sexta-feira, agosto 31, 2007

Matthew's Request: Let God Be Found True

The desire to do good, to do what is right, has been molded in my head since the very beginning, from long ago. And so many times I have given thanks to God for my high standards I have placed on myself and how the reliance placed on my faithfulness kept me strong through times of certain weakness. But there are always new and interesting lessons that God brings us. And this year I have indeed been tested with the question of what makes on holy? To what extent do I truly trust God Himself?
Life is not always black & white. Some paths I've met with are not so clear as those before. Indeed, I've wondered, after prayer and wrestling I still cannot grasp a certain answer. Where is the voice of God? What is right? What is wrong?
Recently I've started reading Romans, and things have started to slowly clear. I have always preached and believed in a love and graceful God, yet I have trusted more of a list-oriented God. How many times have I told friends that God is not this God of lists, but of relationship? How pompous must I have been to think of a life where every turn made a difference in the way God saw me, or in my authenticity as a Christian. Can you imagine the pressure I feel day after day?
Doubt is part of life that must be acknowledged before it is more than just doubt. I am not and can never be (as the Baptist special speaker in Madrid once termed) "uma deusinha -- a little God." I do not know what the future holds. I cannot make every decision with the certainty of correctness. No.
But I am a daughter of God. And if holiness is relational, I look to my Father. Romans 3 talks about our actions vs. God's actions. Over and over again Romans humbles me and says, "Amber, you are not perfect. You cannot continue to live in fear of messing up." Romans says in Chapter 3 that (to use the words of Scott Phillips as a summary), "Though I turn away, when my consistency fades, you stay. Thank God! My actions do not "nullify the faithfulness of God (3:26)."
And so I say, strive for good. Crave God and His perfect will. Live that song;
"Give me one pure and holy passion.
Give me on magnificent obsession.
Give me on glorious amition for my life,
to know and follow hard after You."
But fear not your own imperfection. Trust that God can handle your weakness. In fact, what's more, open your heart and "Let God be found true (3:4)."

sábado, agosto 11, 2007

The Censored Version

This is the censored version of something close to heart. Perhaps I am writing again.

The Muddy Lyric

Somehow it's me you'd take the time
To bring it out, these words, this rhyme
Yet out of frustration it will come
For risk of sounding really dumb
There's something bout that dark of night
That makes me doubt the wrong and right

So strongly I cling to one sweet voice
That sings to me a different song
That says, my daughter, this will soon pass
In Me your heart cannot go wrong

But do I wait in safety's net
Afraid and scared as always
Will this remain, feelings unmet
As something else rules each step, each phase

I thought I felt, then felt I thought
Then with myself struggled and fought
But if I stay not in this direction
My fear meets faith or faith meets fear
In this strange and confusing intersection

I know it not and may never again
I hold only to the steady
The one tempted by both devil and men
Until He says I'm ready


I've put it all away. All these things I'd put aside for the one who finally wanted to take that time. There were comments from teachers long ago who raved about my thoughts and writing-- yes, those days when each thought recorded some unspoken masterpiece. Awards, comments on papers, momentos of that long lost world that I would always and never go back to. Perhaps one might, in this pile, discover the good and bad of who I was and somehow understand me in a way I never could. But I've put it away now.

It should always be God first-- in all circumstances-- in game, in sport, in job, in laundry, in love. And in God there is peace, which translates to standing somewhere and sticking to it. To gather strength and stop causing confusion. Perhaps I'm thought to be "overspiritualizing" things (and this is where the message lies). I believe strongly of God as the center of EVERY part of my life. A dysfunctional life area is dysfunctional because I have not yet let God there. Heaven is indeed to be in the presence of God and to remain in Him means not to take Him out of situations, but to place Him in the very middle. And I have to trust that he cares enough to speak my language (and to speak yours). If I cannot trust and have him in each part of my life, I can neither have nor trust any human being in that same area.

sexta-feira, julho 13, 2007

Perfect Love

The below was written for my life of holiness class, but I like it :)

Perfect love is probably one of my favorite descriptions of entire sanctification. New Testament writers (most specifically John) say that God is love, and if God is love, then any description that suggests imitating or being in His likeness is to imitate the love of God. Therefore, anything following is only to further demonstrate entire sanctification as the imitation and incarnation of the love of God. As is stated in Colossians 3:12-14;

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."

Where problems arrive in the claims of entire sanctification are where people try to claim completeness. Entire sanctification is a commitment to a process. Many will go to someone in training for a profession for a basic knowledge of the professor. However, even if you were to go to a pediatrician to talk about what it meant to be a doctor, he could only give you the side of being a doctor that he has seen. In the same way, or definitions of love are often incomplete. What can I say about love that would adequately describe it? What do I know about love? Afterall, we as humans have no complete demonstration of the immensity of God's love. No, I would imagine we could not handle the immensity of it.

