The Bible is a rare book which embraces its reader’s heart with love. It knows its reader and it receives its reader with the same knowing love Jesus had when he spoke in parables. Our heart’s deepest questions are not just answered, but they are loving accepted and left unanswered until our fears are laid to rest by the testimony of God’s faithfulness, and then we find that the answer isn’t just in the Bible, but the answer is out there seeking the questioner. The book is like its author: loving, truthful, humble, and wise. Through the book, the reader comes to know what the Author knows about the reader, and then invites and excites gratitude to the Author for how well the Author understands, searches out, and resolutely stretches out its arms and his hands to bring the willing heart into right relationship with Himself. When reading it, one wonders, is it a book or is it a person? The Bible is obviously a book of books, but the Author’s love and truth so saturate every page that the Word– the message, the thought, the meaning– of the book come alive in the heart– as alive in the heart as the Author of both the heart of the reader and of life itself. O that every student of the Bible would learn the Bible’s ways of embracing the heart of the reader with all its questions, doubts, and fears, and of showing them knowing love that invites them to be saved!
Is the earth rock solid?
There is fluid flame
In deep places below.
The rock is so good
It does not move
The world stands fast
Until rock breaks
The fire is so good
It only moves
The World expands
And shatters the rock
But lo the mystery:
Fire takes good stone
And forges it anew
As one solid piece
And from that solid piece
New life grows
And foundations are laid
For the time it is given
What is stone does not last
Unless fire melt it
What is fire cannot settle
What ignites if fire touches it
God is good: true and living
His word settles the future.
His word is ever breathing
Right now in your hearing.
Pum, Pum, Pum
Came the beat of the drum
Thick, full echoes shaken, quaken
Bum, Bum, Bum
All through the enclosed room
The air reverberated and faded
True, True, True
All is in clear view
Nothing is hidden, naught is forbidden
Bole, Bole, Bole
Hear His thunder roll
There is only sound all around
Thwack, Thwack, Thwack
The wall inside, I stifled the whack
Now two partitions split the transmissions
Pap, Pap, Pap,
The stick went slap
The words were broken, a dream half-woken
Still, Still, Still
Eerie restlessnesses fill
The empty recesses of my newfound trusses
“Pum,” “Pum,” “Pum”
My noises sound dumb
The echoes malformed are not warmed
“Bole! Bole! Bole!”
My voice is droll
The echoes die; it is I
Lies, Lies, Lies
My mimicking cries
The room I split, a dark pit
“No! No! No!”
With all my might I throw
The walls collapse with a crash
“Bum, Bum, Bum”
I shout in the drum,
It rings soundness, and profoundness
Ring, Ring, Ring,
I listen for something
Anything to be known, and blown again
Bow, Bow, Bow
The sound returns now
Tear wells are open at new words spoken
Boom, Boom, Boom
The presence in the room
All fullness no dullness
Broll, Broll, Broll,
Welcome thunders roll
The instrument is His
How bright the Sun is shining always!
It keeps the earth alive, renewed.
That even when the storms are raging,
And thunder rolls like hammers crude,
Still constant burns life-giving love
To sift the seasons of our souls,
And storms that rage against our surface,
Cannot deny this central truth:
He is mighty in the open sky
The heavens round him circle,
That when it’s gone, small evidence’s fly
And dazzle the eye with new emotion.
The weight of glory bends all time
To circle us around his globe
That we being pulled in the vortex of God’s love
May sustainably run across the empty universe.
The planets wobble and shatter to asteroids,
Still the Sun remains.
Though the world fall to pieces and all life crash down,
Still God’s love will keep us in orbit.
The darkness of night, and the shadows of storms
Beat against the surface with its bitter cold,
Still there is a love beyond our own making
Which holds the life for a thousand worlds.
How majestic and radiant the love of God!
It changes the very nature of the heavens,
It casts its generous heat all around,
And only a fraction reaches this planet.
Eclipses cannot Eclipse the weight of his glory,
And the Sun is but a shape.
In contrast God’s love takes all shapes
And makes them good according to his purpose.
O love of God, all life is in you,
How can I but rejoice in your light.
Apart from you I die,
I cannot see, nor can I feel.
But all this I rejoice that You, O God,
Have given me many ways to see it.
Forgive my stubbornness to be blind
And my fear which does not trust how good You are.
Everyone has an opinion.
Few hold the truth.
I know where to find it,
But it’s very hard to get there.
Mainly because it’s where I have no power
Only a glaring ugliness of all the lies I love
Opinions muck up the works
The Truth brings simplicity
Few know it when they hear it
But it’s very hard to ignore
Mainly because of it’s quiet immovable power
It is only submitted to His authority
He who loves me, and hates my proud Babylons
I am tired of opinions
My heart aches for truth
Where can I find it?
