Thursday, February 28, 2013

Calvinism and Limited Atonement

The term “limited atonement” is the most controversial point of all five points of Calvinism. Christians have difficulty with the idea that Christ’s death is efficacious only for the elect. Most Christ followers would say that Christ died for everybody. John Piper clarifies it this way, “For if Christ died for all men in the same way then he did not purchase regenerating grace for those who are saved. They must regenerate themselves and bring themselves to faith. Then and only then do they become partakers of the benefits of the cross. In other words if you believe that Christ died for all men in the same way, then the benefits of the cross cannot include the mercy by which we are brought to faith, because then all men would be brought to faith, but they aren't. But if the mercy by which we are brought to faith (irresistible grace) is not part of what Christ purchased on the cross, then we are left to save ourselves from the bondage of sin, the hardness of heart, the blindness of corruption, and the wrath of God.”

It seems obvious that if God has called someone then He is not to weak to make certain that they are brought to faith in Christ. If we say that God chose everyone then according to Romans 8:29-30 everyone should be saved; “because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified. (NET).”

The other argument I have heard is that Christ died for all men and the sin of all men is forgiven. If that is true than all men will go to Heaven (universalism) but we know that is not the case. Christ’s death covers only the believing church.

Begin your research with the Piper article referred to above. Most importantly allow yourself to be uncomfortable. The Bible must be the ultimate word on what is true not our belief or level of comfort with a principle.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sustaining Grace

The sky was the table and somebody had spilled milk across it. The bright fullness of the moon lit up a streak of white clouds against a dark blue sky. I sat in my car and admired the view. If God could order that then certainly He could order my little universe.

The wife and I are processing the way that God orders our lives. Going through a rough patch some weeks ago we were led to John Piper’s sermon on “sustaining grace.” The takeaway is that God allows distress but orders it that He might get the glory;
“Not grace to bar what is not bliss, nor flight from all distress but this,The grace to order our troubles and pain, And then in the darkness is there to sustain.”
God allows and orders all my circumstances. This is a biblical world view that I wish I’d understood much earlier. . He is still sovereign and in His omniscience fits together all the workings of my frail life into the plan of the universe. This doesn’t make it understandable to me but it does make it bearable; “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers…Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name, Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing.”

The hand of fate will spill milk on my table—that’s a given. Some seasons the spill is larger than I can handle; more oil spill than milk spill. The one who knows the stars by name has already placed the cleanup crew in place. In the darkness, in the process, He sustains and holds together til I reach that vantage point where I can appreciate His handiwork

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mental Disorder

We may be one little step from going off the deep end. When I was working in disability I had a patient that was unable to hold down a job because he spent hours in the bathroom washing his body. On his way to work he would stop his car believing that he’d hit somebody. He spent hours searching under and around his car for the body before continuing to work ultimately arriving late on a daily basis. I have an alarm clock that I check two or three times in the morning before I leave for work. There are days I’m certain that I left the door unlocked when I didn’t.

I could easily live like Howard Hughes. It would be easy to become a recluse; to try and shut down to avoid the anxiety producing pressures that bear down on me day to day. Certainly having Hughes’ paycheck would help too or else I’d have to leave the house once in a while to purchase milk and peanut butter. There is a gene for depression that runs amok in my family. Truly though God has allowed me to enjoy the positives in life and laugh on even my worst days.

Mental normalcy is something I take for granted. I have my share of maladies but stable emotions and mental acuity are things I don’t think about much. Today I’m giving thanks for a brain that functions normally with chemicals and emotions that line up accordingly--- something to think about when I check the alarm clock tomorrow morning.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Calvinism and Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election means that God chose to save us based solely on His own choice apart from any action or condition on our part. In our muddied thinking we believe that there was some goodness or inkling of altruism that motivated God to choose us. As discussed previously in the post on total depravity there was never anything in us that would cause God to elect us based on our merit. 

