Archive | April 2008

Enter into Joy

Deuteronomy 34 is a startling passage. Israel stands on the very edge of the Promised Land. Moses has led them out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea. He has stood in the gap between their sinfulness and God’s righteousness. He has mediated the Law to them, protected them from the wrath of God, guided them in battle against overwhelming enemies, and faithfully led them through 40 years of wandering in the desert because of sin. Over the last 40 years, an entire generation has died. Literally every man and woman who had refused to be blessed by God and instead preferred the slavery He had led them out of has perished. And now there is only one more life for God to take before Israel can go home.

 

Moses knows this is coming. He knows it because God promised it to happen. And God’s promises always come true. After Moses disobeyed a command of the Lord, God says in Numbers 20, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” In Deuteronomy 34, it is time for this promise to be realized. Moses has lived under the shadow of this promise for a long time. He knows that every step closer he takes the people, the closer he is to his own grave. And now, now it is time for the end.

 

I wonder how Moses ascended Mount Nebo. Did he run up it? Did he shuffle slowly? The text doesn’t say. But there is a hint of sadness throughout all the text. Moses has faithfully led the people through trials you and I have never faced. Now, he must leave God’s people, his people, for he has an appointment to keep with God.

 

Moses scaled the cliff alone. At the top, God shows him all the blessings of the land. The fertile plains of wheat. The cool forests of Lebanon. The city of palms. Everything the people had looked forward to since their deliverance from Egypt. Everything Moses knew he wouldn’t be able to enjoy. His life was a hard journey across a hard land leading hard-hearted people.

 

“So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according of the word of the Lord, and He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days.” ( 5-8 )

 

Who killed Moses? God did. Why did Moses die? Because of his sin. Moses did not die naturally. He was full of life and energy. Though every single man and woman of his generation had died in the wilderness, Moses hadn’t aged a day. He was sustained by God, equipped to lead a people who were hard to lead. Up on that mountaintop, it was just Moses and God. I don’t think Moses was afraid to die. He was with His God, the one who had sustained him and counseled him year after year, step after step. Yet, Moses’ last moments on earth were spent face to face with his failure to live how he ought. His sins had been atoned for by the blood of Christ (Heb 11:26), but he still knew he was dying because he had failed God.

 

The sound of shallow breathing broke the stillness of the hilltop. Then, as Moses breathed his last, silence. The next thing Moses heard was a shout of joy ringing from every corridor of heaven “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into joy today!” Well done, faithful servant. Enter into joy. No longer was there the shame of failing God. No longer was there the struggle and tragedy of leading a stiff-necked people. Just unending, radiant joy.

 

Like Moses, we will enter into joy someday. We see shadows of it now in the lives of Christians. In the people who suffer for Jesus’ sake. In the people who sacrifice their time and money to live how Jesus commanded. In the people who bear reproach for believing that there really is a God who created everything. One day those struggles will be over. And all our failings to live how we ought will be naught. I think this knowledge buoyed Moses’ heart as he took each step closer to the Promised Land. Like Moses, we are slowly but surely walking towards our own deaths. We can’t see it as he did, but it’s comingFor those of us who know Christ as Moses did, joy is coming our way. One day soon, we too will hear those words we long to hear: Well done. Enter into joy.

 

Eating Air

Why is it we read more about God’s Word

than God’s Word itself?

It’s easy to know about the Word without actually knowing the Word. Don’t be a theological spectator.

OMC

Everyone’s heard by now that the OMC will no longer exist next year. When Gunner let us RAs know last Tuesday we were shocked. It is a really great decision for the administration to make. We all totally support them. But really good decisions can be really bad decisions at the same time.

Over the last week, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to one question. Why am I sad to leave Oak Manor? It’s just a dorm. I’ll make other godly friends who will edify me and point me to Christ in new ways next year. There will be new people to minister to in Slight. I’m sad because, to quote our dorm shirt, “It’s not a dorm…it’s a culture.”

The OMC has been shaped by generations of faithful men who have served and loved the people in these fifteen rooms. They’ve poured their hearts and souls out into people who God has then raised up to take the mantle of leadership and continue the great chain of edification and discipleship. I’ve heard stories of Manor Men of old like Rob Ikegami. And now it ends. We’re the last link in the chain. Not because we failed, but because the end has come.

