Friday, December 21, 2007

Christ's Festival

I finally decided "what to do for Christmas". I'm still not prepared to entirely reject all this gift giving. In part, this is because I don't want to behave in a way that could reasonably make friends and family feel alienated. I think simply abstaining from giving gifts would do just that. I am still giving gifts also because I do not yet have an alternative. Christ's Festival should be celebrated in some way, surely. Finally, giving gifts isn't exactly an inappropriate way to celebrated God's Gift to the world, it's just gotten way out of hand.

I discovered . While this may not be the perfect solution I seek, it is very pleasantly a step in the right direction. At this site, you can donate to a vast array of charities. The wide selection includes Pregenancy Support Services and Campus Crusade for Christ, so I consider the endeavor legitimate. In addition, it is a member of the Better Business Bureau.

But, you can also purchase a gift card and have it shipped or emailed to whomever you desire to give a gift. They then donate the value of the card to the charity of their choice.

Brilliant.

'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'


It is his birthday, after all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mutual Submission

I've heard the phrase "mutual submission" used to describe the message of Ephesians 5:21: Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

This phrase always reminds me of a pair of Looney Tunes cartoon characters. They are chipmunks who speak with what I thought as a child was an English accent. But, their speech can more accurately be described as "high society" or genteel. Whenever the pair approached something they could not do together, like passing through a narrow opening, one would motion toward the door with his palm up and say to the other, "After you." The other would then reply, "No, after you." The first would then say, "You're too kind. Please, go ahead." This went on for a while until, finally, one would say, "Let's go together, shall we?" The other would reply, "Oh what a wonderful idea. Yes, I think we shall." Then, they would both painfully squeeze through the door together.

But even this is an understated demonstration of "mutual submission". Truly mutual submission would require us each to obey every other. This would result in near chaos as we, in our flesh, would compete to be first to give a command so that the other would be required to submit rather than vice versa. In fact, "mutual submission" is no less an oxymoron than "partially surrounded", "jumbo shrimp", or "six-month anniversary".

While I have heard it said, by those who have yet to be sanctified to the extent that they do not despise the word of God, that the subsequent verses confirm the fantasy of "mutual submission", in fact, these verses decisively demonstrate precisely the opposite.

The following verses, 5:22 - 6:9, are examples in which submission is already expected and part of the society of that time. There is nothing new in the fact of submission. The command is in how to submit. The examples give us details we can follow to give us an idea what it means to submit well. We are also encouraged and reminded in each example that our command is not merely to submit to the one who is in authority over us, but that both we in submission and those in authority are under the authority of Jesus, Lord over all.

The submission referenced in this passage is not mutual. No submission can be mutual. There is no such thing. Neither is the teaching here primarily about submission. But relationships wherein submission must occur are revealed as a context for the glory of God.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas

What have Frosty the Snowman and toys to do with Christ's festival?

Growing up, Christmas was all about the toys I anticipated receiving. Later, it became more and more about gifts I would give to others. This seems so much more honorable, mature, and generous. But, I gave for my own glory and satisfaction, not for that of others. To my shame, I gave certainly not for the glory of God. What a shame indeed that a festival of The Almighty God's ultimate grace to us -even us- has been twisted and soiled until it is now, even for Christians, a selfish frenzy of worship for a false god, material wealth.

As a child, I was mystified by the elderly who often said when asked that they didn't want anything for Christmas. I have finally come to relate to boredom with the world and all the gifts it offers.

If only Christmas can be a Festival of Christ, then where can boredom live? And what becomes of the body of Christ when it worships in Spirit and Truth?

But how do we do such a thing? Not only so but how to we transition to it, whatever it turns out to be, from the materialist, idolatrous worship of this world that we do now?

Last year, I gave to some a set of CD's describing the scientific evidence debunking the myth of biological evolution. I consider this insufficient, but at least better than what I have always done. This year, I intended to give a gift, the proceeds of which would support adoption of orphans through a Christian organization. Unfortunately, the website for such purchases (the only method available, as far as I know) is down for maintenance. But this is much better, I think. Still, the mere giving of a gift can hardly be called a celebration or festival.

