Blog

May I kill it?

Posted on: May 11th, 2014 by mattpapa 2 Comments

 

I am so thankful for the gospel-metaphorical-power in the writings of C.S. Lewis.  In a discipleship/counseling situation the other day, I was reminded of this passage from “The Great Divorce”.  I read it aloud, and as I did, the presence of the Lord fell.  I pray the same might happen as you read and that God might use it in your life.

Before you read let me give a framework.

“The Great Divorce” is a story about a group of “ghosts” from purgatory or hell who take a bus trip to the foothills of heaven where they meet “spirits” who urge them to journey upward.  The ghosts are all self-centered, fragile, “unsubstantial” creatures, and the spirits are all large, solid, unselfish, happy people.  What follows is a powerful scene where our narrator, a ghost, observes an awesome encounter between another ghost and a spirit/angel…..

=

I saw coming towards us a Ghost who carried something on his shoulder. Like all the Ghosts, he was unsubstantial, but they differed from one another as smokes differ. Some had been whitish; this one was dark and oily. What sat on his shoulder was a little red lizard, and it was twitching its tail like a whip and whispering things in his ear. As we caught sight of him he turned his head to the reptile with a snarl of impatience. “Shut up, I tell you!” he said. It wagged its tail and continued to whisper to him. He ceased snarling, and presently began to smile. Then he turned and started to limp westward, away from the mountains.

“Off so soon?” said a voice.

The speaker was more or less human in shape but larger than a man, and so bright that I could hardly look at him. His presence smote on my eyes and on my body too (for there was heat coming from him as well as light) like the morning sun at the beginning of a tyrannous summer day.

“Yes. I’m off,” said the Ghost. “Thanks for all your hospitality. But it’s no good, you see.

I told this little chap,” (here he indicated the lizard), “that he’d have to be quiet if he came -which he insisted on doing. Of course his stuff won’t do here: I realise that. But he won’t stop. I shall just have to go home.”

“Would you like me to make him quiet?” said the flaming Spirit-an angel, as I now understood.

“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.

“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.

“Oh-ah-look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.

“Don’t you want him killed?”

“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardlv meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”

“It’s the onlv way,” said the Angel, whose burning hands were now very close to the lizard. “Shall I kill it?”

“Well, that’s a further question. I’m quite open to consider it, but it’s a new point, isn’t it? I mean, for the moment I was only thinking about silencing it because up here-well, it’s so damned embarrassing.”

“May I kill it?”

“Well, there’s time to discuss that later.”

“There is no time. May I kill it?”

“Please, I never meant to be such a nuisance. Please-really-don’t bother. Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”

“May I kill it?”

“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. I think the gradual process would be far better than killing it.”

“The gradual process is of no use at all.”

“Don’t you think so? Well, I’ll think over what you’ve said very carefully. I honestly will. In fact I’d let you kill it now, but as a matter of fact I’m not feeling frightfully well to-day. It would be silly to do it now. I’d need to be in good health for the operation. Some other day, perhaps.”

“There is no other day. All days are present now.”

“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”

“It is not so.”

“Why, you’re hurting me now.”

“I never said it wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”

“Oh, I know. You think I’m a coward. But it isn’t that. Really it isn’t. I say! Let me run back by tonight’s bus and get an opinion from my own doctor. I’ll come again the first moment I can.”

“This moment contains all moments.”

“Why are you torturing me? You are jeering at me. How can I let you tear me to pieces? If you wanted to help me, why didn’t you kill the damned thing without asking me-before I knew? It would be all over by now if you had.”

“I cannot kill it against your will. It is impossible. Have I your permission?”

The Angel’s hands were almost closed on the Lizard, but not quite. Then the Lizard began chattering to the Ghost so loud that even I could hear what it was saying.

“Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. It’s not natural. How could you live? You’d be only a sort of ghost, not a real man as you are now. He doesn’t understand. He’s only a cold, bloodless abstract thing. It may be natural for him, but it isn’t for us. Yes, yes. I know there are no real pleasures now, only dreams. But aren’t they better than nothing? And I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again. I’ll give you nothing but really nice dreams-all sweet and fresh and almost innocent. You might say, quite innocent____”

“Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.

