Laying It Down

This guest post is written by Matt Bulman. Matt works construction, spends time with his wife and three boys, and follows Jesus with the people at Harvest Bible Chapel in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

                When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. – God turning down David’s request to build a permanent temple for Israel to worship God.  II Samuel 7:12-13

“Lead me to the end of myself, take me to the edge of something greater.”  -Frontiers, Vertical Worship

 

You ask me to lay this dream down, this house I’ve wanted to build for you. You say you have another plan, something better for me, a bigger picture that I can’t yet see. You ask me to lay it down, to walk away from my good thing, my great gift for you. I know you say I can’t have it, but God you know how much this hurts. Forgive my hesitation, my unwillingness to trade the certain for the not yet. Let your patience hold you a little longer while I hold this dream as it breathes its last. I’m going to let it go but God you know this is hard.

Why can’t I see your bigger picture? What do I do when my dream looks better than your promise of potential blessing? How do I lay down this good thing I want when I can’t see what you promise in return? Why are the hard times all mine? Why do I get the tears, the agony, the blood and war and another gets the victory celebration?

You command me to walk away, to let another fulfill my dream. You demand my sacrifice, but reject my plan for how to make it. You desire my worship, but rip away my offering. You answered my prayers, saw my tears, fought my battles, and worked my miracles. You are my rescuer. My stronghold, my fortress, my rock, my deliverer, my defender, my shield. You were a forest fire of hope in the middle of the darkest nights. Every hard time you were there and I learned to trust you in the chaos. But why were the hard times all mine and the rewards destined to go to another? I know you say I’m on the edge of something greater, but forgive me, it is so hard to see that from where I’m standing. I just can’t see it and I don’t understand.

But I will lift my eyes to yours and call this back to mind, you are God of gods and Lord of lords and your steadfast love endures forever.  These battles were mine but the victories are yours and your steadfast love endures forever. The hard times were mine but you are the rescuer and the redeemer and your steadfast love endures forever. The tears were mine but you are the prayer answerer and your steadfast love endures forever. It is enough for me that your steadfast love endures forever.

Who am I that you would keep your eye on me? Who am I that you never turned away?  Who am I that you brought me here? And who am I that you would promise me anything? Your love for me is enough, and your steadfast love endures forever.

Eden

This guest post is written by Matt Bulman. Matt works construction, spends time with his wife and three boys, and follows Jesus with the people at Harvest Bible Chapel in Winston Salem, North Carolina.

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the Garden.”  Genesis 3:8

We hear the sound of him walking in the cool of the day. He is searching for us, wanting to walk and talk. Wanting us to be near him and know that he is God, to know that he is for us. To show us there is none like him. But we stay hidden. We hide because I am ashamed in front of you and you are ashamed to be seen by me. What’s more terrifying is the thought of him seeing us.

Why do we hide? Of course he knows about us, knows what we’ve done. He has known the whole time, and now you know about me and I know about you. We found out that both of us have power to destroy what is supposed to be good. With two quick bites, innocence is dead. Guilt and distrust now live in its place.  Yesterday we walked with him in the garden, the two of us in perfect unity with him. We sang for him and he sang over us while we all laughed and danced. Didn’t it feel good? Wasn’t it perfect? Why won’t we come out from these bushes?

I didn’t know then what I know about me now. Or what I know about you. He is calling to us, looking for that communion again. Maybe it is best to hide here, stay in these shadows, close to you but somehow still far away.  I can’t go out there because he will see me, and see you. If we walk out into that light he won’t love me anymore, and if you really see me, neither will you. I don’t want to be alone, don’t want to lose these last little pieces of what he made that was so good. The terror of losing it all keeps my feet planted behind these scrubby shrubs.

I want to look at you, to feel what we felt this morning, to feel the world whirl when I look into your eyes. But I can’t lift my eyes to meet your gaze. I’m scared of what is there now, scared of the blame, the hurt, and the pain. I’m afraid you will see it in my eyes too. How do we get there? Back to when it was good, back when this tangled mess was Eden. Let’s just hide here and maybe he will go and we can work it out later. I can hide this hurt inside, I can fix Eden, and next week when he comes back he will be happy with us.  He is still out there calling my name; why doesn’t he leave?

There is something in his voice that wasn’t there yesterday, something new I haven’t heard before. His voice is permeated with notes of hurt and anger, and hints of longing and love. Like your voice a few minutes ago. It sounds like he really wants us to come out of the dark and into the light. Every time we slither back a little further into the weeds he seems a little closer. Each thorn-prick induced gasp, every stone-bruised muffled curse is echoed with another step from our Father. He is gaining ground and his voice is more insistent than ever.

I pull back a limb so we can see more clearly, and there he is. Nose to nose, eye to eye, tear to tear. God himself, looking into my soul through my eyes, and asking questions that I don’t want to answer. I can blame you, you can blame me, maybe we can blame the devil. This shame won’t hide from him anymore though. It’s right out front, easy for him to see. Why does he look at us like that? Can’t he see what we have done? We ruined it all. Why won’t he just leave us alone?

His anger seemed to melt as soon as our eyes met, but that love and longing is still there. It’s mingled with tears and something else. He knows. I can see it in those eyes. He knows it all but he still loves. We can walk out now. Out of the dark and into the marvelous light. I can lay down my shame, you can lay down yours. The breeze is blowing and I catch the scent of the tree of life’s tantalizing blossoms, overpowering the aftertaste of the knowledge of good and evil. Come on baby, let’s go out there. He is waiting, calling us by name, and we’ve got nothing left to lose.

Allah’s Advocate- Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

religiones-monoteistas

Updated 12/31/15, and 1/2/16 to include additional links, see below. 

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? The question intrigued me because it was raised by a tenured professor at Wheaton College, a well-known evangelical institution. Larycia Hawkins made the decision to wear a hijab, an Islamic veil or headscarf, during the Advent season with a view to showing her ‘human’ and ‘religious’ solidarity with Muslims around the world. She wrote on her Facebook post:

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

What think ye? Wheaton College issued a statement indicating that Professor Hawkins would be placed on administrative leave, indicating that her statements about the relationship between Islam and Christianity conflicted with Wheaton’s statement of faith.

Here are a couple of helpful links:

  • Alan Jacobs weighs in with a Lewisian bomb-shell on why most of us should probably just shut up.
  •  Catholic philosopher Francis Beckwith argues the affirmative.
  • An excellent article in the Chicago Tribune provides a refreshingly balanced perspective.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with the concluding argument of Scott McKnight (I think he’s got it right) on a post he wrote in response to Miraslav Volf’s contention that Muslims and Christians worship the same God:

I have said this before and will say it again: we can agree to some degree at a generic level, but we don’t worship God in the generic. We worship either the God of Abraham and Moses, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, or the God of Mohammed. The God in each of the faiths is understood differently enough to conclude that saying we worship the “same” God muddies the water.

E.g.,. we could say these things that show the three are sufficiently dissimilar:

1. There is only one God and he has taken on human form in one person, Jesus Christ.

2. The one God has revealed himself most completely in Jesus Christ, who was crucified and raised, so that cruciformity is central to Who God is.

3. The one God is revealed in Three Persons, Father, Son and Spirit.

Neither Judaism nor Islam embraces any of these, so there is good reason to say they are not the same.

Feel free to share any thoughts or helpful material that you may have. I only ask that you consider- why is this important to me?

12/31/15- I also came across two additional articles that may be helpful- 

1/2/15– Francis Beckwith put together an excellent roundup, including a follow-up post by Peter Leithart.