To love is to risk and many humans are uncomfortable with risk. Many of us are uncomfortable with our own selves, the evil we see in our character. Even to love God means that we have to risk that which he would have us do, because to love God, as it has ever been biblically expressed, is to do as He wills. What's more, to be entirely sanctified means that we would have to take a step towards loving those who we would not normally wish to love. It means opening one's self honestly to God and allowing Him to love through you. Entire sanctification means taking the risk to love even when that love could possibly hurt. Henri Nouwen describes loving someone as, "allowing the other person to respond in ways you have no control over. ...For the great mystery of love is that while it can be received, it can also be rejected. Every time you enter into the risk of love."

Scripture (as can be derived from Colossians) is filled with ways in which we can love each other. Parables such as that of the Prodigal Son describe the love of God and beg all to enter into his joy (flowing out of his love). 1 John 4:18-21 says;

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

This is the final important point about entire sanctification. The reason that holiness and love can be so intrinsically put together is because, in the famous words of John Wesley, there is no holiness but social holiness. If we were to look at others through the glasses of God, we would look at others only in love. We would look at those who wrong and reject us and begin to attempt to understand from whence they come. Does this person yell because she is mean or because she is, in fact, scared? Does he react in this harsh manner because he was born critical and nasty or because he has been hurt and does not want to be hurt again?

What separates me from those who are not entirely sanctified? How have I turned from the hurt and scarred barely human to see others and act out of love towards them? This is where I talk out of my own experience. Part of me has always been the scared and hurt reacting out of such emotions. You see, it is only when we understand ourselves that we can understand others, and the only way to understand ourselves is to see ourselves in relation to God.

In this, Henri Nouwen say, "we learn to look fully into our losses, not evade them. By greeting life's pains with something other than denial we may find something unexpected. By inviting God into our difficulties we ground life-- even its sad moments-- in joy and hope." This is entire sanctification. Not that we are whole or even that we understand wholeness, but that we move into relationship with God with our whole selves, everything that we are, and ground our life in Him. It is by this that I see love in practice, because the grounds on which we stand or glasses through which we see effect our actions, and if we make the decision to walk with Christ, we make the decision to walk with love, in love, acting for love-- the love that is illustrated time and time again through the Bible. Without acting out of this love, we do not yet truly know or recognize God Himself.