In wrestling with this concept most make the assumption that God knew that we would choose Him beforehand which is why He predestined us to salvation. This would mean that God is not ultimately sovereign in what He does. His decision would be a reaction to our choosing rather than God making the initial choice. Ephesians 1:4 indicates that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.” Before time began God chose; the deliberate action is with God not with us. In response to this incorrect understanding Sproul writes,

“On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This is conditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.”
The gut reaction we have to this is that it’s not fair. Though life isn’t fair we want our God to be fair. Sproul explains this way, “If God chooses sovereignly to bestow His grace on some sinners and withhold His grace from other sinners, is there any violation of justice in this? Do those who do not receive this gift receive something they do not deserve? Of course not. If God allows these sinners to perish, is He treating them unjustly? Of course not. One group receives grace; the other receives justice. No one receives injustice. Paul anticipates this protest: “Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Romans 9:14 and following) He answers it with the most emphatic response he can muster. I prefer the translation, “God forbid” (v. 14b). Then he goes on to amplify this response: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (v. 15). Here the Apostle is reminding his reader of what Moses declared centuries before; namely, that it is God’s divine right to execute clemency when and where He desires. He says from the beginning, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is not on those who meet some conditions, but on those whom He is pleased to bestow the benefit.”

I find great assurance in the principle of Unconditional Election. Since God chose me apart from my works then my works will not undo that choosing. Since He predestined me to adoption my sonship is irrevocable. As His calling is from “before the foundation of the world,” I rest in his choice of me (apart from anything in myself) and in the eternality of the decision. “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;…For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Stay tuned Thursday when I discuss Limited Atonement.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Scent Of A Flower Not Found

  For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. – CS Lewis, 1942, The Weight of Glory

Perhaps that is why Pinterest is such a big hit. Pictures call to us of places we long to be and of dreams we hope to achieve. The lyrics from Cloverton’s song “Take me into the mystery, gently lift me with Your grace
Make the chaos a chorus, with Yourself come fill this place” speak of the deep longing we have for ‘the country we have never yet visited.’

Art in all it’s forms is a reflection of Beauty Himself. I grew up listening to classical music. I can get lost listening to a great piece of music until I am caught up beyond the music into a place of beauty that the music hints at. An Ansel Adams picture will have the same affect.

For myself my soul resounds when my body is face to face with vibrant music. My soul sings and my eyes delight in photos which catch a hint of the beauty of creation; nature or human. Ultimately they stoke the fire that to easily goes out in me. I am reminded that there is a tune I have not heard, a country I have not visited, a face I have not seen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Calvinism and Total Depravity

“Whether we call ourselves Calvinists hardly matters; what matters is that we should understand the gospel biblically. But that, we think, does in fact mean understanding it as historic Calvinism does….”-J.I. Packer

What follows is a shallow look at the first of the main five points of Calvinism, or Reformed theology, as spelled out in the acrostic TULIP. As this is an extensive topic there are some caveats that need to be addressed. Most Reformed theologians agree with R.C. Sproul that, “it would be a serious mistake to understand the essence of Reformed theology simply in light of these five doctrines—the Reformed faith involves many other elements of theological and ecclesiastical confession. However, these are the five controversial points of Reformed theology, and they are the ones that are popularly seen as distinctive to this particular confession.” Each topic demands serious thought and investigation so I will link to a number of sites for additional information. Finally it is important to note that some godly men disagree with the basic tenets of Reformed theology. I stand with Packer in believing that if we understand the gospel we understand it as historic Calvinism does.

I just finished a twenty minute discussion with my wife whom (so far) disagrees with me on this subject. She has a good head on her shoulders and thinks well through theology (which is one reason I married her). This is a difficult subject to understand. It is as difficult a subject for me to lay out in a short blog post. The reason I do so is not to create complete understanding but to raise the issue so that readers are challenged to wrestle with the theology.

