Theology Ruins Everything

I was just listening to a very nice worship song that I’ve had for a while now, when the line comes up that says, “I’ve been looking for a deeper place when we can finally be as one.” And I thought, really?  when we can finally be as one?  You haven’t found that deeper place yet?  Are you in Christ or aren’t you?  What was your baptism for, then?  Look, mate, you have the Holy Spirit, the first fruits of your identity in Christ. You’re supposed to take the rest of it on faith.  That’s why the feeling of intimacy isn’t always there – so you can lean on His word instead.  Look man, you only undermine your faith when you look to the wrong things to sustain it.  The Christian walk is designed to thrive on a taste and a promise.

Consequently, this song, or at least that line, has been ruined for me.  Thank you, theology.

The Smoking Flax

In pursuing his calling, Christ will not quench the smoking flax, or wick, but will blow it up till it flames.  In a smoking flax there is but a little light, and that little light is weak, since it’s unable to flame, and what is there is mixed with smoke.  The observations from this are that in God’s children, especially in their first conversion, there is but a little measure of grace, and that little grace is mixed with much corruption which, like smoke, is offensive; but that Christ will not quench this smoking flax.

Grace is Little at First

There are several ages in Christians – some are babes, some young men.  Faith may be as “a grain of mustard seed” (Matt 17:20).  There is nothing so little as grace at first, and nothing more glorious afterward.  Things of greatest perfection are longest in coming to their growth.  Man, the most perfect creature, comes to perfection by little and little; worthless things, such as mushrooms and the like – like Jonah’s gourd, soon spring up, and soon vanish.  A new creature is the most excellent creature in all the world, and therefore it grows up by degrees.  We see in  nature that a mighty oak rises from an acorn.

It is with a Christian as it was with  Christ, who sprang out of the dead stock of Jesse, out of David’s family (Isa. 53:2), when it was at the lowest, but he grew up higher than the heavens.  It is not with the trees of righteousness as it was with the trees off paradise, which were created all perfect at the first.  The seeds of all the creatures in the present goodly frame of the world were hid in the chaos, in that confused mass at the first, out of which God commanded all creatures to arise.  In the small seeds of plants lie hidden both bulk and branches, bud and fruit.  In a few principles lie hidden all comfortable conclusions of holy truth.  All these glorious frameworks of zeal and holiness in the saints had their beginning from a few sparks.

Let us not therefore be discouraged at the small beginnings of grace, but look on ourselves as selected to be “holy and without blame” (Eph. 1:4).  Let us look on our imperfect beginning only to enforce further striving to perfection, and to keep us in a low opinion of ourselves.  On the other hand, in case of discouragement, we must consider ourselves as Christ does, who looks on us as those he intends to fit for himself.  Christ values us by what we shall be, and by what we are selected unto. We call a little plant a tree, because it is growing up to be so.  “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10).  Christ would not have us despise little things.

The glorious angels disdain not attendance on little ones – little in their own eyes, and little in the eyes of the world.  Grace, though little in quantity, yet is much in vigor and worth.  It is Christ that raises the worth of little and mean places and persons.  Bethlehem was the least (Mic. 5:2; Matt. 2:6), and yet not the least.  It was the least in itself, and not the least in respect that Christ was born there.  The second temple (Hag. 2:9) came short of the outward magnificence of the former; yet it was more glorious than the first because Christ came into it. The Lord of the temple came into his own temple.  The pupil of the eye is very little, yet sees a great part of the heaven at once.  A pearl, though little, yet is of much esteem.  Nothing in the world is of so good use as the least grain of grace.


Gehazi! Sweet fool, Gehazi!
Gehazi! What have you done?
Not for food, or want of money,
but for pride you sold your God.

What might the Lord have done with you,
who washed the feet of prophets,
and with your eyes have looked upon
the armies of the Lord?

How many times were you entrusted
with the messages of God?
What glory might have been your portion
With Elisha’s cloak and rod?

But you never understood.

God’s glory is for glory;
His favor is by grace.
No gift can buy you honor;
No work replaces faith.

Edom despised his birthright,
and all his father’s hoard;
He traded his position
for some beans upon the board.

For what he did, he earned
the plain results of his despising:
because he hated his inheritance,
in his inheritance he was despised.

But you! Gehazi! Sweet fool!

As Moses, when he hit the rock,
taught the Hebrews to despise
the mercy and the graciousness
of Him who split the tide,

So you have taught the nations
that God’s kindness is for trade.
Now he must be proven just
and make his nature plain.

What good is God to Gehazi?
What good is gold to Simon Mage?
Since you trade for Laban’s leprosy,
his leprosy shall surely be your wage.

The Essence of Faith

The Essence of Faith.

I think this is good as far as it goes, but it’s still wrong. To a certain extent, it should be as obvious as anything that we should trust an infinite God, infinitely. And our lack of ability to do that even a little bit is probably a pretty good measure of how far short of God’s glory we fall in other areas.

BUT. It’s not as though God makes it obvious and easy to trust in Him. He delights in being trustworthy, and He wants us to delight in his trustworthiness by trusting Him. And to delight in Him more and more is to trust Him more and more. But trusting more and more requires greater and greater challenges to that trust. So God deliberately sets up scenarios where the risk is ever greater to take Him at His word.

If faith were easy, it would just be presumption.

It’s true if you believe it (or not)

Just finished watching Kung Fu Panda, which I’ve been wanting to see for a while now, and I have to say, it’s a really cute movie. The writing is good; there’s an all-star cast of voice actors; the character arcs have good messages. But there’s this niggling little bit about the message that’s just begging to be deconstructed.

We have this thing about faith. I think it comes from having inherited a Christian culture but widely rejecting the faith itself within that culture. We believe in *Faith*. We take Jesus’ praise for powerful faith and derision for weak faith at face value without noticing that faith has to have an object that’s worthy of it. God likes faith because he wants us to trust him, so he sets up situations where trusting him isn’t the immediate obvious answer – otherwise it wouldn’t be faith. But here in post-Christianity, we’ve dropped the messiah bit, and we’re left with the general conviction that faith itself is some kind of power source, regardless of the object it’s connected to. And boy do we ever attach some weird objects.

And the weirdest one of all is nothing. Not the “heart in a blender” kind of nothing, but this idea that believing in itself makes the impossible real. I take the rope of faith, hook one end to myself and toss the other one up the side of an invisible precipice and **clinch!** It holds! If you believe it hard enough, it automatically becomes true.

And that, of course is the key message of “the dragon scroll.” It’s blank. There is no secret of ultimate power. You look in the reflective scroll and all you see is you. But if you **believe** in yourself, that belief itself will make you invincible.

The problem is that it’s not true. Even if I think about it every night and day, believing I can fly doesn’t make me able to touch the sky. Not only isn’t it true, they can’t even convey the message consistently in the movie. Believing in yourself apparently only works for pandas. The furious five may believe that together they can defeat Tai Lung, but believing don’t make it so. Similarly, Tai Lung may believe that he is the true Dragon Warrior, but somehow he ain’t, and I just don’t see how it could be from a lack of believing. Po the giant panda gets to believe in himself, and Shifu the red panda get’s to believe (in Po), and Oogway the turtle, because he’s infinitely wise, gets to believe whatever he wants. But ultimately, believing only really works if it’s actually true.

Just like in the real world.