Reflections


Two years ago I was performing my EMT clinicals.  One of the EMTs gave me a word I haven’t forgotten.  When we waited in the break area between calls, I skimmed a medical book and commented that the hardest part of the job for me would be to see the more grotesque injuries.  I’m ok seeing my own blood, but wince at someone else’s injuries- avulsions, contusions, open fractures, lacerations, etc.  The EMT answered me, but I didn’t think he’d heard.  He said, “The patient is the one with the problem.” 

The pateint has the trauma.  You treat them.  You are not the one with the overdose or trauma at the end of the day.  It is someone else.

The praticality comes when applying this to theology.  As I’ve put my ear to the culture and listened to doctrines, more influenced by the spirit of the age than the Spirit of Christ, I’ve come away feeling the maladies.  Denial of Hell, diplomacy on the virgin birth, denial on the penal substitutionary atonement, mitigation sin, mitigation of the deity of Christ, etc.  I’ve come away feeling queasy myself.  Then I remembered, at the end of the day, the patient has the problem.  I remembered, you don’t defend a lion, you turn it loose; you loose the cure for all maladies of theological traumas, the Word of God, and let it speak itself.  God’s breath cuts and pierces and treats these maladies better than any surgeon’s scalpel.  I don’t need to address every scoffer that comes around, but I need to be ready to turn the scalpel loose on those who would here and be quickened under its power.

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The word genius is conferred to few as an apithet, but certainly it applies to Leonardo DaVinci. As I visited a display of his labors this weekend at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, I became gripped with just how much of a genius he was. The singular aspect of his work that impressed me more than any other was how he was able to take the breadth of his learning and make many areas of study subservient to the one he was focusing on- whether using geometry to enhance the beauty of paintings, studying water currents for the design of flying apparatus that would sail on the air, or harnessing the properties of physics in civil engineering to design more efficient water transportation devices. He made use of each area and it seemed even if he was designing a machine, he wanted it to have an aesthetic, but functional, beauty. He was a master not because he saw one area as independent from the rest, but interdependent on the others.
DaVinci strikes me as a rare genius because he could be called not only an artist or sculptor, but an engineer and a mathematician too. There seems a sharp contrast between these two fields, of the freeform and unrestrained liberality of art on the one hand and the suffocatingly stringent rigorous nature of the engineers who found their understandings based on proofs, theories, and laws on the other. The two fields are disparate to many and cause sides to be chosen by those in each; the artist esteems the heart and scoffs at delving too deeply into the nature of things, they just are, he says, and by delving too deeply into mysteries you miss the blessing; the logician elevates the mind and harnesses its power as a machine to crank out all matter of formulas and principles while looking with apprehension at the volatile character of the emotions. The emotions to the engineer are altogether too fickle to be trusted while the mind to the artist is too callous.
DaVinci showed that by more thoroughly understanding one subject, we can be helped in others by broadening our scope of the way things work. DaVinci showed the body is not just anatomy and physiology, it is mechanics and physics, it is structure, geometry, and so much more. Neither the human body, nor the body of Christ is broken up into one group that defines what it is; it is many parts, many functions, and many unique areas meant to complement each other and work together.