“I know it will kill me.”

“It won’t. But supposing it did?”

“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”

“Then I may?”

“Damn and blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over. Do what you like,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”

Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard on Earth. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.

“Ow! That’s done for me,” gasped the Ghost, reeling backwards.

For a moment I could make out nothing distinctly. Then I saw, between me and the nearest bush, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the upper arm and the shoulder of a man. Then, brighter still and stronger, the legs and hands. The neck and golden head materialised while I watched, and if my attention had not wavered I should have seen the actual completing of a man-an immense man, naked, not much smaller than the Angel. What distracted me was the fact that at the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Its hinder parts grew rounder. The tail, still flickering, became a tail of hair that flickered between huge and glossy buttocks. Suddenly I started back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold. It was smooth and shining, rippled with swells of flesh and muscle, whinneying and stamping with its hoofs. At each stamp the land shook and the trees dindled.

The new-made man turned and clapped the new horse’s neck. It nosed his bright body. Horse and master breathed each into the other’s nostrils. The man turned from it, flung himself at the feet of the Burning One, and embraced them. When he rose I thought his face shone with tears, but it may have been only the liquid love and brightness (one cannot distinguish them in that country) which flowed from him. I had not long to think about it. In joyous haste the young man leaped upon the horse’s back. Turning in his seat he waved a farewell, then nudged the stallion with his heels. They were off before I well knew what was happening. There was riding if you like! I came out as quickly as I could from among the bushes to follow them with my eyes; but already they were only like a shooting star far off on the green plain, and soon among the foothills of the mountains. Then, still like a star, I saw them winding up, scaling what seemed impossible steeps, and quicker every moment, till near the dim brow of the landscape, so high that I must strain my neck to see them, they vanished, bright themselves, into the rose-brightness of that everlasting morning.

=

The stubborn mercy of God.  He waits for us.  He will not move past what is important.  He will not budge from it.  We smother our convictions with distraction, but He is always there waiting….back there at the fork in the road where we took the foolish turn.  ”Shall I kill it?” He says to us.  And mercifully, the conversation will not go anywhere else….anywhere else….until our answer is “Yes”.

Writing that you might say “yes”,

Matt

Clean, but not organized

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 by mattpapa 1 Comment

 

About 6 months ago i cleaned out our garage.  As most americans know, this was no easy task.  Culturally (for those of us who are “normal”) the garage is simply the place where you throw all your junk that you have no idea what to do with.

“Put it in the garage.”

So i finally carved out a couple days and did it, and it was clean.

There.

Selah.

About 2 days ago I cleaned out our garage.  Yes.  Again.  It was a landfill.  Again.  What the hec happened?

Well….about 6 months ago (like i said) i cleaned our garage….but I didn’t organize it.  Stuff was neat and tidy and tucked away, but there wasn’t a system to guide the ongoing cleanliness of the garage.  so,

“I don’t know…..put it over there…”

Happened enough times and now…..we have another hiroshima.  Another mess.

What’s the point.

Ok.

St. Augustine talked about the fact that the problem with the human heart is that we have disordered loves.  Let me make sure you heard that correctly.  He said our problem is not our problems.  Not our sins.  But our loves.  They are not ordered.  They are not organized.

The natural tendency of the human heart is to clean itself up.  And this applies to the christian AND the non-christian.  We all feel the need to “get ourselves together”….and we do this either through self-discovery (the nonbeliever) or moral conformity (the believer) (as tim keller so aptly puts it).

So every 6 months or so there is a revival of “clean up time”.  Alright.  Buckle down.  Get it done.  Finally do it.  And you go on a cleaning spree.  you throw the beer in the trash.  you get a new devotional book.  you burn the porn.  you start evangelizing daily.  you wake up at 4 am and sing every tomlin song you know.

The garage is finally clean, and man you feel good.  (i mean really.  after i cleaned that thing i wanted to sleep in there.)

