Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"Through a glass, darkly..."

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1Corinthians 13:12

The verse has troubled me for some time.  Or rather, I should say, its common use in contrast to its true import has troubled me.

Culturally, among Christians, it is quoted often with the ennui of a common truism and dressed up with the sparkle of interest and a butterfly that identifies references as “inspirational” and worthy of featuring on a Hallmark Card.  Read sonorously at uncountable weddings, it becomes the part of tradition which we hear without once bereft of any but superficial meaning and tied up with the perfunctory bow of an enigmatical concept called love.

In any case, one gets the vague impression that being really known would be uncomfortable, so this verse must be referring to that best-buddy kind of knowing that makes you feel “understood” without baring more than a few select extracts from the heart censored for security of pride.  After all, if someone really knew us what room could there be for love?  There we often let the verse lie.
I remember vividly the day I understood.  For perhaps the first time, I was consciously remembering and it frightened me.  A circumstance, itself inconsequential, settled a new yoke of responsibility on my seven or eight-year-old self and because I could recall a time when I was free of it, I was unaccountably terrified of going any further in my short lisp of a life.

Every child comes to this time...where childishness becomes conscious, even while it has yet to become maturity.  A mother mourns that first loss of the baby lisp, the stumble over a word.  Then others will watch in vain for childish communication with all its frank, winsome naiveté and haphazard rambling.  The three year old hardly knows what he means when he presents his three chubby digits for your smiling inspection, and no one grudges him the privilege of ignorance on that score.  Soon enough the five year old will be proud to tell you how big he has grown and you will almost unaccountably miss the unpretentious baby in the self-conscious boy.

To our dying day, every one of us has the same insatiable desire to understand, and a dread of what will happen when we do.  The thought of knowing brings with it the shrinking of our childhood from the brink of understanding because we only know in part.  Our human heart, peering through the grand score of God's Word as an amateur musician, struggles to trace out the infinite scope of power and complexity with finite eyes seared by the burning glory of it.  The indwelling Spirit leans over our shoulder and points out the feeble lines of our own parts with surety and love, humming the music until it fills our being with its beauty.  Shut the score, though, and the thought of remembering your part in the symphony with all its intense import and and excellence can cause any one of us to throw aside our sheets of music in despair.  

This is the knowing in part.  But partial knowing carries a heavy responsibility.  The reflection in the glass, dim though it may be, was never meant to be a high thought set aside for moments of euphoric reflection on the swing at sunset.  Jarring as the thought may be, far from moving us to apathy and futility, 1 Corinthians 13:12 is an imperative call to maturity.  The Father did not give us the promise in His Word and send us His Spirit to bear witness to the fulfillment of His promises so that we could languish in the waiting.

 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer,
he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
James 1:23-24

To be in the midst of assembled believers and shudder over the raw grating dissonance and muddiness of the collected notes is to look in the glass and see the shadow of our natural face with all of its flaws and scars.  What natural man wouldn't wish to forget that natural face?  How easy it is to say then, “I saw the music once, and that is enough.  It is in my heart, and this is all that matters.”  How great a travesty is the secret of the eternal song carried about as a shadow in the depths of Christian souls and never learned or played simply because we all knew that in this life we could never perfect it.

The truth is, we are so concerned with the natural face peering out of the glass at us, that we forget the glass itself.   If we are honest, our sin, when held up to the light, fascinates us; not always, we can flatter ourselves, with the hardened inclinations of a dead conscience, but with the secret pride that says, "Mine is truly ugly."  The rehearsal is full of discordant sounds, and the first one to look up from the jungle of notes before him and say, "I can't possibly do this, it is too horribly difficult," has essayed to raise his "I" to a higher level than the symphony.  There is a great measure of pride in the one who indulges in self-deprecation by believing the music must stop because he has deemed his part to be beyond help or recall.

“For as the rain comes down and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
"So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 55:11

The perfect law of liberty was not composed for our especial benefit.  The divine artist writes to His own pleasure and glory, and His work does not exist merely so we can enjoy its sublime beauty on the mirror in our closet.  It is not the kind of symphony that can be made futile merely because we prefer not to participate, or play our part in secret so that no one may observe the wavering our touch makes in the reflection.

