, but what is contrary to our nature, Himself! (Romans 8:7-8)