30 April, 2006

The Symbol of the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Surely, this is not an original thought, but I will think it nonetheless.

The Tao is a big deal for most people. In everything good, the seed of evil. In everything evil, the seed of good. This makes great sense! The Tao is really right on. In the most awful of deeds, you can find evidence that the person who committed it knew that their evil was evil. And that knowledge is a seed of future good. It probably won't grow, but it's a seed all the same. In the most altruistic deed is the possibility of future reward or vainglory.

This is it. This is the symbol of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

When a man understands it, he attains as highly as he possibly can on his own. He has mastered godlike-ness as well as ever he will. This is what satan sold to Adam.

So what is the symbol of the Tree of Life? What is the symbol of Christ?

Count to 10 before you answer. :-)

No, I don't believe it is the cross.

Neither did the early church. Berger Pearson reviews Ante Pacem by Graydon Snyder. I have Ante Pacem, and highly recommend it (though I last read it over a decade ago).
Snyder argues that the specific Christian symbolism of the cross did not exist before Constantine. He refers to the “striking lack of crosses in early Christian remains,” and states that the crosses that do appear in Christian—and Jewish—art are “crypto-crosses” and are not symbolic of the crucifixion of Jesus.

The images of the first churches were happy. Jesus is pictured as a happy, happy man, and so many of the things happening in the images were joyous. That's how and why the church went 300 years without using the cross as its symbol. 300 years! 300 years ago, the 13 colonies were still happily paying their tiny little taxes to Great Britain, and George III would still not be born for another 30+ years. 300 years after the death of Christ is a long, Long, LONG time for the church to live happily without using the cross symbolically.

Snyder finds in ancient Christian art, these symbols:
... the lamb, anchor, vase, dove, boat, olive branch, orante (a female figure depicted with outstretched arms and hands upraised in prayer), palm or tree, bread, Good Shepherd, fish, vine and grapes, and the cross.

The fish made the biggest impression on me. Forget the Ixthos fish. That came much later. The original fish is a great picture of Christ and of the church as well. The sea is figurative of death, so a fish alive in the midst of death is a perfect picture of Christ and His church living in this world.

So, what do you think our best symbol is?

Posting and commenting may be light

Yep, instead of blogging tonight, I am listening to an EXCITING DVD about how to be the presiding judge at a poll precinct for the upcoming Tuesday, May 2 primary.

Golly, folks.

I get to get up at 4:00-ish to be on site before 5:30 so I can be organized and awake for the other 3 judges, and then I get to drop my stuff off sometime after the polls close at 7:30. And I think they will frown upon me connecting to the Internet to keep up with our conversation threads. ;-)

So, Monday I will chat as usual, I imagine, and then disappear behind the moon for a while.

I worked the polls for the big Nov 2004 event. That was pretty exciting. For this, I expect to have to bring a book.

29 April, 2006

40 Days

Have you ever had the same revelation over and over, and it's new every time? I'm not talking about wonderful stuff, either. It's like a recurring nightmare that I keep forgetting. A few weeks later, I have this little revelation again, and it's like I have never had the thought before. Then a deja-vu thing starts rattling around, and suddenly it dawns on my that: A) This is hardly original, and B) I am more than a little daft. :-)

It seems that every time I think about the suffering God has ordained in our lives, I end up thinking about how most of the suffering is in the waiting. We wait on answers, on events, on faith, and on deliverance. And much of that waiting seems to be done on an empty stomach. Some day, He will deliver. And so we wait, seemingly endlessly, in a dry place.

And after the long wait, a strange, unexpected thing happens.

We have to fight for our lives!


But this is exactly in keeping with the scriptural pattern.

Luke 4
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, ...

At the end of 40 days of fasting, Jesus was hungry.

Then, and only then, the devil tries Jesus three times. The 40 day wait was an integral part of the trial, and there was nothing that could substitute for it. We are talking about the Son of God here! It seems like He might have better things to do with His time than growing weaker while waiting for a final battle with the devil!

But He didn't.

Waiting on God and the battle seems to be a part of the pattern of life that He has allowed in this age.

In the Army, they used to remind us that the march was only to the battle. While training, it gets to feeling like the march is the battle. It's not. After you march for 40 days, you get to dig in and prepare for the actual fight, and that is where we are truly tried.

Now, I just need to find a way to be able to remember this little lesson for more than 3 days!

Gal 6
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

(Uh, I haven't already blogged this, have I?)

(FTR - life is pretty sweet these days. These thoughts are not born out of any suffering :-). Just praising the Lord for the fight He waged.)

Stumped and Stamped

Over at the Funnest Place on the Internet, Rich has me stumped. I mean the kind of stumped that doesn't even know where to start at getting unstumped. He has found 3 possible answers to the question, "Was Jesus Forsaken by God?" on the cross. The first answer is the standard one that we all got in Sunday School, but #'s 2 and 3 are pretty stout.

While you're there, just check out some of the things he does to keep his loyal subjects entertained :-). Like this gem from January. NATIONAL MASCOT CHALLENGE CHAMPIONSHIP or his inimitable lists.

And Congratulations to Danny Kaye who has stamped his name on the blogosphere for a full and utterly unpredictable year! I don't know anyone else who has gotten the word out on Iraq, tackled the perfect church, and discovered the reason for the Internet.

27 April, 2006

Which Singer Do You Follow

The song, "Which Jesus Do You Follow?" has been filling up the Christian radio waves here in Columbus, OH. I guess the real title is, "My Jesus", and I guess I'm not supposed to copy the lyrics over here, so I will link them, and copy individual lines that interest me.

What do ya'll think about this song?

There are parts of it that I like, but mostly I find it offensive. Which means that I must be one of the comfortable Christians that Mr. Agnew is blasting. That's OK, I guess. Perhaps the Spirit will allow my conscience to bite me at some point.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that I love the violin in this song. ANY song that has a violin doing THAT is going to be on my favorites list. How they make those strings weep like that is beyond me, but I could listen to it all day.

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Great stuff.

I want to be like my Jesus
but I'm not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like my Jesus

This is stunningly beautiful. This is true. I could sing and pray this all day long.

But, there's so much pointless harshness in this song.

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet would stain the carpet

Um. No. When the unwashed enter our church, people get confused and scared but flock to them anyway. I have never seen a person who had not bathed in a week enter our church, but they were surrounded by people trying to make them feel at home. If a dirty, bleeding man stumbled into our church, he would immediately get our couch - I'm sure of it.

So, why insult like this?

But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part

Hmmm. In a song about the mercy of our Lord, Mr. Agnew is going to rely on sarcasm.

If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?
He spent His time with thieves and liars

So, Jesus looked so much like the world that thieves and liars were comfortable with Him, but we look so much like the world that Jesus would not be comfortable with us. That sounds awfully Catch-22ish to me.

He spent His time with thieves and liars ... and sluts ... and the least of these
... I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd

Interesting. I had to look up Beale St. It's a famous hang-out for blues musicians in Memphis. I think on the radio he says, "High St."

I get it. I know what he is trying to say, but I don't think it's true. I fear Phariseeism, but the days when Pharisees hung out in churches are dying out pretty quickly I think. And, I doubt highly that Jesus hung out with thieves, liars and the like for long. They left their selfish lives, and started loving God, or they moved on from Jesus.

He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable ... the rich ... the arrogant

I don't see Jesus accosting anyone, except those who violated His Father's house. Maybe I'm wrong on this one. I see Him responding to those who tried to reject the Truth or accept it half-way, but I just don't see Him being obsessed with them. They come to Him for rejection. He does not accost them.

Anyway, I think "Asleep in the Light" might be fun to compare side-by-side with "My Jesus". I loved AitL as a kid, and don't know that I would feel quite the same about it if it came out today.

