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Archive for June, 2008


Read a brief interview with Tim Keller about his upcoming book, The Prodigal God.  They talked about the title (the subtitle has been changed).  A commenter found the use of prodigal in reference to God to be blasphemous.  Richard Pratt used the dictum that “meaning is use.”  Words have a range of meaning, so you must ask which is being used.  So, I looked up the various meanings of prodigal.

–adjective

1. wastefully or recklessly extravagant: prodigal expenditure.
2. giving or yielding profusely; lavish (usually fol. by of or with): prodigal of smiles; prodigal with money.
3. lavishly abundant; profuse: nature’s prodigal resources.

–noun

4. a person who spends, or has spent, his or her money or substance with wasteful extravagance; spendthrift.

Not all of the uses in the range of meaning imply impropriety.  How Tim Keller is using it is determinative, not how a reader interprets it (unless we all want to become literary deconstructionists, which the aforementioned critic would quickly disavow). 

God is lavish in his love and grace, far more than we his people can be.  This is the point of the parable, that God is lavish in love and mercy while we self-righteous religious folks are anything but.  We’d rather hammer a brother over our misgivings about the title of a book.  I can be the Pharisee too … I need to repeatedly hear of God’s lavishly abundant love for me, the richness of his mercy and outpouring of his grace.  So, I’m looking forward to reading about the God who left home to bring people like me home to him.

Update: Tullian Tchividjian asked Tim about it, and got a great response.

Update #2: Between 2 Worlds (Justin Taylor) reminds us of Spurgeon’s sermon on this text-  Many Kisses for Returning Sinners, or Prodigal Love for the Prodigal Son.  Love the way he uses 2 different meaning for the same word in the same sentence.  Love Spurgeon!

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“Keep hope alive.”  Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that hope was a fragile thing.  And there is nothing Evil wants to do as much as kill hope that we might be overcome with despair.

Hope is one of those words that is easily misunderstood.  Often we think of it as a wish.  I hope the Red Sox win tonight.  But for the Christian, hope is far more profound that that.  As one whose hope is under siege, I needed to read The Dream of Hope in The Healing Path by Dan Allender.

“Hope is the quiet, sometimes incessant call to dream for the future.  The present moment is not enough to satisfy our souls completely; no matter how good or bad, the now leaves us hungering for more.  … Biblical hope is substantial faith regarding the future.”

Hope is not vague, but substantial.  It has weight to it, specifics.  And this is why hope can be so maddening.  It seems so far off at times, as if those desires are impossible to fulfill.

“Only the lenses of faith can put suffering into perspective.  When faith enables us to remember how God has redeemed portions of our past, our anticipation of when and how he will redeem us in the future increases.  … Gabriel Marcel defined hope as “a memory of the future.”

Hope looks past present suffering, aided by past deliverance.  Hope is sure God will come through, at some point, and deliver because he has a track record of delivering his people.  He has a track record of delivering me, so as I suffer I look ahead to when he eventually will reach down and lift me up.

We keep hope alive, in part, by reciting how God has delivered his people and us over time.  We remember, dragging those memories from the forgotten parts of our minds.  We rehearse God’s past faithfulness so we will lean on his future faithfulness rather than despair and give up.

“Hope focuses not on our circumstances, but on Christ’s coming and the redemption of our character.  .. My heart will never become any bigger than that in which or in whom I hope.  … Hope is a muscle that must be nourished and exercised daily to grow throug the normal nutrients of knowing and doing God’s will.  I wish hope progressed naturally and easily just as our body develops from infancy to adulthood.  Instead, hope grows through encounters that require us to risk, struggle, surrender and wait.”

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This weekend I had the privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony of a great friend who was marrying a great woman.  They are … a great couple.

Since it was nearly 2 hours away drive-time, and CavGirl was the flower girl, we ended up staying in a Residence Inn about 30 minutes away from the wedding site.  We packed up the car and headed out Friday morning, hoping to enjoy some time at the hotel before naps.  Alas, that was not to be so since it took longer to get there than I had anticipated.  It was farther north than I thought, which was advantageous when it came to going back and forth for rehearsal & the wedding with 2 toddlers.

The front desk informed us that due to a lightning strike, they would have to test the alarm system that afternoon.  But they checked our room before we even got settled in.

After I unloaded the car, I set out to iron my clothes for that evening.  I wouldn’t be able to do it with the kids down for a nap.  At that point CavWife asked about the dresses for CavGirl, and her own clothing for the festivities that night and the next.  “Huh?  What clothes?  I thought you got them?”  I was informed that I actually had to move them off my suit to load it into the car.  She was without appropriate clothing for the rehearsal and dinner to follow.   Neither of us was happy.

Now I’m checking out the LG HD LCD TVs in the rooms.  I have TV envy- the picture is so incredibly sharp.  After the kids enjoy their lunch it is off to bed for them.  I wonder, what are we eating?  Apparently I’m off to hunt up some grub for 2 starving adults.  After splitting a McDonald’s Asian salad and some McTenders we settle in for the afternoon.  All was going fabulously until I started to get ready for the rehearsal.  Suddenly the alarms for the whole building are blaring- the kids are screaming (well, they had to get up anyway).  It is so ear-piercing we take them out by the pool to calm them down.  I couldn’t even think in there.  This is the effect they wanted them to have.  But I had flashbacks to 3 am fire alarms in college.