Even now, we have a Christmas Eve service at church. But this does not inhibit or replace our year long idolatry as we prepare for the annual worship of the money, celebrated by giving all that it can buy to those who will also give to us.

I seek to replace what we have been doing, but perhaps I cannot learn what I should be doing instead until I fully and sincerely repent. Otherwise, I might endeavor to serve two masters. Our gracious Lord deserves better.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Defining the Infinite

Define means to determine limits or boundaries and Infinite means without limits or boundaries. Can infinite God be defined?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Willful & Lackadaisical

If one is "obstinately bent on having one's own way" when one is merely willful (that is, when one is full of one's own will), then should we be empty of will and passive and lackadaisical?

Perhaps we should instead be full of another's will; perhaps not just any other, but God in particular. "Obstinately bent on having one's own way" is the sin we see in ourselves and each other even from birth!

The alternative is not boring or defeated. As ever, the spectrum is perpendicular to what we may imagine. At one end are both willfulness and lackadaisicalness, which equally bear focus on man, while at the other is obedience to God. That is, being filled with God's will. This cannot produce boredom or disillusionment. Neither does it produce a hard heart. The true alternative to willfulness and lackadaisicalness liberates us from boredom and callousness.

News about Persecution!

COMPASS DIRECT
"Compass Direct is a Christian news service dedicated to providing exclusive news, penetrating reports, moving interviews and insightful analyses of situations and events facing Christians persecuted for their faith."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Yikes!

Our salvation does not lie with government. Neither can government be the primary actor for effective solutions to our nation's challenges. But we are in this world, so we should try to positively influence it. With that in mind, I intend to be informed about candidates and to vote accordingly. I'm still learning about the candidates and was surprised at this video. Keep in mind, this was not produced by an individual or organization trying to attack Mitt Romney. This is actually a campaign ad!

Monday, September 24, 2007

To Live Again

I was inspired by my brother to consider revival.

I wonder..

Do we really want revival?
Should we desire revival?
How would we get revival?
How would you describe a person who needs to be revived?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Canny & Uncanny

These are opposites, as might be expected, but only with regard to the secondary meaning of "canny".

canny
1. Careful and shrewd, especially where one's own interests are concerned. 2. Cautious in spending money; frugal. 3. Scots a. Steady, restrained, and gentle. b. Snug and quiet.

uncanny
1. Peculiarly unsettling, as if of supernatural origin or nature; eerie. See synonyms at weird. 2. So keen and perceptive as to seem preternatural.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sensitivity

Could it be that an important weapon or armor available to us in our battle against sin is the cultivation of sensitivity?

    So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and seperated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

~Ephesians 4:17-19


Paul equates a hard heart with loss of sensitivity. There are two results of the hardening of the Gentiles' hearts. First, they have ingnorance in them, which leads to seperation from God and from understanding. Second, they give themselves over to sensuality, which leads to an array of sins, but fails to satisfy.

If the loss of sensitivity leads to ingnorance and indulgence in sensuality, then perhaps its increase can help to empower us or prepare us for understanding, purity, and unity with God.

What do we think of a person who is sensitive? Do we value sensitivity or do we see it as weakness or indulgent?

Does this passage really teach us anything about what not to do?

Sensitive Sensitivity
Sensual Sensuality

Monday, September 03, 2007

Refuse

These are different in pronunciation, parts of speech, and of course definition. They do, however, have common lineage.

Refuse1
Refuse2

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Regurgitating the Apple: How Modern Liberals "Think"

Conservative Jewish comic, Evan Sayet, speaks soberly at The Heritage Foundation on March 5, 2007.

This is sharp insight describing the profound effects of relativism, here referred to as "indiscrimination".

It is often difficult for us to know how deeply even we who aspire to, and/or profess, a radically "unworldly" world-view are informed and guided by such error.

In addition, while it is Christ who builds the church, understanding prevalent world-views may help us to more effectively influence others for the Gospel.

The video is about 47 minutes.