Nah. I don't think Keith made so many blunders.

It's been on my mind.

26 April, 2006

Hmmmm. Link rot

Turns out that if you change the title of a post, the archive links fail. I may be able to fix it by rebuilding the index. Just thought I'd make note of this little blogger quirk, though.

(Discovered while mining through the Romans 8:4 posts to put together the final study. The ball has been in the air for a while, but I have not dropped it!)

Yep, republishing the entire blog did fix the broken links in the archives. It would not, however, fix any permalinks that had been set up outside of this blog. On the ridiculously slim chance that someone were to permalink to a page of mine, I would hate to break it by changing the post title. Therefore, I will give up the idea I was playing with of changing the post title whenever I wanted people to know what I had updated.

You link and learn, or you don't link long.

Science - They have discovered fermentation

Scientific American announced this morning that they have discovered that Bacteria Render Beans Easier to Digest and More Nutritious

Amidst using a bunch of really long words, and telling about how rats get stronger, they tell us, "Such lactic acid bacteria are already used to help create products like yogurt." In other words, you should ferment your beans in fermented milk products so that you can get more nutrition and less gas from them.


25 April, 2006

Revolutions - lasting?

The Economist does a survey in every issue. This week's survey is about the New Media - blogs, wikis, podcasts - versus the Old Media. Very cool. It's about 10 articles long, and starts here.

The final article begins with this quote that I found really, really solid and completely new to me:
AS A rule, some people, such as Jacobins, tend to be more enthusiastic about revolutions than others, such as monarchs. Another fairly reliable rule is that revolutions abrupt enough to be associated with a single year (1642, 1789, 1848, 1917) tend to cause trouble but rarely bring lasting change. By contrast, revolutions gradual enough to be associated with a name (Renaissance, Reformation, Industrial Revolution) often do have enduring effects. A third rule, or hypothesis, might be that revolutions seem never to be entirely for the better or the worse, but somehow manage to combine both.

Nope. I had never noticed that, but yeah. That groks.

How long I have longed for a revolution in the church! Now I know that I am hoping for a nice, patient, slow one.

24 April, 2006

Destined through Weakness

Nobody changes his theology when everything is going well. It is coping with trials of different types that brings a man to question himself, and to look more deeply into the Word and into his life. So, I would say that why a man changes his theology is more important than whether he does.

That I believe this is not really a surprise, though, since I am a feeler more than a thinker. I am often reminded that I use lots of big words, but they are just masking the reality that I always want to cry, laugh, shout, attack, run, mope, sing, whine, or any other of a long list of emotions. My vocabulary choices are driven by the things I am trying to say. I'm one gigantic emotion on overdrive that only knows how to express itself in words, so I struggle to find words extreme enough for my feelings.

It was emotion that drove me to into predestination's arms in 1983. I know that particular doctrine is supposed to be able to ice any heart, but it didn't feel cold, dry or dusty to me. Predestination was two of the warmest arms I had ever felt pulling me back from the edge of an awful precipice. Predestination was the Eyes of God softly taking in my shame without surprise or regret, and a gentle finger collecting tears that He always knew I would weep. Predestination was Jesus truly accepting me.

For those of you who have never been hit over the head by a Calvinist with a bible, let me explain that predestination is an overloaded word. Overloading is a computer programming term. It means that a single command can mean any number things, depending upon the context in which you invoke it. Calvinists, Arminians, and a host of others invoke predestination from the context of their particular opinions. Like armpits, we all have a couple of those and without attention they can be quite offensive.

Before go into why I embraced predestination, let me try to give brief (if unintentionally stilted) definitions of the Calvinist and Arminian position on predestination. I really want to get on with the post, but I am afraid that if I start without defining this a little bit, someone is going to get lost.

In a Calvinist context, predestination means that God planned out the most-est perfect-est world that His eternal imagination could conceive, and created it from beginning to end. God ordered every thing that ever happened to you. Not just you, but every person who will eventually be saved and every person to be damned was created by God to a certain destiny, and even the path by which they would arrive was predetermined. To be clear, Calvinists do not believe that God forces anyone to be damned against their will, only that He limits His effective mercy to His chosen people.

In an Arminian context, predestination means that God saw the end of His creation from the beginning. He knew who would be born, and He knew whether each of those people would soften their hearts to accept His Love and Grace. He offered His grace to all, but He knew that all would not accept. Those people whom He could foresee would eventually choose Him, He loved and predestined. Predestination to Arminians (and most believers are Arminians) is more about the "ends" than the "means". God predestined the end that we would be saved, but to make it happen He adjusts His plan daily to deal with obstacles thrown up by sin.

In 1982, my context was hard-corps Arminian. I had been given all the proof texts against the Calvinist heresy back in '78, and I was ready to take on any of those scoundrels who might come my way. Of course, there were not many of them, so it never happened. But that was OK! I was ready. I was armed with every doctrine necessary to the perfect life, and the world was mine for the fixing.

I don't even need to say that this did not happen.

No, instead I fell in love, but it didn't go so well. Mine is a typical tale of teen love, except in two things. 1) I know nothing of half-measures. And 2) I had a boatload of unrecognized emotional problems before the relationship problems even started. Somewhere deep down in my soul, a place that was supposed to be strong just wasn't. Only I didn't know it was broken. I thought that people just were supposed to be the way I was.

When the relationship ended in '83, I was shattered. Shattered is really a pretty weak word to describe the boy who was left. Suicide was never an option, because it would have been too happy. Like getting drunk, suicide was a cheap solution to a very important problem, and I like very important problems too much to let this one slip by so easily.

Most of all, in the midst of my shattering, I knew that I should be rejoicing in the Lord.

But I was not rejoicing in the Lord.

Oh, I was praising Him. I was thanking Him. I was worshipping and waiting. You can say words of praise by pure willpower, but week followed week, and there was no joy.

Instead, I was selfish beyond measure, and morose.

In other words, I was failing God and I could not help myself. I could not stop being so weak. I was where I was because I had failed God in the first place. And now that I was here, I was failing Him again, when He had never failed me.

I wept because of frustrated romance, and then I wept because I was weeping. Gradually, I had to admit that I was depressed, and the fact that I could not pull out of this depression began to really work at my conscience.

If there was a weakness in my soul in the area of romantic love, I was a cripple toward failing God. I was terrified of what God must be thinking of me. My sins piled before my eyes like so many bricks between God and my heart. I had been raised to believe that a man could sin unintentionally after 70 years of faithfully serving God, and still be damned. Unrepented sin was unrepented sin. At 12 or so, in '76 or so, I learned about "once saved, always saved" and that was good news, but OSAS was not enough.

I knew that He was a God Who forgives sins, so I repented. I repented especially of unbelief, unbelief in His providence, and unbelief in His patience. God was faithful and just to forgive my sin. And I repented. And He forgave. And I repented. And He forgave. This cycle gets old after a few weeks or months. As quickly as the bricks were gone I had sinned against Him again, and I was blocked from the haven of His presence again.

I knew the verses that I needed to know, and I knew the Psalms. I knew that it was OK to pour out my heart's grievances to the Lord, but the Psalmist always found peace with the Lord by the end of his prayer. I could do that, too. Given a few hours alone, I could pray the Truth back to God until my heart was at peace, and I could sleep. In the morning, though, it was like I had never heard the Truth in my life. I was back at ground zero.

My body and my mind were breaking.

The weeks became months. And the months marked an anniversary, and there was no healing in sight. I was broken with the Truth in my hands, and I did not know what to do. Every now and again some poor soul will say something to me about how suicide is an unforgivable sin. I forgive them, but I never look at them quite the same way again. That is a person who is willing to talk with authority on matters about which they know nothing.