The T in the acrostic stands for “Total Depravity.” Sproul defines it this way,
“So the idea of total in total depravity doesn’t mean that all human beings are as wicked as they can possibly be. It means that the fall was so serious that it affects the whole person. The fallenness that captures and grips our human nature affects our bodies; that’s why we become ill and die. It affects our minds and our thinking; we still have the capacity to think, but the Bible says the mind has become darkened and weakened. The will of man is no longer in its pristine state of moral power. The will, according to the New Testament, is now in bondage. We are enslaved to the evil impulses and desires of our hearts. The body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin.”
I best understand this in light of Romans 3:10 and following: “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving,” “The poison of asps is under their lips”; “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; “Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths.”

That’s God taking about me. That’s God talking about all mankind. Horne writes, “The unrenewed man cannot even begin to discern the truth of divine things. It is not simply that he will not; he cannot. When we inquire as to why he cannot, we discover that it is not because of a faulty functioning of the powers of logical reasoning as such but rather because of a failure to reckon with all pertinent data---data made available only by the work of the Holy Spirit.”

Being Totally depraved I could not make any decision for God or towards God in my own goodness. I was all evil, totally depraved, wholly fallen. Only God acting on me and drawing me could cause me to move toward Him. That is the basis for Unconditional Election which I will discuss in Sunday’s post.

Verses to consider: Ephesians 1:4,5: “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will…”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Contemplating Growing Older

My hair is the proof that time takes its toll. I see the elderly at work many of whom wrestle with serious physical ailments. Once a customer told me that turning sixty he noticed a severe slowing. I don’t see that happening.

Some fifty-year olds look eighty while some eighty-year olds look fifty. Anecdotally I’ve noticed that those that workout manage to keep some aging signs at bay. Still it is difficult to escape the lines on the face and the gray in the hair.

I never really gave any of this much consideration til turning 50. Being less than five years from Carrow’s senior dinner eligibility has made me look twice at ‘old age.’ I’ve suffered infirmities since childhood. God has sustained me through a number of body injuries. So I will laugh, enjoy the wife of my middle years, dote on the daughter and maintain some semblance of exercise. Those are in my control. Winter will set in slowly. My hope is for slow frost not avalanche.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ready For The Afterlife

It is the worst of all connections. I refer to the internal wiring that connects a current experience to an experience in the past that causes rage. Specifically my work environment is less than positive taking place in an environment that is not supportive with a boss that is ego-centered and accusatory. Yesterday I found myself viscerally reacting to his criticism in a way that made no immediate sense. It only made sense if what I was reacting to was something else such as a past event.

While it does some good to ruminate on possible childhood connections this satisfies only part of the picture. The reality is still that I have to deal with my emotions and my thinking in the present. I’m doing a lot of praying; asking for forgiveness and asking for wisdom. The positive is that it’s keeping me crying out.

Through these difficult circumstances and annoying little trials I find ultimately it helps to seek ministry to others and not focus so much on self. Beyond that it helps if I continuously sing songs to God especially songs focusing on Heaven my home. These things all seem to help through these days of trial. When my life is on cruise control it’s easy to get attached down here. When I’m struggling with multi-faceted trials I can sing, “I’m ready for the afterlife.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

At The Pool Of Bethesda

The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me."  John 5:7

We too are waiting for the stirring up of the water. We cry to Jesus to put us into the pool. For we too have no one else. We have leaned on other people but they have let us down before the healing waters. We tried resting on our accomplishments but they cracked and shattered without granting us legitimate support. Beginning to realize our hopelessness we stare at the water as it begins to move.

Christ’s image is seen in the water. As we grow closer it is obscured by our own reflection. We know what we should do but in our own flesh we find it impossible. So we cry again for God to carry us to the pool.

We have lived in our own infirmity for so long. Seeing the beauty of Him who is most beautiful stuns us. We can not understand how we can be healed or safe when we have been sick so long. The water stirs and we are paralyzed and unable to move.

“Do you wish to get well,” He asks. Why would He ask us that? Doesn’t He know we are broken? “This wretched body will not make it to the water,” we say again. Still He forces the issue and requests, nay, commands us to, “Get up.”

We are at a crossroads. If we could get up then we would have no need for the water. Yet He commands with authority that stirs the hope within. Giving answer to a will stronger than our own we rise to our feet. Startled we realize what has happened.

