Category Archives: Faith

God, hope, struggle, perspective, the Bible, church, love.

The Radical Questions of Christ

So Jesus had a knack for asking questions that threw people a little off-balance.  Questions that provoke anger, exposing his enemies, questions that stick in a person’s head and poke, like irritants introduced to an oyster.  Eventually, over time, maybe that irritant will produce a pearl.

As many smart people have observed, Jesus asked way more questions (over 300) than he specifically answered (fewer than a dozen), often, in fact, answering a question with a question.  Yeah, annoying.  But I can just imagine Him grinning as His disciples sputtered, unperturbed as He flummoxed folks.  Jesus had a knack for leaving people dumbfounded.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ questions this week, questions that I brush past to give a Sunday school answer, but could, if I let them, do a number on me.  Among many others, He asked:

  • Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)
  • What are you seeking? (John 1:38)
  • Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)

Wow, right to the point, Jesus.  Couldn’t you be a little more, well, tactful?  But He’s never one for the Hallmark card.  And by grilling us so thoroughly, He gives us plenty of food for thought.

Do you ever wish God spoke to you more directly?  Perhaps He is more inclined now, as He was then, to ask questions rather than give answers.  What if we let Him ask?  What if we put some thought into our answers?  I’m thinking for a season I’m going to ponder the question marks He left behind, let them speak to me today.  I’m guessing I’m not going to like them all, but maybe they have the power to change me, bit by bit.

Here’s a sample.  Which ones speak to you?

  1. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46-47)
  2. Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27, Luke 12:25)
  3. Why do you worry about clothes? (Matthew 6:28)
  4. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
  5. Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26)
  6. Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)  Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? (Luke 5:22)
  7. Do you believe that I am able to do this? (Matthew 9:28)
  8. To what can I compare this generation? (Matthew 11:16)
  9. Why did you doubt? (Matthew 14:31)
  10. Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? (Matthew 15:3)
  11. Who do people say the Son of Man is? (Matthew 16:13)  Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)  What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? (Matthew 22:42)
  12. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
  13. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? (Matthew 17:17)
  14. Why do you ask me about what is good? (Matthew 19:17)  Why do you call me good? (Mark 10:18)
  15. What is it you want? (Matthew 20:21)  What do you want me to do for you? (Matthew 20:32, Mark 10:51)
  16. Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? (Matthew 20:22) Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11)
  17. How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33)
  18. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46)
  19. Why are you thinking these things? (Mark 2:8)
  20. Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? (Mark 4:21)
  21. Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40)  Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25)  When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)
  22. What is your name? (Mark 5:9, Luke 8:30)
  23. Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? (Mark 7:18)
  24. Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up? Do you still not understand? (Mark 8:17-21)
  25. [To a blind man] Do you see anything? (Mark 8:23)
  26. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? (Mark 9:12)  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? (Luke 24:26)
  27. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? (Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34)
  28. Are you asleep?  Could you not keep watch for one hour? (Mark 14:37)  Why are you sleeping?  (Luke 22:46)
  29. Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
  30. Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? (Luke 10:36)
  31. Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? (Luke 11:40)
  32. Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right? (Luke 12:57)
  33. Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14:31)
  34. Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? (Luke 15:4, Matthew 18:12)
  35. Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? (Luke 15:8)
  36. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Luke 16:11)
  37. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? (Luke 18:7)
  38. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? (Luke 22:27)
  39. Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? (Luke 24:38)
  40. What are you seeking? (John 1:38)
  41. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? (John 3:12)
  42. Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
  43. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)
  44. If you do not believe Moses’ writings how will you believe me? (John 5:47)
  45. Does this offend you? (John 6:61)
  46. You do not want to leave too, do you? (John 6:67)
  47. Have I not chosen you? (John 6:70)
  48. Why is my language not clear to you? (John 8:43)
  49. Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? (John 8:46)
  50. Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? (John 10:36)
  51. Do you believe this? (John 11:26)
  52. Do you understand what I have done for you? (John 13:12)
  53. Don’t you know me, even after I have been among you such a long time? (John 14:9)
  54. Who is it you want? (John 18:4,7)
  55. Is that your own idea, or did others talk to you about me? (John 18:34)
  56. Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for? (John 20:15)
  57. Do you love me? (John 21:17)
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Let’s take a whack at sin.

This week, Matt Lauer was the most recent cultural icon to tumble at the revelation that he had offensively coerced women into sexual situations against their will.  Lauer, unlike some of the politicians, musicians, and comedians who’ve been accused of similar sins in recent days, was widely perceived as a good guy — upstanding, smart, and friendly.  Not the kind of sleaze ball you’d expect to grope a gal in the back room.

