Thursday, February 10, 2011

Praise-telling the truth about God; Confession-telling the truth about ourselves

We’ve all heard it said that it’s important to tell the truth. Jesus reminds us that this applies to our worship as well, “True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” In worship, we tell the truth in a couple of different ways. The first is easy. In praise, we tell the truth about God, who is and what he has done for us. We call this praise. For the most part, praise comes naturally. It’s similar to what we do after watching an exceptional movie or witnessing a memorable football game. We simply tell the truth about what we’ve experienced. The Bible, especially the Psalms, is full of this kind of truth telling.

  • “The LORD watches over the way of the righteous” (1:6)
  • “Oh LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth” (8:1)
  • “The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it” (24:1)
  • “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” (27:1)
  • “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18)

But praise is not the only opportunity for truth telling in worship. Not only must we tell the truth about God in praise, we must also tell the truth about ourselves. We call this confession. For fairly obvious reasons, that type of truth telling is much more difficult to do, but it is no less important for our souls. We are so good at deceiving, not only others but ourselves as well. But it is only in coming clean that we can be made clean. Ultimately, it’s not our sins that undo us, Christ has made a way for them to be forgiven, but our failure to tell the truth about who we are and what we need: A God who can make us clean.

Be encouraged today by the words of C.S. Lewis: I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptation. It is not serious, provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience, etc., don’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us: it is the very sign of His presence.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Andrew Peterson's "Dancing in the Minefields"

Valentine's Day is coming up. Not my favorite holiday for any number of reasons, primarily the unrealistic understandings of love so often promoted on this day. For a more nuanced and mature look at love, check out Andrew Peterson's wonderful song "Dancing in the Minefields" below. This is what married love can and should look like. Enjoy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Watch for ice

In case you’ve been unaware this week, it’s been cold here in Texas. Actually, it’s been cold almost everywhere thanks to a cold front that’s produced one of the worst winter storms in the last forty years according to some weather experts. For as much as I’ve disliked the cold we have here in San Angelo, it’s been nothing compared to some other places. Just a few hours northeast of us in Oklahoma City, they experienced near blizzard conditions with over ten inches of snow falling in a twenty-four hour period. Watching the video of the storm on the weather channel you could easily have thought you were looking at Chicago or Buffalo or some other northern city that regularly experiences such storms.

The video made me say a quick prayer for a good friend who is an orthopedic surgeon in Oklahoma City. I figured this meant he was working overtime dealing with the results of car wrecks and people slipping on the ice. Touching base with him later, he said that my fears were misplaced. There had been wrecks for sure. But this storm had been so bad that most people stayed home and those that did get out could only drive more than a few miles per hour. As a result, most wrecks resulted in nothing more than a dented fender and an embarrassed driver. I realized that while the weather conditions were far worse in Oklahoma City, the roads might actually be more dangerous here in San Angelo. Here, we could still drive fairly fast before we started to slide off the road. In the end, it’s the speed that kills.

I’m reminded once more how poorly we humans tend to evaluate danger. Something like a blizzard can be extremely dangerous, but usually, it is so threatening, we’re smart enough to hunker down and stay inside. A little ice, on the other hand, can be deceptively dangerous because we think it’s no big deal, until it is. In much the same way, it’s not usually the biggest sins that undo us, but the ones we didn’t consider dangerous to begin with. We think, oh, I’d never have an affair, but what harm does a little flirting do? We’re confident we’d never kill anyone, but we keep picking at an old grudge until hate fills our thoughts for another made in God’s image. We’d never steal something from a store, but we tolerate a covetness in our hearts that stifles our generosity. We keep speeding down the road unaware of the smallest patches of ice that are just waiting to send us spinning out of control.

Perhaps that’s why Jesus made such a big deal out of lust, and hate, and greed. These sins of the heart aren’t as visible as so many other “big” sins which is precisely why they prove to be so deadly to our souls. We keep speeding by them thinking they will do us no harm until they do leading our lives in directions we never meant to go. We need to slow down and think. We need to pause and pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). The life you save may be your own.