rebuilding temples

Posted: June 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

I keep blogging as if I have a huge base of followers who read my blog every day (not that I blog every day), but the I’m gonna go ahead and assume that the majority of people who read this blog are just happening across it on Facebook.  Here’s the deal: I write about things that impact me, and what I’m about to write about has profoundly impacted me in just this time.  I’ve learned to count on the fact that when I am impacted by something, that same something will impact others. Have you ever listened to a pastor preach on something that is clearly NOT relevant in his own life?  It’s not too common, but if you HAVE experienced it, you probably wouldn’t even remember… because you were probably sleeping.  However, we’ve all heard our pastors stop in the middle of their own message and say something to the effect of “I’m preaching this to myself,” or “This is something that I daily need to be reminded of.”  It’s kind of like they’re saying “Go ahead and put away the notepad and take out the kleenex.”  Well, you don’t have to take out the kleenex, but please do know that as you read this, you are experiencing something that is coming not from the wisdom of my mind, but the vulnerability of my soul.

I did a project a few months ago for a class.  My assignment was to write a detailed report and give a presentation on the Second Temple of the Jews.  The First Temple is Solomon’s Temple that was destroyed when the Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians.  The Second Temple refers to the Temple that was built after the Jews returned from exile.  The Second Temple also refers to the same Temple that was used in Jesus’ time (although a major reconstruction project was undertaken during that time).  The main recollection of this event is found in the Book of Ezra, so I decided to go back through and comb through the book and see what I may have missed.

To be honest, my relationship with God has been really challenging for the past month or so.  I’ve wrestled with doubts and questions.  Hope that was undeterred and a relationship that was unshakable have been rocked to the core.  I can look at my life just a few months or a year ago and see a very different dynamic in my relationship with, reverence of, and awareness of God.  At times, I feel that I need to just unplug from the world until I get things straightened out a little bit. After all, I really don’t have anything good to offer to the Body of Christ if I’m not on my A-game, right?  Spoiler alert… don’t believe that.

I’ve had a handful of honest conversations with others about the struggles that I’ve been facing. I’ve approached the subject accepting the fact that God just simply wasn’t working in my life or speaking through me at the time.  With my tail between my legs (not really… I don’t have a tail), and my eyes towards the ground, I confess it all.  I’ve been amazed to find that these conversations have turned out to be some of the most fruitful that I’ve ever had.  One belief that I’ve held firmly to for the past year or so is that God is truly in control of his own glory.  It doesn’t really matter if I FEEL like He is or can be glorified through my life… the truth is that when I surrendered my life to Him, I signed over my control over of that sort of control. Like I said, these are beliefs that I’ve held for a time, but I’ve never seen this in action until now.

The best part about the entire thing is that God was purposeful in creating situations like mine and quite possibly yours right now.  Ezra 3:11-13 describes the Jews after the foundation of the new Temple was laid.  The old Jews who had been alive during Solomon’s Temple – a beautiful, ornate, expensive Temple – had a chance to compare the former Temple with the new Temple.  Just as I continuously look at the way my relationship with God has been, and the way that you may be comparing your life today with your life yesterday, so the Jews took note of the differences between their own Temples.  How did they respond?  They wept… LOUDLY.  The young Jews – those who had been born in captivity and had never had a Temple to worship in – shouted for joy, though.  What a blessing that they could be utterly satisfied with such a meager portion in comparison to the former.  The most profound revelation is yet to come though:  “[They] wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.”

When you feel pain and doubt – express it.  When God decided to raise your temple to the ground and establish a new one, you’re going to long for the old – express that desire.  Shout with joy as the young Jews did as you realize that just as God has promised “the old has gone, and the new has come.”  When you express that pain and those desires, you’re glorifying God in the exact way that He has designed for that time in your life.  You’re speaking of pain and suffering.  Your bitterness seems to be all that you can offer, but the sound is heard far away.  And those who are hearing that sound aren’t hearing your pain and bitterness.  They’re hearing the sweetness of honesty and surrender… a truly joyful noise.

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Who are you?

