Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All Things New

As I write this, it is the day before New Year’s Eve, bringing not only an end to the year, but an end to the decade. It seems like just yesterday we were coming to the end of the 20th century, with all of its fears of Y2K. We can look back at that time and laugh now. How silly were we? This New Year may not bring the same kind of fears, but once again fear does seem to be in the air. Or at least an uneasiness. There’s the recession that seems to be getting worse; fears over the political direction our country is taking; fears over the moral decay; or the terrorist threat; or global warming. It seems like every decade has its own unique threats hovering over us.

Not that those threats are not sometimes real. But how often have our fears gone unrealized? You would think we would have learned something from that by now.

If you want to usher in the New Year with a hopeful and excited outlook, just look up the word "new" in a Bible concordance and peruse through a few passages. I like Isaiah 43.18-19, for example:

“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”

Throughout the Scriptures God is always promising something new. No matter how bad the past or present might seem, God promises hope and renewal. The idea of “new” looms large in Christ. God has promised to give us a new heart and new spirit (Ezek 36.26), which we gain as we experience the new birth (Jn 3.3-5; Rom 6.3-4) when we come into a new covenant (Heb 8) where we have newness of life (Rom 6.4) and serve in newness of the Spirit (Rom 7.6). Jesus promised that he will drink the cup of the covenant new with us in the kingdom (Mk 14.25). He gives us a “new commandment” (Jn 13.34) and makes us new creatures (2 Cor 5.17) as we put on a new self (Eph 4.24). We are given a new name (Rev 3.12) and sing a new song (Rev 5.9; 14.3) while we wait for the new heavens and earth (2 Pet 3.13), as we live in the New Jerusalem (Rev 21.2). And the last “new” statement in the Bible says: “And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”

Kind of gives new meaning to the New Year, doesn’t it? Have happy New Year in Christ everyone!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Adventure in Worship

This past week in my Monday Morning Musings I described the worship experience I had with a group of young people at camp a couple of weeks ago. I entitled that article, "Throwing Caution to the Wind" (if you do not get my MMMs, let me know and I will send this week's to you). As I thought I might, I received many responses from the article, perhaps with an equal number of pro and con. I have had some interesting discussions via email with several readers, especially over the issue of clapping. The more I looked at the verses in the Old Testament that mention clapping in association with worship (Ps 47.1; 98.8; Isa 55.12), the more convinced I became that clapping is both an appropriate and natural expression of our joy. While these are only three verses, they make a strong statement, showing that clapping is parallel with "shouting" and "singing" in joyful praise. Some may argue that two of these are metaphorical, referring to the trees and rivers. But the same is true of the singing and shouting for joy. The metaphorical nature of these passages does not negate the reality behind the metaphor, i.e., that shouting, singing, and clapping are common ways in which God's people expressed praise. Perhaps the prophets were calling on the rocks, rivers, and trees to do it because God's people failed to.

We sing a song at camp entitled "Aint No Rock" and it goes like this (minus the chorus): "Ain’t no rock (ain’t no rock) gonna cry in my place. I cry out to glorify His holy name....Ain’t no bird (ain’t no bird) gonna sing in my place. I lift my voice to glorify His holy name....Ain’t no tree (ain’t no tree) gonna lift its branches. I lift my hands to glorify His holy name." We ought to add to these: "Ain't no river (ain't no river) gonna clap in my place. I clap my hands to glorify His holy name."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Smiling Unborn

Check out Chuck Colson's Breakpoint commentary for today: "The Smiling Unborn Child."

Fascinating, and he makes a really great point. I didn't get to see the PBS program he references, and it doesn't seem to be available on the web, but you can buy it on DVD through PBS. I'd love to see it.

Signing the Summit Log

This past Saturday my son Jed and I climbed Snowshoe Peak, the highest peak in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness of northwest Montana. The summit is at 8738 feet—making for a 4600 foot elevation gain from the car. It’s a fun peak with a mixture of fourth-class scrambling (unroped rock climbing, but exposed enough that you don’t want to fall), an unroped glacier climb, mountain goats all around, and one of the most fantastic views I’ve ever seen from any summit. From the top you can see the peaks in Glacier National Park 75 miles away as the crow flies, then turn around and see the Selkirk Peaks near my home in Sandpoint, about the same distance. Seeing peaks that are 150 miles apart is pretty amazing. On the summit, as with so many other mountains, there is summit log where climbers sign their name and write comments. This one was in a steel box bolted to a rock. It is always fun to read what others who have climbed the peak have written, and to see where they are from. Jed and I are recorded there now. Last year my sons and son-in-law climbed a peak that is so remote it had been climbed only about six times in the past 50 years. The summit log was just an old rusty box stuffed under a rock, but it was still there after fifty years! Their names are now on it.

As I was perusing through the Scriptures this morning, I stumbled upon Lk 10.20. After the seventy disciples had returned from the Limited Commission they joyously reported to Jesus how even the demons were subject to them in his name. Jesus responded, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” Having signed a few summit logs, I can now relate to that a little better. The most obvious parallel perhaps is the honor and reward of having your name recorded. The more difficult the mountain, the greater the honor and reward of recording your name on its summit. There’s a feeling of pride knowing you have conquered the summit, and have gone where so few others have been. But can we even fathom the honor and reward of having our names recorded in heaven’s summit log? Jesus said there are few who will get there (Mt 7.13-14). What a joy to be counted among them!

But perhaps that is where the parallel ends and the contrasts begin. For while I might proudly sign a summit log of a difficult peak, we certainly can take no pride in having our names recorded in the heavenly log. Joy, yes, but not pride. At least not pride in ourselves. We can only boast in Christ, for it was his conquering, not ours, that gets us there. And for that reason, as Christians our names are recorded in the “summit log” even before we get to the summit! Imagine climbing a mountain, finding the summit log, opening it up and finding your name already there. I’d probably protest: “Hey, who signed my name before I even got to climb the mountain?” But that’s exactly how it is with Jesus. He signs our name before we get there, and not because of his confidence in what we will do, but because of what he has done. Finally, one thing we can count on is this: God won’t change out the log after a while, effectively striking our names off the record. One time I climbed a peak that I had climbed ten years previously, only to find that my name from the first climb was no longer in the summit log, for the log had been replaced with a new one. Thankfully, God won’t do that. For in Rev 3.5 he promises, 'He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life….” And that is the only summit log that matters.

© 2009 Randy Hohf

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Real Adventure

OK, I tried blogging once before, but I didn't feel it was having much success. But never one to give up easily, I'm going to try again. This time I'll probably post my Monday Morning Musings each week, perhaps add comments from my Sunday sermons, and offer various random thoughts.

I've chosen the title "Adventures of the Spirit" because I have always lived for adventure, but the greatest adventure is the spiritual journey we travel with Christ. I love the adventure of things like alpine climbing, rock climbing, back-country skiing, and hiking not only because I simply love being in the mountains and experiencing God's glory, but because I love the challenge of reaching for the summits and getting back down. The mountains test your stamina, your perseverance, your courage, your team spirit. And you never know what's beyond the next ridge, over the next hump, or around the next bend--that's the adventure part.

In that, climbing mountains is a lot like ministry. The adventure of serving Christ in his kingdom, of trying to impact the world for Christ, or of simply coming to be more Christ-like in your own life is a far greater challenge and test of your mettle. And infinitely more exciting. And if you keep seeking Christ in your life, you never know what's beyond the next ridge.

As I seek to grow in Christ, it is an adventure of the Spirit. Hopefully through this blog I can share that adventure with others. Adventure is always best when it is shared. So come on along with me, and let's go for the summits.