Archive - May, 2010

The perpetual object lession

This is Mighty Mouse. If we are friends or you have stumbled across my musings before, you know that this car has taught me much and has been full of surprises. You also know that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Today, Mighty went to the doctor’s for a check up. I parked him out my uncle’s and raided his shop. At the end of the day, my car was equipped with two new headlights, a new radiator mounting, a strap to hold down the battery, fresh fluids, air in the tires, and a treatment for a crack in the windshield (hence the injection in the picture). While we had his hood up, we also discovered another surprise, one that  further proves that this car is a perpetual object lesson in my life.

Driving back to PA, I discovered that my A/C was malfunctioning. I generally leave the A/C off and the windows down, but on this particular day, it was hot, humid, and thunderstorm central. Knowing that the guy who sold me the car demonstrated the A/C for my uncles, I just assumed I needed a can of A/C coolant or something.  As the hood is propped and we are searching for the compressor, my uncle and I had the hard realization that there was no compressor. The wiring for the A/C is there, the tubing is there, the mount is there, but the compressor is not. Explains why my car only blows war air from outside.Apparently my car has no A/C unit, just controls and the potential for one. 

Lesson learned: things are not always as they appear. We were told the car had A/C, the car looks like it has A/C, it even has the wiring and set up for A/C… however it is lacking A/C. As I was wondering how it was possible that myself and the four people I had look at the car had missed this, I realized that Mighty Mouse is not the first in my life to fool me this way. People do the same thing.

Here is my hypothetical friend Christian. All his friends and family say he knows Jesus, follows Jesus, and carries with him the Holy Spirit. They even give examples demonstrating how Christian allows the Holy Spirit to work in his life. Christian looks like he knows Jesus, follows Jesus, and allows the Holy Spirit to work in his life. He has the right controls, the visible buttons of the Bible and church attendance, and even on occasion blows some refreshing air when he shows compassion towards someone or shares insight on scripture.  Yup, Christian appears to have the JC. Until something tests him, and then he comes up way short and doesn’t seem to function as a JC unit. Perhaps he just is having a bad day or needs some refueling?  Then, someone who loves him and wants to see him functioning takes the time and searches a little deeper… and begins looking for possible adjustments. Soon, they discover Christian is lacking the JC, even though he has all the wiring, the tubing, and the mounting bracket. Despite appearing to sport JC and having the potential to do so, Christian is incapable of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in his life because he is lacking essential elements of faith. However, the missing element of the Gospel could  easily fill that gap and if it does, Christian can do exactly what he is wired and purposed to do: know Jesus, follow Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in him.

Long drawn out, corny, analogy to say this. Things are not always as they appear. Just because we see someone that appears right with God, does not mean that they are. Just because everyone thinks someone is okay, does not mean that they feel like something is missing in their lives. I am not saying that we should judge people; just as I do not go around popping the hoods of everyone’s cars looking for defects. However, if we notice a perpetual problem in someone’ life, perhaps it is rooted in heir perception of God. How often do you want to grab someone, shake them: “You are Christian, you know Jesus, why are you acting this way? Why aren’t you functioning like that is true?”   How can we expect someone to live a Gospel centered life in a functional way if they are lacking the functional understanding of the Gospel and a personal connection with Jesus? Better questions may be: Do they know God? Is that part of their lives missing? Is the wiring messed up due to bad theology? Is there a deeper problem that is preventing them from functioning that we miss at the surface level?    How often do we attempt to make adjustments in our lives or the lives of others without looking to see if the necessary foundation and equipment are there in the first place?

Hell, No?

At SICM, I picked up a book by one of my favorite authors/preachers Mark Driscoll.  Death by Love: Letters from the Cross examines the theological implications of Christ’s death on the cross in our daily lives through pastoral letters written in response to real life scenarios. Driscoll calls the cross a multifaceted jewel that cannot be divided and consists of an introduction explaining substitutionary atonement and twelve chapters each exploring a different facet: Christus Victor, Redemption, New Covenant Sacrifice, Righteousness, Justification, Propitiation, Expiation, Unlimited Limited Atonement, Ransom, Christus Exemplar, Reconciliation, and Revelation.