Charles Spurgeon said a century ago, “Everywhere is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is the better.” That is the theme in a two-dvd set by John MacArthur entitled Does the Truth Matter Anymore? I am very grateful to the friend that loaned it to me. I also have been challenged by MacArthur’s emphasis on doctrine and his stressing that the Word of God be preached as it is. The results are in God’s hands. In the dvds, MacArthur parallels the influence of modernism in the church in Spurgeon’s day to the emphasis today on pragmatism.
Spurgeon saw the slippery slope of modernism eroding away the integrity of the church from the inside out. But what is modernism? Simply put, modernism was the ideal at the end of the 19th century that the church not stress doctrine so much, but just try to love each other more. It sounds great. Yet it created a breeding ground where its leaven went into the church and worked its way through so that tenets central to the faith like the Sovereignty of God, the virgin birth of Christ, original sin, etc. came under fire. Whole denominations were wiped out by the modernist epidemic. Much of Europe stands as spiritual wasteland because of modernism and many churches have become museums- crypts where spiritual corpses handle the Word of the Living God. In the dearth of conviction of sin and the teaching and living out of objective truth, morality has spiraled downwards in those places as well.
In modern times, MacArthur warns us about the rising tide of pragmatism in the church. And what is pragmatism? Pragmatism is being user-friendly. It means putting more emphasis on marketing than faithfully preaching the Word of God. It means catering to the carnal interests of church members; if the people aren’t coming to church, the church should just have more activities, open a cappuccino bar, and not try to worry about doctrine, but keep the messages short so people can get out and have a nice Sunday lunch.
The prevelance of pragmatic thought has shaped how we view the success of a mission or a church. Now, the success of a mission is deemed effective based on the number of people who simply “make a decision for Christ.” The Puritans, by contrast, simply considered their mission successful if they were faithful to the Word of God.
I am sad. It seems pragmatism and modernism have so pervaded much of the church that many are afraid to call heretical teaching’s into question. “Well, you may not like his views… But to call him a heretic?” I talk to brothers and sisters who like to read popular “Christian” books, with little depth. One conceded, “yeah, a lot of the stuff that guy says is way out there, but I like some of his thoughts”. “Well even if this and that are wrong, God can still use it.” God spoke through an ass to Balaam, so obviously he can use teachings stricken with spiritual cyanide, but does that give us an excuse to ignore doctrine and embrace every movement that comes along?
I close with some of the words that have especially convicted me on how to approach my time and selection of what I read, “Before picking up a book, ask yourself: Would Christ approve of this book? Will it increase my love for the Word of God, help me to conquer sin, offer abiding wisdom, and help me to prepare for the life to come? Or could I better spend time reading another book?” -Joel R. Beeke
Bury yourself in the wisdom and love of God of the saints: Augustine, Cavlin, Luther, Spurgeon, Amy Carmichael, C.S. Lewis, John Bunyan, John MacArthur, John Owen, Elisabeth Elliot, and many others.

I went for a run yesterday and on my way back, around 5 pm, I saw a dove under some shrubs with a worm in its mouth. That’s interesting I thought. A little later I went for a walk and saw a robin with a worm hanging from its beak after 8 pm. The second bird made me think about this again. I guess it disproves that old adage, “The early bird gets the worm.”
What conclusion could we draw from this? Well my first thought, being the overly analytical, overly spiritual man I have been called, has been to point to one of Christ’s parables. Jesus, in explaining the reward of heaven, showed that the workers who toiled in the field all day (the birds getting up early) would receive the same reward from their Master as those workers who had just started tending the field before the day ended (the birds getting their worm at the close of the day). The essential thing is that they enter Christ’s labor field. So, whether you have been a Christian 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years, your reward is enterity with Christ in heaven, and the “least in heaven” is greater than the greastest man born of a woman (Luke 7:28). Though this passage sparks a tangent and could well be material for another or several more blogs- Christ’s words that the least in heaven implies that there are degrees among those in heaven. This is extremely subordinate to following Christ, but what causes one to be greater or lesser in heaven?
The limiations to these parallels are obvious- the birds getting up early do not have to toil all day once they find their food and also, the birds getting up early receive their reward before the other birds even start to labor, while in the parable the first workers got paid last. However, I was suprised to see the late bird getting the worm and wanted to share my excitement.