Video
MP3
Transcript

Evan's blog, Sayet Right

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Today's Tunes

For as long as I can remember, I have been a music lover. My third grade teacher told me I was the "singingest" kid she had ever met. This was my introduction to the notion that my singing might not be welcome to all who could hear. I have some regret that I have never pursued any musical endeavors. But I am ever the music fan, and it's never too late to pick up a guitar and starting beating on it!

Music can be a mysterious, I dare say, magical influence because of its ability to evoke emotion of all kinds. I find in it compassion for my trouble, encouragement for my dreams, and beautiful expression for my ideas and emotions.
As with all of God's good gifts, music can become an idol, and I know that it has been for me at times. But, surely there is an appropriate place in the life of a believer for this part of God's creation that is so well-suited for praising his glory.

I've always enjoyed sharing with others my experiences with music. I build playlists to accomodate a particular mood, though what I listen to changes daily. I don't want to limit my experience or yours by giving this list a label. So, here is what I will call my current playlist. I'll put some favorite CD's in the sidebar along with an ongoing playlist.

What's Up?4 Non Blondes
And Your Praise Goes OnChris Rice
What Have We BecomeDC Talk
Take it to the LimitThe Eagles
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me YetJars of Clay
TrinityJennifer Knapp
Live in PeacePaul Rodgers
The Man You Want Me to BePhil Joel
Painting Pictures of EgyptSara Groves
SoulSatellite Soul
Hold on to JesusSteve Curtis Chapman
Alan Watts BluesVan Morrison

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bertrand Russell

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important."

~ Bertrand Russell

Implicit in this quote are 3 things:
  • One should avoid having a nervous breakdown.

  • One should avoid the belief that one's work is terribly important.

  • One can (help to) avoid having a nervous breakdown if one rejects the belief that one's work is terribly important.

How can the first be argued against? But, some work really is terribly important necessitating an alternate treatment for the approaching nervous breakdown.

Implicit in my response is the belief that my work (in response and analysis) is terribly important. Rather, I merely indulge "the little grey cells" in a little exercise.

Implicit in my explanation is the belief that perception of my work is terribly important. This is, in fact, the case; I anticipate the approaching nervous breakdown to arrive at any moment.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kind

So very different in meaning, these words are not only identical, but also appear to have a closely related heritage.

Kind1
Kind2    Kin
    Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

    ~ Genesis 1:11-13


    Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    ~ Romans 1:28-32


    The men were amazed and asked, "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!"

    ~ Matthew 8:27


    There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

    ~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-6


    But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives

    ~ 2 Peter 3:10-11


    But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

    ~ Luke 6:35-36


    Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

    ~ Ephesians 4:32


    Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

    ~ Thessalonians 5:15-16


    His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

    For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

    Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    ~ 2 Peter 1:3-10


    One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

    The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

    I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

    ~ Revelation 21:9-11, 18-27

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Holy, Holy, Holy!

I remember prayer used to be a different experience for me than it has been for a long time. Sometimes, I even found it difficult to stop blessing the food. I'm sure that some of this came from my strong feeling of gratitude, which has waned as my heart has wandered.

But I was never any sort of 'prayer warrior'. My experience was not unique or unusual. I know that prayer to the one true, living God can be a strengthening, encouraging, peaceful experience for everyone. After all, in it we encounter God himself. Could we expect any less?

But my prayers have changed. I have lost some of my sense of gratitude, though it can be restored by the grace of God. Hallelujah!

And I have learned a routine. I use certain language for every one of certain kinds of requests. I may talk about 'traveling mercies' or say 'lift up to you', 'pour out your blessings', 'be glorified' or say 'Lord', 'God', or 'Father' at the beginning and end of every sentence. None of these are necessarily bad, but after a gloriously celebratory wedding banquet, my prayers are like the 1000th thank you note — routine.

I see now that I have even allowed my perception of God to become corrupt. Jesus is with us in our temptation (Hebrews 2:18, 4-15-16), so I forget he is not with me when I give in to temptation. I request God’s work in this world and he does answer. But, I forget that he remains not of this world.

