Monday, December 24, 2018

Glad Tidings of Great Joy

It is amazing that Christmas often turns into a moralistic affair. What I mean is that Christians often don't really receive it! We are inspired by it. We are motivated by it. We try hard to do good because of it, volunteering at this or that charity, giving, feeling, hoping that humanity will be inspired to be better because of it. But who really merely sits passively and receives it?

In the end, Christmas isn't about Jesus inspiring us to be our better selves, stirring in us the better angels of our nature. Christmas is about an act of the Triune God to send the second person of the Trinity into the world, robed in the frailty of humanity, divested of the privileges associated with His deity, in order to do one thing! He came on a mission that only He could fulfill. He came to die at our hands, for us, to redeem us, to be for us what we could not be! Jesus' mission was not to join us in some commune of equals, each taking up his place in some great moral cause for the improvement of humanity. Jesus does not save by leading. Jesus leads by saving.

Christian, please this Christmas take the right posture! You are not first to be inspired to do better next year because of Jesus. You are first to sit stupefied that the God of the universe would give you so extravagant a gift. Raise your empty beggarly hands to heaven and receive, for that is all you bring to this great day; this day that fractured open the universe at the entrance of the divine into the human world.

And what exactly is the gift that God has given you? In the great Triune counsel, the plan has always been that The Father would present before you His perfect Son. And the Son would add to himself a human nature so that in His great condescension and vulnerability He could be the human being in whom God could be well pleased. Note well that He is not pleased with any other human being! Jesus was righteous and good and kind and true and everything good that you are not! More than that God has declared that the goodness of this only good man He will give to you, as though it were your own, when you simply receive Him by faith. More than that The Father declared, and Jesus agreed, that Jesus would go to a miserable wooden cross to bear upon himself the punishments that you deserve for your many sins.

Where are you in this grand equation? You are a helpless, empty, shattered soul that gives precisely nothing to God. And yet He has not given you simply enough to raise yourself up and start to be good again. He has not supported you or come along side of you or given you therapy until you are strong again. He has made the dead person alive! He has already given you everything! He has made you whole, gloriously perfecting you in the foreign righteousness of the Incarnate Son! If you will set aside the foolish project of thinking that you can do it with His help and instead accept that He has done it for you, in spite of you, because you can do nothing, then everything the resplendent Son is will be counted as yours.

Glad tidings of great joy indeed!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

"Love me as I am!"

It is fashionable to complain about narcissism these days, and the irony is not lost on me that the narcissist is probably the person most likely to complain about perceived narcissism in others, and probably because it is an affront to his own ego.

I'm keenly aware of this problem because my life, like yours, has slammed up against these people in various ways. This modern, moribund cultural narcissism is curiously asserted as a bold declaration of individual identity, and yet it is impotent in the extreme. You have heard them say it! And if you have said it, then it is likely you are as narcissistic as any. Here is the motto of the modern narcissist: "This is who I am! You will have to love me as I am!"

This motto of narcissism is everywhere because there is a truth in it. Each individual is distinct and should be recognized and appreciated as such. The problem is that some people want to help you recognize their individuality. They are not happy with your apparent obliviousness to them. And in their relentless efforts to be seen, heard, clicked, they lose what makes them unique and begin to dissolve into the mass of narcissists clamoring for attention.

There is a more sinister dimension to the motto of the narcissist. Many who proclaim it do so because they have no intention of changing for anyone else in the human race, including those closest to them. An alcoholic might parrot the motto because the several broken relationships in her life are not her fault. It is obviously to be blamed on the pathetic souls who couldn't accept her as she is. It was a defect in their ability to love. The entire universe must alter itself to an equilibrium around her as she is, and not demand the slightest alteration from her.