I breathed deeply as I looked ahead. I stared out a glass pane in front of me, transfixed by our speed of ascent; the ships in port grew smaller and smaller. The ground began to shake beneath my feet as we rose. Inches of metal beneath my feet separated me from death.
As I went to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle, I found myself reliving my hatred of suspended heights. How could the workers in it and the rest be so oblivious to how the observation deck swayed at the top? Of course it was constructed with safety in mind and sound engineering principles, but being 500 feet from land still does not allow the amount I am convinced in my mind to transcend into my stomach. But then I remembered that just the day before I sat inches from the window of the airplane at a height of 40,000 feet and temperature of -80 F! A break in that glass and a giant pressure vacuum ensues, temperature plummet in the cabin, Oxygen becomes scarce, and a life threatening situation is imminent. Yet this caused me the least concen.
The fact is this: every single day we live, we are given the breath of God. Greek mythologies devised their own philosophy to comprehend this phenomenon. They created three muses: one drew out the cord of life, the second measured it, and the third cut it. Christ asked his followers, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt 6:27). We are to live to God as best we can. Somewhere above, the days of our lives are measured out. We may have the security of the ground beneath our feet or be only inches from death, but neither the danger of the one nor the safety of the other is any final guarantee; God will take us when he takes us. By knowing God, we may know our fraility, but by knowing that and knowing God, we may rest content more than the workers on the top of the towers who trust in man’s strength, having an eternal assurance.

When I looked at my journal the other night, I found an entry from December, from Christmas day actually, that rather convicted me. A lot of it has to do with my motivations for following God, and whether I am motivated by God alone or by something else. It doesn’t have the best literary value. It is though an assessment of my spiritual vitals and what it is that keeps me and what it is that breathing keeps my heart beating.

If I were to be nothing, would I still follow? If I never married or was never accepted by the woman who grabbed my heart in a special way, would I still be able to love others and maintain convictions on living a holy life, taking account of what I watch, listen to, and seek for entertainment? If I never had the opportunity to go on a missions trip, would I still pray and dream and believe? If no one listened to me on the changes in my life, but ignored me, and I never “led anyone to faith,” would I still make time for and cherish time in the middle of the night with God, reading and praying, with no one to know about it except God?

Lyrics get me too.
Inevitably, the songs I really find run through my head, I end up being able, at a later date, to trace back to Scripture; usually this is ends up being a verse, or a paraphrase of a set of verses.
Sometimes songs run through my head that I find to be exactly counter to Scripture. One popular contemporary piece has the words, “My sacrifice is not what You can give, but what I alone can give to you… A thankful heart I give, a prayerful prayer I pray, a wild dance I dance before You.” It has a very catchy beat, but stands in contrast to Romans 11:35-36 “Who has given a gift to [God] that he might be repaid? For FROM him and THROUGH him and TO him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Amen Paul. Or again we see the theme echoed in Job 35:7, “If you are righteous, what do you give to [God]? Or what does he receive from your hand?” and Job 41:11 “Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” Amen Job. We cannot give God something he has already given us. If we give God a thankful heart, it is because he has allowed us to be thankful. God has loosed feet to dance, lips to sing, and hands to be raised and celebrate. Imagine the mother after giving birth to a son exclaiming, “this joy is not what You can give, God, but only what I can give back to You,” all the while not considering that God gave her the child and the spontaneous emotion of delight in it.
I also love the tune Amazing Love, yet find myself silent during the chorus, “in all I do, I honor you.” I know no Christian of whom that is true.
This bugs me because it is wrong. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like to have an elevated feeling when I worship, but not at the cost of contradicting scripture. If there is no root of truth in the praises we sing and in the emotions we feel, the branch of woship we seek will dry up, wither, and die.
There are thousands and more great songs, and God is calling for himself worshippers in spirit and truth. These worshippers will come and go along with skewed worship tunes, with little harm, but further rejoicing in God. This short discourse just reminds that there are tares sewn in among the wheat of worship songs, and wolves disguised as sheep within the flock. The words look right and feel right, but if believed, they dangerously contradict the Scripture and can prop the door of deceit open for the entry of further untruths. Let us seek out those doors and bar them shut with the Light of Truth by reading, praying, memorizing, and studying the Bible and by trembling before God.

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