Monday, March 28, 2016

Christ the Cornerstone

                The term “cornerstone” has become a mainstay in Evangelical Christianity today. Churches are fond of incorporating it into their names, along with words like “crossroads” and “community.” It is a fine word, evocative of a sense of stability, a firm foundation, and ultimately recalling to remembrance Christ himself, the Stone whom the builders rejected. One can become too saturated with good words, however, until they bring to mind less vivid images than perhaps intended.
                Most Christians are probably vaguely familiar with what a cornerstone is—that is, a stone without which the entire structure would crumble into a pile of dusty rubble. This is the historical connotation; it is what generally everybody agrees that Christ meant when he asked the Pharisees if they remembered reading about a particular stone rejected by some foolish builders. Today, physical cornerstones are used for ceremonial or sentimental reasons, to chronicle a portion of history by hollowing them out and sticking time capsules in them. Dates or names are often inscribed on them as well, but whatever their purpose, cornerstones are no longer crucial or foundational to modern construction practices.
                Unfortunately, mainstream society also seems to have decided we can do without the figurative Cornerstone, and modern education has been the first to suffer the loss. As Dorothy Sayers said over sixty years ago in her piece called The Lost Tools of Learning, “We let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. … They do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of ‘subjects;’ and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished.”
Education is the means to an end. It is the process of maturing a human being through the communication of ideas and information. In itself, it is a neutral tool which can be wielded by persons of any motivation or persuasion. Our society has effectively ensured that, with just enough education, children are able to efficiently consume all manner of propaganda thrown at them, relegating them to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”(Ephesians 4:14) But we can clearly see that this is an incomplete education.  When we contemplate the definition of “maturing a human being,” we must ask the question, “maturing into what?” Maturing into a man or woman destined to fight armored tanks with a rifle? Maturing into someone who possesses the skills of literacy, but no skill for discernment?
Conversely, the Christian call to education is consistently equated in the Bible with the knowledge of Christ. Paul writes throughout his epistles of the “the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood” (Ephesians 4:13), urging us to “be not conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2), and asserting that “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ … for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-9). “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of God. “ The call to childlike faith in Matthew 18:3 is not to justify a static, infantile understanding of God and life, but to look forward with keenness and excitement to the continuation of growth and understanding. What child has not been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and replied apathetically?
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Psalm 118:22-23 reminds us that the problem of the rejection of Christ is perennial, and certainly not unique of our time. Christ is the Cornerstone of our faith. Christ is the Cornerstone of the universal Church. It is by Christ all things were made (Colossians 1:16); in Christ we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28); and through the knowledge of God we may attain eternal life (John 17:3). And it is Christ who must be made the Cornerstone of the way we educate. We may live in a day with foolish and hasty builders, but by God’s grace and with Christ as the Cornerstone we may build for our children a strong foundation made of the transformative knowledge that leads to life everlasting.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Mover

"Praise the Lord" seems to be a favorite evangelical phrase. Things are going well for a new venture of ours? Praise the Lord, we say. Our church is growing? Praise the Lord, we say. We hear of fruitful ministries around the world? Praise the Lord, we say.

Things go horribly wrong? "God is still in control," we say.

(I bet you can see where this is headed. Oh, brother, another generic blog post about praising God in adversity. Well, hang with me.)

God moves in His own ways, in His own time, on His own terms. He accomplishes all He wishes in and through us, and often, in spite of us. I think it would do us all good to (perhaps forcefully) learn that God can do all this without us, specifically. That is, none of us are indispensable. And while the Lord chooses to work with us, specifically, there is nothing by any means binding him to do so.

Why is it, when things are going so well, we sort of lackadaisically say "Oh, cool, PTL," and while things are going so wrong, we feel we have to remind ourselves that "God is still on His throne?" Of course  He is still on His throne. It's madness to think that every good circumstance comes from God but every bad one is somehow acting on its own volition. He is still on His throne, and He is not passively sitting there smiling down as we struggle through our adversity! He is not even merely "coming alongside us to help;" He is actively and omnisciently using the bad circumstance to shape us into the image of Christ!"