It’s worth the difficult search
Mainly because it can give me the power
To face my accountability
For the problems in my life that are really my own fault.
Oh God, I submit my opinions
I yearn to be shaped by Your truth
Can you find me?
Am I worth the search
Mainly because You have given me the power
To be accountable for your Truth
To the one who loves me more than all my failures.
This one hasn’t had much time on the inside, so it may be colder than other epiphanies.
My beautiful wife is in school, in a geological science class, and I sat with her as she read her textbook and came to understand something about our planet, which for me naturally led to revelation of how we are like the earth.
I have a great fondness of ideas. They are my joy. I got the blessing to paraphrase what my assistant Head of School was saying today about Christian Education Curriculum. He was saying how if we cannot find what we’re looking for out there, then we will have to create our own, and I worded it this way, “When we can’t adopt, we give birth.” While a curious reversal of the common order of child-bearing, I have found this generally true of me. I rarely find I can adopt ideas being dissatisfied so often with how they are organized, so I am often forced to give birth to new ones.
But new Ideas are merely old ideas remixed. In the same way, rocks. I was studying Exploring Earth Science by Reynolds and Johnson, and the Rock Cycle shows how rocks are formed on earth. According to Reynolds and Johnson these steps can happen in any order, but this order is the best at demonstrating them in action.
- The first step of the Rock Cycle is weathering, where rocks are broken down by natural forces.
- Second, Transportation, where rocks are transported across great distances
- Third, Deposition, where the rocks minerals and nutrients settle on the ground and cease to move.
- Fourth. Burial and Lithification– The process by which Rocks are covered up and become layers of rock.
- Fifth, Deformation/Metamorphism, where the rocks are changed by extreme pressure and heat into different compositions.
- Sixth, is melting where the rocks are scattered in the intense heat of magma and broken down to their simplest elements.
- Seventh is solidification, where melted rocks cool and solidify beneath the surface.
- Eighth is uplift where Rocks are lifted by volcanic forces to the surface.
When I read them, these eight steps made perfect, delightful sense to me as a bit of an idealist. I deal in ideas. And these eight steps make for a very helpful way of understanding how ideas are formed and take new shape anytime they come back into the world again. We ourselves are geologically like idea-factories.
I will begin the metaphorical “Idea Cycle” with what Reynolds and Johnson classified as the eighth step in the cycle. Ideas can start at any point of this cycle and may skip steps.
- Inspiration (Uplift) Where ideas are born anew from deep within us, and are raw and full of life-altering force.
- Talking (Weathering) where ideas are expressed thoughtfully and dialogued about. They are hashed out, broken down, smattered and shattered in this phase of ideas, but it is very important when it comes to shaping ideas.
- Writing (Transportation) This allows ideas to be communicated over a wide distance and left to sit on their own once they have reached the reader.
- Reading (Deposition) Where ideas come to rest before the eyes of a reader as he or she takes the idea into their consciousness.
- Understanding (Burial/Lithification) This is where the idea becomes comprehended and a part of a person’s mental internal dialogue.
- Deconstruction (Deformation/Metamorphosis) When ideas are comprehended, they then are to be broken apart and figured out how they all work. What makes this idea tick?
- Emotion (Melting) This is where ideas take their most melted and scattered fiery passionate form.
- Values (Solidification) The idea has been fused into the bedrock of your person and you are become a person with deeply held values, and are then ready for them to inspire your every action, deed, thought, and intention.
- Inspiration again arises, from (according to this cycle) our values.
There is much I learn about this cycle even as I write it. For one, ideas are not set in stone. (Shameless pun.) Even if they were, stone weathers, transports, deposits, lithifies, deconstructs, melts, solidifies, and uplifts again. Notice, two, that ideas have life internal to the person and external to the person, just like rocks to the earth. The external life comes about in talking, writing, and reading. The internal life an idea is deconstructing, emoting, and valuing. The bridge between these two lives of ideas are inspiration and understanding. Inspiration is the idea trying to get out. Understanding is the idea settling in.
If you too deal in ideas, learn from these steps in the cycle. If you are not feeling much inspiration, perhaps you need to move between different steps of the cycle. Perhaps you need to feel something you’ve deconstructed, or express what you value, or write down what you have only talked about, or deconstruct what you understand.
And let Rocks have their humbleness communicated to you. We see rocks on the surface, but they have been through a lot. Your ideas may also have plenty of interaction on the surface, but they have been through a lot of personal digestion. And the ideas of other people belong right alongside yours because ideas do NOT last forever without being settled, understood, broken down, felt, valued. “The making of books is endless.” Solomon said so in Ecclesiastes. Some books need to be out of print because the ideas have already been recycled. The key is to let your ideas burn with the fire of the soul which birthed them, and live in the humility that Christ lived with when he walked among us as a fellow human being.