This book is solid, and is definitely worth reading. It has been so insightful and challenging that I could easily write a reflection on each chapter. However, I will spare you my thoughts in hopes that you will read the book yourself. You are not completely spared though, as I have already decided that I am going to share my thoughts on two points mentioned in Death by Love. This blog post is an aside about hell, and the next regarding this book will be about unlimited limited atonement.

In his introductory explanation of atonement, Driscoll briefly mentions that Jesus atoned for sin completely when he proclaimed “It is finished” (John 19:30) on the cross.

“At this moment, the atonement for sin was made, and the holiness, righteousness, justice, and wrath of God were satisfied in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Sadly, some have taught, based on a later revision in the Apostles’ Creed, that Jesus did not fully secure our salvation on the cross but rather suffered in hell for three days prior to his resurrection as further atonement. As we have seen, however, Jesus said he was going to paradise on that day and that his work was finished, which negates three days in hell to conclude his work. The Scriptures merely say that Jesus went to the tomb but never declare that he went to hell (Matt 27:59-60; Mark 15:46, Luke 23:52-55; John 19:41-42).” (p. 27-28).

When I was in middle school, our Sunday school class had to memorize the Apostles Creed. I know it by heart, it reads: “He descended into hell, on the third day he rose again.”  As I was reading Death by Love, I realized that I had never really considered the significance of this clause that our church repeated week after week when professing our faith.

My jaw literally dropped. Hell? Did Jesus go to Hell? Sheol? Gehenna? Has my church lied to me again? What does scripture say? He descended into death, He descended into the lower parts of the earth, and on the third day He rose again. What does that mean? What about the “harrowing of hell”? Did Jesus pass through Hell just to save the patriarchs and the faithful that died before his atoning sacrifice? Where did I even get that idea from? Did it happen? And, if it did, did Jesus need to physically go to the place of the dead to remove the souls of the patriarchs or did he just ascend into heaven saying that they could come with? Did they go with or is that yet to happen with the final judgment? What is going on here?

As you can see, one sentence threw me into quite the theological dilemma. To steal another idea from Driscoll, he often speaks of open hand versus closed hand theology. Open hand is the stuff that we cannot be absolutely sure of and that we have room to debate (i.e. predestination or end times theology). Closed hand theology consists of the non-negotiable factors (i.e. the hypo-static union revealing that Christ is both fully man and fully God, the historicity of the crucifixion). This is definitely an open hand issue, but that does not mean that it is not worth considering. 

Here are my thoughts thus far, and admittedly I have much to study on this topic. The Apostles Creed has historically undergone several revisions. It does appear that the hell clause is an addition, but it is also an addition seemingly based on Ephesians 4:9 which indicates that Jesus descended into the lower parts of the earth. The lower parts of the earth would be referring to the Hebrew concept of Sheol or a descending into death. Sheol should not be confused with Gehenna; Sheol is the return to the earth via the grave, Gehenna is descending to a place of torment and torture. Every human (with very few exceptions e.g. Elijah) descends into death because humans come from the dust of the earth and return to the dust of the earth. Jesus, being human, returned to the dust of the earth and His body was physically in the grave for three days. However, scripture also indicates that His spirit returned to Heaven the very day he died. In Luke 23:43, Jesus tells the thief on the cross next to Him that they will reunite in Paradise on that very day. Some theologians say that Christ momentarily did  go through Gehenna like torture because He was suffering through hell on the cross. That the humanity of Christ was in a state of hell because He was cursed by the righteousness of God so that the sin of humanity could be exchanged for the righteousness of Christ. So did He descend into death through the torturous hell of the crucifixion,  and then His human body lay dead for three days and His divine spirit return to heaven until the resurrection when the two were reunited?