Posted: April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

I don’t blog often. In fact, this is only my second post, and I’ve had this account for over a year. Blogging is my way of saying, “Hey, look world. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and I finally want you to think about it too.”
This past season of Lent, I began to think about the process of Christ’s betrayal, arrest, “trial,” journey on the via dolorosa, and his crucifixion. I’ve had fleeting thoughts about this for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never dwelt on the issue until recently. I remember thinking, in my childhood: “I wonder what the deal is with the criminals who hung on either side of Jesus. How do they fit into the picture?”
So what’s been instigating my daydreams in class? What do I think about when I wake up in the small hours of the morning? What am I pondering when I glaze over when I should be having a conversation with you? It is simply this: Who am I on the day of Christ’s death? I’ve thought about several characters: Mary, the mother of Jesus (barring gender barriers, of course); Peter, the fearful follower; Judas, the betrayer; the mob of locals before Pilate crying “Crucify him!” Perhaps there were some in the crowd who despised to see Christ humiliated. Surely I would be among their ranks, right? Am I Pilate, who desires to set Christ free from the injustice yet crumbles to the pressures of politics? Am I Simon of Cyrene, compelled to carry the burden of the cross in order to assure the completion of Christ’s crucifixion? Is it possible that I am the Roman who flogged him, placed the crown of thorns on his head, and punched the nails through his hands and feet? Am I the thief who mocks, or am I the thief who confesses? Who am I on the day of crucifixion?
Simon of Cyrene: an innocent passerby just visiting with his children. He has had no part in the conviction of Jesus. He has not called for his death. He may or may not have even known of Jesus before this time, but carrying his cross sure could be one effective form of evangelism. How glorious of a position, to be able to say: “I have helped Jesus carry the cross. By my strength, salvation is created.” Then reality comes crashing down. I’m not a perfect sacrifice; I am not allowed to bear that sort of burden. No, no, I’m not Simon. I’m not nearly innocent enough. Of course, this isn’t to say that Simon was perfectly righteous. He merely physically bore the cross. Maybe if I become a martyr someday, Simon will be a more fitting character.
What about Peter: one of the beloved disciples of Christ? A faithful follower of Christ, although weak at times. Quite honestly, sometimes when I think about Peter, some not very Christian-like thoughts float in my human brain. How can I deny that these shortcomings of Peter served a very real and very good purpose, though? No, I don’t quite fit the Peter mold either. I have not fully loved, fully desired (despite shortcomings), or even obeyed. Peter did not call for the crucifixion, he merely ran from it.
How about the Pharisees and Sadducees with their followers: having known Christ’s power and goodness but denying his lordship. Having not been moved by Jesus, they call for his crucifixion. Not because they know that the deed must be done, but because they want the deed to be done. They choose Barabbas, the murderer who represents a life of anger, lust, and greed. They choose him over the fountain of living water because to them, the fountain pours out bitter water.
How about Pilate. He’s under tremendous pressure. He sees no fault in Jesus. He even desires to free him, but the pressure is just too great. An uprising from the Jews would reflect on him poorly. If one Jewish tattle tale makes his way to Caesar to let him know that the governor of this area was “no friend of his” could spell out his own crucifixion. Pilate washed his hands of the guilt of injustice, but my hands are not nearly so clean.
Let’s move back to the mob crying “crucify.” Have I not known the power of Christ, yet denied his lordship over my life? Come to think of it, my life is marred with craters of denial. How many times have I chosen death over life willingly? Truly, I have desired the path that leads to death, but the truth is that you probably have too. How many times have we encountered the Spirit of The Lord and felt repelled, traumatized, or even disgusted. Yes, we have truly bathed in living water, but we are stung by the acidity that the death that we desire introduces, and our tastebuds taste only bitterness. There’s no denying it. I’ve cried the cry: Crucify him!
Desire is a profound indicator of the state of the heart. While it is true that I have desired to be rid of the trauma of uncomfortable-ness of who God is, it is also true that I have desired that that bitterness would be left. I’ve tasted bitterness, but I’ve been aware that bitterness is not something Christ brings. I can’t remove it by crucifying him. Bitterness is something which I harbor. As soon as that sentence resounds in my conscience, the harmony joins: “I’m not the fountain of living water. I have not the ability to produce bitterness continuously for eternity.” While I have desired, and yet continue to desire death, I desire to have a desire for The Lord.
Was there one among the scoffers who cried crucify in vain? Was there a single person who understood that the crucifixion wouldn’t be their satisfaction; that the crucifixion not be the answer they were searching for? If there was one who called for Barabbas yet so desired to be able to believe in the truth of Christ. That is who I would have been.
Now I see myself, a member of the mob, walking away from the members calling for death. I despair over their plight, for they have one desire: death, and they desire nothing else. How I wish they could desire life, or even have a desire to desire life. While they continue to bathe in bitterness, I have seen the bitterness begin to leave and be replaced by the sweetness of a well of fresh water. Nevertheless, I do turn back sometimes, and when I do, the desire for spiritual death grows as the desire for life diminishes. Such is the plight of believers everywhere.

Sinner or Saint who sins….

Posted: April 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Jesu Juva

Disclaimer:  I am no theologian.

Did you know that there’s two of you?  This is if you’re a real-life, born again follower of Christ.  There’s two super real Eric VanBruggens.  Eric VanBruggen lives in the flesh.  He’s a sinner.  He’s going to bring impurities with him to the grave.  He truly is among the chief of evildoers.  Eric VanBruggen is also, thanks ONLY to the Grace of God, very alive in the spirit.  He’s been given the righteousness of Christ.  He is pure, and he is a lover wisdom.  He has a passion for relationship with God, and he is KNOWN intimately by God.  Guess which one God identifies us by?