Thoughts and discussion welcome. 🙂
At last! Through the muddiness of modern Church teachings, and the simple complexity of everyday life as a human, the Spirit has guided me to a galvanized understanding of perhaps the most fundamental tenet of Christianity. Now I can not only distinguish Christianity from all its counterfeits, but I can package it clearly for other people to understand. This won’t make me wealthy. It will make me poor. It will not make me famous. It will make me a criminal. It won’t make me live large. It will bring me down to the scum at the bottom of stagnant ponds: like Jonah in the belly of the whale. “Salvation comes from the Lord.”
Without further ado I will share this glistening gospel gem with you, dear reader. I don’t think it will take long. Let’s start with Paul’s first letter to Corinth. In response to a report that the church in Corinth was divided, he said, “I’m glad I didn’t baptize any of you, so that you would think that I had saved you.” But he goes on to say,
17 For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power. 18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” (Isaiah 29:14)
20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.
24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. 
What is this “message of the cross” that invalidates all the wisdom and strength of humanity? It became clear to me when I recently saw a post by a friend of mine on Facebook. A certain elected national leader had a hammer in his hand and was captioned to say, “I don’t like losers.” And in the background you could see Jesus hanging on a cross. This picture, as you may guess, was controversial, but what really struck me was not the controversy of the religious leader’s respectability, but the cloudy misunderstanding surrounding Jesus’ death on the cross. This post by my friend helped me galvanize a scriptural principle that I believe gets to the heart of the message of the cross.
Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
Here, Jesus points out that the cross will cost the most fundamentally important relationships a human can hold: family. As he ended in this passage, the first principle can be stated The Cross requires everything even something as precious as family. The message of the cross indicates that there is only one doorway to salvation. It is the door Jesus made by hanging on the cross: total surrender and death to one’s old life, to one’s old self out of humble submission to the Righteous Judge.
This part of the teaching is not as offensive. Some people would say, “I have heard this before, and have even implemented this principle in my life.” What I think most people fail to acknowledge is what this level of surrender, death, and submission will actually cost them. The principle I discovered was this.
Jesus’ time on earth shows that there are two kinds of people in this world: those nailing Jesus to the cross, and those who are being nailed right up there with him.
There is no third option. That means you, dear reader, are either one nailing Jesus to the cross as His judge, or the one being nailed right up there with him under God’s righteous judgement.
What? Really? That sounds harsh. Yup. Now I’m going to go through what I believe to be four kinds of people who may read this and find it unacceptable:
- You may say, “I am not getting hung on a cross, but there’s no way I would do that to a fellow human being!” No? Imagine a great political leader told you that there was a man who was bewitching the population, and determined that he had to be exterminated. Also imagine that this political power said, if you follow him or are associated with him, you too will be exterminated. Chances are you would not stand up for the guy even if you thought his teachings were alright. In not siding with him though, it is like the bully beating up the kid on the playground while you watch. Your inaction is a choice to act in favor of the bully.
- You may say, “I identify with Jesus, so if the time came I would be willing to be crucified with him.” Really? What if that meant leaving your family behind with no one to care for them? What if that meant being villainized and falsely accused of being a socially morally unacceptable thing like a pedophile? Would you still identify with him then? The question is not about “if the time came” The question is about right now. It is foolish and naïve to believe that you would die for Christ, if you do not truly exclusively live for him now. This is the message of the cross. You who identify with Christ, do you share the burden of His sufferings even leading up to the same way He died?
- You may say, “God wants me to be happy. Jesus already died on the cross for me so I wouldn’t have to.” You are partially incorrect. God wants you to be happy in eternal things. If your happiness is in anything that money or time on earth can afford you, then you have missed the point. Furthermore, Jesus death on the cross wasn’t to “take your place,” like many churches espouse in their sermons assuring forgiveness for sins, which of course is there. Jesus’ death on the cross was to “make your place.” Persecution, self-denial, suffering wrongfully as a doer of righteousness—these are the inheritance, function, and purpose of the believer in this life. Power, wealth, fame are temporary substitutes for what brings lasting joy. If they are given in any fashion to the believer, they are a means to the ends of Him who “though He was rich, for your sakes became poor.” This is the oneof whom you are becoming a mini-version, by becoming a “little-Christ.” You may say, “If my sins are forgiven why do I still need to get on the cross?” Because Jesus did, and you are not more righteous than He are you?
- You may say, “I have enough smarts and heart to know that letting anything like that happen to anybody would be tantamount to unthinkable.” That line of thought is patterning after a character sketch of “a captain of his own ship trying to find his way in the world with his conscience in tact.” What such a man would have to appreciate is that the message of the cross requires the denial of one’s right or ability to be Judge. Even if you judge righteously, you still are the one in need of being judged. Salvation is only to be found in the submission to the Judgment of God, who is not only the True Judge, but He is also a righteous judge. You may not understand or believe in His justice, but if you live in the world long enough you will be faced with a choice to recognize how irreversibly broken the world is. The only doorway to life is through the cross, where everything is submitted to God’s lordship, and whatever is of God will survive.