This kind of thinking can be fatal in a teenager. Imagine a young person, who by definition is unfinished, demanding that the universe accept her as she is. She is supposed to be in process. Those who love her most will lovingly coach her in her process of becoming. If she boldly asserts that she is finished, that others will have to accept her as she is, then she will clearly forgo the opportunity to develop during the years when becoming ought to be the project of every person. Plato once remarked that the young must be taught to feel liking and disgust for those things that really are likable and disgusting. But an undeveloped narcissist will thunder through life never questioning that what she presently thinks is likable and disgusting makes those things likable and disgusting.

Teenagers are encouraged towards narcissism by todays various pop culture anthems. "You are perfect!" "You are beautiful!" "They are haters!" "Be who you are!" "Follow your heart!" "Proclaim your truth!" You, YOU, YOU!! You are the center of the universe. The only problem with them is that they don't see you! They don't like your instagram page enough. They don't give you a voice. They don't listen to YOU! 

Leave these teenagers to develop along these lines, and you will end up with an adult that is perfected in his or her narcissism. They will light the world on fire, destroy lives, dance upon graves, and then have the audacity to think you mad when you complain about their behavior. They will call you judgmental when you think them selfish. They will act audaciously, impetuously, irreverently, and then think you hateful when you fail to suspend all judgment in your praise of their "originality." Have you ever noticed how every narcissist thinks they are so unique? In my experience they are clones in the most fundamental ways.

Consider a few other interesting characteristics of the modern narcissist:

1. The "Narcissistic Cycle:"

It usually looks something like this: The narcissist initiates some hurtful, insensitive, damaging behavior (objectively, not based on the hurt person's perceptions). The narcissist is confronted for this, which is perceived as a rejection. The narcissist then feels hurt, but only briefly as his or her pride works on this pain, fomenting it quickly into rage against all that would dare to reject him or her. The gap between pain and rage is minuscule, which leaves no time for the narcissist to approach anything like a self-critical phase. There will be no humility, no contrition, no correction, no meaningful apology.

2. Extension:

Note that the depth of the "extension" of the narcissist is shallow at best. Things don't ever extend far beyond their own minds. In their often outrageous or selfish behavior they are expressing themselves, and they are wronged when others are anything other than perfectly celebratory of their utterly scintillating and unremitting commentary on the world. It never occurs to the modern narcissist that others think he has nothing of interest to say. It could be that people who have read Shakespeare or Nietzsche or the Bible or Lewis find him boring in the extreme, and yet it is the narcissist who complains ceaselessly of the world's inability to hold his interest.

3. Acceptance of behavior:

Narcissists often think that any rejection of their conduct arises from hatred of them as people. Of course they also think that they are perfectly accepting of all people in all of their idiosyncrasies.  They are the pattern of love that others should follow.

One way to test this is to propose the "proximity test." It really is a simple question. What do we mean by "loving others as they are?" Does that mean I can have a safe distance from certain people? Does it mean that I have to accept their lifestyle choices such that I could live with them under the same roof? Would they want to live with me? Does it mean that I have to marry someone like them in order to validate their existence? To put it plainly, I think all narcissists should be free from the judgmentalism of others, as they desire. My interpretation of "loving them as they are" will be to leave them alone in their narcissism. I certainly don't plan to live with one!

4. Unhappiness:

Another curious aspect of the psychology of narcissism is that they seem to wish their unhappiness upon everyone else. If they think that someone slighted them, or snubbed them, or said something hurtful to them, they demand that you join them in their suffering. When their narcissism in the end leaves them alone and miserable, they can't imagine that anyone could possibly move on from them and be happy. In truth, many people become happy by distance from the narcissists in their lives, or at least their happiness is permitted the space to grow. In hell there will be endless vexed narcissists staring across the chasm at the laughter of those in heaven and wondering how anyone can laugh without their presence, and more why the residents of heaven laugh while those in hell are miserable. The narcissists of hell will reason that their own warped and frustrated and sinewed and inward-bent psychology should be extended to all; that everyone should be exactly as they are forever.