But what happens?  You guessed it.

You mess up again.  And after a little time….. the garage….your life….it’s another bomb site.  And why is this?

you.  didn’t.  organize.

a problem came and you didn’t know where to put it.  a blessing came and you didn’t know where to put it.

What did my garage need?  To be cleaned?  Yes.  But what did it also need?  It needed someone….an image bearer of God….to come in there and say “this goes here and it always goes here”.  “This is trash and so it goes in the trash can.”  “This is important and so it always goes here.”

and do you know that’s what you need?  what I need?

we need for Someone to not only cleanse us…but for Someone…..The Image of God….to come in and order us.  To arrange us.  To put our restless, messy hearts at rest.  to come in and say this is important and it goes here.  This is worth keeping but you don’t need it now.  This is an idol and it goes in the trash.  this you need, and you need to use it everyday.

THAT’S what you need.  but you must invite Him in.  you must let Him.

You must trust in His blood to cleanse you and you must actively trust in His power to change you.  You must believe that only his wisdom and goodness can order your heart and life in such a way that it doesn’t become a wasteland again…..reeking and moldy and always making people trip and generally just not doing what it was made to do.

Let me reiterate….we don’t organize our loves/lives.  We can’t.  But He can.  Let Him come in.  Surrender.  Let him order everything for your good and for your joy.

He will throw some things away.   He will give you some new things.  He will put some things out of your reach.

But He loves you.  Look at the cross.   He will die to see to it that you are clean, and that you stay that way.

Writing that you might be so,

Matt

 

The problem with seeking God’s will

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by mattpapa 22 Comments

 

 “God knows what is better for us. Let us seek only that our heart be free from sin.” – Augustine

I have spent too much of my life, and my prayer life, asking for God to lead me into His “perfect will”.  “God lead me”.  “Guide me”.  “Use me”.  “Bless me”.  While I know that God is a gracious, condescending God who meets us wherever we are, I something wonder if God has been up there saying….

“Um…yeah.  I’m Your Shepherd.  That’s what I do.”

So there’s a problem revealed here.  If I really believed that God was good….that He was my dad who was all powerful and all knowing and all loving….then I wouldn’t be repeatedly begging him to lead me with this certain twinge of anxiety.  I would relax.  Dad’s got me.  Chill.

But I don’t believe it, obviously.  And yet the problem goes deeper still.  If the pulse of my prayer life is set on my future (“God lead me guide me help me”), and not on God Himself (“Our Father who art in heaven”) then this has revealed that there is really a rival god in the mix.  An idol.  “Success” or perhaps “Comfort” or “Control”.  I want my best life now, not Jesus.  Really what I have been asking is….”God make my life go perfectly”.  “Make it exceptional.”  “Make my life epic.”

Now….there’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking God’s guidance.  But ask yourself this….”If the world could read my prayer journal….all in all…..would God look more like a genie or a treasure?”

Why are we so obsessed with “it” (God’s will) unless knowing “it” is more desirable to us than knowing “Him”?

Maybe God doesn’t want your life to be epic.  Maybe He wants it to be normal.  Maybe He wants your heart to be epic.  And the path to seeing this accomplished is….your heart made more like his….will actually not come through the achievement of your plans but through their mutilation.  God, for His children, will patiently and lovingly deny them of their desires until what they desire is Him.

“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”

What are you seeking?  God or something He can give you.  Your happiness is at stake.  Your soul is at stake.

Writing that you might want Him,

Matt

 

True Repentance

Posted on: March 4th, 2014 by mattpapa 1 Comment

 

The following is an excerpt of a Tim Keller sermon that I listened to recently called, “Removing Idols of the Heart”.  I have used it in several counseling situations recently, and it has been very helpful, so I thought I would just post it for the world.  In the sermon, Keller echoes Stephen Charnock (Puritan) in talking about the way we truly change, and the difference between self-pity and repentance.  READ:

==============================

“The way in which you destroy the power of a sin is to take it to the cross, not to Mount Sinai. Take it to Mount Calvary, not to Mount Sinai. I’ll explain this for a minute.