The headline has people reeling.  What is going on with our culture when one after another of our idols falls?  When #MeToo has been retweeted half a million times?  Women, so long powerless against this kind of abuse, have linked arms.  Revolution is brewing.

A quick scan of the Yahoo news feed reads like a chapter of Judges.  Among the first 15 headlines today, there are reports of a 10-year-old’s suicide, a grown man sucker-punching a guy with cerebral palsy, a missing teen who’s run off with her gym coach, and two gruesome murders.  That’s not to mention the sex assault stories.

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Photo by steam_rocket on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

We have a problem.  Yes, it’s a sin problem.  But it’s also a vocabulary problem.  We have no words for this.

Here it is in a nutshell:  modern folks can’t abide the idea of sin, and to a point they are quite logical.  We’ve discarded the old-fashioned notion along with the (laughable) authority of sacred texts and the (naïve) concept of God.  How could an ancient document, written in another culture and handicapped by its uninformed viewpoint, possibly speak to the choices of free-spirited, diverse people today?  Absurd!  How could any one group’s religious worldview be allowed to dictate morality for everyone else?  How could we ever know which perspective is “correct” in a competing marketplace of ideas, especially when all cultures and people are equally worthy of dignity, and each viewpoint, it’s assumed, equally valid?

If there is no morality, there must be no God, at least not a good, or potent, or opinionated one.  Those who cling to their deity but dismiss His jurisdiction in our lives play a dangerous game.  A God who bows to the sensibilities of human foibles isn’t much of a god by any stretch.

By the same token, if there is no God, there can be no right and wrong.  Right and wrong by definition flow from a concept of divinity; to sin is to sin against God.  You might protest that still we can sin against one another, but that’s problematic, as we’ll see.  The existence of good and evil depends on a transcendent, authoritative, and absolute set of values that could only exist if there were a transcendent, authoritative, and absolute Intelligence lurking behind the universe.  If not, the closest we can get to “right” is “right for me,” “right at the moment,” or “right on, man.”

So far, so good — the average American (picture a contestant on The Voice) would concur.  Twitter chirps about finding your own truth, and, admirably, living by it.  Whether truth is self-determined or imposed upon us, it would make sense to live according to it; to disregard truth is to live in delusion, to live a lie.  And that is a wrong worth fighting.

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Photo by MTSOfan on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

But the next logical leap is not so easily embraced — without an objective right, the closest we can get to “right” is sanctified selfishness.  If there is no absolute morality governing the universe, then the best we can do is seek personal fulfillment on our spin around the sun, a cause which tends to put us at odds with others’ ideas of a good time.  And so a husband, bored with marriage, has a fling with his secretary; a wife, finding love with her best friend, realizes that her truth requires a brave step from the closet and a new identity.  It’s complicated, the carnage that results from broken vows and mangled relationships, but it’s the costly logic of our modern morality.

And to a point, it’s a cohesive morality.  The problem with Facebook philosophers is not that they have abandoned ethics.  Your average secular American will gladly throw down for the right of total strangers to enjoy freedom and pursue happiness.  Attitudes that denigrate others (racism, sexism, homophobia) are the ultimate evils, because they impinge on others’ ability to pursue happiness.  The problem is that this modern morality is unmoored, and will logically self-implode.

When autonomous, liberated people, in pursuit of their personal ideal of happiness, and unencumbered by any external requirements for virtue, run smack up against the contrary opinions or desires of others, we reach an impasse.  Who wins?

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Photo by Martin Gommel on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

It’s husband versus wife.

Neighbor versus neighbor.

Citizen versus cop.

Politician versus media.

White versus black.

Pick a headline from today’s news, and it will invariably boil down to conflicting visions, the greed or inconsideration or power-grabbing or self-aggrandizement of happiness-seekers.  But lacking the vocabulary to call it sin, we run into difficulty.  It’s “inappropriate,” “a flaw,” “behaving badly.”  The same behaviors that have been tolerated, even laughingly encouraged, for decades, have been unmasked for what they really are — hurtful, even devastating, selfish, lustful, cruel.

And so we lambast the Matt Lauers and the Bill Cosbys, the rogue policemen and the chanting racists.  We shake our heads, “Thank you, Universe, that I am not as bad as that guy.”  But don’t you see?  We are.

