Is the Problem Within or Without?

perplexedA series of quotes or quips inspired by the writing of John & Stasi Eldredge (RansomedHeart).

Spend a Weekend With Your Relatives

Something has gone wrong with the human race, and we know it. Better said, something has gone wrong within the human race. It doesn’t take a theologian or a psychologist to tell you that. Read a newspaper. Spend a weekend with your relatives. Simply pay attention to the movements of your own heart in a single day. Most misery is the fruit of the human heart gone bad. Scripture could not be more clear on this. Yes, God created us to reflect his glory, but barely three chapters into the drama we torpedoed the whole project. By the sixth chapter of Genesis, our downward spiral had reached the point where God himself couldn’t bear it any longer: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain” (Gen. 6:5-6). This is the first mention of God’s heart in the Bible, by the way, and it’s a sad beginning, to be sure. His heart is broken because ours is fallen.

Any honest person knows this. We know we are not what we were meant to be. Most of the world religions concur on this point. Something needs to be done.

But the usual remedies involve some sort of shaping up on our part, some sort of face-lift whereby we clean up our act and start behaving as we should. Jews try to keep the Law. Buddhists follow the Eightfold Path. Muslims live by the Five Pillars. Christians try church attendance and moral living. It never works. It never will. For heaven’s sake—we’ve given it several thousand years. You’d think we’d have gotten somewhere. Of course, the reason all those treatments ultimately fail is that we quite misdiagnosed the disease. The problem is not in our behavior; the problem is in us. As Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matt. 15:19). We don’t need an upgrade. We need transformation. We need a miracle.

 

Second Chances

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A series of quotes or quips inspired by the writing of John & Stasi Eldredge (RansomedHeart).

Ugly Duckling Becomes A Swan

The Phoenix rises from the ashes. Cinderella rises from the cinders to become a queen. The Ugly Duckling becomes a beautiful swan. Pinocchio becomes a real boy. The frog becomes a prince. The Cowardly Lion gets his courage, the Scarecrow his brains, and the Tin Woodman a new heart. They are all transformed into the very thing they never thought they could be.

Why are we enchanted by tales of transformation? I can’t think of a movie or novel or fairy tale that doesn’t somehow turn on this. Why is it an essential part of any great story? Because it is the secret to Christianity, and Christianity is the secret to the universe. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). You must be transformed. Keeping the Law, following the rules, polishing up your manners—none of that will do. “What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people” (Gal. 6:15).

Is this not the message of the Gospel? Zacchaeus the trickster becomes Zacchaeus the Honest One. Mary the whore becomes Mary the Last of the Truly Faithful. Paul the self-righteous murderer becomes Paul the Humble Apostle. Erhaps we have changed a bit in what we believe and how we act. We confess the creeds now, and we’ve gotten our temper under control . . . for the most part. But “transformed” seems a bit too much to claim. How about “forgiven and on our way”? That’s how most Christians would describe what’s happened to them. It’s partly true . . . and partly untrue, and the part that’s untrue is what’s killing us. We’ve been told that even though we have placed our hope in Christ, even though we have become his followers, our hearts are still desperately wicked. And of course, so long as we believe that our hearts remain untouched, unchanged, we will pretty much live untouched and unchanged.

For our heart is the wellspring of life within us.

The First Male Stuff-Up

“So, you’re telling me there’s a chance…?”

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John Eldredge writes…

ADAM FAILS

God gives Adam some instructions on the care of creation and his role in the unfolding story. It’s pretty basic, and very generous (see Gen. 2:16-17). But notice what God doesn’t tell Adam. There is no warning or instruction over what is about to occur: the Temptation of Eve. This is just staggering. Notably missing from the dialogue between Adam and God is something like this: “Adam, one more thing. A week from Tuesday, about four in the afternoon, you and Eve are going to be down in the orchard and something dangerous is going to happen. Adam, are you listening? The eternal destiny of the human race hangs on this moment. Now, here’s what I want you to do . . .” He doesn’t tell him. He doesn’t even mention it, so far as we know. Good grief—why not?! Because God believes in Adam. This is what he’s designed to do—to come through in a pinch. Adam doesn’t need play-by-play instructions because this is what Adam is for. It’s already there, everything he needs, in his design, in his heart. Needless to say, the story doesn’t go well. Adam fails; he fails Eve and the rest of humanity. Let me ask you a question: Where is Adam, while the serpent is tempting Eve? He’s standing right there: “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too” (Gen. 3:6 NLT). The Hebrew for “with her” means right there, elbow to elbow. Adam isn’t away in another part of the forest; he has no alibi. He is standing right there, watching the whole thing unravel. What does he do? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He says not a word, doesn’t lift a finger.* He won’t risk, he won’t fight, and he won’t rescue Eve. Our first father—the first real man—gave in to paralysis. He denied his very nature and went passive. And every man after him, every son of Adam, carries in his heart now the same failure. Every man repeats the sin of Adam, every day. We won’t risk, we won’t fight, and we won’t rescue Eve. We truly are a chip off the old block.

* I’m indebted to Crabb, Hudson, and Andrews for pointing this out in The Silence of Adam.

Frodo Goes Deep

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life?

How do you go on? when in your heart you begin to understand, there is no going back.  

There are some things that time cannot heal, cannot mend;

Some hurts that go too deep, that have taken hold.”

~ Frodo, at the end of Return of the King.

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Limp Phlegm or a ‘Man o War’?

 

Picture 2One of the most poisonous things in this world is the box jellyfish the Portugese Man o’ War.  It is full of electrical pulsating death and awe-inspiring strike power.  But not if it’s washed up on a beach like limp phlegm.  It needs the sea and wide open spaces to work its dangerousness.  In all its power, it is still see through and has the structural integrity of a plastic bag.  But it can still sting you like a lightening bolt out of hell. Some men are like phlegm on a beach, all washed-up, transparent, see-through, like discarded plastic bags.  But God has packed within even the most limp man awesome power and pulsing energy that He wants to release as the fuel of life and adventure.

Get off that beach brothers and find your sea!

Man o War 1 - Laguna Madre 02-26-2012