In fact hell will be the perfect place for narcissists. They will be allowed to be exactly as they are forever. And it will be hell for precisely that reason above all. There will be no more judgment from God or others unlike them; that is, there will be no more righteous judgment. In its place, they will be judged by their fellow narcissists forever. That is another reason it will be hell!

Finally, the narcissist is utterly impervious to critique. It is the world that has the problem. To the extent that anyone should venture into anything other than praise of them, that is the extent to which the critic has a problem. You will never stump a narcissist. You may get an apology from them, but it will be self-serving. There is nothing wrong with them. They are perfect exactly as they are! If any narcissist should chance to read this little piece, they will immediately see only the defects of others in it, or more likely the defects of the author.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Lament on Politics

Awhile back I wrote an article on a controversial topic and linked it to my Facebook page. I've done this from time to time, and often the dialogue produced by it is enriching. Of late, I've noticed that it has devolved. It is at a point that I think I'll follow the pattern of some of my favorite blog writers and not comment on comments.

A few years ago, I wrote an article detailing a Christian position on the question of gay marriage. I was told I'm xenophobic, homophobic, unchristian, etc. I wrote an article on feminism a few years back and was told that I should be shipped off to a gulag. Once I was lectured smugly that what I had written was "below me." My most recent article was on the issue of "white privilege," and I was told I wasn't compassionate, again, and that I only wrote it because of my white privilege. It went something like this:

Me: "I don't think the concept of white privilege is meaningful."

Commenter: "Well, you only think that way because of your privilege."

Me: "Oh, thank you."

One comment suggested that it was a waste of time trying to argue with a middle aged white man like me, because I could never understand. All entirely helpful and bridge building kinds of comments.

In fairness, there are those who thoughtfully interact, which is interesting and fun, and part of the reason I even write a blog.

Dealing with this is easy enough. I can just refrain from responding to those who are leveling personal attacks. But the deeper concern for me is that thoughtful dialogue has become impossible with certain types of people. It is all emotional eruptions and virtue signaling and zero engagement with the argument.

The problem here, especially as I have studied history of late, is a deep lack of moral unity. Our culture is infatuated with diversity, and the pendulum swing in that direction is destroying any meaningful dialogue over issues of an ethical nature.

Recently I read the fascinating biography of John Adams by David McCullough, in which he details the correspondence between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams towards the end of their lives. The two men were great friends, even though there were significant disagreements, and even animosity in prior days, between the two men. What will become readily apparent is that what united the two men was far more substantial than what divided them. At the heart of this unity was a deep appreciation for truth and lives shaped by classical and Christian literature, which also meant lives shaped by classical virtues. In short, these men were bound by a similar worldview, even though Jefferson did much to tinker with the Christian worldview. But I think much of the revisionism that seeks to put Jefferson in the camp of deism is perhaps overblown. Towards the end of his life, Jefferson, in writing on the problem of slavery, made one of his most remarkable claims. He said, "I tremble for my nation when I think that God is just, and His justice cannot sleep forever." That is not the sentiment of a deist.

The deeper point here is that Jefferson and Adams operated in their linguistic brilliance with a whole substructure of language and references and truths that were grounded in the same worldview. It seems to me obvious that this is the reason the two men could put aside their differences in the end and be truly unified. In fact, it is this unifying worldview that made it possible for them to put into perspective the relative position of their differences.

What is it that unifies political adversaries today? The only thing that seems to unify them is disunity itself, and demand to be heard. We live in an ever developing postmodern hell where intensity and passion are the only tools in winning political debates. What we lack is any unifying substructure of value, grounded in deep philosophical truths, that both sides share. If you doubt this, simply ask each side what they mean by a definition of human life, or gender, or freedom, or authority, or rights. You will be dazzled by how nothing in the conversation will stand still.

Retirement

I am retiring from teaching after 21ish years in Christian schooling. In this small piece, I want to express my gratitude and say a bit about burn-out.