Any student of music can tell you that it does no good to dabble in music with self-fulfillment in mind.  There is no place for neutrality or, ultimately, the expressing of your own will.  In the same way, you must rest in the assurance that you can only begin to know your life-part because you are already fully known by Him.  Your heart must so submit to the hand of the master that you no longer know your hand to be pulling the bow, but you are at once certain of His hand pulling yours.  The beating of your own time must cease to wander stumbling off the steady rhythm of His music and instead be bound to it by His sure hand. 

This is to look into His perfect law of liberty, to see the reflection of true freedom in very submission and to continue in it.  
The compelling reality about the music of the perfect law of liberty is that one must not only hear, but listen... and not forget, but play.  
The overpowering weight of the score, after all, does not rest in our hands, nor even is the completion of our part given into our keeping. 
The secret to playing a symphony is to simply play the notes before us in obedience and 
trust the author to make the symphony.

In the waiting for completion we cry out with Paul:

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

A girl of especially stormy passions and vivid imagination, I cried the day I knew what I could never forget again.  I told my mother with an almost pettish desperation that I wanted to go back to being a little girl.

My dear mother...from my earliest memories the sensible, sympathetic constant that anchored my tempestuous emotions.  I will never cease to be grateful that she was usually undaunted by the wild outbursts of joy or sorrow that rocked my self-aware little world.  That day my tears brought a quiet smile to her face, not unlike the smile I imagine God harbors over our knowledge-bereft wailings.  Before she said a word, I knew she understood, and then she spoke comfort that I didn’t entirely understand, but accepted with the faith that children have in good mothers.  “When you have grown up, you will be glad that you were never able to go back.  You will learn to love growing older.”  And of course she was right.
To this day she still reminds me early and late of the words another wise woman, Elizabeth Elliot drew from this poem, “Do The Next Thing:”

"At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, 'Do the next thing.'
Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.
Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe 'neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.
Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Do the next thing.
The little girl in me no longer casts longing glances over her shoulder.  There can be no mourning for imperfections done away when every look into the mirror is a brush with the perfection that we long for.

But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
1 Corinthians 13:10

The time darkened glass, serene and expansive, unerringly casts back shadows of the light from timelessness.  The fading of it as it shifts away from a touch awakens the painful longing for it to be still it forever.  Here stands the briefest sliver of time, yet this space, thin enough to shatter at a brush from eternity, stands yet adamant before the mortal, an impenetrable testimony to a sure fulfillment...fulfillment that will engage the whole being un-impaired by sin.  At last to know as we are known, to truly commune with God, face to face.  What joy it will be to no longer reach out over the deep waters of His glory and see the muddying of our sin-tainted hearts obscuring them.  So into this glass, “this substance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen,” we look again and again.

"But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty,and continueth therein,
he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work,
this man shall be blessed in his deed.
James 1:25

Monday, October 15, 2012

A return to the delights of food...

Some of you may not know, our brother Benjamin is ministering as an intern for Vision Forum Ministries in San Antonio, TX for 6 months. Here he is pictured with the two other interns on their first day. 
While we are delighted at this opportunity for Benjamin to serve alongside godly men for a ministry that has blessed us in so many ways, we sorely miss him. 
One specific downside to his being gone was a temporary apathy towards food. Ben was one of the most appreciative persons in our family when it came to food and his daily encouragement provided the inspiration we didn't even realize we were getting... till now. A reminder to be always thankful!

In spite of our lack of posts on the subject, we have still been eating... :o)
 and putting away fresh food in anticipation of winter cold.
A particular Lenz favorite is Pesto:
Our basil was wonderfully productive this year. Just 15 plants yielded several bushels!

We process 2 cups of basil, 1 cup walnuts and 4 cloves garlic, and then add 1 cup olive oil in a slow steady stream. Add 1 1/3 cups of fresh grated parmesan cheese, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and process. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup hot water and process briefly again.

