DEVOTIONAL || Ecclesiastes 7

"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

We are all of us guilty of not truly seeking wisdom. Wisdom lays this to heart and rather than going out of the way to pursue pleasures, parties, and a good time at that one spot we all go to, wisdom seeks to separate itself. Wisdom, simply put, is different.

Right now I find myself in a position, literally where I am constantly in a house of mirth. I go from good time to good time, from comfort to comfort ignoring the reality that there is a deeper truth. Over two-hundred years ago Søren Kierkegaard was born. This Danish philosopher would turn individual identity and much of state-led Christendom on it’s heels with his reflections and writings. Essentially, he boiled our lives down to a simple idea: we are all alone. We are all alone in our relationships, in our pursuits, in our identity. We are alone, often seeking the same thing. To take a great liberty with his thoughts, a lot of our relationships play out like AA meetings. We are not alone in our disease, but we alone have the responsibility and power to change that. The power doesn’t come from the other members there in the meetings, nor do they take on our responsibilities. They may share and help, but the buck stops with us. We draw motivation and encouragement to reach our goals from our relationships. So too is our life in this world.

Today you have talked with coworkers, strangers, family, and friends. Today, you are still alone. Why? You will die. We will all die. We are locked onto a fixed path which ends with death. And we all have to remind one another of that. Denying it, creating a false sense of community, is a very dangerous thing. I am not saying there is no such thing as a true community, but we must be careful. Reflecting on our own personal end will drive us to pursue Christ and Christ alone, the man who was raised from among the dead ones. It is our personal salvation we receive. We are not saved in groups or ratios. Christ and us. Us as a community of individuals with Christ. This loneliness, this despair alone produces a heart turned upon Christ and bent upon Him alone for salvation. I am alone. I am alone with you. I am alone with Christ. We are alone as individuals with Christ. And that is okay.

BACK BURNER || A New Tag Cloud Arises!

In the interest of growing my writing habits and techniques I’ve been putting out these daily devotionals. Now in order to compliment what I am currently working on I am also including BACK BURNER.

I have written sermons and various articles over the years that helped me comfortable with the idea of launching STATEnotCITY. Starting today older pieces I have previously written will pop up on occasion. These do not necessarily reflect my current views (or grammar for that matter) but will help to fill out this blog and provide some depth (for all those who want to analyze how I get to where I am today.)

TL;DR - Throwback Thursday is called BACK BURNER here on STATEnotCITY!

DEVOTIONAL || Psalm 16

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."

What do we know of this experience? Of fullness of joy? Of a knowledge of our path? Of pleasures forevermore? How do we read this without suspicion? Of course we approach this as fact, but our reality often does not line up with this passage. Here we see a man drenched in a reality that seems a distant shore to us. We have here the relationship with The Spirit, literally the outreached part of God to man in His Son’s departure. Several years ago Francis Chan, an influential pastor on the west coast published a book called ‘The Forgotten God.’ A fitting title for the aspect of our relationship with God that we often overlook (I, especially.) But who else in this time illuminates the path? How else do we feel his presence? What greater pleasures could there be?

We are a culture obsessed with the corporeal, the physical/tangible, the ‘real' world. But if we want these benefits of our position in grace, embracing the bridge to God in Heaven is the God who is already here with you: The Holy Spirit. Do not deny Him, He is your connection to and your illumination from God above.

DEVOTIONAL || Psalm 43.5

"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall praise Him again, my salvation and my God."
[PROLEGOMENA: This verse stands as the refrain or heart of the Psalm. It is structured as an internal conversation that is wrapped in a prayer to God. The psalmist is asking God as well as himself the cause of his soul’s turmoil. What strikes me is the structure provides question and answer, and all from the same mouth.]

Often the Christian life is framed as *always* being an outward relationship of us to God, us to God, us to God. Rarely do we hear preaching that reminds us to turn inward first, not for answers but examination. The psalmist has studied within himself and found his soul to be cast down and at turmoil, he is not merely upset, but as turmoil would suggest he is conflicted by some sort of inward dilemma, not just one that is external. He himself has spent nights awake wrestling with perhaps some moral issue and can no longer deny it. (Speculation, but the inference fits in line with other Psalms and scriptural dialogue.) Socrates is quoted to have said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Should we not say that the unexamined Christian life is not worth living either? Before we go to God, let us understand our own heart and motivation, even a fraction better, through the wisdom He has already granted us. In turn we may find the answer surprising.

The answer here isn’t surprising so much in what it says, it is a fairly traditional and expected religious answer. What is though is if we take it literally to be written by the psalmist. He essentially answers his own question.  That is not to say that God played no role in this, nor was the psalm/prayer wasted. Through examination, confession, and communication the psalmist was brought to this conclusion that God is salvation, and we hope in Him. This is critical, that he seems brought to it by the flow of the verse: acknowledge and examining by question his distress, answering the problem and solution with a known truth. A truth which God had certainly revealed to the psalmist either presently or before. Many of our prayers become solutions in themselves as we prompt ourselves by disposition of turning to God to remember His word and suddenly His answer is clear. It’s almost like the method of loci (often called Memory Palace’s in layman’s terms) or walking back into the room to remember what you forgot as you walked out or retracing your steps. Disposition plays an important role in recall. As we change our disposition to turn towards God, away from sin, with humble and penitent hearts bowing before him, no longer asserting or elevating ourselves, we recall the simple lessons that He had already taught us: “God is great, God is good.” That God is inseparable from the salvation He has promised us, and so we can trust in Him and continue to have hope.

TL;DR - Do I spend enough time preparing my heart and mind each day to be properly disposed to remember the things that God has already taught me? Do I not only put on the proper clothing, but the proper mindset to focus on the things of God?

DEVOTIONAL || Psalm 11

"If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

I am constantly pressed against this: what are the minimal facts of the Gospel? What is the threshold of knowledge a man must adhere to that becomes sufficient unto his salvation? The life of David or even lesser Old Testament heroes seems clearly outside of this. But what about the creation account? Or even the Virgin Birth? Certainly not all of Jesus’ life in detail is necessary. Even John himself attests to this by ending his Gospel account with, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were everyone of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

What then is our foundation? What is the singular pillar upon which our mountain of refuge rests? I am convinced like the Apostle Paul written 1 Corinthians 15 that it is the Resurrection of Christ from among the dead ones. If we allow this to be the most necessary aspect of the Gospel the rest of the Psalm is given new light. Consider this: if we are promised resurrection, why do the dead remain in their graves? Why do we not see resurrection happening all around us? Could it not be that this is part of what David writes as "His eyelids test[ing] the children of men?" Surely Jesus is the first to be raised from among the dead ones, but what of the seconds and thirds? Our test of faith rests in that while they waited three days for the first, we have been waiting millennia now for the rest. But to be sure, this foundation is no sham! Christ IS alive, our foundation IS secure! The test comes in patiently waiting for our inheritance. Will you remain faithful until that day? Will you look forward eagerly to that secret pillar to become a present reality? Will you believe in the promise He holds?