We seek the presence of God. We jump for joy. We know not who this man was only that He said to walk and by God we did.

The water moves again and a voice cries to be carried to the pool. A hand reaches out to touch them. “I once was as you were,” he says.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

God Is Confusing And Able

The commute today was sandwiched between songs about the God that is able and the God that is confusing. That is ever the tension. It is made worse in this clay body and this plastic world. We know who God is but we know too who we are---and what we are not. We view our trial and know what we want. God doesn’t always solve it, doesn’t always act, doesn’t always answer. We cry out because we know God can but wonder if He will.

There are always those Pollyanna people that point out that God granted Job more children and returned wealth and property. He still grieved the loss of his firstborn. The restoration doesn’t supplant the staggering loss. Job lays his hand on his mouth. He professes, “I know that you can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted…”

“I don’t know what you’re doing but I know you,” is the refrain to the second song. Life is confusing. Knowing that God is able is what distresses us more. He is able so why won’t He act as we think He should? We cast our clay selves back onto God. With Job we admit that His ways are far above our understanding. With the Psalmist we have to get the right view; “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God.” God is able, God is holy, God is sovereign. We rest in who He is and that allows us to hope in what He does---or doesn’t---do.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Peeling Back The Layers

 Onion Macro
 Undergoing counseling is much like being an onion on the way to a meal. There is a cutting, a removing of layers and some stinging tears. Was a time there was a stigma in admitting time on the therapists couch. In some Christian circles there still is. In my life God has done some positive work in the balance between counseling, teaching and community.

The Casting Crowns song, Who Am I, was released in October of 2003. My daughter was turning seven. That Summer I rode Seattle-to-Portland for my first time. I was two years into a new mortgage, two years into a new job. Little known to me I was five years from signing divorce papers. In the midst of this whirlwind God was doing some serious work. The Casting Crowns song affirmed an understanding that was gaining hold in me. I was beginning to get hold of the truth that “the eyes that see my sin would look on me with love and watch me rise again?” In slicing my onion skin God was freeing me to live in greater joy and freedom.

The counseling couch didn’t happen in a vacuum. Outside of the therapists office I was involved in a local church. I had a close circle of friends that cared for me that were willing to work through hard truths. I read a lot. I wrestled with my weakness and kept giving it to God. The translucent skin peeled to reveal another layer.

Today I think I laugh more. I certainly sing out loud more. I am less self conscious. There is a deeper joy; a greater freedom to be myself. I am still in the peeling process. Now my skin is not as thick nor my walls so high. It’s a freeing process though not a comfortable one.

Photo courtesy of Jenn Durfey

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Turning Off The Television Show

Once it’s in your brain it’s impossible to get it out. The Spouse and I made the mistake of turning on, “The Following,” last night. It’s Kevin Bacon’s new television show. It’s dark, graphic and frightening. The smart move would have been to turn it off. The bad move was to watch all of episode 1.

We live in a bizarre time. In the supermarket the magazines display pictures like the ones my dad hid in under his work table in the garage. The images we invite into our living rooms are brighter than real life. The storylines are darker than most of real life.

As a child my daughter couldn’t watch parts of “Lady and the Tramp,” as some of the scenes were too dark for her. We’ve grown up and been desensitized to the darkness.

My wife and I watched The Following last night (my wife watching with her fingers over her eyes) we said to one another, “I hope we don’t have nightmares.” which in hindsight should have been enough to turn off the computer. My takeaway is to be more sensitive to what my conscience and spirit are telling me. If the words, “Maybe I shouldn’t,” rise up in my mind then I mustn’t. It’s too difficult to turn those images off once they’ve embedded themselves.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

In Politics the Pendulum Doesn't Swing Back

“I told a friend that I couldn’t stand eight years of George H.W. Bush. He said that if he could take eight years of Clinton I should take eight years of Bush. The pendulum always swings back.”

