Friday, February 27, 2015

Monday, February 23, 2015

Farewell: Dick Lewis

This week a gentleman who attends the church I serve died. His name is Dick Lewis. I haven't known him for very long, but I learned much from him in the short time that I did know him. See, Dick was a man who was cut from a different kind of cloth. While most people say things like, "Everything is possible," Dick had a way of breaking things down systematically in order to realize the possibility. Examples of this can be seen in his excellent career, his motor crossing endeavors after turning 45, and his bevy of golf and shooting awards. I tell you, the man wouldn't just try things, he would approach them with the intent of mastery. I enjoyed visiting with him because each time he would share a different story. It was almost like sitting at a bus stop with Forrest Gump.

Dick had pancreatic cancer. Those who are familiar with this variety of cancer understand that the chances of surviving it are very low. When I learned that this was Dick's diagnosis, and after visiting him a few times, I didn't think it would be long. Against hope I thought, "any day now we will get the sad news." But the news didn't come. In fact, rather than getting worse Dick seemed to be getting better. To be honest, at times I forgot about his cancer. It seemed to me that Dick, the man who dissected everything in order to master them, had mastered pancreatic cancer. 

As I visited with Dick I quickly learned that his favorite season in the church year was Lent. He particularly loved Ash Wednesday service. He told me that although he traveled much he made it a priority to be in church every year for Ash Wednesday and Easter. In fact, a great source of pain for him was that he missed Ash Wednesday in 2014. 

As we prepared for Ash Wednesday in 2015 it seemed only right to have Dick take part in the service. He happily agreed. On the day of the service we had bad weather. I remember calling and telling him that he need not feel any obligation to come to the service if the conditions were bad. He responded, "It is an obligation." You must understand, he didn't mean obligation the way we come to speak of it. He wasn't suggesting that it's something he didn't want to do, but he was going to because it was his duty. No, he was going to be present because it was, to him, a privileged duty. Whether he read or not he was not going to miss another Ash Wednesday service.

That night I had Dick read Psalm 23 for us. Now, I am a bit of a blockhead; I didn't realize that some people may connect Psalm 23 with death. Unfortunately that is where it is primarily heard or seen. Had I been a thinking man I probably would have been sensitive to this and given him a different passage to read. But in hindsight I think God used my ignorance marvelously. 

Now the last words several of us at church heard from Dick were:
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Indeed you will, Dick. I'm grateful for your life, and the legacy you have left for us to ponder and learn from. You will be missed, my friend.

Requiescat in pace.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Bonhoeffer on Freedom and Self-Discipline

If you set out to seek freedom, you must learn before all things mastery over your sense and soul, lest your wayward desirings, lest your undisciplined members lead you now this way, now that way. Chaste be your mind and your body, and subject to you and obedient, serving solely to seek their appointed goal and objective. None learns the secret of freedom save only by way of control. 

- from Ethics

Friday, January 30, 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Psychology of Redemption: A Review

Oswald Chambers is the person I credit with introducing me to serious Christianity. While at Ohio State I discovered his devotional My Utmost for His Highest. There were several readings that would nail me to the ground because of their weightiness and insight. It is, in my opinion, the best daily devotion of the bunch. Because of it I am now looking through a few of his other works, the first being The Psychology of Redemption.

Psychology is the study of the human mind and the way it functions. Christian psychology, according to Chambers, is the study of Jesus Christ, and the way he functioned. In this work he seeks to study the life of Christ so that the reader can understand what it is for the life of Christ to be formed inside of them.

The method he uses is very simple. He examines the life of Christ as presented in the New Testament and studies the interactions that Jesus had with natural life through the people and situations he encountered. He then explains how, upon a person's new birth, the newly formed life of Christ in them will seek to travel the same journey Jesus traveled in the New Testament.

For example, when he explores how Jesus' earthly family misunderstood him (John 2, Wedding at Cana) Chambers suggests that the life of Christ in us will also be misunderstood; first by us, then by others as it predominates in us. 

"There is a good deal in our natural human nature that will not understand the life of the Son of God... The natural in us will always want [him] to work in our own way... Some of the things which belong to the life of the Son of God in us do not look sane or practical to the natural man, and when Christ is formed in us, our natural life experiences what Mary experienced, "A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also," a sword we should never have known if we were not born of God..."

So, as Jesus was misunderstood by those who new him best, his life in us will be misunderstood by us. Knowing this a student of Jesus can prepare and guard against it with a steadfast reliance upon God. It is this type of examination and application that Chambers makes throughout this book.

It was helping for me to think of the New Testament in terms of two lives when reading Chambers. There is the life of Christ and the life that needs to be redeemed. This latter life is represented by those who encounter Jesus (Pharisees, sinners, unbelieving family); it is my life. Chambers' thesis is that the life of Christ will be formed in us, as it was formed in the New Testament. But we, knowing the journey that Christ took, must yield in obedience and let Christ's life dominate until he is fully formed in us and our life is wrapped up in his (Colossians 3:4).

The Psychology of Redemption provides a helpful way of looking at what sanctification looks like in the life of a student of Jesus. There are of course some points of disagreement, but I found it to be helpful in thinking in terms of the new life. 

I recommend it to anyone who is seriously considering spiritual transformation or discipleship to Jesus Christ.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Playing Possum

The downside to running on a road with no sidewalks is occasionally having to deal with roadkill. If I run when it's dark it's significantly worse because you have less time to react (I've stepped on a dead squirrel once... but it was part of the street at that point... still disgusting.).

The worst kind of roadkill, and this isn't even close, is possum (or opossum, I think). As I was running the other day I came to the top of a hill and there lay a possum. I've heard of possums playing possum (dead) so, even though this one had blood on its head, I wasn't going to be fooled. Afterall this might be one of those aspiring academy award possums; maybe he takes his acting to a different level. I wasn't going to fall victim to its acting genius, so instead of just stepping around it, like I do other roadkill, I crossed all the way to the other side and did a kind of tip toe high step run so the possibly dead possum couldn't hear me and attack, and so I wouldn't touch as much of the pavement that it's disgusting body was laying on. It was a shameful sight, not befitting a man, for sure. 

But I'm alive... Undignified, but still alive. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015