Thursday, September 23, 2010

On the Offensiveness of True Christian Living (as written by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is the September 22nd entry in the Oswald Chambers devotional Daily Thoughts for Disciples. Though well known for his popular devotional My Utmost for His Highest, many remain unaware of the bulk of Chamber's teachings (almost all about Christian living), found in some 30 books produced from his writings and lectures. Because of this, Chambers is ironically the best kept secret of Christianity. The following devotional entry is actually an excerpt from his book The Servant as His Lord.

When the Spirit of God comes in, we begin to realize [that] everything that is not of God has to be turned clean out. People are surprised and say, "I was told God would give the Holy Spirit to them that ask; well, I asked for the Holy Spirit and expected that He would bring me joy and peace, but I have had a terrible time ever since." That is the sign that he has come. He is turning out the "moneychangers and the cattle," the things that were making the temple [i.e., your body] into a trafficking place for self-realization.

We soon find why the gospel can never be welcome. As long as we speak winsomely about the meek and gentle Jesus and the beautiful ideas the Holy Spirit produces when He comes in, people are captivated, but that is not the gospel. The gospel does away with any other ground to stand on than that of the atonement. Speak about the peace of heaven and the joy of the Lord, and people will listen to you; but tell them that the Holy Spirit has to come in and turn out their claim to their right to themselves, and instantly there is resentment: "I can do what I like with my body. I can go where I choose."
The majority of people are not scoundrels and criminals, living in external sin. They are clean-living and respectable, and it is to such that the scourge of God is the most terrible thing, because it reveals that the natural virtues may be in idolatrous opposition to God.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time and the Engineering of God (the musings of an orthodox rebel)

"Arise, shine...." Is. 60:1

What are you doing with the time that you have been given, with the moments that God has engineered in your life? I am not talking about some general, abstract sense of "your life," but rather your immediate circumstances, the here and now. Are you filling up these current moments with what God has given you to do (no matter how great or small), or are you wasting time by moping and whining about what "should" or "could" be (or even what will be)? When it comes to practical energies and endeavors, "should" and "could" are always a snare. When action is called for, it is no good to suddenly deliberate about whether or not circumstances should or could be better and subsequently whether or not your efforts will succeed. Such concerns will leave you paralyzed, and thus make the here and now even more frustrating. You must not fix your focus on the formless future; keep it on the present moment with its more defined lines and edges. Keep your energies on the right now where you can actually do something (even small things); tomorrow is none of your business (Matt. 6:34). Most importantly, keep your eyes on God, on His presence and promises.

What glorious wasters of time we are! God has called us to a specific purpose. He then engineers our immediate circumstances to aid (in some way) in that purpose. However, we wrongly consider our circumstances. We see them as a detriment to God's purpose, or we don't see them at all and thus don't capitalize on them. In either case, we have set our gaze on some imagined future situation that we feel we must wait for, and as a result we get stuck in the mud. "Oh, but I must wait until this or that falls into place before I can do anything." If you don't start doing something(s) now in the small and quiet moments, then you will surely do nothing when ideal circumstances come, if they come at all. "Oh, but what's the point? I am not doing anything that matters right now." If that is so, then it is because you are not doing it. Everything in our lives is engineered by God to fulfill His purpose in our lives (Rom. 8:28). If you say that you believe that, then what are you doing with the current moments that you have been given? How are you using the tools at your disposal, even (and especially) the small or strange ones? If you are blessed right now with inordinate free time, are you filling it up on some level with what you are meant to do? If you are in odd or hard circumstances right now, what are you learning? Are you learning? Or are you filling up your time with nothingness while you simultaneously cry about the nothingness?

Epithet: Do not waste one drop of time that God has given to you. It was given for a reason.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

Homily 13: On the Righteous and Awakening (as preached by an orthodox rebel)

"Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness...." Ps. 112:4a

The righteous life is not a matter of smug piety and self-satisfaction; rather, it is a matter of seeing things as they are. The whole world lies in darkness, and fallen humanity stumbles about. The redeemed of the Lord are simply those whom light has shined upon, and now they can see. Their walk is now marked with flashes of realization and awakening. Reality becomes clearer and clearer. At long last, what's truly important can be clung to, what's non-essential can be held loosely, and what's evil can be properly abhorred. Where once we could only make half-guesses and hope for the best, now we receive true knowledge. Where once we were blind, now we see.