God is not routine. He is not worldly. How else could he save us from the destiny of this world? God is holy.

When we pray, we 'step into' Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the bridge spanning the great chasm between the fallen world and the holy God. He is unique and superlative in every way. God is holy.

We are rightly taught to 'walk in the Spirit', 'live by the Spirit', and 'pray in Spirit and truth'. Speaking at least for myself, I must pray with reverence to our holy, though supremely gracious and loving God, in order to have any hope of living by the Spirit. We can pray reverently without any comprimise to intimacy. And how much greater joy will prayer be if it serves additionally to remind us of our Father’s supremacy over all that is in the world!


    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

           "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
           the whole earth is full of his glory."

    ~Isaiah 6:1-3



    Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

           "Glory to God in the highest,
               and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

    ~Luke 2:13-14



    Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

    ~Revelation 4:8

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Self-effacing


efface
self-effacing



    When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

    ~ Luke 14:7-11


    Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

    ~ James 4:7-10


    Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

        "God opposes the proud
            but gives grace to the humble."

    Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

    ~ 1 Peter 5:5-7

Monday, August 06, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Renaissance: Word of the Week 07/30/2007

Since the only true and thorough rebirth that can possibly occur in a human being is the miracle of being born from above (John 3:3), it is ironic, and revealing, that renaissance (a rebirth or revival) is the name given to a period in history defined as a humanistic revival of classical art, architecture, literature, and learning.

Traherne via C.S. Lewis: Quote of the Week

'Can you be righteous', asks Traherne, 'unless you be just in rendering to things their due esteem? All things were made to be yours and you were made to prize them according to their value.'

~C.S. Lewis
The Abolition of Man

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Angels in the Architecture

Douglas Jones, Douglas Wilson, Angles in the Architecture (Canon Press, Moscow, Idaho, 1998)

There are some noteworthy problems with this book, not the least of which is the ambiguous style in which most of it is written. Many arguments are poorly supported. Logical leaps abound.

In spite of the trouble, I found great value here as well. Many observations astute and conclusions correct, their weak arguments notwithstanding, and not all the authors' assertions are mishandled in this way. Angels in the Architecture identifies some common and very detrimental contemporary misconceptions, which it is the purpose of the authors to correct.

A limited selection of highlights:

    ...a central lie, which is that the world is the source of aesthetic wisdom and understanding.

    "A Wine Dark Sea and Tumbling Sky" p. 28


    We want an avuncular figure in the sky, someone to hand out celestial candies when we are feeling a little blue.

    "Te Deum" p. 42


    The Church today is a stranger to victories because we refuse to sing anthems to the king of all victories. We do not want a God of battles, we want sympathy for our surrenders.

    "Te Deum" p. 43


    Part of the Medievel ability to appreciate the obviousness of Christianity was their maturing understanding of the ancient war between the seed of Eve and the seed of the Serpent.

    "The Emerging Divide" p. 49


    Silence is terrifying; it reveals our bitter sin. The rebellious demand constant background noise as a shield against God.

    "Swords into Plowshares" p. 135


    In search of "real change," they charge out to conquer the institution [the state] that is most impotent in actually bringing it about.

    "And Babylons Fall" p. 159



One of the strongest chapters and, possibly the most relevant is "Rights of Degree".

    Modernity only believes in the language of equality -- we do not mind tyrannies as long as they are draped in the name of the people, all of whom must be formally acknowledged to be equal. The tyrant may actually be engaged in trying to murder all the people, but as long as he bows and scrapes in front of the Temple of Democracy, his position is secure.

    As C.S. Lewis comments, "The modern idea that we can choose between Hierarchy and equality is, for Shakespeare's Ulysses, mere moonshine. The real alternative is tyranny; if you will not have authority you will find yourself obeying brute force."

