Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Faith is Drawn and Driven

Notes on Jacob's wrestling with God in Genesis 32:

"Jacob's faith lays hold of the Angel in sheer desperation. Here is the core of his lifelong desire for the blessing. He grasps the One who is the Giver and the Gift, the Lord of life and hope.

True faith is not a flaccid acceptance of a better state of affairs. It is drawn and driven: drawn by the bursting recognition that God is real, and that he is here with me; driven by the emptiness and horror of guilt and dread apart from his blessing.

Faith grips the Lord, lays hold on eternal life. What Jacob claims is God's promise; he cannot be denied, for God has bound himself."

-Edmund P. Clowney, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, p91

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

God Isn't Interested...

"Jesus shows us God's agenda for change.

God isn't interested in making us religious. Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people.

God isn't interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us.

God isn't interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified.

God isn't interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city.

The word holy means 'set apart' or 'consecrated.' For Jesus, holiness meant being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn't mean being set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God's glory in and for the world."

-Tim Chester, You Can Change

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do All Things Without Grumbling and Disputing

Man, I haven't had the Lord hit me so hard with the conviction of the truth and my particular and pointed need of it as He did this past week. In our study of Philippians we have come to 2:14, where Paul admonishes, through the Holy Spirit, that we are not to be like the Israelites were in the wilderness, full of grumbling and disputing that things weren't as nice as they thought they should be. So, I'm pressing on with my study thinking that this is good stuff: the gospel, the Word of Life, is the way that I am humbled to not think too highly of myself and so look down on others and complain. All is seemingly going well...until my great friend Eric and I head off to find a few campsites for our home group. There's nothing like camping to test a man's practical holiness. I guess that's why God sent the Israelites into the wilderness and why Heaven is a city. There won't be a need for testing anymore, so why would we need tents?

We head up the McKenzie River and hope to grab a couple of sites at Clear Lake. None of my home group has been to Clear Lake (and as you'll read in a moment, they still haven't) and I think it's a beautiful site worth seeing, and it's the headwaters of the emerald McKenzie River, the fountain of my youth.

Of course, I arrive at Eric's house 15 minutes late, but don't think it's a big deal. We'll still get there before noon and should be able to grab a couple of spots for the 4 families that will camp. We're having a good time and some good conversation as we head up the beautiful water. Just past Sahalie my 1993 GMC 3/4 ton decides to overheat. Apparently, I lost my overdrive gear and have been plugging away since who knows when in 3rd gear. I can' t hear the engine well over the noise of the vacant window, which is open due to the absence of air-conditioning. Well, we didn't bring any water and, of course, I had unloaded my bottle of coolant for the 4th of July and forgot to place it back in the truck.

So, we arrive at Clear Lake campground and after 20 minutes of trying to figure out the signage of which sites were reserved and which were not we found one site that was empty. So, Eric places two chairs in the site and jumps back in the truck. Pulling out behind a mini-van with a tent trailer, which had passed us as we unloaded the chairs, we continued scanning for another site, preferably nearby and close to a bathroom because Eric's wife is 7 months pregnant. We find our friendly minivan family pulled into a multi-site space that would be perfect for our group. So, we roll down the window and ask if they're going to take it, explaining that we have a large group coming up. They really want some place to stay, and there doesn't seem to be much available, so they're considering it.

As they ponder the decision of paying the $30/night fee for the multisite, Eric and I decide to drive the loop again and check for another spot. Right in the front we spot one and Eric jumps out while I shut the truck off and let it cool down a bit. He climbs back up the hill and I notice that the site is closed for repairs. Yes, a campsite is closed for repairs. It's dirt, rocks, and pine needles, but apparently it's unsafe. So, we grab the chair and idle down the hill again.

By now I'm a little frustrated with myself that I didn't show up on time. Two minutes earlier and we would have had a perfect multisite for the group. As I daydream around a sharp left turn I hear Eric scream out in surprise. Hoping he spotted a good site I look his way and notice that he's clamped to the ceiling of the cab like Peter Parker with a huge puddle of ice-water filling his seat. Apparently I took that last turn a bit sharp, spilling the bucket of ice water for our drinks directly in his lap. Aaaah....that part was funny...for me, and my frustrations were alleviated in the chill of Eric's suffering.

After Eric scooped out some water and ultimately decided that the wet butt seat was actually an improvement on a hot day in a diesel truck w/o air-conditioning, we drove back around to the site we had placed chairs, to find that the site was reserved at 2pm that day. Of course. We grabbed and chairs and drove to the multisite to find Mrs. Mini-van standing in the driveway. We asked if they were sure they wanted the site and she said they did and that they had a couple of extra cars coming up. So, defeated, Eric and I headed to check the next campground downriver. At this point I'm not grumbling, but I'm frustrated that I didn't show up on time to pick up Eric. Now I'll have to contact everyone in my home group and let them know that we can't stay at Clear Lake because I'm a procrastinator.