Christian schools are special places, or can be, and God has multiplied my joy by giving me the great honor of serving in several great schools. I want to list them here as part of my good-bye:

1. Pantego Christian Academy, Arlington, Texas: My first year of teaching and coaching in a Christian school. I was paid a whopping 16,000 a year in 1995. I think you can probably tell that this salary was still a bit low, even for 1995. We lived well in a cockroach infested apartment (Texas sized cockroaches!).
2. First Baptist Academy, Dallas, Texas: Gave me a massive raise (sarcasm font) to teach Bible on the 13th floor of a high-rise building in downtown Dallas. Coached with a great man named Andy Griffin, who taught me much about Texas football and I loved it! I also learned from the parents that Texas football is more important than most of the petty things in peoples lives, like Church.
3. Valley Christian High School, San Jose, California: God gave me seven great years teaching Church history, Christian Apologetics, and Old Testament History in this impressively affluent school. God has given me many good and gracious friends from this fulfilling period in my career, and the chance to see how so many Christians move from faith in God to faith in liberal politics as savior.
4. Bakersfield Christian High School, Bakersfield, California: The best place I've ever worked! Never in my life have I experienced such a beautiful confluence and deep compatibility of the environment, the people, the work, and my gifting being fitted to the work and the culture. This place was home for eleven years and will always be home in my heart! I will probably miss the place, the people, the experience, always!
5. Veritas Academy, Austin, Texas: A marvelous Christian classical school dedicated to producing young people of wisdom and virtue, and the place where God has shown me that He has called me out of the profession.

To any with whom I've had the honor of working I thank you! To any students I've been privileged to teach I say thank you as well! It is the dynamic interaction outside the classroom with colleagues and inside the classroom with students that I always cherished, and will remember with utmost fondness for the balance of my life.

The teaching profession is one in which burn-out can occur unexpectedly. I never thought it would happen to me, especially after a year long sabbatical from the arduous work of everyday teaching.

It is perplexing to me that all I felt in my last days was stress! It came from multiple angles, including parents, administration, students, and from my own personal struggles. I just stopped feeling joy in the profession, which sounds rather touchy-feely, but when the pay is so low one must find motivation in other directions. I also felt insignificant in the work I was doing. The school and parents made it fairly clear that I was lucky to have the position and I could be easily replaced. No doubt that is true, but as it turns out I was able to replace Christian schooling as a source of employment as well.

I am also weary of what I call the "stress to pay" ratio in Christian schooling. Schools have this tendency to expect miracles from their teachers because the parents are paying so much money. And parents expect teachers to teach and parent with their constant coaching. And why is it that every child now has some form of learning "difficulty" or "challenge" requiring various accommodations? The end result is that parents and administrators are freed to provide an endless stream of "feedback" on the teacher's effectiveness, but the teacher is afforded the opportunity to give zero feedback of either the administration or the parents. Even students are often provided with opportunities to "evaluate" the teacher while the teacher's evaluations of the students are diminished or "re-evaluated" through the retesting and "PLC" process, which is the newest fad in education (and involves affording time to students to revisit lessons and retest until they pass). Failing a student is now a statement only of the teacher's failure, and is costly when paying parents decide to leave the "failing" private school.

Remember that all of these complications and changes and heightened expectations for teachers have come with obvious commensurate massive increases in salary.

I'm clearly having trouble with the sarcasm font I uploaded to my computer, but the truth is that most Christian school teachers are paid far below their public school counterparts. Ah, but they are assured that it is a "ministry," and they will be paid in heaven. I only want to point out that there comes a time when the stress demands cause the teacher to reach a breaking point. I have reached just such a breaking point. The "stress to pay" ratio is not in the favor of Christian schools anymore.