It reminds me in some ways of the church of Smyrna in the book of Revelation.  Revelation 3:10 says, “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” I don’t mean to overblow the effects of shutting down a dorm. The saints in Smyrna were martyred for their faith. Shutting down the OMC doesn’t even compare. But the end of our dorm has been decreed. You could say, “Be faithful until the end and I will give you a crown of life.” It is a sobering fact to realize that there is no “next year” to postpone things until. All that matters is now. The Manor could be characterized by one thing right now: a sense of urgency.

Being an RA in the OMC is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love the guys on my wing. They’ve taught me so much more than I’ve taught them. It’s sad to see our lives moving in different directions. Some will move to different dorms, some off-campus. Some will be on my staff next year. It won’t be the same. Relationships will change. And that’s what I’ll miss the most. The joy that comes through the tears and the late night prayers and the conversations and the fun and the friendly admonishment will come through other people who love the same God as these guys. But I’ll miss these guys. There is something about ministry through the Holy Spirit which transforms service to someone into a genuine, deep-seated love for them.

It is funny to see how people become like their dorms. And the dorms become like them. I’ll miss our culture. The baboom, the holla, the boom-snap-clap–our three anthems will disappear. Our ever-on-the-brink-of-death-yet-still-alive palm tree whose branches wind up in people’s beds, the lack of fire drills even though we have stoves and a bunch of guys who have no idea how to use them, Pancake Night, double parking with your roomate, pants being tossed into the palm tree.

Then there are the things which will simply move location. Intense conversations brought about by the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit. Conversations about girls–hopes, realities, future plans. Christ as treasure being discovered through Small Groups and the slow transformation by reading the Word. The failures as a leader. Learning to lead a staff of SLSers in specific situations. Struggling to find time to get away for a sweet time of communion with the Lord. Learning how to consider others as more important than youself.

These things are not exclusive to Oak Manor. And they are the things that really matter. And yet they are the things which make leaving the Manor really sad because the Manor has provided a context for them all. In every room I’ve had good conversations about serious things, conversations held at unexpected times with unexpected people.

I’m excited for next year. It will be interesting to see how the OMC affects the campus. I know God is really going to use the men here to encourage our brothers in new dorms. I know the intense sense of community and the “every room is a lounge” mentality will shake up a few places. And that’s good. I know we’ll see things from a different perspective and be driven to grow in weak places that we’ve never seen exposed. As sad as it is to leave the OMC and all the memories, the blessings of grace that God will give have me excited for the future.

Roaring Lions

Satan never loses interest in us. He is every watchful, ever ready, and ever determined to destroy your walk with God. He is a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. People get eaten by lions because they wander off by themselves. People get eaten by lions because they aren’t paying attention. People get eaten by lions because they don’t think there is a real lion with a real appetite that will really eat them.

In Christian circles there seems to be the idea that old things cannot harm the soul. It’s as if we think that time purifies content, even though the content hasn’t changed. Satan doesn’t care about the copyright date on the movie, or the century of the sculpture, or the release date of the album. He’s out to kill your soul in any way he can using any thing he can.

The difference between Satan and African lions is that Satan sets traps. He baits us. He tries to manipulate our minds into thinking “He really won’t harm me.” But Satan will use every tool at his disposal to hurt us. Eve didn’t believe Satan could really be setting her up for destruction, but he was. Eve failed to realize how corrupt Satan is and how much he wants to damage her relationship with God. Satan hasn’t gotten nicer in the last 10,000 years. And he has a long string of “success” stories. Balaam. Saul. Ahab. Joash. Herod. Pontious Pilate. Ananias and Saphira. Diotraphes.

I was thinking a couple of days ago about the people who graduated with me from North County Christian High School. There were 20 of us. There should have been 21, but one girl was kicked out two months before graduation for moving in with her boyfriend.

“By the grace of God I am what I am.” Paul said that a long time ago. And yet it is the theme song of every believer because no one is a believer without the grace of God. What’s the difference between Herod and me? Grace. And the same grace that has made me what I am has also made me what I am not.

Many from my high school walked away. I didn’t. Tragically, many from my college will walk away. By God’s grace I won’t. Satan is out to kill your and my soul. And the only thing that keeps him from being successful is power of Christ in me. The Holy Spirit is Satan-Repellant. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be battles. But for those who are sealed by the Spirit into the family of God, Satan cannot win.

This post isn’t very unified. It’s kind of two topics welded into one post. I just praise God that just as He has given me eyes to be careful and watchful for Satan’s snares, He protects me from Satan even when I’m not looking.

Durham Western Heritage Museum

My parents surprised me and flew me home for Easter Break. These are some photos from our visit to the Durham Western Heritage Museum.