    This must be emphasized because egalitarianism is so deeply embedded in the modern mind that thinking outside of egalitarian assumptions is extraordinarily difficult.

    p. 162


    Not surprisingly, if this is the case, then at least some caveats must be stated at the outset. First, an assertion of hierarchy in no way sets aside the biblical requirements of humility, or the scriptural warnings about the insidiousness of pride. Rather, it postulates a world in which rank and station exist, and therefore it is necessary to recognize the importance of humility. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themeselves" (Phil. 2:3). Conditioned by egalitarianism the way we have been, we think that any assertion of hierarchy contains the clear diabolical desire to "be superior" to others, which is pride and arrogance. Certainly any such desire, considered by itself, is pride and arrogance. But we conveniently forget that our egalitarian zeal may be reflecting the same grasping attitude -- and intense desire not to "be inferior" to anyone.

    We have institutionalized envy, and we believe we are advocates of justice when we are simply displaying our petulance.

    p. 163


    The first victim on the altar of equality is always that of liberty. The second victim is a collective one, a long line of men, women, and children which stretches out of sight. Hearing modernists talk about the bloody abuses of the Middle Ages is like hearing a lecture on disease contol by Typhoid Mary, and it is all a bit much.

    p. 166

Voila!

    But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—

    ~2 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Man's Longing for God


A monument recently built on the "left bank" of the Ishim River in Astana, Kazakhstan represents an ancient pagan myth. The tower represents the Baiterek (poplar) tree from Kazakh folklore -- The Tree of Life. In the branches, the Samruk bird has laid a golden egg, which is the sun.


Rest: Word of the week 07/23/07

Another word used for disparate meanings.

Rest1
Rest2

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Down: Word of the Week 07/16/07

I'm fascinated by words that are identical, yet have apparently unrelated meanings.

I'm also intrigued by the words that are, in some respects, so simple that they are some of the first words we ever learn, yet have many different uses or complexities in their use.

Down is an excellent example of both.

down1
down2
down3

This is the Day!

Worshiping God with a mission team as we prepared for a trip, we sang what is typically considered a children's song, "This is the Day".

I continue to sing this song many times each day.

This is the day that the Lord has made!
I will rejoice and be glad in it!


Is this not a children's song? But it is deep theology!

Because the Lord has made this day (and every day), because he loves us, and because he has all power to express his love for us by working for our good, we can trust him. Yes, we can trust him even with the thorough, unquestioning trust of a child. We can rejoice and be glad in each day without consideration for what the day brings. Because the Lord made the day, we know that all in it is for our good.

    "This is what the LORD says—
    your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
    I am the LORD,
    who has made all things,
    who alone stretched out the heavens,
    who spread out the earth by myself,

    ~Isaiah 44:24

    For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
    ~Colossians 1:16-17

    Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
    and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
    for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
    Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
    you are exalted as head over all.

    Wealth and honor come from you;
    you are the ruler of all things.
    In your hands are strength and power
    to exalt and give strength to all.

    Now, our God, we give you thanks,
    and praise your glorious name.

    ~1 Chronicles 29:11-13

    Your laws endure to this day,
    for all things serve you.

    ~Psalm 119:91

    And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church
    ~Ephesians 1:22

    And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
    ~Romans 8:28

    "You are worthy, our Lord and God,
    to receive glory and honor and power,
    for you created all things,
    and by your will they were created
    and have their being."

    ~Revelation 4:11

Saturday, July 14, 2007

That Special Someone

I have heard many single people talk about finding that special someone. Married people as well encourage their single unmarried friends. "There's someone out there just for you" or "there's someone for everyone" are refrains we have all heard from Hollywood, radio, our families, and from each other. From this idea of destiny we take hope, after many years perhaps, without having found "the perfect mate".

I have also heard it said, "I don't want to settle." This sounds prudent. It would certainly be unwise to enter into a marriage with a person with whom you do not feel some excitement for making a life-long commitment to a unique relationship that no one else can join with you. Marriage, as an oath sworn to commit one's entire lifetime to only one other person, is not to be taken lightly.

When we talk about "settling" with regard to a spouse, we are talking about giving up on a dream: that "special someone", the one person in the whole world who is "perfect" for me.