I know it looks as though I feel some bitterness as I leave the profession, but I promise I don't. It is simply time to exit. The work has been another of God's extravagant acts of mercy towards me, and I will always cherish it as such. But I also wanted to toss a few rather blunt, and hopefully humorous, comments about the difficulties of the profession that can build to burn-out in it.

I would love to think that this is a great loss to Christian schools, but my experience has shown that it most assuredly is not! Schools are quite capable of finding the wonderful Christian people they need, particularly among the young, whose life stresses are minimal and whose energy and optimism are high. I hope many of them, incredible young people that I know, will last longer in the work than I did.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Our Vows

I wanted to provide a place where I could share these vows easily with my girls and friends, as well as a place to easily find them to remember the solemn promises we have made to each other and to the kids.

Here are the vows we wrote for each other:

6/16/18

To each other:

I promise to exalt you above all others. 

I will fight against the forces that would tear us apart, and cultivate our union deliberately and passionately

I offer you my imperfect life and promise to pray for God’s sustaining grace to love you well.

I promise to receive you as an invitation to worship the giver of all good things, and to treasure you as the best of the good things He has given. 

I will share my happiness with you as well as my sorrows as we turn our gaze to The Lord in all things. 

By God’s grace, I promise to discipline my mind and spirit towards a chosen habitual love, even when I struggle to feel love.

Knowing our days in this life are numbered, I will not waste the privilege of being in love with you. 


Amy to girls: 

Trinity, Charity, and Felicity, I promise to hold you close to my heart, to accept you as God’s treasured girls, and to love you as His gift to me. I will rejoice when you rejoice, and mourn when you mourn, and experience this grace-filled journey with you. 


Bo to girls: 

My girls, I love you and have loved our life together. Today as we invite Amy into our family, I promise to keep you close, protect you, and provide spiritual guidance for you. I will look to God, together with Amy, to provide a home rich with love and joy for each of you. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Modern Worship in One Song

This is not something I relish attacking, but I was listening to this song on the radio the other day and decided I would write a critique. My purpose is not to discourage any who love the song, but only to pause to examine a few possible issues with modern worship music as expressed by this song. Here is the full set of lyrics: 
What is this love that won't relent
That's calling out with heaven's breath
Who is reaching wide to save our souls?
Only you, oh oh oh oh oh oh
What is this grace that makes no sense
That we could never recompense
Who gives us all a second chance?
Only you, only you, only you
There is no one like our god
There is no one like our god
There is no other god who can save
There is no one like our god
Who hung the stars upon the night
And showed the sun how bright to shine
Who shaped the world within his hands?
Only you, oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh oh
Who set the sky upon the hills
And told the waters to be still
Who spoke to form the universe
Only you, only you, only you
There is no one like our god
There is no one like our god
There is no other god who can save
There is no one like our god, no
There is no one like our god
There is no other god who can save
There is no one like our god
No height or depth can stand between us
No power on earth or all creation
No life or death can separate us from your love
No height or depth can stand between us
No power on earth or all creation
No life or death can separate us from your love
There is no one like our god
There is no one like our god
There is no other god who can save
There is no one like our god, no
There is no one like our god
There is no other god who can save
There is no one like our god, no oh oh
There is no one like our god

There is no other god who can save
There is no one like our god

Here are a few points of analysis: 

1. The repeated phrase "there is no one like our God" leads one to ask the why question. Why is there no one like our (The Christian) God? And the answer, according to the various lyrics, is plain. He is a mighty creator and loves us so much that He gives us grace. What is grace? It is the offer of a second chance. That is why God is like none other! 

As to the praise of God's creative power I find little fault, but that is not the heart of the song. It is trying to celebrate the "grace that makes no sense," and then goes on to make sense of that grace by suggesting that it is love for all and second chances for all. So, the grace of God is reduced to colloquial "do over" language. More than that, we are told that only God gives "do overs." Can one speak of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on behalf of undeserving sinners as a "do over?" Perhaps, but to do so surely cheapens the idea that the grace of God makes Him like none other. Parents give "do overs." Governments give "do overs." Getting a second chance at a career or a relationship or a task is common. 