Anyway, this disturbed youth walked into a Christian bookstore in which an old lady ministered. Turns out she was one of those Calvinist heretics I was so well trained to confront, but confrontation requires strength and I was desperately short of that. Instead, I walked out with a pile of books a good foot high. I don't believe I gave her a penny. Whether I did or not would not have mattered. I love her with all my heart to this day.

One of those books was "The Five Points of Calvinism Defined, Defended, Documented". It was fewer than 100 pages, and from page 24 to page 60 it was nothing but scripture. I still have a copy, so I could quote all sorts of great verses on predestination here, but why go off-topic. ;-)

I took that book home with me with all sorts of thoughts in my mind. I had made a friend. I had in my hand a book with which I could argue. That was going to be fun. And I had a niggling doubt.

For almost a year Ephesians 1 had been whispering for attention from the back of my mind. I actually sat in the back of the church one day with some of my Arminian church-mates as they explained away Eph 1:3&4 (Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.) I listened while they made the old arguments, and I had nothing to add. They had done a good job. Nobody was more surprised than I when I said, "Yeah, but it means something. God didn't put those words in there for nothing."

It was like I already knew what it meant for us to be chosen before the foundation of the world, but was not ready to admit it.

I was ready to dig into that little book.

I was not ready for it to dig into me.

I skipped everything and went straight to the scriptures. There were dozens, and I zoomed through them. It was like spinning the dial of a combination lock. I would read a verse, and three or four other verses would come back to mind that seemed to echo or complete the thought of that one. The further I went, the more tumblers fell into place in my mind. Long before I had read the last of those 36 pages, I was a Calvinist and was only settling details.

That was what was happening in my mind.

In my heart, something else entirely was going on.

Rom 5:6-8
6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus was speaking to me directly in those Living Words. He was magnifying the cross to take in much, much more than I ever thought possible. The cross was no longer just the place that an infinite supply of grace was made available if I asked for it. The cross was the place that every one of my sins was known and atoned by Jesus. Remember that sin that I feared I would commit when I was 70? Jesus knew that sin. He foreknew that sin, and 2000 years before I committed it, He paid it in full. It was within His plan, and so it was within His sacrifice.

My weakest weakness was fully accounted for in His atoning work, and in His promises. Jesus knew my every betrayal, and He loved me and paid each debt in full before I was ever born. I was arrested.

In the words of a Merrill Womach song (done by many others, but I only know it by him.)
Jesus stood before me
With His arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And just clung to Him and cried.

This message unravelled all my training.

When I was 7, I was taught to choose Christ in order to be saved. I had to trust Him, and give myself to Him. I did this without reservation, and with great joy. At age 12, though, at the same time that I was taught "once saved, always saved," I was taught that I had to "get serious" about my faith. I was supposed to give my life to the Lord "all the way", and to become a disciple. I was supposed to be 100% committed, and on fire for the Lord.

I lived my first dozen years with an all-seeing, all-knowing police-Lord Who expected discipline of his children. When I failed, I was allowed to confess, but Jesus wept over my failures. He had given so much for me, why could I not just overcome my faithlessness with this girl?

As I read 36 pages of scriptures, I could see that the path of false discipline had played itself out in my life. They called it discipline, but really it was just Phariseeism. I was a dry, empty husk of a child trying to be a man. You will certainly tell me that I was just "trying to do it in my own strength," but it was the only strength I was taught. If I tell you "use the electric power drill" but never tell you about power outlets, I should not be surprised when I find you using the drill as a hammer. I was converted in an Assemblies of God church so they talked all day about doing everything in the power of the Spirit, but they lived something much lower. I learned discipline and fear of God young.

At their core, they believed that God had done His part, and now He had sent His Spirit into our hearts so that we could do our part. We were, therefore, responsible now for our part. If we were not doing our part ... [insert shudder here] ... well, we were obviously not trusting the Spirit, and we were not living godly discipline, and we were at risk of hellfire.

Romans 5 amazed me. The Jesus I saw there amazed me. His grace reached much further than I had ever imagined.

... when we were still powerless ...

Sure, the unsaved were powerless, but so was I. I had been walking with the Lord for 12 years, and I had well and truly come to the end of my power. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe I should have been able to walk in the Spirit and take victory over these thoughts that ruled my mind and my life, but I was not that man. I was powerless.

... Christ died for the ungodly. ...

Maybe He died for the godly, too?

...for a good person someone might possibly dare to die...

This truly was not my case. I was not a good person, and not a person for whom anyone should die.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Yes, I thought, maybe. I thought maybe Jesus died for believers, too. I was saved, but I was still a sinner. Maybe God's love was such that even after I was saved, He still loved me. Maybe Jesus went up to that cross as much for me after I was saved as He had gone there for me before I was saved. I had believed (whether I was taught it or brewed it up on my own I don't remember) that God loved sinners, but that He expected believers to do better. He grew impatient with believers. He grew distant from believers. He left believers who would not submit to His providence.

Maybe God was going to dump me.

But Jesus died for sinners, even sinners who were still sinners.

God had predestined not only my salvation, but my life. He had set before me every struggle, and He had set before me a time of overcoming it. Maybe those two didn't have to happen in the same instant. If He had predestined these things that came into my life, and if He had known and paid for every one of my sins before I ever actually committed them, maybe He could do this amazing thing. Maybe, He could trust me with a trial that was destroying me, because He had complete faith in His ability to carry me through it.

You see, the core difference between Arminianism and Calvinism is that Arminians accidently teach that God has to hope that I have enough faith to overcome. God has no basis for such a hope in my experience. Calvinism teaches that God gives me all the faith I need to do all He has asked of me. I cannot go to God until He has first come to me and given me the faith I'm going to need.

Eph 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

As an Arminian, I was past doubting that I might fail the test of my 19th year. I was certain. I had done failed, and was only waiting to see whether my failure would result in damnation or merely shame. I believed that God was hoping that I would have the faith to get over this girl, but I did not. Yes, I knew that God never lays anything on us beyond what we can bear, but that was scant comfort when I needed faith to bear it, and I had run out. This clearly was beyond what I was able to bear.

That little book, with it's 36 pages of verses, showed me over and over that God in Christ took upon Himself the responsibility for my success or failure. Verse piled upon verse presenting God as wholly and totally victorious. There is not one verse that shows God mourning because He failed to deliver one of His beloved children. I was His, and He would deliver me.

Rom 8:29
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

We were not merely predestined to make it to heaven. We were predestined to be made like Christ. We were predestined to run the entire course, and to run it well. We all don't run it the same, some 100-fold, some 60, and some 30, but we all run it to the glory of the Father.

Rom 8:30
And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

A 19 year old sat in his room, and dealt with the fact that God had accomplished everything for which he was striving. It was hard for me to lay down the pride of someday "overcoming for God", but having utterly failed made it a little easier. I could not overcome, but God already had. I saw that "those" included me, and that God had done everything that needed doing. In Paul's mind, these things were finished. The Father glorified "those" when He glorified Christ. That 19 year old boy was glorified.

Rom 8:31
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

God was for me, and He would never repent. I did not earn His favor before I was saved, and I could not lose it afterward.

All those verses about rest really meant something, finally. If it was God in Christ reconciling the world and me to Himself, then I did not have to take on the load of maintaining that reconciliation. Jesus finished it. God was not hoping that I would live up to His standard, but He had ordained that I would, and He had put the infinite weight of His mercy to work ensuring that I did. Christ was made All in All for this.

I was safe.


So now you know why I am a predestinationist.