This clarity is not absolute and instantaneous. Reality is not comprehended in an instant nor in entirety. How can it be? God is Reality, the most real, and He is beyond absolute comprehension (Rom. 11:33). The righteous life does not mean an end to mystery. What it does mean is that "there arises light in the darkness," momentary yet momentous illuminations that give us the clarity that we desperately need at that moment. For now, we know in part; one day, we will know in full (I Cor. 13:9-12). Until then, let us praise the God who lights our night with His presence and truth, the God who is "gracious and full of compassion and righteousness" (Ps. 112:4b).

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Journalism Misses the Point (a prophetic aside by an Original Orthodox Rebel)

The following is from chapter 4 of Chesterton's novel The Ball and the Cross:

It is the one great weakness of journalism as a picture of our modern existence that it must be a picture made up entirely of exceptions. We announce on flaring posters that a man has fallen off a scaffolding. We do not announce on flaring posters that a man has not fallen off a scaffolding. Yet this latter fact is fundamentally more exciting, as indicating that that moving tower of terror and mystery, a man, is still abroad upon the earth. That the man has not fallen off a scaffolding is really more sensational; and it is also some thousand times more common. But journalism cannot reasonably be expected thus to insist upon the permanent miracles. Busy editors cannot be expected to put on their posters, "Mr. Wilkinson Still Safe," or "Mr. Jones, of Worthing, Not Dead Yet." They cannot announce the happiness of mankind at all. They cannot describe all the forks that are not stolen, or all the marriages that are not judiciously dissolved. Hence the complete picture they give of life is of necessity fallacious; they can only represent what is unusual. However democratic they may be, they are only concerned with the minority.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

On Despairing in a Bookstore: Prose Edition (the musings of an orthodox rebel)

(Note: Find and read the poem editions here and here.)

"Give us help from trouble, for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly, for it is He that shall tread down our enemies." Ps. 108:12-13

I have often found bookstores to be terrifying places. Apart from being black holes for a certain unnamed blogger's time and money, they can create an overwhelming sense of smallness. Within those wooden halls (whose walls are bleached with the stench of coffee), there is a seemingly infinite amount of thought and opinion floating around, coalescing together into a monstrous edifice of worldly wisdom and consideration. Before such a modern tower of Babel, one can feel extremely tiny and alone. I am not referring to that childish notion about how your individual beliefs could possibly be true before such a saturated intellectual marketplace (for mere vast numbers of counter claims and opinions do not negate the truthfulness of any one idea). What I am referring to is a sense of impotence and hopelessness before it all: even if what you believe is true, what does it matter? The sea of human opinion is vast and varied beyond any possible charting. How can you possibly hope to make any noticeable dent in it?

As already stated, this is not a problem with unbelief but rather despair. If you lose faith in one belief, then you can (and will) exchange it for another and move on with your life. If, however, you still have faith but feel as though it is faith in a lost cause, then what can you do? You know that Christ alone has the words of life, and thus there is really nowhere else to go (John 6:67-68); yet the darkness around your little circle of light seems impenetrable, an unholy mountain range of impassable crags and impossible caves. In short, you have great faith in what you believe but no faith in making it matter. Any and every escapade into the dark seems a frustrating failure, leaving you to "reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man" until you are "at [your] wit's end" (Ps. 107:27). Your feelings of smallness and loneliness are confirmed, and they spill over into feelings of uselessness, with all ending in despair.

It is at these points of desolation and discouragement that we must remember: "vain is the help of man," including ourselves. If we are despairing right now in the face of looming and accumulated public thought and opinion, then it is because we see the fight as ours and not God's. It is through Him and Him alone that "we shall do valiantly." I am not saying that we will knock the whole giant monolith of counter/non-Christian opinion over in a night (nor am I not saying that). What I am saying is that whatever our impact upon it (be it great or small), it will only come through God, not us. There is a thing that He has given each of us to do, some sharp sword to stick in the side of the spirit of the age and the prince of this world, a sword specific to each of us. If we see that sword as a matter of our own strengths and abilities, then we will feel smothered beneath the shadow of the world. However, if we "seek the Lord and His strength," then we will rejoice (Ps. 105:3-4) and go singing into the dark.

Epithet: Let the unquenchable joy of the Lord be your strength and His unconquerable strength be your joy.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2010