Perhaps I'm being too hard on the writer, but to suggest that my accumulated sins being placed upon the shoulders of my willing savior, in order that the guilt and punishments would go to him and not to me, is something like God saying, "Ah, don't worry, I'm going to give you another chance to get it right," is just silly, even offensive to the true meaning of the gospel. But it feels good! It feels good to people for them to think that God looks the other way and lets us have another go at it. It is something that we can control. In fact, a "second chance" is the reacquisition of control after having lost it. The true gospel is a gift to those that never had control and never will! The true gospel really is all about the fact that God cannot give second chances to sinful people, and that is why they required something foreign--namely, one who is truly righteous. Any second chance we are given is only because one got it right the first time and it is in His righteousness alone that we stand! In other words, because our sin is so serious, He was given no second chance on the cross!

My issue with the second chance language is that it is deeply misleading without a real theology of the incarnation and the cross, both of which are utterly absent from this song that hopes to celebrate the doctrine of salvation. Curiously, the language of second chance salvation is far more consistent with Islam, if one wants to evaluate the logic of its theology against the logic of Christianity. So, Muslims would love this song! You have power and second chances as a basis for worship. Perfect Muslim God to celebrate. 

2. The deeper point is that the song is simple, to the point of being childish both lyrically and musically. It is a blatant appeal to emotion with it's stunningly voluminous repetition and with its lack of any theological depth. It's emphasis upon love and the use of the passage, again repeated, that "nothing will separate us from God's love," emphasizes this preoccupation with emotional experience. But again, the reason we are to feel so drawn to God's love, the reason His love is unique in the world, is because we get do overs. 

3. It should also be noted that many at the forefront of the evangelical worship movement are the first to complain about "rote liturgical repetition" in older forms of worship. And yet in this song, as well as in many others, we encounter the most droning and theological dull repetition. And it would be nice if these kinds of lyrics were rare, but it seems to be everywhere. The same kinds of songs are repeated constantly. How many times are we going to hear Oceans by Hillsong in evangelical churches constantly boasting of spontaneity and variety and rebellion against the liturgical? I'm not necessarily against them choosing to be liturgical, but surely it makes little sense to complain about others repeating the Nicene Creed while you repeat Oceans 87 times a year. 

4. Finally, a word about the triumph of general pietism (emotion driven religion). Most of the academic pietists I encountered were my Fuller seminary professors. They loved to point out to people in theological studies that the purpose of studying theology was not knowledge but affection and action. To study with an end to study was to be an unfaithful witness. To seek knowledge of God for its own sake was to embrace the life of the pharisee. Of course, that wasn't phariseeism! Phariseeism was precisely not studying God as an end but as a means to different ends than the pietist's ends. 

Note well that these same professors had little criticism (none that I recall) for the pietist. Think of the average worshipper, singing the song above during a worship service, crying and feeling and then acting on his faith. Why is it assumed that he is far nearer to heaven than an unemotional theologian and requires little instruction or criticism? 

Surely it is the case that neither is acceptable. One should not be a pietist, and one should not be a pharisee. But I wonder which error is the more common in church worship today? When was the last time you heard a worship band accused of preying upon the theological patience of the audience because the lyrics made too high a cognitive demand? When was the last time you were called upon in Church to worship God with your mind? 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Someday

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

I am to be married soon, to a woman who makes this passage come alive to me! Why did God give me such a remarkable woman? The answer is the same as the answer to the why question provoked by this passage. The quick answer is that God is the author of pleasure, a feasting God, a God who loves love, and loves to give good gifts to undeserving people! And there may be no other reason for what transpires at this wedding, or mine!