quarta-feira, maio 09, 2007

Thoughts on Revelation

Introduction: Nothing New Under the Sun
In the 2007 box office hit, Rocky Balboa, the legendary Rocky hits a spot not unfamiliar to the challenge of the church. “It’s a different world now,” his son says, to which Rocky replies, “Only the clothes is different.” Revelation also brings such sentiments from the varieties of readers across the centuries. Today’s readers often say to the old, you’re worn out, you’re done, you’re dead, and Christ didn’t come in your time so obviously the book of Revelation wasn’t speaking to you. Yet John from the very beginning speaks to the churches across time. That the churches of the past were the direct audience and John had a very specific message for them is apparent from the very beginning. And as today’s churches come and go, as they grow and age, Revelation speaks to each if each would listen to Revelation’s word to its context.
The hearts of man have not changed over the centuries. In the field of education we study literature and do much reading simply to see not only the big changes that have physically occurred, but how despite the technological changes and perhaps so-called advancement of thought, the basics of life allow us to continue to identify over time. The whole idea of the Bible is such, and as a part of a larger context, Revelation must be similarly read within the context of the Bible.
Looking for the Consistency
The first thing people are trying to get out of the Bible, in many cases, is consistency. If this is the case, and assuming the accuracy of authorship, the literal reading of Revelation would not be possible. The radical interpretations of literal translation does not fit with the context to whom John is speaking, nor does it fit his typical use of vocabulary in relation to his other books. While each of John’s book is a different genre, some things are characteristic of him and they don’t change in this letter either.
Vocabulary that speaks of global Christianity, of the Word and word of God, and of the battle between light and darkness are all common to John’s Gospel and letters and can be found again here in revelation. Vague definition of time and symbolic use of numbers are both also common. John, throughout Revelation, speaks in a style very distinct to his writings and not inconsistent with his previous writing and such a style includes heavy repetition, contrast, and symbolism, all of which points to a reading of Revelation that fits such a style.
Persecution and Authenticity
One concept that is apparent through all Johannine literature that comes out especially strong in Revelation as well is the importance of active Christianity at all times. Revelation challenges readers through its contrasts and symbols of light and darkness to stand as lamp stands through trials and tribulations.
As Rocky would say, “When that time comes and you find something standing in front of you, something that ain't running and ain't backin’ up and is hittin’ on you and your too tired to breathe. You find that situation on you, that’s good ‘Cuz that’s baptism under fire!” Challenge and the threat of death, according to John, must only be answered with perseverance and faithfulness, backed up by deeds and, if necessary, by death, which (in the typical style which is John) is in fact life.
Babylon’s Comfort Zone (pg 100)
To those in Babylon John shines a different light—the prophetic light of warning. The Babylon that John talks about isn’t much different than our own cities. There is, in this sense, a false sense of security in thinking that one is safe simply by a convenient association with Christ. However, when this faith is challenged, they either blame God or run from Him. “The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows,” Rocky tells his son who has this mindset of a rose-colored life “if only.”
“It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!” God does promise victory in the end, but this victory is not without pain. In fact, it is in a victory through suffering and, consequently, over suffering that a complacent church becomes new. The church need only ask “To whom do we run? From what do we escape?”
In a prophetic voice that rings throughout the Bible, John gives this final call for repentance, coupled with this revelation of God’s glory and a warning of life without God. If the church will repent, it can then find its purpose and identity, becoming part of the New Jerusalem.
Our identity with Christ and in Christ: The New Jerusalem (106)
Our identity is unified in purpose through the cross. This is yet another bit of vocabulary not uncommon in Johannine literature. The New Jerusalem identifies this Christian community that the Gospel of John calls for (John 17) and that the entire book of 1 John relies on. Identity with Christ creates a unified body who fulfill the role of a witness to the world. This body is diverse, and this body will finish in a symbol of perfection and completion.
In identifying with Christ, this body accepts the potential for earthly suffering just as Christ accepted such suffering on the cross. However, the believers from every tribe and nation look forward to a certain victory and reward for their faithfulness to the Word. The community of revelation stands in strength when it stands together as lamp stands (and Christ is the light), as the temple (through which Christ demonstrates his presence), and specifically as a witness to the world that God works and moves out of love and hope for his people.
Prophecy for Change
Prophecy is consistently identified as a tool for creating change. The prophecies in this book as in the prophets of the Old Testament were told less as a method for figuring out the future, and more in the purpose of bringing the church, this Jerusalem or Israel, back into an active relationship with Christ. However, this change hurt at times and often appeared in a harsh manner. Throughout the reading of Koester’s book I kept thinking in the back of my head, “Yes, I see. But why must God use this particular method?” The answer that came to me has not yet been complete, and perhaps it never will be.
However, Koester makes a good point when, after describing the forces of evil and what they look like living along side of the holiness of God, he says, “For change to come, God would need to disturb the peace.” Again Christians must, through Revelation, realize the challenge it holds as well as the necessity for its adherence. The world is not a very nice place, nor is it perfect. Therefore something must necessarily change. Change is the resounding call of Revelation. It is written just as it is, in such a manner as to change that very thing that must still be changed in every church, in every century until Christ Himself returns and makes all things new. The change, while not always immediately addressed to the context of today’s readers, will apply to readers as they begin to realize that it is only the clothes that are different. That Revelation speaks for a change which needed to happen as much then as it must now and will in the future until the coming which is finally promised.
Conclusion: Dressing Our Churches
Revelation is, in fact, a strong vision to the churches today of contextualization. If today’s church would listen to the community of John’s time, Revelation certainly has its place even beyond the first three chapters. The challenge to the leaders of the church is to see the message as it was initially seen and then to have the creativity and understanding to interpret it in such a way that speaks to today’s community. John’s images and method of contextualization brings close to home the fears, worries and hopes of their time in a way that spoke uniquely to them. The question, therefore, is do we have parallel stories and situations in our society today? The exegetical and homiletical processes of Revelation are not really all that different from the approaches to the rest of the Bible if we stick to the basic rules of study—looking at the context of the time, the context of the author, and seeing how it all applies today. Who are we as a church? Are we the persecuted church or the complacent church? And in either case, what does John write to churches in this situation? The letter, after all, did not end after the third chapter. This was what spoke to me the most through this process of studying Revelation, that although it is hard to understand its interpretations, once you look into the context of the time you see that it’s only the clothes that have changed. It’s only the way that you dress the story of Christ, his saving power, his sovereign kingdom, and the necessity of worship that has changed.

quarta-feira, março 21, 2007


What do you suppose makes some people spectacular and others just day-to-day average. Does God have those moments of absolute creativity where He creates those truly unique and amazing individuals-- the geniuses, the never-before seen artists. And then the rest of us just live in between the lines? I mean, I meet people and to dig into their minds and get really into the heart of who they are is amazing and interesting and people can listen for hours to whatever they have to say. Most people can barely listen to 5 minutes of what I say and I don't have any other spectacular skill that allows me to say well, they'll see when I submit this mind-blowing proof or when this piece of art is in the museum, this song on the radio, this book a best-seller. I'm not sure that I truly, when I think about it, long for something to put me out in the fore-front of things like that. When you're that great I suppose your faults appear even greater and more obvious. But it does occaisionally pass through my mind that it seems rather unfair that some people can be so spectacular and others must simply be ordinary and invisible. Of course, however, this seems illogical if I actually allow others to think as I do towards other people (it's one thing if you're talking about other people and quite the other if you apply it to me-- is that hypocritical?). I love people. I believe that each person has something special and spectacular. It's just hard to see the spectacular in others and appear so unusually ordinary. What a paradox.