As far as the Harrowing of Hell doctrine, that is another Pandora’s box of theology all together. It seems like early church fathers like Origen and Tertullian believed that there was some sort of harrowing for the patriarchs. Some epistle passages vaguely leave room for this concept by saying that Jesus taught to the dead and captive, but normally those passages are taken to mean the spiritually dead and captive. If hell is the furthest thing from God, and Jesus is God. Is it even possible for Jesus to go to a place where He is absent? Then, there is that pesky Luke 16 passage that says that Lazarus is near Abraham’s bosom which is far from the rich man’s hell. If Abraham, a sinful man too, is not in hell, where is he? He cannot be in heaven because atonement has not been satisfied, can he? Elijah went straight to heaven via chariot though, but then again, Elijah didn’t die.  So if Abraham is not in heaven, then where is he? Sheol as opposed to Gehenna? I think these plethora of questions are going to be chalked right up there with my end times theology. 

In other words, I have much to think about and no clear answers. All in all, this does not really matter to my salvation or the salvation of the world. However, it is still important to seek understanding of scripture and doctrine. Thus, I will store the “hell clause” in my mind as a “to be continued” topic that I pray that God gives me revelation concerning. In the meanwhile, “I don’t know” will have to suffice.

Full speed ahead

I am currently at the Atlantic Coast Student Institute of Campus Ministry (SICM) learning how to be a good student leader on my campus. If you are asking why I am at a student leader training the week after I graduated college, you are asking the same question I have been asking God all week.

Sitting through session after session of material that I have heard before, wondering how to navigate this weird transitional phase of my life, I keep asking God why am I here? Am I missing something? I am trying to learn as much as I can from this experience, but I feel like my one sentence summary of the entire week is this: “I know this, I do this… well I usually do this… this stuff works and God is good”.

Wednesday, we had an interactive worship time. Rather than walk through the stations, I decided to lie prostrate on the floor and seek some answers. “God, why am I here this week? What are you trying to teach me?” Ya know, the standard questions. After some silent meditation, some prayer, and  forty-five minutes of passing time…. I pull out my pen and notebook. As I start to jot down a list of reasons of why I fail as a Christian, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” started playing. I could only laugh.

I am trying to repent, and God reminds me that He has my back through my favorite hymn... one that seemingly comes up time and time again.  I love it.

My reason for being here: to refresh my vision and to gain a humble confidence before support raising season. I realized that I am always trying to repent- to turn around… instead of trying to walk forward. God revealed to me through a simple instrumental hymn that I am walking in the right direction. I just need to stop stutter stepping and start running full speed ahead, trusting that He will guide my steps.

I will run the race set before me… I will seek Your face as the prize of my life” - Misty Edwards, based on Hebrews 12

Bear with me.

 ” I will help you bear this burden, Frodo Baggins, as long as it is yours to bear.” -Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring.

Something that I have learned this year is the importance of prayer in koinonia (fellowship).  Being in community means sharing joys and sorrows, triumphs and failures, strengths and weaknesses, and all the ups and downs of life. Sharing is more than simply stating; to share means to have in common, to contribute to the cause. If my friend is sharing his/her burden with me, I am taking that burden upon myself by committing it to mind and to prayer. As long as the burden exists, as a friend in koinonia, it is my duty and privilege to help carry the load. The Biblical precedent for friendship and fellowship is the sharing of burdens:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.-Galatians 6:2 (NIV).

 What does it mean to carry the burden of another? This question has been in my mind all year as I have been contemplating the meaning and importance of interceding for my friends. A mentor of mine recommended that I read Intercessory Prayer by Dutch Sheets, and I have found the book considerably insightful and definitely challenging.

Sheets uses his knowledge of biblical Greek to highlight the meanings of scripture, and in chapter 5 of his book, he explains what it means to “Lean on me” in a biblical sense. He opens the chapter with an illustration of what it means to share in the suffering or humiliation with one another by providing support and then extrapolates explaining that to carry a burden means much more than simply being supportive.

