Cracks

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It did not come alone. The crack made its appearance in an ensemble. Each member was stationed about the house. The first rose from the front widow to the ceiling; its twin mirrored it above the doorway. Others graced other walls. There were some attempts at easing them away. A little putty; a little plaster could fill in the gap. Add just a touch of paint and it’s gone. No, the crack remains, now sandwiching putty, and dressed in semi-gloss.

It could be ignored. No thought will be paid to it. Not a moment of worry will be attributed to it. That is, until its cousins arrive. When it’s comrades-at-arms come in a floor buckle here and a stubborn door there, the crack will have to be addressed.

Naturally, the problem is not with its presence now. The problem lies in its past, back when it was merely stress beneath the widow sill, and farther still to its ancestor: the crack in the cellar wall. On that wall rests the house, and it is there the invasion began. Silently and unnoticed, it beat and bludgeoned, little by little until strength was made weak.

Now it reigns supreme. It has conquered. It has triumphed. It brings its army to the occupied front in a slow and steady march. There is no hope in repair. Creation alone is the solution. New creation. Perfect creation from a flawed, buckled, and warped beginning. Hope is only found in the impossible; a paradox that only has two outcomes: despair or surrender.

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When we don’t feel like worship

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This week, I’m studying Nehemiah 12 in preparing my Sunday sermon. It will be a follow up to last week’s and the subject will be worship. In Nehemiah 12, the dedication of the wall was such that everyone could hear the joy in Jerusalem. The obvious problem to address is that this really doesn’t describe the worship at my church. I’ll go out on a limb and say it doesn’t describe the worship in most churches. It seems that worship is either a drudgery; a spiritual chore that must be suffered or a fake, manic performance that exists only in the confines of the service.

The problem goes deeper than that. Lately, I’m not sure my joy can be heard. I just don’t always feel like worship. Maybe its a cold winter. Maybe its the day to day frustrations of pastoral ministry. Maybe its that God has been allowing my “personal space” to be invaded more and more. I’m not sure what it is, but I don’t really feel that joyful this week.

As I was struggling with the idea of worshiping joyfully even when I don’t feel like worship, I came across this great blog post from Dr. Russell Moore. Of particular interest to me was this statement:

By not speaking, where the Bible speaks, to the full range of human emotion—including loneliness, guilt, desolation, anger, fear, desperation—we only leave our people there, wondering why they just can’t be “Christian” enough to smile through it all.

This is exactly right. I’ve been preaching through Psalms on Sunday evening, and have been struck many times by the fact that many of those worship hymns were often voiced from times of fear and despair. However, in most of our churches, our worship hymns are all positive proclamations, and more and more, they are positive proclamations about how we feel, even though they many not be accurate.

Naturally, if our worship amounts to a dishonest claim of feeling joyful and happy; being the victor of all of life’s battles then we will feel a tension between what is and what ought to be. The Gospel addresses this tension, but since we leave out statements of confession, sorrow, mourning, doubt, etc, we are far from looking for this answer. Instead, we address the tension by recreating worship to meet our emotional needs. We want our favorite songs to make us feel good. We want uplifting messages, and we want attention. We assume that all of this will make us feel the way our songs have told us we ought to feel.

Thus, there is no worship at all. Well, that is not exactly true. There is plenty of self-worship, but that would be the exact opposite of what we are called to as Christians.

Most of the time, when we don’t feel like worship, we feel like we have to fake it. In doing so, we fake it more than we know. Instead, we must be honest in our worship. Not a self-pity type of honesty, but an honesty that finds its answers in the cross. When we confess our doubts and our failures and we surrender our hurts and sorrows, we find grace. At that moment, we can worship in true joy, as opposed to pretend happiness.

So you don’t feel like worship? Go to the cross. I think you will find your heart more joyful than ever when you get there.

Running Thoughts: Me and My Shadow

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I’m a runner. Ok, so that’s not entirely true. I’m trying to be a runner. I’m in the beginning stages. I’ve made a public claim that I will run a 5k by next Thanksgiving and my family has responded by giving me shoes and the nike+ipod kit for Christmas. I’m taking it slow. I’m using the Couch to 5K plan and I think it will be a great work out for me.

In fact, I really enjoy it. Today, I was jogging along at a good clip and really feeling good. The crisp winter air felt clean and uplifting in my lungs. The sunshine and empty track was beautiful and peaceful. There, in my new Nike shoes, my ipod, and my sweatsuit, I felt like a runner. I could imagine myself as anyone of those other runners; the kind that run marathons and races. Then I glanced at my shadow.

In my shadow I saw a fat, middle aged man jogging in a way that only fat, middle aged men can jog. Head down, hands close to his body, trudging along with slow little steps. There was a great difference between how I might imagine myself and how I probably actually look to the world around me.

That got me thinking (thinking theologically is better than thinking about the fact that my calves hurt and I was getting really short of breath). I wondered, how different is my own imagining of my spiritual life and reality? I’m guessing that its far uglier than I imagine. I’m sure that when I see myself fighting the good fight and running the good race strong and proud, I’m probably trudging along in a way that would be comical if it weren’t so pathetic.

Then I wondered, how does God see me? Surely God can see how pathetic I am better than anyone. I am sure that no matter how many faults others can find in me, God could find a million more. So what do I look like to Him? The ugliness is a shuddering thought, except for one thing. By the grace of God, when He sees me, He sees Christ. The righteousness of Christ imputed to me means that God sees me as better than I ever imagined myself to be. And that’s a thought that makes me want to keep running.