So how did the story end? Becoming a Calvinist did not get me over that girl. The trials went on for another 4 years, and were every bit as hot. I thought I had cut the Gordian Knot when I married, but I failed in that, too. The Lord mercifully walked with me through day after day, and I failed over and again. I experienced no more success as a Calvinist than I did as an Arminian, but the nights were not as black.

I finally knew that God was not walking away, and that saved my life. Suddenly it was not more than I could bear. God was no longer the One in heaven Whom I most often disappointed, and least wanted to. He was the One Who had ordered my life before me, and Who could wait patiently while I slogged through each failure. I could rest, knowing that He had guaranteed He would be glorified in what He was doing in me. I did not frustrate the grace of God.

It was almost a quarter century later, on 14 Feb 2006, that I finally gained a little insight into the root of that problem that had afflicted me since before I can remember. (I know because in my excitement I dashed off an overly hasty letter 2 days later that marks the event in my outbox.) If the Lord had told me in '83 how much longer it would take, and how many more people would be hurt, I don't know what I would have done. He knew. He had ordained it. I repent the slowness of my heart, but I nestle more fiercely in His promise, and rest.


I have hardly included any scripture here that defends, defines or documents Calvinism, but I am open to having that discussion. We will solve nothing, but there is value in discussing the Lord and His ways. The fact that we don't understand aright is often used to discourage discussion, but it should encourage it even more.

Don't be surprised if I am no longer a Calvinist per-se. I have never read Calvin (and probably should), but I know that I disagree with some of the conclusions of his recent champions. I am also shamed by the graceless attitudes of many of those who would defend the truths that have done so much to keep my soul.

That said, it would be a fun chat.


Regarding a possible requirement for a doctrine of predestination in the Familyhood Church (did such a figment exist)....

Absolutely, yes. You must believe in predestination. I mean, come on! It's a word right there in the bible! You have to believe in it. :-) Of course, we may not exactly see eye-to-eye when it comes time to define predestination...

I am currently fellowshipping with a church of Arminians (except for a couple who used to be Calvinists and who have rejected predestination) and we all love each other.

Still, I gotta be me. I cannot offer any advice to a believer in time of trouble without reference to God's sovereign plan. If a Familyhood Church existed, and if they would let me be what I have to be, that would be enough for me. I don't need anyone to agree with me, as long as I am accepted by my brothers and sisters. Predestination is one of those mysteries hidden beyond the veil. Discussing it rightly warms our hearts toward God, but requiring anyone to hold one specific theory of how it happens is unjustified. We just don't know enough.

Lord bless!

20 April, 2006

Motivational Posters

Yes, I am the space alien who likes them. I really do. I like the pretty pictures. I like the pithy sayings. I like the motivational content. On the other hand, I also like the demotivational posters, so I don't know what that says about me. Can't make up my mind I guess, but by now you already know that about me.

But even I get blown away from time to time by the rank stupidity of some people. What does this even mean?!

There is a way out of every dark mist, over a rainbow trail.

That makes it all the way to "offensive" in my book. If the ignorant louse that wrote that drivel found his way out of any dark mist life by dancing up a rainbow trail, I'll eat his poster.

18 April, 2006

Your Faith is Simple, but not Simple Enough

(Moved from April 11 to 19. I started this a week ago, and never had a chance to finish it.)

I sat in Bible Study a couple weeks ago, and a scenario was posed with a question.

"You just heard that your friend's parents were killed in a car accident. What do you tell her?" A wonderful saint answered quickly, "It depends whether or not they were saved. If they were, then no problem."

I was stunned.

I could not think of anything to say without insulting the intent of her statement, which was obviously kind. If they were saved, then Yes, those parents were in a better place, but the (adult) child who was left was in a much worse place. If they were not saved, then what comfort would this commenter have for this girl? Either way, this sudden orphan was in a place without two of the most important people in her life, and two of the most dependable people. She had leaned on them, loved them, and been loved by them for decades, and now they were gone.

"...then no problem."


I had to think about this one. I try not to let instinct overwhelm truth, but in this case instinct was dead-on-accurate.

The commenter was speaking from simple faith. I advocate simple faith over complex faith any day. I don't want to have to understand God to believe in Him, or I am doomed when the pressure is on. I cannot think clearly when I cannot quit sobbing, so my faith had better work better than my mind. Faith had best be simple.

The commenter had a simple faith. God had said He would care for the righteous dead, so the child left behind could be at peace.

The commenter's faith should have been simpler.

She should be at peace without the answer to that question.

No matter what you believe foreknowledge, election and predestination mean (and Weekend Fisher is a little way into a discussion of just this over at her site, though more important things have called her away for the time), they mean you can believe that He works all things for the good of those He has called. All things includes evil things. And death is one of the evil things that He works for our good.

I said "our" good. I have heard this verse twisted almost to mean that God brings evil into our lives for His own good at our expense. God Forbid. Yes, God works all things to His own good, but, Yes, God works all things to our good too. Our good is always in His heart. Whenever there is a difference to be paid in bringing good to all of us, He takes the expense on Himself. He paid the price to make this possible, and not we ourselves. He works in His compassion to us, and He gives us grace we cannot repay. He works all things to our good.

Let's go back to this poor girl who lost her parents.

What would I say to her?

I will assume that we would all listen for a long time before we speak. We would weep with her while she weeps. When the time comes, we would share our similar experiences, and assure her that life might always be different, but that it will again be good and joy-filled.

What do I say to her after all that?

God works every tragedy to the good of those that He has loved. That doesn't make tragedy less tragic, but it makes God the Redeemer.

Death is His enemy, even more than ours, but He overcame death. He will overcome this for you, and turn it into a blessing. It's hard to say that about something so awful, but He earned that trust from us. He didn't overcome death by the strength of his right hand. He overcame it by enduring tragedy. The Son suffered it, the Spirit watched it, and the Father had to turn His back on His only Son. God has allowed this suffering into your life, but He knows what you are suffering, and He is standing with you now. He knows what you are feeling, and He has pledged to make your joy complete. I do not know His ways, but I know His promises, and I know what He paid to make them good.

Would I have to ask whether her parents were saved? Of course, I would. It matters to them. It matters to God. It matters to her. But it does not matter to God's promises. God will heal the broken heart of that girl. His heart was broken once, too. And having been there, He promises to comfort the grieving. Every tear will be wiped away.

(Yes, I lost an atheistic father that I loved, so I can say these things, but that's not the point.)

Our faith must be that simple. When tragedy strikes, we do not have to ask questions before we know whether God will comfort us completely.

He will.

17 April, 2006

Romans 8:4 - Questions for the players

I'm getting ready to combine all our comments into one coherent post. The final product will be a lot shorter than any of the posts that go into it (if I do it right), and I think it is going to be great. I have some questions about everyone's comments. I hope nobody minds if I roll them all together in a top-level post here.

[After seeing my questions, you guys can shoot questions at me, and I will plug them in right here. Anyone who wants to address any of this in private can email me at codepoke & wideopenwest period com.]

Danny Kaye,
In another post, on Col 2 you said, "Our sinful nature has been cut off through our faith in Jesus at baptism, at which point God made me alive w/ Christ and I have been full ever since." I moved this quote across into the study for you. A number of Christians would have to say that these 2 things happen before baptism, and another number of them would have to say that they happen well after baptism. How important is this statement to you with reference to this verse?

You also say in this context that a person should, "Be crammed full of Christ and attain His righteousness." I am wondering whether you believe that all Christians are crammed full of Christ, or some Christians are more full with Him than others?

I don't understand what you mean here. "You can be a law abiding citizen, a great guy, nice to kittens, and yet not know Jesus. The gates of Heaven won’t open for you if you don’t follow God’s laws." The first sentence says that knowing Jesus is the key, and the second sentence says that following God's laws is the key. What is it that actually opens the gates of heaven for us?

