Monthly Archives: February 2012

Painting in Black

So last night at Highland we observed Ash Wednesday, it’s my second time to participate in something like this, and my second time to speak at something like this. One day I look forward to going and getting to hear someone else do it. But I love doing things like this. It’s no secret that the younger generations appreciate more and more the ancient aspects of our faith, but it was a joy to watch people from all generations participate in this ancient tradition. And so, in that spirit, I’d like to post some of the thoughts from last night.

Now I know for some of the readers of this blog, Ash Wednesday may sound a bit too Catholic. And I totally get that, growing up, I was under the impression that all things Catholic were suspect. My parents wouldn’t even let me be friends with girls named Mary.

But Ash Wednesday is different, because it was going on a long time before Protestants and Catholics ever split. It is profoundly ancient and biblical. It’s an annual reminder that Christians have observed every year, for thousands of years, just like the people in the Bible like Job or the King of Ninevah. We put ashes on, and mourn. We mourn our brokenness and the brokenness of the world. We remember that from dust we came and to dust we will return.

And there’s a reason why we need cadences like this in our lives.

God knows us, he knows that we can try to trick ourselves into believing that death isn’t going to happen to us.The world doesn’t know how to respond to our mortality. And the symbol of ashes is a powerful reminder of our weakness, morally and physically. We are broken creatures. And the ash reminds us of what we tend to forget. That we live under the shadow of death, the grave will not be denied.

We don’t know what to death, The Cosmetic Plastic Surgery industry will make somewhere around 18 billion dollars this year. Think about that number…We have made an industry out of pretending that we don’t age, that people don’t die. So we get a tuck here or a lift there, and underneath all of it is this inability to talk honestly about the way things are. About the way we are. Continue reading Painting in Black

The Anger of the Lamb

So last week we talked about how Revelation really starts picking up steam. John finds a scroll, and find that it contains the the plans for God’s redemption of the world. But no one is worthy to open it…until the Lamb appears. The Lamb is the only one worthy of carrying out God’s total redemption project, so it sounds like things are turning around. Evil has met it’s match. The Lamb opens the scroll to read the redemptive plans of God. But….

Things get worse before they get better.

Once the scroll is opened a series of horses begin to start riding by. Which is not what we expected. One scholar says that the difference between Revelation and other books in the New Testament, is like the difference between reading words and reading music. We have to realize that this is a different kind of communication, and that the audience would have been able to read the sheet music. These horses stand for something. They are the symbols of the world’s oppression, violence and injustice and tyranny. The horses are white and red and black.

Which explains all those weird Skittle commercials.

And these principalities and powers wreak havoc on the world. The world is falling apart, and the things that have caused suffering from Genesis 3 on seem to run loose unchecked.

So the Saints in Heaven ask the question that is on all of our lips, even if we don’t know it. They ask, “How Long O LORD?” How long are things going to be like this? How long will Hell wreak havoc on the world? How long will babies die of AIDS, or the young of cancer? How long will war and death and tyranny carry the day? How long will the resources that can feed the many, be hoarded by the few?

If you’ve got any kind of heart, these questions have probably crossed your mind as well. They should. They are the question of Heaven.

And the answer, of course, is not the one we want. Like 2 Peter before, Jesus’ answer in Revelation is that God is patient. He knows that the ultimate enemy isn’t one with flesh and blood, and so he patiently waits and hopes to redeem the tyrant as well as the tyrannized. But there’s one more thing that Revelation tells us.

In Verse 16, we find out that the evil of the world finally beings to realize what will happen, and  they are terrified of the Anger of the Lamb.

I love that phrase. The Anger of the Lamb. Continue reading The Anger of the Lamb

Naming The Loss

Sothis past Sunday I was able to share publicly for the first time about what happened with our little family last year. I’ve been inspired by Mike Cope’s blog over the past two weeks, and the way he’s been able to create a space for those with similar experiences, so I decided (with permission from Leslie) to share our experience on here as well.

Sometime early last August, Leslie and I had discovered that we were pregnant. We had been “practicing” for quite a while and so we where very excited to add another baby to the Storment’s family. After the first trimester ended, we started telling people, and picking out nursery color schemes. But when we went to the Doctor sometime late December, well into the 4th month of pregnancy,  we discovered that the baby had stopped growing a couple of weeks earlier. And that she was never going to be born.  We went into the hospital the next day, and began the long journey toward picking up our lives and finding a new normal in a story that would feel a bit incomplete.