The fact of the matter is, there is most emphatically a deep human consciousness of right and wrong, good and evil.  Rape and murder and manipulation and greed — these things are wicked, and have plagued us time immemorial.  We see the rise of liars to positions of power, see their oppression of the poor and weak, and we know, we know, it’s wrong.  And if we follow the logic, it leads us back, full-circle.

There is a right.  There is a wrong.  It is universal, timeless, and absolute.  It did not evolve in different directions on different continents, or ebb and flow with the centuries.  It must have come from somewhere, from someone.

And if there is such a thing as sin, then it might be smart to figure out what’s in that category.  Not according to whim, not based on my own (“flawed”) logic, but above and beyond me.  And then to track the big ones backwards, find the little pebbles that start the big old rock slide, root those out.  Little ones, acceptable ones, like pride and lust and laziness.  Because nobody sets out to be Harvey Weinstein or for that matter, Idi Amin.

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Photo by zemoko on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC

As Trevin Wax so beautifully put it, “So, the offense of the Christian gospel is twofold. We will seem narrow and strict when we insist on calling out sins. And yet, we will seem too generous when we insist that anyone no matter their past can repent and be restored. Our stark vision of sin is grace to the victim; our call to repentance is grace to the offender.”

Sin, y’all.  Let’s call it what it is.

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Help for the Spiritually Scattered

Maybe if you’re a parent, you’ve heard the term bandied around — “executive functioning.”  It’s a set of skills that some of us, well, lack — the ability to be efficient, be organized, Get It Together.  It comes up in conversation along with words like underperforming, procrastination, and Attention Deficit Disorder.  It’s my nemesis.  And as I was researching how to help my sadly saddled child, inheritor of my weaknesses, I got to thinking about how this scatterbrained tendency impacts people spiritually.  Where does a person start a project that huge, a lifetime of walking with God?  How can you whittle down a thousand page book to a do-able daily goal?

That’s where this article was born, and I hope it offers some of y’all a breath of fresh air.  “Ten Verses for the Spiritually Scattered”

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Thankful

for the small things: light on water, shaded forest, laughter ringing

clear my mind to see your beauty

make me thankful, Lord

for the moments gone forever, conversations, love so fleeting,

give me power to remember,

make me thankful, Lord

all the gifts declare your kindness, 

joyful Father, loving Friend,

make me long for you, my portion

sweeter, higher, without end

 

for the shocking incarnation, setting glory to the side,

Jesus, King come as a baby

make me thankful, Lord

for the shocking death you suffered, love propelling Love to die,

Jesus, King killed as a pauper

make me thankful, Lord

all the gifts declare your goodness, 

humble Savior, loving Friend,

make me long for you, Redeemer,

sweeter, higher, without end

 

for the breath of God upon me, blowing through me, to renew me

in my weakness, grace unstinting,

make me thankful, Lord

for the suffering, give me vision of your purpose, of your wisdom

tease out meaning, comfort me

make me thankful, Lord

all the gifts declare your mercy, 

tender Spirit, loving Friend

make me taste your kind compassion,

sweeter, higher, without end

 

for the final destination, journey ending, sailing home

rest and healing, joy and beauty,

make us hopeful, Lord

for the moment we will see you, hear you calling, “welcome home!”

feel your arms in love surround us,

make us hopeful, Lord

all the gifts declare your brightness, 

glimpses in the dreams you send,

make us thankful for a future

sweeter, higher, without end

Billy Graham is 99

My husband can do a mean Billy Graham impersonation.  His voice drops an octave, his eyes start to twinkle, and in his best Southern accent, he implores, “Come on down, just come as you are.  Come on down.”  Billy, as you’ve probably heard, hit 99 today — 99 years on planet Earth.  The man was born in 1918, between two world wars, before polio was eradicated, before Twinkies or Elvis or NASA.  He lived through a tumultuous century of wars and scandals and Al Gore inventing the internet.  He was friends with 12 presidents of the United States and spoke in all the far-flung corners of the world, from a divided Berlin to backwater outposts of Africa — topping 185 countries in all.  Pretty good globetrotting for a guy who was born in the days of the Model T.

But how in the world did Billy Graham catapult onto a world stage?

How a gangly Southerner speaking the same old message over and over again could powerfully rivet stadiums full of skeptics is a mystery — the mystery of the gospel.  At bottom, it is a simple (nevertheless astonishing) story of a murdered Jewish carpenter and his subsequent rising again.  Crazy.  And Billy never tried to improve on it, he stuck to the facts.  Come on down, Billy said.  “Believe that Christ died for you. He suffered for you. He won the battle over sin for you. He rose from the grave and was victorious over death so that you can live forever.”