“The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) and “Bear one another’s burden’s
 (Gal. 6.2). Although this involves [showing public support for one another], sharing each other’s pain, it does NOT convey the full scope of these verses. We’re not merely to carry the burdens for our brothers and sisters in Christ; we’re to carry them away… Big Difference! One involves sharing a load; the other involves removing a load.” (65)

He goes on to explain how there are two words for “bearing” in the New Testament.The first is ἀνεχόμενοι (anechomai) meaning “to sustain, bear or hold up against a thing”.  The Bible tells us to “bear with” one another in Col 3.13 and Eph 4:2.  As Sheets explains:

“[These passages are saying] “Stake yourselves to one another.” In other words, we’re to come along side a weak brother or sister who is “weighed down” and say ‘You’re not going to fall and be broken and destroyed, because I am staking myself to you. My strength is now yours. Go ahead, and lean on me. As long as I can stand, you will”. (64).

In other words, we stand together and carry one another. To use another Lord of the Rings  reference, we take the perspective of Sam and say  “I can’t carry it for you… but I can carry you!”.

The other word for bearing is βαστάζω (bastazo) meaning “to bear, lift or carry”- used in Romans 15:1-3 and Galatians 6:2. Sheets draws a relation to the Hebrew words paga (“laid on” or “intercession”) and nasa (“to bear away” or “remove to a distance”). These words are used to describe how Christ bore our sins and distanced them from us. Sheets emphasizes how intercession is “re-presenting” the work of Christ by declaring the His power and authority in the lives of othersWe are to take the burden of someone else upon ourselves and  work to distance them from their troubles – through prayer and intercession which is only possible because of Christ’s sacrifice and the authority given to His disciples through His name. 

In implementing Christ’s priestly ministry of intercession, we’re not simply to carry burdens for others; we’re to carry them away from others- just as Jesus did. (70)….

The Almighty administering the blessing of the covenant through us.  That’s what intercession is all about. Paga:  He “lays on” someone else’s need. Anechomai: We “stake” ourselves to that person. Bastazo: We “carry away” the weakness of burden.(73).”

The book continues explaining these concepts as well as prayer strategies and stories, but the premise is simple. The Biblical mandate is to support one another, to pray for burdens to be removed, to help tangibly in any way we can , and to continue to support one another and bear those burdens until the burden is no longer theirs to bear. 

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but this perspective has changed how I pray for my friends. I used to just pray for things, hoping that they go away and pray occasionally as I thought about the trouble. Now, I keep a journal page of things to stand in prayer with my friends for, and do my best to pray on a regular basis. And, I pray with expectation knowing that it is my duty and privilege to intercede for those I love. Instead of praying, “God help them get through this, and I pray that your will will be done”.

My prayer looks a little more like this: “Jesus, I know that You already paid the price for this burden. I know that the sacrifice You made on the cross was enough, and I believe that You can carry this away. Father, I know that You desire to see this trouble alleviated because you care for your children. So I ask in Jesus’ name that this burden be removed. I pray Lord that if there is anyway I can help bear this trouble and stand with my friend in support, that You would reveal it to me. I stand with my friend, I stake myself to them. I pray that I can help be their strength through the strength You have given me, and that I can share in both their sorrow and the joy on the other side of this struggle. Lord, I ask that You place distance between them and their sorrows, so that they can see Your goodness and truth. If I can help in anyway to carry this burden or to carry them, Lord please show me how to do so. I love You God, and I know we both love my dear friend. So I believe that you are working in this situation and I thank you for the moment when this burden is no longer theirs to bear because that moment will come. As it does, may all the glory be to You, Amen.”

I love my friends… and I will always bear with them. I can only hope that they will bear with me too because we all need one another and to quote the Beatles, “we get by with a little help from our friends”.

[Friendly disclaimer: intercession and burden bearing and all that jazz should not be confused with developing a sense of codependency. I’m not going to go into a long discourse about codependent relationships and the dangers of developing them. However, if relationships in your life send up unhealthy red flags, I would encourage you to consider investigating d.t.r. style.  I’ve personally been down that road before where friendships become obsessions, and it’s not a fun place to be. Healthy friendships are invaluable in life and are worth taking the time to consider and develop.]


While I opted not to participate in commencement activities, I am officially done with my undergraduate college career. Now it is time to step out and move onward…. 

The Road goes ever on and on down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, and I must follow, if I can, pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say.”- Lord of the Rings, J.R. Tolkien.