I know it is wrong for anyone to claim "God has tempted me (x)," but must we misattribute every uncomfortable circumstance to some unspecific force outside of God and His perfect will? I wish I could be more aware of the Spirit moving when life is cute and happy, but just like most of the populace, God's work becomes much more apparent to me during the hard times.

Here I could note half a dozen examples about how things can only become strong after facing adversity--such as gold in the fire, trees in the wind, diamonds in the rough--but I won't bore you with illustrations you've no doubt already heard and carefully considered. Think of this, though: would it seem strange to you if at every piece of good news someone calmly reassured you, "God is still in control," but at every bad piece he ecstatically cried, "Praise the Lord!"? God is at work, now and forever, and in time He will fashion us all in His perfect image.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The month of July, for me, became a sort of point of convergence upon where the last three years of God's work in my life came crashing together in a truly awing epiphany, which, for some (and indeed for me now), will sound a bit obvious when they hear it. (Another post on that here.) Basically, the verse from the Sermon on the Mount, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you," (Matthew 6:33) has become "heart-knowledge" rather than "head-knowledge." God, I believe, is much more detail-oriented than we often give Him credit for.
Now that I've become more sensitive to this character of God, it seems to pop up everywhere in my devotions. Recently, while reading in Philippians, I came across this passage: "3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. " (Philippians 1:3-6)
While watching a lecture for one of my summer classes, a statement the presenter (Dr. Bill Gothard) made really struck me: "We are indestructible until our work here on earth is done."

What an incredible notion. And as it pertains to this post, now I realise just how blind and helpless I was before the Lord revealed this truth to me. Without defining this term, may I make the statement that faith is not something grand and glorious for us to have or to do; it is believing what is real is really real. Faith is calling black black; a public declaration that the laws with which God has bound this universe are real, sound, and worthy of observance.

But more than that, faith comes with the pluck to admit that something, somewhere, has a better grasp on the workings of the "clocks" of life. Faith doesn't need to analyze or understand what it accepts before it accepts it.
I was a terrible math student for my teachers. I wanted a reason for everything--I wanted to know why an even number of negatives make a positive and an odd number of negatives make a negative when multiplying. No one seemed to have an answer for me other than, "That's the way it is. Accept it." (Apparently my questions drove away my teachers, because by my freshman year of high school I found that my only math teacher was to be my textbook. :P) But the illustration stands: Some things are the way they are, and while God may understand why, He doesn't have to condescend to explain it to us. And even that has a reason behind it, for, "without faith it is impossible to please [God]." (Hebrews 11:6)

So, friends, with that I encourage you to continue to declare that what is real is really real.


Speaking of lessons from the Lord (this post arose out of this one over here), I realise my true helplessness after something is revealed to me, and go back to 1 Corinthians 1 with renewed insight. Isn't that always the way it works, though? I seem to blunder about in the dark on a particular subject until the Spirit swoops down and blinds me with a crashing bolt of light and truth, and after navigating through the lighted area, I look back and think, "Hasn't it always been this bright?" And then I realise over just how many years that bolt of light spanned, and pick out a new golden thread in my life the Lord is weaving together.
It reminds me indirectly of the circuit rider from the book, Caddie Woodlawn. He brought a clock which had stopped on account of neglect for Mr. Woodlawn to fix. When asked what was wrong with it, he hesitates, and is described as someone who, "knew all about horses and ways of predicting the weather; he could quote you almost any passage in the Bible and make clear the book of Revelations. But anything wheels or cogs or springs was an unfathomable mystery to him."

I therefore contend that life, and the general workings therein, is composed of myriad unfathomable "clocks." I ask the Lord to teach me the deep mystery of the workings of one particular clock, and when He opens the casing and teaches me the inner workings of the wheels and cogs and springs, it seems such a simple machine compared to the contrivance of mechanical workings it was before.