You said 2 things in 2 separate posts that I would like to set side by side.

In commenting on Phil 3:14 you said, "What we do by our own effort cannot be clean or 'good'." and in commenting on Galatians you said, "So following the law is now an act of understanding rather than an act of obedience.". How do you see these 2 statements in contrast? If we follow the law by understanding instead of obedience, is our following of the law good?

You take on the concept of justification by faith alone (which certainly can spice up one of these talks! :-). Your final statement is interesting, "That faith then works in and through us to produce good works, by which we justify the grace and salvation given us by Christ's sacrifice." How do you mean that our works, as worked by faith, justify the Lord's works? [And amen to your conclusion: "I think we can all agree that if we are living as Christians, it is because we are united in our faith in Christ and our desire to live as Christ did: therefore, let us do works, as Jesus did, in his name, to the glory of God."]

I apologize for being so late in getting these questions together, but I know you will understand. I am enjoying the process. I hope you are too. ALL the different perspectives and references have been fun.


Frederic Remington is famous for his western art. Of all his statues, this one connects with me.

"Northers" are particularly nasty snow storms blowing out of Canada. The cowboy and horse are both near frozen, and have turned their backs to the wind. There's nothing to be done for it. The bunkhouse may be days or weeks away, but the cattle still need tending.
That ol' cowhand will still be there when this norther has blown on through.

Romans 8:4 - My answers

I will come back to put all our thoughts into one coherent post, but first I wanted to get mine put together in one place. I also had a couple questions about some of ya'll's thoughts.

- Why do we care about the requirements of the law, when Paul just finished teaching us that we are dead to it?
John 15: 9-13 TNIV
9 "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

We are dead to the law regarding our justification. The law cannot condemn us. But we are not dead to it regarding love. This passage kind of talks circles around itself because the command is to love, and the outflow of love is to obey the command.

- Are the requirements of the law truly to be met in us? Or in Christ?
Our justification is found utterly in Christ. We are helpless to please God. If the passage in John implied that God measured our love by how well we kept the command, we would be doomed. Praise the Lord, it does not. Jesus's sentence, "You are my friends if you do what I command." is powerful, though.

We go to the Father because He made a way. We don't just go out of duty, though. We go out of love. We love God and others because we have become the friends of God. Because we have been loved, we can meet the righteous requirements of the law. We can love. We love, though, for love's sake, not to earn a place before God.

- Can we live by the flesh? We should not, but could we? If so, then what happens to this verse?
Romans 7. Sure we can live by the flesh, but when we do we hate that we did, and we cry out for a Deliverer. Our failings do nothing to this verse.

- Is there anything we have to do to be living by the Spirit? Or is it done for us?
I think it is key that we live by the Spirit, as opposed to thinking the Spirit turns us into puppets. It is not just Christ loving through us, but Christ transforming us so that we live by the power of the Spirit. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20.

I think we need to be reminded that our lives should really be holy, and this verse does that with gusto.

OK. Got to run.

I will try to combine everyone's thoughts into one coherent post in the next couple days.

12 April, 2006

BS: Romans 8:4, References - 2006.04.14 19:01 PDT

4/14 - Milly and Kevin added some stuff to the bottom.


I am going to probably repeat some of the references everyone else has found in this notes post. I will not move them over to the main post. I am just going to be bringing them across from the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge as I find them.

My notes will not be things I believe, but things I am brainstorming. I will often write things in this kind of brainstorming that are obviously false, but writing them frees me to think more openly. I worry about the errors later. This is a bible study, not a paper. Got to think! :-)


Gal 5:22-24
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
- Interesting. The Spirit will bear these things in His own. Those who are Christ's have simply crucified the flesh.

Eph 5:26, 27
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
- The church will be cleansed by the Word. What is of interest here is that gracists might say that the church "positionally" clean right now, when the verse might really mean that the church is to be "really" clean.

Col 1:22
In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
- No action here on our part.

1Jo 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
- Future tense. Ignore.

Jud 1:24
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present [you] faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,
- Future.

Rev 14:5
And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.
- Future.

Rom 8:1
[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
- Ah. I am not positive, but I seem to recall being taught the Greek here means that we "do" walk in the Spirit. Walking in the flesh is not a condition here, but a statement of fact.

--- Now to pick up the pace a little bit. Let's find some contradictory verses.

It's bed time, so it will have to wait until tomorrow (and/or until more comments!) I will come back looking for verses that say:
1) That our works matter, and that the law still matters.
2) That our works don't matter, and that the law does not matter any more.

Then I will look for verses tied to those verses.

Like I said, not everyone likes to look at things this way. I like to look for everything in the bible that disagrees with my initial position. Sometimes the search is fruitless ;-O, but it's always valuable. There's nothing like the joy of seeing how two verses that seem to oppose each other really play together perfectly.

From lunch 4/13 -
Color code:Travis, Danny Kaye, Milly (and hubby), codepoke, DugALug, Japhy

James 2:18 (NIV)18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do
- I see this as saying that deeds/works are a legitimate litmus of true faith, but what do I know?

Gal 5:19,22-26
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness... In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.
- In contrasting the "works" of the flesh with the "fruit" of the Spirit, Paul is showing how the law exists because of the desires of the flesh, but "there is no law" against that which is driven by the Spirit because the Spirit produces only good fruit.

Col 1:21-23a
And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard.
- Paul seems to be telling them that, while Jesus's sacrifice on the cross has made life in the Spirit possible for them, they must "follow the Spirit". Jesus said that himself: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." (Mark 8:34) We must follow, not just stand by and watch.

Mark 1:17 (NKJV)
17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”

Philippians 3:14 (NKJV)
14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

- Jesus uses the term 'follow'. Paul uses the term 'Press'. These are not the words of a spectator: these are words of action. I believe the Holy Spirit quicken us to action. Japhy quotes Galations about the works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. I think this is interesting because I think this scripture shows us that 'good works' are the biproduct of a Spirit-filled life. What we do by our own effort cannot be clean or 'good'.

This is what Isiah said:
Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV)
6 But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
- If we live by the Spirit, good works will follow us and the Law will be of no matter. If we live by the flesh, we will never be able to live up to the Standard that God has set in the law.

Acts 23:1-5
1Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." 2At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!"

4Those who were standing near Paul said, "You dare to insult God's high priest?" 5Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people."

James 4:10-13 (New International Version)

11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?


I'm back.

I feel very much like the Shulamite. I have been so busy, I have not been able to attend my own bible study party! My apologies, and great stuff in my absence.

Let me just add a couple more references. The ones here are plenty, but in looking at them a couple more came up.

Hbr 11:31

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

- I love this. Rahab's works saved her by faith. Perfectly inscrutable. I also enjoy that it does not call her the former harlot, Rahab.

Jam 2:25

Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way?

- It's such a cool story, she gets mentioned repeatedly. :-)

Mat 7:17

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

- The fruit does not make the tree, the tree makes the fruit.

2Cor 6:16 - 2Cor 7:1

And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

- Wow. I don't know that much can be added to this.

Tit 2:11-14

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

- Then again....


Now for the other side

Rom 3:27 & 28

Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

- Without is a very strong word.

Rom 9:31 & 32

But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because [they sought it] not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that Stumblingstone;

- Wow. Those who attempt to please God by righteously following a righteous law use Christ wrongly. Christ is to be the Cornerstone and Foundation of all our works and all our life. But we are are moving about on our own, we are not founded on the Cornerstone. Instead, when we are going about in our own, we come to the Cornerstone and He is made a Stumblingstone to us.