In honor of old Reverend Graham and the faithful, inspiring life he’s led, I give you a dozen great Graham quotes.  Seems Billy and I like to natter on about the same subjects; these quotes all hit on a topic from Thirty Thousand Days.  I think that’s fitting, since Billy has lived exactly 36,160 days today.

Seeing Eternally

“I often wonder if God, in His sovereignty, allows the eyesight of the aged to cast a dim view of the here and now so that we may focus our spiritual eyes on the ever after.”

Worshipping Wholeheartedly

“The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service. The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

Walking Purposefully

“Strengthen your commitment to Christ—now. Don’t wait until the storms of temptation, or sickness, or old age threaten to blow you off-course; now is the time to strengthen your faith.”

Caring Passionately

“We should be about our Father’s business by pouring His compassionate love into aching and parched souls that have nowhere to turn, no one to love, and no one to care. Let them see Jesus in us. That is a living testimony.”

Giving Generously

“God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”

Holding Loosely

“…we are dissatisfied. We want more, more, more. But Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ He said that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things that he possesses. Adolf Berle, in his study of power, points out that riches often make people solitary and lonely and, of course, afraid. Many times a rich man knows loneliness and fear, because when he makes wealth his god, it leaves him empty. You see, without God life loses its zest and purpose and meaning.”

Loving Deeply

“The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy, and that is why Jesus came into the world.”

Standing Firm

“I feel sorry for the man who has never known the bracing thrill of taking a stand and sticking to it fearlessly. Moral courage has rewards that timidity can never imagine. Like a shot of adrenaline, it floods the spirit with vitality.”

Choosing Light

“No matter how dark and hopeless a situation might seem, never stop praying.”

Rest

“Humanity wants comfort in its sorrow, light in its darkness, peace in its turmoil, rest in its weariness, and healing in its sickness and diseases: The Gospel gives all of this to us.”

Unhooked and Unhindered

“A real Christian is the one who can give his pet parrot to the town gossip.”

Home

“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

A man who has lived nearly forty thousand days exceedingly well is a guy we should all be asking how to live.  As Mr. Graham so eloquently put it, “The legacy we leave is not just in our possessions, but in the quality of our lives. The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”  I’d say he used his time pretty darn well.

Eternal Perspective Excerpt

From Thirty Thousand Days!

“We are very, very small. Consider for a moment that there are over 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone, and that the Milky Way is only one of billions of galaxies. Try to fathom for a moment the unfathomable distance between each of these perpetually exploding balls of gas — perhaps 20 million million miles between stars — then head out to your front yard and look up.  Reel, dizzy, under that spinning disco-ball — do you feel appropriately humble?”  Read more at crosswalk!

 

Martin Luther, Rip Curl, and Me

When I was pregnant with our first kiddo, Michael and I were invited to a missions conference at my home church in NC.  In the kickoff event, we missionaries were invited up on stage under the glare of a dozen bright spotlights and introduced.  I remember standing there a little dazzled, feeling the hot lights beating down, dizzier by the minute.  “I don’t feel so good,” I whispered to Michael and then, boom.  Man down.  Fifteen hundred people got to see me carted off the stage by men in suits.

Missions conferences are thrilling (saying so kinda pegs me as a nerd, I admit) — stories from jungle tribes and secret gatherings in former Soviet states, inner city high schools and Indian reservations.  The missionaries, in all of our thrift store glory, are paraded around like heroes, and for me, growing up, they were.  But all of that attention began to feel a little awkward when I was on the receiving end, because I knew a secret.  I am no hero.

As Robert Murray M’Cheyne once said, “Madame, if you could see in my heart, you would spit in my face.”

We love to celebrate our heroes for the same reason we vilify our enemies, and for the same reason we mourn when one of the mighty is fallen: we believe deeply in the hype of great and terrible men.  It’s why we are so quick to categorize politicians (hero or villain?) and why a public fall from grace or even a small snub from one of our celebrities feels so devastating.

That guy was amazing, we think.  He was one of us.  How could this happen?

All of our flaws, under glare of spotlight, look pretty ugly.  One by one we take the pictures off the wall— another hero toppled.  What Nietzsche said with a sneer we know to be true:  “In truth there was only one Christian, and he died upon the cross.”