This wonderful truth can straighten out some of the most cryptic notions (cryptic for me anyways).  I’ve never understood what it means to die to sin, or be alive in the spirit.  I never understood what it meant to carry the cross or be crucified with Christ.  How am I righteous? I sin all the time!  Here’s the beauty though.  I’m no longer the one sinning.  I, in full truth, am identified by my righteous spirit in the eyes of God.  I am not identified any longer by the evil of my flesh.  Sin separates us no longer.  In my limited wisdom, I will make a pretty bold statement.  God does not know our flesh ever!  When I say “know,” I mean it in a sense of a relationship just as I “know” my siblings and parents rather than “knowing” the answer to a question on a test.  “Then I will tell them plainly, I NEVER KNEW YOU. Away from me.” (NIV, underlining and caps, mine).  When we are moved from flesh to spirit, we are known!  Notice, I said “when we are moved,” not “when we move.”  The Grace of God is so much more encompassing than we care to believe sometimes.  After all wasn’t it “grace that taught my heart to fear, and that same grace, my fears relieved”? Anyways.  Become alive in your spirit.  We don’t always have to read through scripture with a “bad dog” mentality.  I am finding that it is NOT a sinful act for me to go to daily chapel, or a church service and leave feeling ENCOURAGED.  Scripture is becoming far more dynamic.  There are plenty of areas of my life that are in dire need of brand new life from Christ, and those continue to be addressed, but I’m continually being affirmed through His word.  Affirmation is a very father oriented idea.  When a young boy is in need of affirmation, what’s the greatest source? His father.  I have a true Father who affirms me and lovingly exposes me.  He is pleased with my spirit.  He’s pleased with your spirit, and he knows your spirit.  He GUARANTEES it! II Corinthians 5.

I stink at ending things.  There’s so much more territory that can be covered here… like a whole religion’s worth.  I’m sure that approximately thirty seconds after I click on “publish post,” I will think of three more points that I wanted to make.  Make comments!  I’m hungry!  I love to converse and learn.  As I close, there is one thing on my mind.  In the courtyard, when Jesus challenged any sinless man to throw the first stone at the prostitute, they all threw down their rocks.  Jesus then turns his attention to the woman.  He tells her to go and sin no more!  If that were me, I could have only hoped to say, “I’ll try my best.”  Does Jesus expect this woman to return to her home and her family and NEVER sin again in her natural life?  I was in class the other day and the prof asked, “How long can you go without sinning? Raise your hand when I call out the time that you think you can go without sinning.  One year.”  No hands. “Six months.” No hands. “One month.” Still no hands.  “One week.”  Finally, some bold students began to raise their hands.  I was amazed to think someone could go one week without sinning.  “One day.”  All right, students are beginning to raise their hands a little bit more, and I’m beginning to think something is wrong with me.  I still haven’t even THOUGHT about raising my hand.  “twelve hours.”  there’s starting to be more and more students raising their hands.  By now, the majority of the students have already raised their hands indicating that their maximum time without sin has already been said.  “One hour, still a few more honest hands trickling up.”  “Fifteen minutes.” Two classmates raise their hands.  “One minute…” One hand: mine, halfway in the air kind of bobbing up and down as it to say “dude, one minute is a stretch.  If I can manage to hold my breath, not think about ANYTHING and eventually just pass out for the rest of that minute, then we’ll talk.”  I felt so ashamed!  My prof was surprised.  His response was so condemning: “You mean to tell me that you can’t even go ONE MINUTE without sinning?!” I looked at my feet.  That’s bad dog mentality.  When it comes to flesh, we ARE bad dogs.  I can’t even go a minute without sinning somehow in words, actions, motivations, or thoughts.  How is it that Christ could tell this woman, “Go and sin no more.”  I think He could tell her that because he no longer identified her by her flesh.  She was no longer a prostitute and a temptress.  I am no longer an attention seeker.  You are no longer a sinner.  She was, and I am being, brought to life in the spirit.  Righteousness is upon me, and I am able to sin no more.  The righteousness that I have through Christ by the Grace of God will NEVER be stained by sin.

  Soli Deo Gloria

 

Let the games begin…

Posted: April 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

Maybe you’re aware, but if you have not been informed, you and I are alive.  Life happens every day.  Sometimes its an exhilarating blur, but sometimes it moves no faster than the honey wagon in front of you which chooses to drive fifteen miles per hour under the speed limit in August.  I hope you caught the error!  Obviously, the previous situation wouldn’t be included on any well planned travel itinerary, but obviously the honey wagon has no choice at which speed to travel.  The rear wheels rotate at a specific velocity which is directly proportional to the mechanical advantage provided by the inter-workings of the rear end gears, drive shaft, and transmission.  All of these receive power from an engine which sucks in gasoline (or diesel) to create this power.  The more fuel and air, the more power and velocity!  Well, what controls this process?!  Duh!  We don’t call it a gas pedal for nothing!  A human foot applies pressure to a rubber pedal.  The foot is connected to a muscle which is connected to a nerve.  The nerve runs all the way from the muscle, through the spinal column to a very human brain.  That brain is an essential aspect to a being that is also alive, just like you!  In short, that stinky honey wagon is being controlled by a human.  Of course we know that, but how often do we care to understand?

This is a snapshot of my everyday thought process!  Sometimes I consider it a plague.  There are days when I simply wish I could simplify life.  Then again, the ability to process in this way helps me to live in a different kind of simplicity.  Makes perfect sense doesn’t it?!?!  Elevate your thought process!

Keep watch.  I love to process my thoughts this way.  I’ll write more when my thoughts become too jumbled to think about!