It’s interesting that in the Garden of Eden, God allows Adam to name the animals. From a purely linguistic standpoint that is a actually a really big deal. To name something is create categories for it, it is to help shape the way that reality is experienced. The same is true for pain. The problem with a miscarriage, and with losses like it, is that it is a unique kind of hurt. One that is hard to explain to people who haven’t experienced it. In some ways, you wonder why it hurts so much.And the temptation can be to believe that it really shouldn’t be that big of a deal. But for those who have experienced it, you know differently. There’s something wrong that you can’t even put words to. But you must try. We must name our pain.

Now I believe that God is one day going to set the world right, and that means we will see our baby again. But all Theology must begin with the facts, and the facts are often bleak. To shy away from naming them isn’t making you more spiritual, it only makes us less honest. Tomorrow, I’m going to continue the series on Revelation by tying this in somewhat.  But, ever since this experience,  the #1 comment Leslie and I have had since sharing our story is “Me too” I thought it might be helpful to post how we named our loss. For those who have gone through something similar.

Because the emotions swirling around inside me were so hard to define, I sat down a couple of nights after we got the news and wrote a letter to Mary (our little baby who would never be born). I never planned on sharing this publicly, but I am doing so in hopes that it might bless others who are going through, or have been through, similar situations. Here’s how we named our loss. I hope this helpful to some. Continue reading Naming The Loss

Who is Worthy?

When I was a kid, my dad took me to a “men’s business meeting” at the church that we were attending. At one point, my dad had proposed that we help a widow who was needing some assistance with her utilities. Sounds like standard churchy stuff to do right? But one of the other men at this meeting had some beef with this widow. And he started to become visibly agitated by the suggestion. Anyone paying attention could have picked up on the obvious social cues. Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t paying attention.

After a few minutes of dad rehashing the reasoning, this guy stood up and took off his jacket and said, “You wanna fight Cletis? (yes, that’s my dad’s name) Because’ I was golden glove in high school, and I reckon I could still take you.”

So in the book of Revelation, after Jesus writes to the 7 churches, John turns his attention to the vision he had given about what life was like in the Heavens. He sees a throne and a scroll, and a sea of glass. Now, sea in the Bible and specifically in the book of Revelation is the symbol for evil. The Jewish world knew the sea was the abyss, that was after all the place where the beasts came out in the book of Daniel.The sea was  But despite the presence of evil, God is on the throne and His purposes have not been undone. That’s what the sea means.  But what about the scroll?

N.T. Wright thinks that the best guess is that the scroll contains God’s secret mysterious plan to undo and overthrow the evil in the world. Somebody’s got to do something about the sea (cancer, AIDS, poverty, injustice). But who is worthy to do that?

In other words, John’s problem is our problem? Continue reading Who is Worthy?

Not in Vain

In 1st Corinthians 15, at the very end of talking for 57 verses about the resurrection, Paul starts talking to this church of Jesus followers about our work. He tells us, in view of this great new reality, what we do here on this earth matters.This is a sermon about how much the resurrection can effect our daily lives:

Your First Love

When I was a junior at Harding, I was able to spend a semester in Greece studying the ancient world of the Bible. We got to go to the different places that Paul’s missionary journey took him, and we even got to go on a cruise of the places where Revelation was written from and to. And my favorite of all these places was Ephesus(pictured above).

The Ephesian artifacts were by far the most substantial. It almost felt like the whole city still had pieces that remained standing. So you could walk through and see the face of a giant Library or the homes of where Christians used to live…marked out by the subversive symbols to identify themselves to other Christians. We saw the amphitheater where Paul started a riot. We even saw a sign carved in stone for where the bordello was. After all, it is the oldest profession on earth.

It was fascinating to be there. If you stood there long enough, you could just close your eyes and almost hear the sounds of the hustle and bustle of the daily life on a busy city in the first century.

So John, the author of Revelation, is in exile on an island called Patmos. He’s living in a cave (I know. I took the tour and saw where our tour guide swore he laid his head every night). He’s been put there by the authorities because he’s been deemed a troublemaker. And rather then make him a martyr, they decide to just take him out of commission. They remove his voice from the equation. Because in exile, John can’t do any damage to them there. Right?

But John doesn’t give up. He writes this letter about the cosmic realities that are all around them. About how Jesus is the world’s rightful ruler, and He holds the keys of life and death. And then John does some pastoral work. He writes 7 churches on how to live into that reality. And the first one is the church at Ephesus.

He commends them for all that they’ve got going on. They’re doctrinally sound, they hate people talking about God poorly. They do good deeds often, they have suffered for the sake of the Kingdom of God and not turned away. If the church in Ephesus had a website, you would love their talking points. Who wouldn’t want to be at a church like that?

But Jesus has got one thing against them. They’ve lost their first love.

Sure they are right about doctrines, but in all the wrong ways. Continue reading Your First Love