This week, we remember with awe and fondness a guy who, for better or worse, had a lion-sized personality and no small amount of cheek.  It’s been exactly 500 years since a passionate, conflicted, and daring intellectual nailed his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg, disrupting forever the Catholic status quo and kicking off the Protestant Reformation with flair.

But let’s be clear — when we celebrate Martin Luther this week, it is not because he was a perfect man.  Luther, like you and me, was a living bundle of contradictions.  He was gifted.  He was called.  He produced a lot of Christ-like qualities under immense pressure.

He was also a terrible sinner.  He was deeply broken.  And he lived under the curse of a fallen world.  No, what we are really celebrating on “Reformation Day” is the great and terrible foreknowledge of God.

Was Luther extraordinary?  Sure.  Was it because of Luther the world was never the same?  Sort of.

There are at least two competing theories of how history works.  The “Great Man Theory” was the brain child of a Scottish philosopher named Thomas Carlyle, who said, “No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.”  One reason this view so enchants us is simple: if we work very hard, we, too, might become great.  We, too, might change history, and so change the world.  Carlyle himself said, “Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw into your work such strength of mind and muscle as God has given you.”

On the other hand, social scientists are more calmly pragmatic, and posit less romantic cause and effect.  David Bell, a historian from Princeton, explains, “Fernand Braudel… taught his followers to pay attention to the deep, slow, geological, and climactic forces that, in determining the shape of the continents and patterns of global warming and cooling, ultimately shape human societies as well. After that, Braudel directed us to study centuries-long patterns of economic and social change. He compared all these subjects to the deep currents moving through oceans. Mere ‘event history,’ by contrast, including decisions taken by powerful individuals, he likened to the insignificant foam tossed up on the ocean’s surface.”

The truth, I think, is somewhere in between.  Let’s play with that ocean analogy, and spice it up, Keanu Reeves style.

Take surfing.  Did you know that the energy required to build one perfect wave escalates slowly from winds sweeping halfway around Earth?  These winds coalesce and converge to create that one wave only after traveling a thousand miles.

What is a surfer without a wave?  The greatest and most daring would be nothing but a wader standing aimless in a still pond, albeit with a colorful vocabulary and a nice tan.  It’s only because of tropical storms brewing on the other side of the planet, the invisible pull of sun and moon upon the ocean, the constant spinning of Earth around the solar system, and the mighty force of gravity that a surfer can exist at all.  Furthermore, twenty seconds too slow or twenty feet too far out, and even the best surfer might miss a perfect wave.  The seconds cost by a red light or a clumsy spill on the beach might make the difference.  Interference by a passing boat might ruin a good wave.  Shark fins could definitely drive a sane person to shore for the afternoon.  As surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku quipped, “Out of water, I am nothing.”  Adds daredevil Laird Hamilton, “The biggest sin in the world would be if I lost my love for the ocean.”

On the other hand, what’s a wave without a surfer?  You could give me the world’s most advanced surf board, tow me out on a jet ski, position me perfectly to catch the most pristine, curling arc of glassy blue water ever seen, and minutes later you would be picking up the pieces of me that washed ashore.  It isn’t dumb luck that makes a surfer, but endless hours of carefully honed skill.

Martin Luther, sinner and saint, was in a sense a world-class surfer.  Along came that perfect wave of Renaissance thinkers, papal corruption, and printing press, forces all beyond the salty monk’s control, and Luther, Biblical knowledge in hand, took his carefully honed skills and hopped on a surf board.  Like Paul, or Jacob, or Moses, here was a man chosen by God, in the right place at the exact right time, who despite his personal failures, saw God work wonders.

There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, and the higher we fly, the further to fall.  The fact that an expert carpenter can build such a cathedral of crooked nails and warped wood is in itself a miracle.

Francis Schaeffer said, “Among religious writings the Bible is unique in its attitude to its great men. Even many Christian biographies puff up the men they describe. But the Bible exhibits the whole man, so much so that it is almost embarrassing at times. If we would teach our children to read the Bible truly, it would be a good vaccination against cynical realism from the non-Christian side, because the Bible portrays its characters as honestly as any debunker or modern cynic ever could.”

This week when you hear the names of Reformers bandied about, it should come as no surprise to hear of their cantankerous ways, their blindness to sin, their astonishing, ugly failures.  You might make a case that they are great and terrible men, but a glance in the mirror should drive home the truth: we are all more than a little crooked.

Who can work wonders?  “He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.” (Deut. 10:21)