In politics the pendulum doesn’t swing back. It moves more in a continuum rather than a pendulum. To illustrate this point please tell me which of the following programs were revoked when the pendulum swung back in the opposite direction; Medicare, Welfare, Social Security, Head Start, National Endowment for the Arts, Public Television and the Clear Air, Water Quality and Clean Water Restoration Acts and Amendments. These were all programs begun under Lyndon Johnson.

The president has already instituted Obamacare (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act). In all likelihood we have lost that battle.

“The president will spend a ton of money we don't have, destroy a bunch of weapons and capabilities we do, and issue a near constant stream of job-killing executive orders. The GOP and conservative media will be obliged to point this out every day, and the courts to strike down the unconstitutional excesses, such as the HHS regs on employers with religious scruples about providing the morning-after pill.”
 The battles will come in the areas of religious freedom and personal freedoms which will pit The State against the individual.

Under this administration or any administration we can not rest or give up believing that “the pendulum always swings back.” The skirmishes determine the advance of an agenda.  If that agenda is anti-God and anti-liberty then must hold the line. Perhaps with a push the pendulum will swing back but it will not do so on it’s own.

“The good news is that every eighth grader you know will go to college under a president not named Obama.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tilt Me Towards Betsy

There was a man who had two wives, Mary his first wife, and Betsy his second. Both wives had passed away. He loved both wives dearly. Still he felt a stronger love for his second wife. He went to buy a plot at the mortuary and they asked him where he wanted to be buried. “Bury me right between both wives,” he said, “But tilt me toward Betsy.”

On my drive home I listen to the radio. I alternate between Bill Carroll and Glenn Beck. Beck gets my blood pumping but sometimes (most times) his messages rob me of peace. I drive home expecting that by the time I arrive the government will have instituted martial law, emptied my bank account and forced my wife and child to enroll in a school where they wear red, white and blue bandanas while listening to Richard Wagner.

Bill Carroll keeps me apprised of human interest stories both in the Los Angeles area and abroad. He keeps me abreast of the local fads and fetishes that are making news. As a father and husband he manages to draw within the lines though sometimes he obscures them.

We tilt differently on different days. A mother I knew alternated between Gary Ezzo (Raising Kids Gods Way) and James Dobson depending on whether she felt she needed to be stricter or more lenient and gracious. I suspect there are Christians out there that alternate between John Piper and Joel Osteen depending on if they want solid theology or to feel good about themselves on a Monday morning.

The bottom line isn’t which way you tilt but where you come to rest on any given position---tilt me toward Glenn Beck.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Red Lingerie and Black Coffee-I Am A Purist

I am a purist. I like chocolate or peanut M&Ms not peanut butter. I like milk chocolate Hershey Kisses; not white chocolate nor crunchy with almonds. I like getting my music on CD’s in their own little cellophane packaging with notes on the inside. I don’t even own an MP3 player and still have a collection of vinyl in a box.

Could be that its change I don’t like. I embrace it once I get comfortable with it. There is a wide range of things that one shouldn’t get comfortable with; corn syrup, political correctness, lax morality, lousy quality, crummy customer service and broken promises. That is why I purchase Coke in a glass bottle, hecho en Mexico, when I can. No corn syrup and a magical process that keeps it tasting close to the cola I enjoyed in my youth.

Red lingerie, black coffee, beer not Bud, and Levis or Wranglers are automatic defaults. A man’s got to have an opinion and a blogger’s got to take a stand. No matter your specialty you know what’s top and you know what’s not. We are all purists. We just settle for less.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Valentines, High Heels and Healthy Relationships

As Valentines’ Day approaches many singles find themselves scrambling for a date. I overheard a woman saying she needed to get on so she had someone to take her to dinner. The same woman related a recent encounter in which her date met her and was shocked to find that she stood over six-feet tall in dress heels. All this scrambling for sexual cover (undercover?) confirms our hunger for healthy relationship.

I work with a small amount of peers in a customer service setting. A significant number of women in this group are in and out of relationships just long enough to get pregnant. If the relationship, or marriage, doesn’t work out they quit and move onto a different one. A constant seeking something solid that will touch their heart and give significance.