"For the foolishness of God is wiser than men," declares Paul, "and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:25)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lord, I believe: An Original Poem

The Lord has been working with me about my faith, and here is the product of about a year and a half. As is my faith, this poem is a work in progress. It started with the first two lines bouncing around in my head for a week or so, and has become this. I hope to add more and more verses as my walk in faith continues. If it helps, sing these lines to the tune of "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness."

Lord, I believe Thy faithfulness sure:
Myself Thou shalt steadfastly secure.
With Thee on my side through every trial,
Though my head droop it shall be rais’d higher.

Lord, I believe Thou orderest my way,
Come gloom or gladness; come night or day.
If my faith fail, or I should lose hope,
Thee, Lord canst bear, with what I cannot cope.

Lord, I believe that weakness of mine
Is swallow’d in strength of the perfect Divine.
And Thou in Thy love givest to me
The sweet blessed Jesus: all that I need.

Friday, May 3, 2013


If you do not already know about the series this post is a part of, click here.

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

-O Love That Wilt not Let Me Go- by George Matheson

One of my favorite hymns, that seems to have a lot of parallelism with the Gospel of John. There is a reason the cover picture on my blog is of the Gospel of John. In my estimation, it is the richest and most symbolic of the four Gospels, and often runs on more than one level. In my project to find Who Jesus is for us, I have decided to devote 2-3 months and possibly 2-3 posts to the Gospel of John. Reading a particular line in the above hymn reminded me of a verse in John 1. "I yield my flickering torch to Thee; My heart restores its borrowed ray..."

Now, in John 1, there is a verse that has always puzzled me: "...That was the true Light, which ligheth every man that cometh into the world." Unlike most statements about or from Jesus Christ, this is not a totally exclusive word. He is that Light which lights every man. As I always understood it, the world is full of darkness, not a light that lights every man. A person is not "lit" until he knows the Father through the Son (John 17:3). But this verse says, "every man."

What if it is true that all men receive their light from Jesus? Colossians 1:16-17 tells us "...all things were created by him, and for him: ...And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." That line in the hymn uses interesting language: "My heart restores its borrowed ray." The way I see, everyone born into the world is made human with a soul and a spirit, or "lit,"  by the Son of God. Some light has been turned to darkness, but some are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, and in His sunshine's blaze, our rays are fairest and brightest. My study on the Gospel of John shall continue through May.

Monday, April 15, 2013


(Note: This is a largely evangelical post.)

There is a cultural phenomenon that has been going on for quite some time now which I have only recently become hip to. (HA, and there's some 60s slang I only recently got hip to.)
There is a particularly pernicious lie people have fallen for: that the only thing you can know is yourself, your own emotions, and your own mind, and therefore you oughtn't try to know other's similar qualities but instead lead such a fun and happy life doing all the things that please you so that when you're old and dying and about to no longer exist, you can look back and say "Wow, I really enjoyed myself. I guess I don't feel so bad now that I'm not going to exist anymore." There are those who act as if this is a sort of hard thing to accept.
The problem people have here is not with suddenly not existing. In fact, it wouldn't be so bad to suddenly stop existing, if you think about it, because you certainly wouldn't be around to know it. The problem here is that no one wants to be accountable for everything they've ever done.

But we are, whether we believe that or not. One day you will have to give an account for every action, deed, and word ever to come out of you. Every. single. one. And when you get there, you'll either have an intercessor who is the Worthy One, Jesus Christ, or you will have only your wits and your long, incriminating history of sin, after condemning sin, after condemning sin. Did you think that you could get away with not having to do this simply because you don't believe in it?

God does not need your consent to exist. He does not need your permission, your belief, your faith to still judge you. But then again, why should He judge you? After all, He hasn't lived your life.

I'll tell you why. He created you, and the only reason He hasn't completely wiped the whole of the human race off the face of the planet yet is because He is infinitely patient, loving, faithful, and hopeful. I know if I were God, I would have gotten rid of the whole rotten lot of us long ago.