You can freeze this for basil pesto all winter:

Or eat it fresh mixed with 2 lbs. of noodles. We recently found some whole wheat spaghetti noodles made with just water and whole wheat. I thought they were delicious. I expect we'll be making our own noodles eventually.

Another unexpected blessing this year...
We have several apple trees on our farm but unfortunately we had a poor yield this year due to a late frost. The apples we harvested from our trees were all promptly turned into pies and crisps or eaten fresh. 
Our family loves applesauce; we spread it on our pancakes and it features in many of our cakes and sauces adding sweetness and zest without processed sugar. You can imagine we were thrilled when Sam brought 6 bushels of Haralson "thirds" home from the local orchard!

I think I underestimated my project time a bit. Sam came to my rescue at midnight to help run the last few apples through the Squeezo, which, by the way, is a marvelous machine. We simply cut the washed apples in half, boiled them in 1/2 cup water for 20 minutes and run them through the sieve extricating the seeds and peels and yielding ready to process sauce.

The two bushels we didn't process should keep well in the root cellar for at least 3 months. 
I am not picturing the 75 quarts of tomatoes and V8 so you'll have to take my word for it.
Enjoy the excitement and joy of this changing time of year, celebrating the provision of our Creator in every season.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Romans 1:20

"For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse..."

Have you ever balanced on the brink of a lake and gasped when the wind at your back to swept your breath from you out over the dancing foam and then tossed it back in your face filled with the living scent of spray and sun?  Has your heart ever burst in praise when the sun fits a dawn-shaft to his bow and pierces the eastern edge of a gray blanket of water with a flash of gold?  Did you ever sit next to limpid waves and try to count every myriad shade in the rolling dip of the noontide swell?  Have you ever lifted your paddle to let a canoe rest on the glowing mirror of water at dusk and made dimples in the glass with your fingers?
Every such lucid testimony to the nature of God has served its purpose well if it makes the human heart cry glory His name.
The old hymn says it well:
“Shout to Jehovah all the earth
Sing to Jehovah with gladness
Before Him come with singing mirth
Know that Jehovah He God is.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

Not lacking in zeal, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord…

Have you ever had a conversation with someone about the authority of Scripture and felt yourself buried by the acceptance of infinite caveats and pleas to contextualization of every mandate or command? I have been contemplating this recently and just last night read Numbers 25 with new eyes…  

“He was zealous for my sake among them…Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” Numbers 25:11-13 

These verses are speaking of Eleazer’s son, Phinehas, a ruler of the Korahites and a civil authority in Israel. The Israelites were afflicted with a plague because they joined themselves with the daughters of Midian who worshiped Baal. One man, in direct defiance of God’s command presents a Midianite woman to the congregation. Phinehas could have waited for someone else to say something; he could have reasoned with this man about the negative consequences of his choice, he could have threatened to neglect his own responsibility somehow in an attempt to compel the man to change his mind…. But no, he rose up to do his duty as a civil magistrate under a more than common emotion of spirit and slew both of them, possibly taking the sword from the hand of Moses to execute justice as some of the Jew’s records say. God is pleased and gives “unto him My covenant of peace”. As Gill summarizes, “he was zealous for my sake among you; for the glory of God, the honour of his law, the credit of religion, and the good of his people… in which he was a type of Christ, whose zeal for the house of God, for the doctrine, discipline, and worship of it, for the salvation of his people, and the glory of God thereby, ate him up (Psalm 69:9).” 

So, what is my response when men disregard the Word of God, when they claim His law is dead and His Holy Word errant! “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19) Do I wait idly by for others to seek out the truth in Scripture and defend the Word of God? Or shall I unsheathe my sword, open the word of God and declare it in its entirety to be the holy inspired, inerrant, self-validating, living and active, discerning and powerful, convicting, sanctifying, righteousness defining, obedience commanding, currently applicable, contextually effectual, sufficient for all of life and practice, fully authoritative word of our sovereign God? May I, like Phinehas, be zealous for my God and when I read His Word have the attitude of Balaam, “…the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened; the utterance of him who hears the words of God, and has the knowledge of the Most High, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down with eyes wide open.” (Numbers 24:16)