If you take a sin to Mount Sinai that means you’re thinking about the danger of it. You’re thinking about how it has messed up your life. You’re thinking about all the punishments that are probably going to come down on you for it. That is not repentance; that is self-pity. Self-pity and repentance are two different things. I came to a place in my life where I realized 90 percent of what I thought I had been doing as repentance throughout most of my life was really just self-pity.

The difference between self-pity and repentance is this: Self-pity is thinking about what a mess your sin got you into. Self-pity is thinking about the consequences of it, what a wreck it’s made of you, how God will probably get me for it, or how my parents will probably get me for it, or how my boss will probably get me for it, or all the problems it will create in my life or already has created in my life. “Oh, Lord, how sorry I am this has happened. Oh, Lord, get this out of my life.” What you’re really doing is saying, “I hate the consequences of this sin,” but you haven’t learned to hate the sin. What is happening is instead of hating the sin, you’re hating the consequences of the sin, and you’re hating yourself for being so stupid.

Self-pity leads to continuing to love the sin so it still has power over you but hating yourself. Real repentance is when you say, “What has this sin done to God? What has it cost God? What does God feel about it?” Let me give you an interesting example of two guys who wrote 300 or 400 years ago. One man’s name is Stephen Charnock. Stephen Charnock tries to explain the difference between taking your sin to Mount Sinai, where you just look at the danger of it, and taking your sin to the cross, where you see what effect it’s had on God.

When you see what effect it has had on the loving God who died so you wouldn’t do it, who died for your holiness, when you begin to see that…it melts you, and it makes you begin to hate the sin. It begins to lose its attractive power over you. Instead of making you hate yourself…you find you hate it, and so the idol begins to get crushed bit by bit. Listen carefully to Stephen Charnock, because he’s using old English. Charnock says there is a difference between a legalistic (religious) conviction of sin and an evangelical (Christian) one.

“A legal (religious) conviction of sin ariseth from a consideration of God’s justice chiefly, an evangelical conviction of sin from a sense of God’s goodness.” Now hear this. “A legally convinced person cries out, ‘I have exasperated a power that is as the roaring of a lion … I have provoked one that is the Sovereign Lord of heaven and earth whose word can tear up the foundation of the world …’ But an evangelically convinced person cries, ‘I have incensed the goodness that is like the dropping of a dew. I have offended a God that had his hands stretched out to me as a friend. My heart must be made of marble. My heart must be made of iron to throw his blood in his face.’ ”

==============================

Love ≠ Open-mindedness

Posted on: February 14th, 2014 by mattpapa 6 Comments

 

We live in the “same love” culture.   The new ethic is sincerity.  If he’s into guys, cool.  If she’s into girls, ok.   If that’s his religion, then it’s true for him.  If she wants to kill it, then that’s her choice.  Don’t judge, don’t offend, don’t disrupt.

Chill out evangelicals.

Granted….and sadly…Christians haven’t been the most gracious when it comes to these topics.  However…

Love ≠ open-mindedness.

Love is intense.  We all know this.

Nearly everyday my kids sincerely don’t want to sit in their carseats.  What does love do?  “Ok, no big deal honey, sit wherever you want.”

No.

Love does this:  “Put your bottom in your carseat right now, or I will come put it there myself.”

If you have a friend who is making decisions that are ruining their life, love doesn’t stand by and watch it.  It sits them down…it gets in their face.

As it’s been said, the opposite of love is not hate.  It is indifference.

Love gets angry when the good of it’s beloved is threatened.

“To love is will the good of another.”  (T. Aquinas)

It turns out that our culture’s view of love is self-defeating.  If to love is to will the good of another, but in a culture of “non-judgmentalism” and “tolerance” a standard of good is lost, then love is lost.

Truth without love is bigotry, and quite often, Christians have been bigots.  But love without truth is cowardice.  And we live in a culture of cowards.

Stand up.  Do something.  Say something.  For love’s sake.  Be cool or be loving.  You can’t be both.