My wife and I met online. We disclosed our heights and our spiritual commitments. I wasn’t shocked on our first date. Deeper than that we spent significant time in discussion and honest disclosure. Beyond that we had spent a chunk of our previous life to deal with the baggage and brokenness that had destroyed or enabled previous bad relationships. Certainly there was magical spark and laughing eyes. Our groundwork was established before that as was the desire to be real.

Deep emotional longing doesn’t get satisfied in one night. Truly our souls longing isn’t fully satisfied in another human being. When it reaches its peak at the human level it is a result of married commitment heart warming affirmation, and sometimes, heart wrenching reality.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

High School Friendships Will Last A Lifetime

High school friendships will often last a lifetime. The teen-age daughter is having some communication and maturity issues with some friends. It is painful and interesting to watch. Ten or twenty years from now will those friends still be connected?

I developed a tight circle of friends in fifth grade. Those friendships continued through high school. One of those friendships waned while I was in college; I went on to higher education, he didn’t. Conversely others in that close circle grew closer over the college years. We are still in touch today.

Some friendships spin off while new friendships are garnered along the way. There is a special fellowship for those we knew in school. I hung out with my friends parents and families; knew their cats and their dogs and met their aunts and their cousins. There were summer trips to beaches and cabins and afternoons spent playing Kick-The-Can until we heard the yell to come inside. Holistically there were more touch points than those friendships developed as grown ups.

We’re at that point now that we’ve buried some of our parents. We’ve walked along side each other through severe car accidents and divorces. Our kids are almost grown and soon we’ll be there for those weddings. It’s more difficult to stay in touch. We are located miles apart. We are busy raising families. We are living life in our own neighborhoods while our teenagers attend high school.

Deep and strong connections are formed in high school. Those bonds will enrich our lives forever. So I encourage my daughter to persevere, to walk humbly, to keep short tabs with her friends. Some rotate out of her life and others make connection. The bonds develop and stretch far into the future in ways that she can not understand.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Curses Into Blessing

Nevertheless, the Lord your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the Lord your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you.---Deut. 23:5

This reversal of fortune is God’s wonderful work. He delights in bringing life from death and blessing from cursing. If you spend any time reading the Bible you can’t escape the notice of God’s hand in blessing those He loves. A quick scan of the Old Testament and you see God moving to remove curse and establish blessing. Joseph tells his brothers not to be grieved because, “you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

God points over and over to the exodus; “By a powerful hand the LORD brought you from this place; And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come saying, ‘what is this?’ then you shall say to him, with a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt; Then Moses entreated the Lord his God and said,’ why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt?” Granted He has a slow fuse and sees the long view. It took four-hundred years for Israel to escape the whip of the Egyptians.

My pastor is fond of saying that God is great with Plan B. He works to bring circumstances about so that, “All things work together for good to those that love Him…” Even death is in His hand and we are immortal until His appointed time. In the most significant turn to blessing Romans says, “as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through the obedience of the one many will be made righteous.”

The wait will be worth it. The promise is that all will work for good. God will turn these cursed events into blessing because the LORD your God loves you.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Neighborhood Connections

The one in back may be a vampire and the ones in front of him spent all this week dancing in the driveway. We live in a block of six houses; two rows of three each. It’s a little microcosm of the world.

The guy kitty corner to our house is never seen but comes out at night. Joe lives behind us. A single Hispanic with broad shoulders and multiple tattoos, he just lost his job when the hotel he’s maintained for years was bought out by a larger company. Behind him live a family of three.

Helen the mom in the family of three has had cancer before. They just found more. She is undergoing chemo currently and has lost all her hair. They both work at the Marine base along with the woman that lives in the other house facing the street.

Tia works on the base as well. A nasty divorce forced her to find shelter in our neighborhood. Following the death of her mother, her father moved in with her. She is looked after by her grown-up children. Last year her boy was driving a friend to the emergency room at high speed and got into a traffic accident. He died on impact.