Jesus scolds his mother about the impracticality of the requested miracle. As I see it, Jesus makes it clear that the time is not right for His public ministry to begin. There is no ministry benefit to such a miracle, and so the question is clear: Why does Jesus do it? Was he guilted into it by his mother? My theory is that Jesus did it simply because it increased the pleasure of this great celebration of marriage. He did it to miraculously magnify the merriment, to enlarge the dimensions of the feast to supernatural proportions. 

Wine is an important biblical symbol of pleasure and community. During the passover seder, Jews consume four glasses of wine. The imagery of abundance everywhere in Scripture includes wine as a central instrument of the pleasure associated with abundance. But there is no more central passage on both the symbolism of wine and its role in pleasure than John 2. Here Jesus supplies the wine, no doubt the finest ever made upon the earth, and here He does it for the sake of love and pleasure and for no other reason! One could perhaps say that He does it to magnify His glory, but that glory is not separated from pleasure here. In other words, He is glorious in this context because there is no greater vintner on the planet and no greater founder of the feast! He must be exalted as the author of pleasure! 

"You have reserved the best wine until now." It is so unassuming a line that one is tempted to ignore it as irrelevant, but it is profound to me in these days beyond my ability to express it. Anyone who has been wine tasting knows what the master of the feast is saying here. When one goes wine tasting, one notices the subtleties and elegant complexities of the wines being tasted, until the third or fourth winery. After awhile, one's senses are dulled by the wine and can no longer appreciate the subtle artfulness of the wines served at the end. People know this at dinner parties and will bring out the worst wines if people choose to keep drinking to the point of revelry. 

And here is Jesus, supplying a wine that stuns the master of the feast. He wants to know why a wine of this quality and depth is given to buzzed people at the end of the feast. Think of the last wedding you went to, where some wines of decent quality were perhaps served for a few hours, then imagine that the master of the feast brings out cases of Chateau Petrus (a wine that goes on auction for $4000 a bottle) for the remaining guests at 10 o'clock. Surely Jesus' wine was at least as good as the best of Bordeaux! It was probably so good that even in a stupor the guests were shocked by it's power into silence and moved to appreciate its beauty. They probably had tasted nothing like it, and the taste of all other wine was cheapened by its singular excellence. 

Why has he saved the best for last? Because that is what God does! He saves the best for last! This first miracle is a foretaste of things to come, especially the telos (end/purpose) of Jesus' ministry, which is to lead sinful people to the great wedding feast of the lamb, where our work of bold penultimate wreckage of the world is answered at last. This beautiful story is yet another in the collection of stories that God tells of His final word! Indeed the whole universe languishes in misery, broken because of the enervating effects of human sin, but God will see to His glory in the end! And this story tells us that included in His glory is the fact that He is the author of all joy and pleasure and feasting, pleasures we hold now with trembling hands in the knowledge they cannot last. But God's answer to this is that all the pleasures of earth are mere shadows of things to come for His people. They exist to train us to love what we ought to love, and to cast our eyes ahead in hope to the source of all good. 

The theme of my wedding to the incomparable Amy Dobson is a word that early became important to us. That word is "Someday." What we mean by it is that one can trust that God will save the best for last, and that He will give peace and patience while we await His timing. Misery will never be an end for God's people. It may be a winnowing, a pruning, but it will always be temporary. Perhaps it is simplest just to say that I waited a long time for my fiancĂ©. I say this because my noble, lovely and true fiancĂ© is the Wine of Cana for me. She is the best that God has reserved until now for me! Just as the attendees of the feast of Cana didn't possess the rational equipment or imagination to think wine could be so good, nor could they anticipate God's timing in providing it, so I didn't possess the rational equipment to visualize a woman of such complexity, beauty, intelligence, and spiritual depth. Behind the appearance of a gentle woman of soft words, modest dress, and kind eyes is a universe of  soaring, exultant attributes at the extremities of human expression. She is a luminous masterwork that God saved and lavishly gave to this miserable sinner at the age of forty-seven. 

God indeed has reserved the best wine until now!