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The struggle between faith and doubt takes place in every Christian’s heart.  Our circumstances can foster doubts.  These doubts will either drive the roots of faith deeper, or expose that our faith is misplaced such we “lose our faith.”

Dan Allender addresses this in The Wager of Faith, part of The Healing Path.  Here are some things I need to remember, and perhaps you need to remember as faith and doubt do war in your soul.

“Faith involves placing our well-being into the hands of others who we hope are committed to do us good.”

God is committed to my well-being.  Ruthlessly committed to my well-being.  This does not mean that my circumstances will be good, but that God is conforming me to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-9).  Not everyone is so committed to my well-being, and sometimes we are betrayed.

“Our past may blind us or distort what we consider good or bad, but our conscience continues to warn, chide, and rejoice in truthful loving. … Faith is trust in the goodness of God.”

Our own sinfulness, our particular sins and how we’ve been sinned against color our perspective.  This creates some of the doubt we experience.  We struggle to believe that God is good when life is particularly difficult.  I know I do. 

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The last few weeks have been just that.  It has been good that I am not working because I feel like I’ve been all around central Florida.  I have taken CavSon for doctor’s appointments and testing in Lakeland and Orlando.  I’ve gone to meetings about job openings in Tampa.  Lunch with pastors in Avon Park, preaching in Avon Park.  I brought the laptop to the Geek Squad in Lakeland (reason for the decrease in the number of posts, and lack of pics of the family).  Gas is $4/gallon and I’m driving more than ever.  This weekend we all head up to Brooksville for a wedding.

CavSon may have some mild hearing loss associated with the frequent ear infections experienced by children with cleft palates.  Next week I bring him back to Orlando to make sure his left ear is healthy.  Our surgeon expressed some concern about that ear.  He has begun speech therapy (no driving, the guy comes to our home).  We are trying to work on the expulsive consonants (b, p and so forth).  He has to learn how to use the muscles in his mouth.  Much of what he says is a slur of vowels right now.

CavDaughter is going everywhere on her new bike.  A friend down the street got a new bike for her birthday, and decided to give her old, smaller bike to our daughter.  She is excited to be riding it, though she has not yet learned how to use the brakes.  This makes for some interesting moments.

She’s trying to “sow her oats” as only a 3 1/2 year-old can.  We are having to address an increase in disrespect and demandingness.    This can make for a long day.

While I’m in my borrowed office, I try to look for work on-line.  Not terribly exciting.  It confirms my internal call as I await a new external call.  I’m trying to keep up with what is going on in the world (theological, political, sports etc.) but am falling way behind since I can’t surf at night.  Perhaps this is good for me.  I’m not reading as much as I’d like, either.

The return of rain also means the return of mowing season here in Florida.  My brown desert hath bloomed all green.  I will need to put in increased lawn time now.

Put it all together and I feel quite harried and pressured as the future intrudes on my present.  I’m looking forward to a few days away from it all for the wedding.  Perhaps it will clear my head and heart.  But until then, I’ve got to work on a homily.

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One of my good friends is about to be married.  He has lots of changes going on: graduated from seminary, starting a new job in a new town, and taking a bride.  We met when he rented a room from me the summer before my own marriage.  He’s lived with us 2 times since then as he underwent transitions.

I couldn’t make his official bachelor party (a Cubs game in St. Pete).  So, some friends and I locally decided to spend an evening with him saying good-bye in a guy kind of way.

That meant wings, snacks with tons of carbs, beer and Monty Python.  After spending some time talking about life on the back porch we headed in for some movies.  One of our friends has somehow had the misfortune to never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I’m not quite sure how he liked it yet, but when the movie abruptly ended he cried out, “That’s it?!”.  You expect something else with them?

I was reminded of my own wedding.  It was December 27th, so I was so wrapped up in the church’s Advent preparations that I couldn’t really think about the fact that I was getting married so soon.  It really didn’t hit me until I was getting ready to board my Christmas Day flight to NJ.

I wasn’t really scared, except for about 5 minutes.  I had checked into our hotel room in the afternoon of the 27th.  I took a nap and was getting ready when it hit me.  “Wow, life is about to change irrevokably.”  I figured that was a good thing, and it was.

I’m glad that this weekend I have the honor to officiate the wedding ceremony.  This one definitely one of the greatest parts of ordained ministry.  I love to see the faces of the grooms when their bride appears.  I get a front row seat to some great stuff.

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I’ve been focused on the serious side lately.  We all need distractions.  These are stories I ran across today between CavSon’s hearing evaluation and speech therapy.

God sold cocaine.  In nearby Tampa, God Lucky Howard was arrested for selling cocaine to undercover officers.  He did this within 1,000 feet of a church and public housing, so his charges are more severe.  I’m glad my God doesn’t numb my soul with drugs, but helps me face what ails me.

There is a Messiah in Siberia.  He used to be a traffic cop, and now claims he is Jesus Christ.  Sadly, over 5,000 people have left their homes and familes to join him in Siberia.  Over 10,000 people worldwide belong to the Church of the Last Testament.  That they are strict vegetarians, don’t smoke or drink says enough for me.  We could use more windmills and solar panels, though.

People are still looking for a Messiah, someone to save them from their circumstances.  The unfortunate thing is they by-pass the real Messiah and settle for lousy imitations.  Man truly is a perpetual factory of idols (Calvin).

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