But we quite easily, and even frequently acknowledge "nobody's perfect". The bright light of the sun begins to disperse the morning mist of our dream and we begin to see that we pursue a fantasy.

But this dream does not come from God. While the Bible does abundantly praise and recommend marriage, it never describes anything like a "special someone". It's that simple. It's a childhood fantasy. This is hard to admit. I am one to encourage the relentless pursuit of a dream and persistence against circumstances and nay-sayers. But perhaps I still can be.

And really, this is good news. I know so very well how desperately imperfect I am. Seriously, for whom could I possibly be a perfect match? I used to say with cynical (though light-hearted) sarcasm, "I'll never settle for a woman who will settle for me."

What does come from God? One instruction about who to marry: "do not be unequally yoked." Many instructions about how to do marriage. Might this indicate God's priorities? I suspect he cares more about our behavior in marriage than about who we have chosen to marry. In fact, in the history of the world and even in some cultures today, choice in marriage is completely irrelevant.

Yet our dream remains so appealing! It seems so right to desire beauty, joy, delight, and to receive love. But have we explored that to which we are called?

Are those who "settle" really giving up on a dream? Some of them may be, but perhaps some of them have learned what I have not. Perhaps they have learned to see beyond the fragile veneer of beauty that fades and to recognize a flawed human being when they see one. Perhaps they have even learned to give love to such a person.

I expect to find great joy in giving love to another, in part, because I know that I cannot do it alone. I must depend on Jesus to be there with me infusing me with strength, stamina, and love for someone other than myself that I do not naturally have. But also, there is pleasure to be had in enriching another person, especially one I enjoy and for whom I have care.

I think the real decision, the real commitment, of marriage isn't as much about who we choose as it is about who we choose to be.

Let us not settle for that mythical "special someone". Rather, let us worship God alone and (married or not) continue to strive for the dream of being the spouses that only the indwelling Christ can prepare and empower us to be.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Evolve: Word of the week 07/09/07

I've heard so many people talk about ideas or projects built on ideas that have grown and changed over time by saying "it evolved". I have always been annoyed by this use of the word, believing that it is inconsistent with the definition of the word and therefore utterly impossible.

My conclusion was based on this premise: ideas require thought. Evolution requires the absence of thought. Therefore, "the evolution of an idea" is an oxymoron. Honestly, I may have been driven in part by the feeling that use of the word gives assent to the theory.

However, the words evolve and evolution were not invented by Darwin. As a result, they both have meaning beyond his debunked theory and beyond biology.

In addition to providing enlightening definitions for both words, The American Heritage Dictionary also handles quite elegantly the word evolutionism.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

All Things

As I searched the Internet yesterday for something in particular, I saw "out of the corner of my eye" a link to an article about a shooting at Virginia Tech. I made a conscious decision not to read it. I anticipated sadness, perhaps dispair and frustration. Shootings are not so rare even on campuses; and I know I will be sorely tempted to doubt God if I continually fill my mind with the horrors of "man's inhumanity to man", especially with no firmer habit of filling my mind with scripture than I currently have.

Shortly thereafter, a coworker asked if I had heard about the shootings at Virginia Tech. I learned that it was no "ordinary" shooting, but something on a much larger scale, and for that reason a much greater source of sadness and, potentially, frustration and dispair.

My mind echoed so many of the questions that are being asked. How could this happen? What could make a person want to do this? What should "the university" have done differently? Essentially, "Why?" Oddly, I could actually feel the temptation to forget about God when considering an answer. I instinctively began to think about the gunman's psychosis, campus security, university communications.

A Christian is blessed by a death deemed premature from our worldly perspective because absence from the world for a believer means the presence of God. So, perhaps what we deserve is a long life that postpones our being in the presence of God. While a Christian need not fear death, still I think we are rightly horrified by murder, whether one or many. God condemns it, it is irrevocable, and it causes pain for the living. Even for a Christian who rejoices in the glorification of a loved one who has passed away, sudden seperation causes pain. For me, it is difficult to imagine the anguish now felt by so many. And the fact that there are so many seems to make this incident more important than if there were only one.