You have no rights before God. You are a created being who has trespassed against the statutes and laws of the all-powerful, all-perfect, all-deserving God, and therefore you forfeit any argument you had against Him doing as He pleases with you. At this point some people may be getting fidgety and tell me that this sort of blog post, which really doesn't mince words, and makes them feel terrible, is a bad example of Christianity, and that's exactly the reason they don't want to be a Christian. Well, my friend, Christianity is all about love, but you've got to give up your old ways at some point, and someone has got to tell you do it at another. Haven't you noticed by now, though, that this materialistic, self-absorbed, selfish lifestyle really isn't as fulfilling as you thought? Don't you ever get tired of watching other people suffer while you sit in comfort and do whatever floats your boat, whatever you feel like doing, whatever think will stroke your self-esteem the most? This world has got problems, and much as we all would like to ignore them, we can't. We've got those friends whose parents got divorced when they were 8, and now they don't believe in "love," or "happiness" anymore. We've got those friends who are suicidal, or self-injurious, or something else because they feel like the world's better off without them. Because they doubt the very attribute of God that makes Him God: Love.

Or how the bigger problems, all around the world? Disasters, explosions, people preying on other people, horrible hate, discrimination (in the true sense), etc.  How on earth could a loving God do this to us? How can He let this happen? I once heard someone say "If there is a god, he must be a very indifferent one." Did you ever think you'd brought this suffering down on yourself? (Now, in the case of mental illness, I know that's not something that someone can just will themselves out of, much as they might like to.)

When you succeed, you say it's all because you're so excellent at sports, or you inherited your dad's MENSA tendency, and that's why you're a child prodigy, or the reason everyone likes you so much is because you have such a winning personality. You, you, you, you. You've got it all. Until something goes wrong. Then God is the first to get the blame. In the world, God is always the last to get the glory and the first to get the blame. If you can have so many achievements, why can't you have just as many failures? Maybe, just maybe, God allows these things because we are sinful creatures who need desperate, desperate help. The world's going you know where, and whose fault is it? Not God's. Certainly not God's. When He created the world, He pronounced it good. Very good, in fact. And then guess who came in and gummed everything up. Man, woman, the devil, whomever you like to blame, they all had a part in it and they all blamed someone else, usually God. "That woman you gave me, God, she told me to eat that stupid piece of fruit. I would have never done that if You had given me a better wife, or maaaybe if you're such a good God, how come you let this happen in the first place? Why don't you stay true to yourself, and not let any of this evil stuff happen?" Oh, the depravity, wickedness, pride, and self-absorption of man. The depths of sin and evil we can fall to, to blame our very Creator for the problems His creations make. You didn't want Him to make you into a robot, did you? You want your own free will. You cannot have it both ways. So God gave everyone a free will, and now we all use it to serve ourselves, to hurt others, to gain glory and prestige for ourselves, while we along with the rest of the world slowly spiral down the drain of sin into destruction.

Isn't there a way out? Can't we do good things to make it all up? Live a good life, serve others, love people? No, not in ourselves, and you know it. Self-reform inevitably ends in despondency and failure. Why? Because in the Garden of Eden, while man and woman and devil were blaming each other and ultimately God, man and woman separated themselves from God. God is the only one from Whom come all good things. Is there happiness in the world? Thank God. Is there a good turn anywhere? Praise God. Has your "faith in humanity" been restored from a post on Facebook? Glory to God, real humanity had nothing to do with it.

You see, God, in His never-ending mercies, has provided a way to impart His Goodness to us. You've heard it. The very Son of God Himself climbed down from His throne in heaven to live as a man and die as a man, only do it perfectly, so that death might swallowed up in victory. And whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

There it is where you will find your true satisfaction, your true purpose in life, and you may even look forward to the end, when you will see your God face-to-face. And instead saying He never knew you, He will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into rest." Oh, that the entire human race could know this eternal rest.

1 Corinthians 15:51-58
John 3:16-17