The reason there is no third option, I can articulate better after talking with my fiancé about it. She heard my bolded principle above, and shared, “Or perhaps the third option is, you are both.” That is indeed what I am saying. Every one of us have been a crucifier of Jesus. You are either the one Crucifying Christ, or the Crucifier of Christ who has surrendered to the death you are worthy of. And this is no cheapening the value of one’s life to ending it frivolously wrongfully like in suicide. This is the re-valuing someone’s life as in itself being worth nothing, but in right humble standing before God worth giving up for salvation of ourselves and others.
A Story, I hope will illustrate this principle better. A soldier had been nailing criminals to the cross his entire career, until one day He had to crucify a righteous man. The man looked and saw that the righteous man did not deserve to die, but saw that he himself deserved it. He cast aside his armor, and ordered his men to nail him to the cross right next to the man. All who passed by mocked him, but some of his men wondered: what solidarity could a man claim with a righteous man wrongfully condemned to death?
It is this solidarity with Christ that the cross represents. Jesus bore the sins of the whole world on that cross. We carry around in our body the dying of Jesus, just as Paul wrote about his apostleship:
For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.
The message of the cross is offensive: You’re either embracing Jesus’ death yourself, or you’re the one swinging the hammer.
Allow me then to share this pattern for discipleship, based upon the life of Jesus which leads to this proper understanding and manifestation of the cross in a person’s life.
SCRIPTURE: First there is a catechesis stage, where the student (disciple) is familiarized with the basic teachings of the Gospel in the Old and New Testament. This is the stage for listening, asking questions and increasing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man.
CONVERSION: Second, there is a baptism wherein the Spiritual journey begins with the Lord sending His spirit upon and into an individual. This is the point I would call Conversion.
SPIRITUAL POWER: Third, there is a time for the Holy Spirit’s leading to temper all fleshly, proud, and sinful passions in the heart and body. This is where the disciple learns how to pray, how to hear His voice, to face his own sin, and to grow in Spiritual strength and power and prepares the disciple for the end purpose of his life: The cross.
COMMUNITY: Fourth, there is the accountability to a local church body, in which after these things have occurred, the disciple reveals to them what God had shown him to be true, and what is that mission into which he will be walking. This is where the disciple learns his proper place in the Church as a part of a body of believers, and applies the giftings and power of the Holy Spirit.
SERVICE: Fifth, this disciple will begin implementing the mission and investment of the Holy Spirit in him to serve the body of Christ, and the world and the poor in the community around him.
WARFARE: Sixth, is the standing up for the poor by going against those who abuse them. This is where the social activism will doubtlessly make enemies in the established religion and the government.
PERSECUTION: Seventh, is the point when the disciple fully comes to display Christ: The Cross. When the Believer is not able to dissuaded from his aggressively loving opposition of the enemies of freedom and peace, there will be no choice but to kill him. This is the end of a disciple’s walk here on this earth. While it does not always end in death at the hands of enemies, “He who endures to the end shall be saved.” “And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith.”
The result: He who has walked all seven of these stages is a Christ-ian indeed, because he has denied himself, taken up his cross, and done as Jesus did. And unless you are walking according to this principle, and the cross is where you are headed, then you are simply striking the hammer deeper into the flesh of the son of God, who loves you and gives himself for you still today, along with all who bear His name.
For those carrying the cross now, one parting word of encouragement from Peter.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
 1 Co 1:17–25. NLT
 NASB Mt 10:34–39.
 1 Co 4:9–16.
 1 Pe 4:12–14.
This mortal coil that burns out to crispy cinders.
The glow once found, now lost to rotting tinder.
A hollow wind blows through this dismal shrine
Where all that now is dark once housed divine.
The bulb crackles as its amber light-rays falter
The power lost to cravings man has altered.
To spin a web of safety and for feed.
In darkened corners where shade makes light bleed.
Thrice woe! The wail of counterfeits discovered.
The blindings of the ages are uncovered.
As sight is lit by just a little proof
To bid despair loose beams and drop the roof.
Unhinged from bolts the door made for a frame
It topples to the floor in open shame.
And creatures trample down this scratching post
Where guardianship now pays its careless cost.
Untruth: the absence of the deeds of good
On which a world so beautiful has stood
Makes slavery of freedom’s fruitful trees.
And grants no peace to those who lie at ease.
The “strinch” of wrenching strength to quench
The Hell-flames reek with death’s foul stench
The play of demon dragons doomed
To empty slither neath dust entombed.
Forgotten what must take place at the top
The center, the beginning and the stop.
What worthy light can cast its mighty glow
To fill this day with life I weep to know?