Two sisters live across the driveway from Joe. They enjoy family and tradition. They throw parties that go all night. They seem to enjoy the celebration of life. Most days this week there’s been a group of teenage boys and girls practicing to dance amidst the houses. It looks as though they are ballroom dancing and square dancing; formal dancing with partners. We believe they are preparing for a quinceanera.

Life is that mixture of dance and death, labor and loss, family and friends. Neighborhood connections keep us holding on in the midst of the struggles. It is community that holds us together when life threatens to tear us apart.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Life Is Not Easier

Life was supposed to be easier in this century. Technology and humanity were to improve. Stress would decrease. Communication would increase. Seems as though we’ve made things worse rather than better. It’s a sci-fi novel in the making.

It should be a simple fix. The car battery drains over night because there is a draw in the electrical system. In the old days you pulled out all six fuses and diffused the problem. Today it could be the main computer or any number of circuit boards which are not communicating properly. When I took my Sonata in because it felt as it was down-shifting into first gear---from third or fourth---for no reason it was the computer. They patched in an updated “fix” and the problem was solved.

In response to identity theft and the evil of men it is nearly impossible for me to close an account with Prudential in New Jersey. First there were the five or so teleprompt inputs; Social Security, mothers maiden name, favorite fantasy cycling team, and reason for call. I got through to one department that verified my information to put me on hold with another department. I told them the reason for my call. They asked if I was married. I explained my situation. They indicated they needed my wife’s social security number even though I was closing the account. I wanted to ask if they also wanted my first-born.

Life is not easier. The amount of information presented for us to process is overwhelming. The complexity of simple life and basic transportation boggles the mind. So we must maintain simplicity in the areas we can control; rest, family and faith. Without these the stressors of life will drag us screaming into a technological nightmare.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Poop and Sanctification

Bowls of steaming, rancid ooze, disgusting to the senses and freely placed before the feet of a holy and righteous God: That is how one friend sees his sin. The sin is the matter in the bowls. It is brought before God because that is what God wants. Yes I said that is what God wants. In Christ God does not desire we hold onto our sin. We are not to pay for it nor feel guilt and condemnation because of it. So my friend envisions bringing these heaping piles of poop into the presence of God. That is what we are told to do; when we own up to our poop He is faithful to deal with it.

In sharing about marriage John Piper notes that there will be negative things to deal with; sin and selfishness, mistakes and deep hurts that we cause our spouse. We are not to leave these undealt with. Piper portrays a pile of manure out in the backyard. When the negatives end up in our living room we are to shovel them up, carry them outside and dump them into the manure pile. This requires grabbing hold of Christ in us. We must deal in grace and forgiveness as He deals with us.

It is shocking to imagine God in his temple dealing with my poop. Easier to pretend that God doesn’t know about my crap; easier to think that He doesn’t notice. Shoveling it under the carpet will only breed worse things. God has already made us clean. Sanctified is the theological term. So we lay down our dirt freely. He has washed us. He desires we give Him all of it and accept the free gift. Holding onto our filth is what Satan wants. That is why he is called Beelzebub, translated “Lord of the Flies.”

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Vulnerable, Unclothed and Unprotected

The safest place to be ourselves, fully vulnerable, is with family. Deeper than that is with our spouse for they know you unclothed and unprotected. Of course I speak in earthly terms. Ultimately our relationship with God fully frees us to be ourselves. When I think on these things my mind springs to King David.

Here was a man wholly comfortable in his own skin. In his roles as warrior, dancer, worship leader and king he gave his all. So much so that when he brought the ark home,
“ And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was [h]wearing a linen ephod……Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.”
So King David danced before God and all the people in worship. However he was not safe to celebrate in his own house. The text indicates that Michal scorned him. What tension there must have been behind those closed doors.

I must strive to give ourselves wholly to God. Realizing that in Christ is the safest place I live out of that acceptance in work, in worship and in my home. This means I work at giving grace to others that they may be safe. It is said that love covers a multitude of sins but it also allows room for others to be wholly free to worship. My hearts desire is to ‘dance like David danced.’ May that also free up others to rejoice and dance along.