Gal 2:16 & 19-21

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. ... For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

- I have to tell about this. I heard a sermon on this that stuck with me across the years. It says we are justified by "the faith of Jesus Christ". The preacher made great work of pointing out that we are saved by Jesus Christ's faith, and not by our own. Too bad that thought is based entirely on the fact that the preacher did not understand King James English. I guess the Greek says "faith in Jesus Christ" because every other version I have and the commentators all avoid that thought.


Gal 3:2 & 5

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if [it be] yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, [doeth he it] by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

- There is nothing left to chance here. The works of the law are clearly unable to meet our need in coming to the Father.

Gal 5:4 & 5

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

- This verse is the perfect foil to Romans 8:4. I think my research may be over.

11 April, 2006

Nanny McPhee

My daughter and I did Nanny McPhee this Monday evening.

I am no movie reviewer, but I will give you my high recommendation.

NM was fun and sweet. About 2 minutes into the movie you know the entire plot, from beginning to end, so scratch any hopes of suspense. It does not exist at any point. There is just the joy of watching conflict and resolution happily played out amongst genuinely likeable children.

If you believe that magical movies are bad in and of themselves, this is not the movie for you. Think of the Nanny as a fairy godmother, though, and this is just another fairy tale and it's sure a lot of fun. I'm sure it's aimed at little kids, and there certainly ain't much angst. But as a kid story, and a love story, I loved it.

Best line of the movie: "She's always looked like that."

That will give you some suspense. You can try to guess where it happens. :-)

I may have to publish my fairy tale out here some day.

It was a good day...

I am remiss in my duties to the bible study going on just a post or two down.

I hope I will find grace in the eyes of my friends. :-)

Here's the excuse list.
  • Today was the first day of tennis practice.
  • But, I had to be late for it, so I could pick up the newly cleaned pistols and ammo for my daughter's and my shooting date. Dropping them for professional service was a good idea. The smallest of the bunch (all inherited from my Dad, BTW) is used up. Too large a gap from the cylinder to the barrel, allowing possible lead shaving with unpredictable outcome. It is now parked.
  • So, that was 90 minutes of rush hour shopping. Yippees. All over creation.
  • Practice has started as I drive by the courts to go home and pick up the rackets and necessary paraphenalia.
  • 1/4 mile from home, I notice something odd. I don't know what, but it's wierd. I look in the mirror, and I am draining fluid on the roadway, and the car is revving higher than it should. 100% chance I am losing transmission fluid. Big ol' hill to climb. Will it make it? Will I burn anything up? Well, with an automatic transmission, if you can still pull up a hill, you have enough fluid not to be ruining anything in 1/4 mile, so I nurse the ol' girl home.

That could have happened anywhere!

If that happens up in Powell, I have an hour long wait for a tow, I'm out a tip plus mileage (I have AAA since I am single now) and another hour in the tow truck, and still have a broken car. As it was, I was able to find the problem, fix it with parts and fluid that I had laying around, put kitty litter on the worst of the oil I spilled on the 2 blocks closest to home and make it to tennis practice only 90 minutes late.

What a cool night. I love it when the Lord is kind. The line that failed was doomed, and there was simply not a better time or place for it to break.

Praise the Lord.

BS Notes: Rom 8:4

As usual, I start with the questions. At this point, these are not Socratic teaching questions. Ain't no teaching going on at all! These are things that threaten my current understanding of this verse. These are questions I am serious about asking. I had preconceived answers to every one of them, but I discard them here.

(First) Questions:

  • Why do we care about the requirements of the law, when Paul just finished teaching us that we are dead to it?
  • Are the requirements of the law truly to be met in us? Or in Christ?
  • Can we live by the flesh? We should not, but could we? If so, then what happens to this verse?
  • Is there anything we have to do to be living by the Spirit? Or is it done for us?

Anyone have any other tough questions? Better ways of wording these ones? Answers?!

In keeping with the non-rules and non-format of this BS [and of course that's, "Bible Study," silly] comment here or at your own site and link it any way you'd like. We all just want to hear whatever riches you can mine from this knotty little truth!

10 April, 2006

Bible Study 2: Meeting the Requirements of the Law - 2006.04.12 19:31 PDT

[Blogger and I had an issue, and I lost all the formatting. Please let me know if I confused anything in the reformat.]

In Sunday School 2 weeks ago, a verse snuck up on me. It's an odd thing when that happens, and especially when it happens right in the middle of Romans 8! It's not like it's hidden off in 2 Chronicles or something. It's in the middle of what might be the most famous passage of the most famous letter of the most famous book in the world.

Romans 8:4 TNIV ...in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

It's a funny verse, because the legalists who reared me did not use it, and the gracists who helped me so much preached over it. In fact, they explained it away. They drew in scriptures from all over the place to prove that this verse really meant that the righteous requirements of the law were fulfilled in Christ, not me.

Of course, they are right. Christ did fulfill the righteous requirements of the law, but this verse does not say that, and scratching it out of the bible might not be that good an idea. ;-)

So, I was there in bible study, and Ray gave us an assignment. He wanted us to go home and figure out how the righteous requirements of the law could be fully met in us. I really wanted to do this, but various things led me to fail at his request. The work was too big for me to wrap my mind around it that week, but with everyone's help, I will begin fulfilling "the righteous request of Ray" today.

With everyone who is on board, this is our second attempt at a group bible study, and this time it's for some of the marbles. Whatever we come up with I will present to Ray (and give credit where it's due.) Hopefully everyone will be able to take it to someone, somewhere.

I will move kind of slowly on this one. I will start by thinking up questions. I will then look at cross-references and commentaries, before I draw any conclusions. No one else is bound to that process, though! I hope everyone will offer everything from impressions to prayers to analysis of the Greek.

I will do most of my thinking on a "notes" post here that everyone can see, then copy the worthwhile stuff over to this post. Maybe that will work for others, maybe not. Whatever works for you works for me. Feel free to copy the whole thing over to your blog, add comments to this post, or to my notes page. Comment on other people's posts. Just so long as I know about it, it will get into the final draft (even if I have the nerve to disagree with you ;-).

Color code:
Travis, Danny Kaye, Milly (and hubby), codepoke, DugALug, Japhy

* Why do we care about the requirements of the law, when Paul just finished teaching us that we are dead to it?
* Are the requirements of the law truly to be met in us? Or in Christ?
* Can we live by the flesh? We should not, but could we? If so, then what happens to this verse?
* Is there anything we have to do to be living by the Spirit? Or is it done for us?

Scripture References:

I think the "context clues" here would probably be Romans 7:20-23 and 8:3. (I'd also toss in Philippians 2:13 for good measure, but partly because it's my current "pet verse.")

Jesus gives another example of following man’s law in Matthew 15:1-11 (posted on Milly's site)

Matthew 11:29-30 (NIV)
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I am thinking that if we, as Christians, understand the law, see that it no longer has control over our destiny, and embrace God's intent behind it, then living with the law becomes arbitrary, and much easier which is what Jesus was saying in the above scripture.

Other References:
Danny Kaye's lesson/comments on Colossians. Scroll down to where chapter 2 verses 10 - 15 begin. It will either confuse you, make you ask more questions, or thrill you.

[Here is the section Danny Kaye references - I could not cut and paste it well, either. I tried to simulate his indentation scheme with + signs. More pluses = more indents.]

10 – 15
+ Our sinful nature has been cut off through our faith in Jesus at baptism, at which point God made me alive w/ Christ and I have been full ever since.
+ Jesus canceled the "written code" that was against us.
++ This written code was the Law of Moses.
+++ If a person is crammed full of Jesus, then the written code no longer applies to them and they will no longer be held accountable to its rules and regulations.
+++ If a person decides not the follow Jesus, they are to be held accountable to the written code.
++++ Romans 2:12b "…and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law."
++++ Romans 3:19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.
++++ 3 Choices now remain for those who have heard the message:
+++++ Live according to the Law and attain righteousness that way,
+++++ Be crammed full of Christ and attain His righteousness,
+++++ Or choose none of the above and live believing that righteousness is not needed. (atheists, agnostics…).



