Monday, November 19, 2007

 

What it means to burn . . .

As I sit here in my comfortable home reading the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, I am listening to Caedmon's Call (the first album). I am struck by the honesty and character of the lyrics (of course, it doesn't hurt that Derek Webb wrote a bunch of the songs). Nonetheless, the interesting mixture of the admonitions of Hebrews with the alternative/folk feel of Caedmon's Call has put me in quite the introspective mood. Before I go any further, then, I want to quote for you the song "Coming Home," written by Aaron Tate and copyrighted by Cumbee Road Music in 1994. Here ya go!


You say you want a living sacrifice
Well here I am a burnt offering
Crawling off the altar
And back into the fire

And with my smoke-filled lungs
I cry out for freedom
While locking and chaining myself
To my rotting desires

And I hate the stench
But I swallow the key
And with it stuck in my throat
Can you hear me
Can you hear me

(Chorus)
I'm coming home. I'm coming home.
I'm coming home. I'm coming home.
But I'm still a long way off

I am shell shocked and I have walked
Through the trenches full of tears
With the mortars of memory
Exploding in my burning ears

You've stripped the trees of Lebanon
And now you're stripping me
Of the bark of false morality
The bite of selfish greed
Lord, can you hear me

(Chorus)
I'm coming home. I'm coming home.
I'm coming home. I'm coming home.
But I'm still a long way off

Will you run to me
Will you come to me
Will you meet me
Will you greet me
Will you drag me home
Cause I'm still a long way off

(Chorus)
I'm coming home. I'm coming home.
I'm coming home. I'm coming home.
But I'm still a long way off

I guess the reason that this song struck me today is the imagery of fire. Fire plays a big role in the letter to the Hebrews.

God is depicted as a burning fire.

There is a bit of discussion about the altar and sacrifices aflame.

Even Christ is depicted as a type of burnt offering offered on our behalf outside of the city--the same place where the author of Hebrews wants us to join Christ so that we can endure the abuse that he suffered.

Why? Because our God is a consuming fire.

What does fire consume? It consumes anything that is not like it. God will also consume those things in us that do not correspond to his character. That is why we are admonished to "Strive for peace with all people, and for the holiness without which no one will see God."

The song above reminds me of these things. We are on an altar whether we like it or not. We are either on the altar of God (allowing our non-God aspects to be burnt away and changed into his likeness), or we are on the altar of our own selfishness (burning away with our own deceit and sinful wishes). Like Aaron Tate points out, we crawl off the altar of God into the fire itself. We cry out for freedom while chaining ourselves to our own rotting and despicable desires.

We are on fire. We are burning.

What are we burning and why are we burning?

Many of us burn for all the wrong reasons--we are aflame with our own passions and desires, pursuing things that not only will not satisfy, but that will scar us forever if we continue to make ourselves a sacrifice to stuff. We look for stuff to fill the hole in the seat of our beings, we strive to come to wholeness through means that will not make us whole--we try to make ourselves something we are not, we try to obtain possessions that we do not need, we spend and are spent pursuing more stuff that not only clog our homes but clog our spiritual and physical veins and keep us from living our lives as God intended.

We can also burn for the right reasons--we can give ourselves over to a life of sacrifice or selfless living that puts the needs of others before our own desires and wishes. We may be aflame with a love that desires the best of God's blessings for our neighbors. We burn in God's presence so that we may lose anything that is not of God and gain Christ as "all that is really important." It is not an easy place to be, being consumed until only God is left. Nonetheless, such a place is necessary if we are to live a life abundant.

Let us come to God's consuming fire to be purified, to receive the delicious grace of God in Christ, to find all our rotting desires removed and transformed. If not, we are merely burning on our own waste.

Hebrews 10:31, 39
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. . . . But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls."

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

 

Other May, You Cannot

The following is from an old tract and was forwarded to me by a friend. Enjoy!

"If God has called you to be really like Jesus he will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways he will seem to let other people do things he will not let you do.

"Other Christians and ministers, who seem very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

"Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence of Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

"The Lord may let others be honored and put forward and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants to produce some choice fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get all the credit for it, but make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious he may let others get credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

"The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings or for wasting time, which other Christians never feel distressed over. So make up your mind that God is sovereign and can do what He likes with His own. He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in his dealing with you, but if you absolutely sell out to be His servant, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow on you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

"Settle it forever, then, that you deal directly with the Holy Spirit and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hands, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to do with others. Now, when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven."

Thanks for reading!

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