We found two spaces next to each other at the next campground, Ice Cap. It's nice, with large sites perfect for us and RIGHT ACROSS FROM THE BATHROOMS!! Perfect! You can hear the river running down the hill (a glorious sound, it's no surprise that there's a river flowing through heaven), and it's even pretty close to the lake so we can all go swimming. So, I break out the cash and pay for the site, filling out the envelope and slipping it in that little slot in the post (which, by the way, is always about 3/4" too narrow for the envelopes so you have to smash them in there). We unload the coolers into the shade and discuss how we can tell the others that we're at a different campground when neither of us can receive a cell signal. Great, now we have to drive downriver to find a signal, too. OK, I'm starting to get a little bit grumbly.

Eric offers to fill up the bucket to put some water in the truck. I start unloading some other things when I hear Eric start laughing hysterically. He's snapped, I know it. The heat and icewater got to him. Nope, that wasn't it. He's laughing because the bathrooms are out of order. No water. Sign on the doors indicating that they are closed. OK, now I'm more grumbly and the recent days of study have started to disappear from my mind. Complaining just feels right at this point. So, I've paid for the sites already, but I can't ask our group to go without bathrooms, particulary when one is pregnant, one just had a baby 2 months ago, and one is my wife who just wasn't going to use nature's seating.

We decide that the best course of action is to eat our losses and head out to continue looking downriver. We end up at Trailbridge, near the resevoir, at which point I'm thinking that things are looking up. We may find a good place to swim at least. As is the disciplined hand of the Master's discipline, it was not to be. There were no places available. Now I'm actually getting a little worried that we're not going to get any site and have to cancel the trip. I know that everyone would be disappointed.

We get stuck behind another tent-trailer on the way out of Trailbridge where the road narrows to one lane and adds a few speedbumps near the dam. Now I'm downright frustrated and my selfishness has dumped all over the seat like that bucket of icewater. I begin to complain about people who camp in tent trailers and Eric laughs at my frustration. I notice the gold rims on the mini-van in front of us, pulling the tent-trailer and start to complain about people who would put gold rims on a mini-van. Yeah, I'm still not sure about that one. I'm not sure that's a complaint as much as it is obvious lack of style.

So, I'm complaining away as they pull over to the side and let us pass. Pulling up to the stop sign to turn back onto the highway Eric exclaims, "That's the guy! Richard, I'm not joking! That's the guy!" Confused, (because of the diesel fumes I'm sure) I ask, "What guy?" "The guy from the campground at Clear Lake!" No...way. That can't be. I mean, it's been over an hour and a half. What would they be doing down here at Trailbridge? You must be mistaken my energetic and wet-butted friend. Again, I was wrong. The van pulls up alonside of us and rolls down its window. "Yeah, there's no space here, either." "Yup," I say. "There were a few spaces at Ice Cap, one prepaid, but there's no bathrooms." "Well," the man tells me, "I think we'll just go back to that spot." Now it's not the truck that's overheating. "What spot?" I ask him. "The one back at Clear Lake."

I honestly thought about gunning it and pulling around him to sprint for the coveted multi-site. I mean, I could certainly beat a gold-rimmed minivan pulling a tent-trailer, right? At this point, overheating or not, 6.5l diesel be damned, I might just get that spot. The Holy Spirit must be working overtime on me, because we just watched them pull out and head back up the mountain. I sat there flabbergasted, at this point unable to complain outwardly out of sheer bewilderment. However, on the inside I'm just, well, ticked.

We try Olallie...no spots. Finding a hole in the cell signal black hole that is the Mckenzie River highway I pull over and call Katie to inform her of the dilemma. Through many repetitions and Sprint-esque "can you hear me now's" we get the message across. We have one more campground to try. If there's no space there, then we're out of luck.

Thankfully, and completely under the purview of God's management, we pulled into Paradise campground and found two sites near flushing toilets and right down a trail from a riverrock beach near a rare slackwater on the upper McKenzie. It ended up wonderfully. And to top things off, as Eric and I walk around the campground we find over six people walking and chatting on their cellphones. Weird, but I was thankful for a signal. And not one single gold-rimmed minivan. It was going to be a great weekend.

In the end, I was humbled to see how quickly I doubted the wisdom and sovereignty of God. Some innocent family, simply out for a nice weekend together at Clear Lake (which is becoming rarer, too) fell under the full force of the silent wrath of my sinful heart. All of this (obviously making up for the months of silence on this blog with a few too many words) to say that the promise given in the immediate passage in Philippians took on a tone of triumphant expectation in my humbled repentance: "for it is God who is working in you even the will and the work to His good pleasure." Thank you, God, for working. Without Your gracious and ever-patient Spirit, I would be a lost cause of camping rage and tent-trailer rampage...although I'm sure that gold-rimmed minivans are reserved for the streets of Hell.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Grace dismantles your confidence in you, while it gives you more hope and courage than you have ever had.

-Paul David Tripp