Our horror is magnified because those killed and wounded were doing no harm. They were not engaged in some activity that might stimulate self-defensive behavior from anyone. I don't know those who were injured or killed, and I would not presume to even speculate about their respective relationships with God. But I know that I who also intend no harm to anyone don't deserve anything more pleasant or dignified than to be shot by a madman on a rampage. And, that fact is not altered by my inclusion in the body of Christ. Nevertheless, we call them innocent and, to an extent, it is absolutely true.

Floods have killed more, but a flood is not malicious. The irrational rage and violence of events like these are also intensely horrifying. If no logic can be discerned, when, where, and from whom are any of us safe? We who believe in our need of a savior do understand at least something of what sin can lead a man to do. But this still stuns me.

As difficult as it can be to reconcile an event like this with God's sovereignty, we must know God does, in fact, remain sovereign over all things. God has chosen to graciously remove the sting of death so that we rejoice in the resurrection of the dead among whom Jesus is the first. But, by grace also, our Heavenly Father leaves us in the world full of corruption and horrible sin to suffer and to sacrifice and to die a physical death so that all whom he has chosen might be saved unto life eternal and abundant.

If we become insensitive to the heart-wrenching, even debilitating grief that a heart of flesh must feel for those who are suffering, or forget or willingly compromise our conviction of God's limitless rulership, we then become less effective at glorifying God and ministering to those in pain for the sake of his name. If we hide, as was my first instinct, or seek a solution in the world, as was my second, we can be rendered useless.

I say "Why (does this happen)?" is the wrong question because the answer is "it must". The right question, I believe, is "How (can this be prevented, escaped, overcome)?" and the only answer is "Jesus!"

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28

Friday, April 06, 2007

Drive Time

As I drove to work on this Good Friday morning, having already spent far, far too much time in fuming and festering over wrongs done to me either by those who are condemned to eternal agony and thus, cannot be expected to know better, or by those who are bound for glory but remain as yet imperfect, I enjoyed the dearth of traffic and pondered holidays in general. Good Friday and Easter Monday are not designated holidays for IBM or ATT (my employer and customer), though July 4th is. But the ease of my commute this morning demonstrates that many employers do designate Good Friday a holiday.

This is a good thing. But having given cynicism a foothold, I raised an accusing finger against man and his depravity. What do we do with our holidays? On the 4th of July, we have picnics and watch fireworks and maybe go to the beach for the week. Do Americans typically celebrate America at all on the 4th of July? Is Good Friday just another day off like July 4th or Labor Day?

Just then I rounded a bend on the freeway to see church steeples silhouetted against the brightening blue morning sky. I imagined those steeples point to God. He is not in outer space, but our language gives us a conceptual association between 'the heavens' and Heaven.

So I am reminded that, on this day perhaps more than most days, we look to God in order to consider the magnificence and extraordinary grace of his purpose and to worship him over it.

I am reminded also that I should be looking, rather than at miserable human beings and our inevitable failures, to our Heavenly Father and his tremendous sacrifice for the successful and irrevocable redemption of our poor souls from our own failures as well as from the failures of others.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dilemma?

I know from scripture that I must "die" to myself, but I keep wondering, "What's in it for me?"

I don't know of anywhere in scripture where we are told precisely that we must die to ourselves. But we are told in 1 Peter 2:24 that our new life in Christ includes death to sins.

And in Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23, Jesus' words are recorded: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Luke includes "daily".

Add to these Romans 12 and many other passages, and I have no trouble believing that I must "die to myself".

But, honestly, self-denial of any measure, let alone dying to myself is quite a leap for me. It's unnatural. My thoughts are habitually bent toward self-preservation and self-satisfaction. So much so, that I (cunningly, I imagine) try to use my own selfishness to motivate me toward righteousness.

Righteousness and obedience to God truly are rewarding not only in eternity, but now. Though, not necessarily in the same ways that we typically enjoy life. But fellowship with God, enabled and strengthened by submission to him, is joyous beyond all the world has to offer. Psalms relentlessly exhorts us with "Rejoice in the Lord!" So there is some reasoned thought behind attempting to find pleasure in the Lord rather than in the world.