If you live according to God’s law you are guaranteed life, as in everlasting life in His Kingdom.
If you live only according to man’s laws in sin you are guaranteed death. You can be a law abiding citizen, a great guy, nice to kittens, and yet not know Jesus. The gates of Heaven won’t open for you if you don’t follow God’s laws.

My husband had an example of how the Catholic church says that you can only take communion in the Catholic church and no other if you are Catholic. That’s man made not from God. I use to laugh at the Catholic church for that. Jesus wasn’t of a "church" He traveled to cities and spoke the Word. If he walked into the Catholic church could Jesus take communion? (Man’s lines in the sand again.)

We have to live in the Spirit not just live our lives day after day following only man’s laws. We must live in Christ for life.

I did a study on Colossians called "Crammed with Christ" a while ago and it tackles in part some of what you are addressing in your questions. I basically came up with three conclusions.
1) Live according to the Law and try to attain righteousness that way
2) Be crammed full of Christ and attain His righteousness,
3) Or choose none of the above and live believing that righteousness is not needed. (atheists, agnostics…).

I think it comes down to the simple fact that we are freed from the consequences of the law through what Christ has done for us, but that doesn't make the law invalid: it makes it part of our being, rather than something that we rally against.

In Galatians, Paul was angry over the fact that some people were preaching that converted gentiles needed to be circumcized. Paul's anger was directed at the fact that God was much more interested in their hearts than an outward sign of conversion (aka Works). These individuals were imposing their will on them rather than allowing God to direct them.

The liberty of being free from the consequence of the law leads us to worship. So following the law is now an act of understanding rather than an act of obedience.This was one of my points on my blog post:

My La La Post

God is after our heart and we are instructed to be more Christ-like. That meens seeing things as Christ sees them.Thus, living by the Spirit, is allowing God to mold or shape our heart so that our entire lifestyle and outlook will be an instrument of praise towards God.

This all sounds so great, but again I am sometimes so overwhelmed by the magnitude of what that really means.

Why do we care about the requirements of the law...?
I believe Paul is saying that while our flesh exists in the framework of the law of sin, our spirits exist in the framework of the law of God. It is possible for our spirits to do works in the law of the flesh, but it is not possible for our flesh to do works in the law of the spirit. We are no longer governed by the power of the law of sin (which is death) because of our salvation in Christ Jesus, but we are still able to commit acts which violate the law.
Are the requirements of the law truly to be met in us?
Christ was the first person through whom the requirements of the law were truly met, and so we now have the model of Christ to follow. This is a point I like to bring up, that the Old Testament is full of failures to live up to God's laws because there was never a perfect subject of God until Jesus Christ:
we do not have the impossible expectations of God-like perfection as our example, we have the perfect human as our example.
Can we live by the flesh?
The desires of the flesh are opposite the desires of the spirit; you cannot serve two masters at once. I'm not sure what you mean by "live" here; we cannot attain the same end as we would by living in the spirit.
Is there anything we have to do to be living by the Spirit?
We have been given the opportunity to accept the gift of salvation, but we are by no means saved unless we act upon that invitation. As for what we do after we accept Jesus Christ, we cannot expect "living by the Spirit" to just take hold of us; we must act.

"[Who] was neighbor to the robbers' victim?" He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy." Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:36-37)

Jesus did not say "correct" and pat the man on the back. He told him to "do likewise". We cannot take the example of Jesus, the perfect human, and frame it and put it our wall and say we are living in the Spirit. We must live in the Spirit!

[Context change. Discussion with DugALug here]

I've heard contention between "works" and "faith" as far as salvation is concerned. There's one side that says faith in Christ is all that's needed (and they base this on a few lines from Paul's letters) and another side that says faith alone is not enough.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is the oft-quoted excerpt: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast." Harping on this, they neglect so many other things written by Paul and others (e.g. James 2:14-17), as well as the teachings of Jesus himself (e.g. Matthew 25:31-46, "whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me").

But moreso, they confuse the meaning of Paul's words. It is not by works that we are saved, it is through faith. That faith then works in and through us to produce good works, by which we justify the grace and salvation given us by Christ's sacrifice.

I think we can all agree that if we are living as Christians, it is because we are united in our faith in Christ and our desire to live as Christ did: therefore, let us do works, as Jesus did, in his name, to the glory of God.


09 April, 2006

Bible Study Experiment: Thoughts?

Everyone may not be done with Philippians yet, but I won't let a little thing like that slow me down! Keep on keeping on if you have more to add. I'm in as long as people are playing.

By the same token, I want to try again already. You see, there's this verse that's been on my mind for 2 weeks. So, I am going to launch another Bible Study here in a day or two. I figured this might be a good place for everyone to leave any critiques, thoughts, enhancements on the first one.

My thoughts:
  • Passing the whole study around really got bulky in a hurry! I felt a little daft for not predicting that one from the start, but I never claimed to be a prophet.
  • It was still fun to get everyone's thoughts, in their own way, at their own depth. Much more fun than just studying the verse alone and presenting my conclusions. More complete, too. Everything from Dee's short take, to Milly adding the chapter in context, and Danny Kaye bringing in Hebrews was really great.
  • I'm a big fan of study tools, so on the next one I will probably use some of them.

New ideas:

  • I think maybe the person who starts the bible study should probably aggregate all the comments on their own site. Some people will have little thoughts that can be put in the comments, and others will have big thoughts that deserve their own posts. Either way, the person who called bible study is responsible to aggregate all those thoughts into a coherent(-ish) post at the end.
  • Maybe the bible study should consist of at least 2 rounds. The first round would be brainstorming for questions. Everyone should bring up everything they can think of that might be confusing about the verse. After there are some questions on the table, I think the study might be more interesting.

Your thoughts? What did you like? What would you like to see different? Anyone else got something on their mind before I play again?

08 April, 2006

A Testimony to the Power and Love of God

Kansas Bob tells about his life, culminating in events in this week of 1976. It was a week to praise the Lord for for a lifetime. You will praise God for having read it.

07 April, 2006

Group Bible Study - Phil 2:12-13 (and 1-18!)

Phil 2
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Dee Said:
I will be happy to comment on the verse you mentioned

Milly said...
I posted Philippians 2-18 because, It’s just that good!

I love how it tells us to look at each other’s needs and interests.

I get from reading 6 that we aren’t to be God like we are to be humbled and obedient.

In 12 it goes on to say that even when he wasn’t present we should still obey. I’ve discussed during a different discussion that in the Old Testament God was as someone said “an in your face presence” we have examples of Him speaking to the person directly. When Jesus came He spoke directly to them. We are now left like teens in the house alone without the parents to yell “knock it off or I’ll come down there!” How we behave will depend on how we are rewarded.

I volunteer in things that interest me, No I’m not saying that you should pick stuff you don’t like. I’m saying that I have had to do things I don’t like and Wednesday was an example. We called the mail room purgatory. The machine has a mind of its own and sometimes it just doesn’t like me. I was blessed with talking to someone I love so I ended up having fun.

Philippians tells me that I should have bounced in and worked happily. I was doing His work. Mailing CDs and Tapes for the Workshop is important and I should have realized even the icky work should be done with glee.

Love this,that at the time of Jesus every knee should bow :-}

Dee said:
God gives us salvation not for only our benefit but for the benefit of others. They can see how our salvation has changed our lives and thru living for God we gain happiness and can lead them to God. If we work things out and live as we should, our lives will be enriched and we can reach those who need to be led to God. We will not feel we have to make sacrifices but we will want to make the sacrifices we must make to live a Godly life.