Does "deny himself" mean to seek experiences of suffering and misery or reject all opportunities for pleasure? Rather, does it mean:
    Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    ~ Romans 12:2

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Romans 1

Not intended to be anything even resembling a comprehensive exegesis, but only an effort to share some things I learned:

1:1-4 – The authenticity of Jesus:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Verses 1 & 2: The prophets held in high regard and whose words are considered breathed from God and called “Holy Scriptures” testify to the authenticity of the gospel for which Paul has been set apart and called by God to be an apostle.

Verse 3: Jesus’ natural descent from David testifies to his authenticity.

Verse 4: The resurrection of Jesus testifies to his authenticity not only as Messiah, but also as the Son of God.

1:5-6 – Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Paul groups his readers with those he calls from among the Gentiles. He says the Gentiles are called “to the obedience that comes from faith” and his readers are also “called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Therefore, being called to “obedience that comes from faith” must be synonymous with belonging to Jesus Christ.

1:19 – since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

This verse does not say what may be known about God is “easy to comprehend”. It does not say that all the evidence is available and merely needs to be assembled and considered. Rather it says what may be known about God is “plain to them”. It is staring them in the face, requires no special wisdom or intellect, but rather has already been perceived.

In addition, what may be known about God has been made plain by God. He has revealed himself.

1:20 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Again, there is no requirement for analyzing the evidence. God’s invisible qualities, not only can be understood, but they “have been clearly seen” and have already been understood. This is why there is no excuse.

What may be known about God has already been understood “from what has been made”. And yet our pagans endeavor to ‘disprove’ the existence of God by lying about “what has been made”, the very thing because of which God denies us any excuse for not being certain of his existence and his nature.

1:21-32 – The conduct of those who have no excuse for not knowing God or for behaving as if they don’t:

Romans 1:21-32

Three times this passage says they exchanged something from God for something worthless. They exchanged “the glory of the immortal God for images”, “the truth of God for a lie”, and “natural relations for unnatural ones”.

Each statement is followed by two repeated elements. First, “therefore”, “because of this”, or “since they”. Second, God “gave them over”.

But there seem to be two sections (divided perhaps by “Furthermore”, which seems to imply “As if this weren’t bad enough…”). In the first, because of their idolatry, God “gave them over” to sexual impurity and to shameful lusts. Idolatry is punished by rampant, unbridled lust. The punishment is not one I would have expected for the crime. While having in mind what I am able to understand about the proper sexual relationship God designed, I can comprehend that a gross distortion of it is torturous, but the connection between sexual perversion and graven images worshipped as gods is not immediately obvious. But because of the apparent connection here, I have to suspect that in verse 27b, “Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions”, the due penalty may not be some unnamed punishment for the indecent acts, but rather the due penalty may actually be the “indecent acts with other men” as punishment for the previously mentioned sexual impurity and shameful lusts.

In the second section, verse 28 says that, “since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done”. In this section, the crime is different than in the first and the punishment is different.

Verses 29-31 go into detail about what “ought not to be done”. These activities are not of a sexually perverse nature as are the activities to which God “gave them over” as punishment for their idolatry. Rather they consist of just about everything else you could think of and, surprisingly, includes disobedience to parents right in the mix with greed, depravity, murder, and hating God.

This is a long list and, as a result, easy to skim over. But it is eminently valuable to ponder each sin mentioned, not only as an individual sin, but also as another violation of righteousness piled on top of those that precede it. These people are truly horrid and despicable.

Of course, in chapter 2, Paul goes on to point out that these people are, in fact, us. Although we refrain to whatever extent from “what ought not to be done”, we are no better than these people and no less in need of a savior. Nevertheless, these behaviors all necessarily result from denying God. He forced these people into nothing. He only “gave them over” to their own devices. It is amazing to me how twisted, tormented, and dark even the saintliest of us can become if left to ourselves. How depraved we truly are.

1:31 – “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they…continue to do these very things.”