God works through us when we are doing the work he wants us to do.

Andreia said:
The thing that has always struck me about this verse is the idea that our salvation is a work in progress. Not to underplay that our salvation was bought by the blood of Christ, but to emphasize that whereever we might be in the journey, it is part of a process. We are ever-evolving. The doubts, questions and fears are part of it and the manner in which we handle the doubts and fears is what is important. I used to think that if I was a Christian I should not feel these things. This verse suggests the opposite. Despite those things, we still should stand in awe of a God that gives us salvation.

Danny Kaye said:
I am convinced that this is one of the most difficult things to emotionally understand about our Christianity.

Scripture teaches that we need to have "peace that passes understanding" (Phil. 4:7) and that we are to "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). It is therefore extremely hard to appreciate the concept of "working out our salvation with fear and trembling".

Our emotions tell our souls that we simply cannot live with fear and trembling and still be at peace and have confidence. My take is this; we are always free to go before God's great throne in prayer. If we have not pulled our faith from Jesus, we may be at peace. But if temptation is staring us in the face, and we are considering trading our salvation for sin's pleasure, then it is time to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. God's mercies are most beautiful. But His mercies are equaled by His wrath.

Hebrews 10:26-30 says:
"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, [27] but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [28] Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. [29] How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? [30] For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."

The above passage tells us that if we who had the knowledge of the grace and forgiveness of God that came through Jesus turn around and blatantly and intentionally sin against Him, it is the same as stomping on the blood of Jesus at the base of the cross.

If that is the case, there is a good reason to tremble before God and let the Fear of Isaac turn us back to Him.

Kevin said:
I think the thing that amazes me is that Paul believes fear and trembling are a part of God's beautiful plan for our lives.

I was raised legalist, so the fear and trembling were a huge part of my childhood. I just knew God was going to damn me to hell when I slipped and sinned in some little thing at age 69 1/2. When I found grace, I collapsed in a happy puddle at God's feet. I was going to endure it all in this life, because He had done everything for me. Praise the Lord!

Honestly, though, I watched my buds soak up the teaching of grace then fall into gluttony, dissipation, and eventually even adultery. I saw the Word of God used to justify these things, and I was confused. Jesus had saved me from the terror of death, twice! (Once into legalistic Christianity, and again when He saved me from it.) How could I even consider trifling with that gift? But trifle they did.

Andreia said that she learned that a true Christian should sometimes feel those fears. Danny Kaye gave us good reason to feel them! We really should be able to bounce into a purgatory to which the Lord sends us with glee. :-) (verse 14.) And so much of what we are given really is given to us for others, more than for ourselves.

God does work in us to make us able to do His good pleasure. God does not save us apart from His holiness, but into it. He transforms us as we grow more and more into His image. We do obey. Like Dee said, we obey because He makes us want to obey. There is something to be afraid of, but I don't think it's the same fear I was given as a child. They forgot to mention all that God has done, and will do for us.

{Hey, you know, I looked back at verses 8-11 on Milly's post, and maybe there's another meaning for the whole "fear and trembling" thing. Those verses talk about how Christ humbled Himself to the death of the cross. Maybe we also fear some of the things God may ask us to endure? }

The key is that God is working in us. We are not self-powering all this stuff. We are working it out by prayer, and by committing ourselves to Him in everything. And we are following in the example of our Forerunner. God is working that Spirit into us Whom His Son had.


I have to get to bed! Next?

06 April, 2006


Linda Stone has coined the term "Continuous Partial Attention" to describe the way iPod, cellphone, BlackBerry, Instant Messaging, voice mail, etc. addicts relate to the world. An article by Steven Levy captures her use of the term pretty amusingly.

Given all the discussion about ADHD, I'm wondering what everyone thinks about this phenomenon.

As I have explained in the past, I cannot multi-task. I would secretly doubt whether anyone can, but I have known women who multi-task efficiently and very completely. They are fun to watch, because they cannot *not* multi-task. I know a woman who gets lost in phone conversations if she is not playing a computer game at the same time. Get hearts up on the screen, and she converses much better.

I'm also not talking about driving and talking on the cell phone. (If anyone tells me to stop driving while playing the harmonica, they will be ignored.) Sure, that's a problem, but it's not personal until the accident.

I'm talking about people who try to IM 3 people at the same time as carrying on a phone conversation, while holding up their finger keeping me from leaving until they are done. I would much rather just go away and come back when they want to talk to me, except that blissful moment will probably never come. If talking to me means not talking to everyone else at the same time, I will never get their time.

What about BlackBerries in meetings? (I am getting worse about that one.) Taking a call in the middle of a conversation? (We once had a kid over for breakfast who ignored all calls while at the table. Very cool!) Email and IM while writing anything complex?

Here's my take.

We seem to want to stay electronically connected with a broad base of people, and are willing to sacrifice real connection to the people we're with to have the virtual connections. We hurt the people reading our faces in order to merely pacify the people who make up our personal networks. (I also think the root sin here is emotional laziness, but then I think everything boils down to laziness somehow.)

(says the blogger.)

Anyone up for a group bible study?

Thinking about something Danny Kaye said this morning, and a thought came to me. Sounds like fun to me.
  1. Someone picks a verse and writes a note or two.
  2. Someone else puts a note in the comments of the post saying "I've got it." Then he or she copies and pastes the whole thing into their blog, adds and tinkers at will and posts it. Then they go back, and add another comment linking the original post to the new one.
  3. Everyone repeats randomly until bored.
Worth trying?

05 April, 2006

Why I think we blog

Malachi 3:16&17
Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. "On the day when I act," says the LORD Almighty, "they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him.

This has been a favorite verse of mine for years, but I really think this is what keeps us out here typing away.

The proceeding verses describe the evils of the nation around the Lord's faithful. The Lord's people were confounded, and they lacked a prophet who could tell them what the Lord's plan was. In their confusion, they just turned to each other and talked.

They talked with each other.

That is such is simple, simple thing, but as they talked to each other the Lord heard it. They didn't solve the world's problems, or get the theology of the Lord's abandonment straight, but I bet that's some of what they talked about. I bet they talked about the weather, and the kids, and why it seemed so hard to really worship sometimes.

Everything was "off" in Israel in those days. I like to hope that America is not where Israel was when Malachi spoke, but I still want to talk about this stuff.

I'm glad for the opportunity the blogosphere affords us to talk and listen.

May the Lord bless our conversations, and I thank the Lord for the blessings I already receive so often out here. Thanks everyone!

04 April, 2006

Light posting continues - and one equivocation

Ah, life. It's good these days, just a little on the busy side.

On Saturday my son got to take his first SAT. So, I got to do the drop and pick thing, and in between do a 4 corner brake job on the chief vehicle. Changed out all 4 within the 5 hour window, and managed to catch Kuznetsova beating Sharapova too. (Eased the pain a little bit of having had to watch Kuznetsova take out Hingis, knowing that she went on to beat everyone else, too.) The brake job eliminated 85% of my wierd noises. The car still emits some unpleasant sounds from the front right corner, and from the nut behind the wheel when the radio is on.

On Monday, I got to start the day by having the selfsame son at the airport by 6:30 so he could check out St John's College in New Mexico. That is the ex's choice. I would vastly prefer him to be at Hillsdale. Hillsdale is highly conservative, 50% Christian student ratio, $25k per year with room and board, and a tremendous classics program. They have majors in Latin (Keith has taken 5 years already) and Greek. We'll see how it turns out.

Upshot, I was up early every morning this week. Coupled with the mandatory late nights, and the time shift, I'm about useless for blogging.

Oh yeah, and I got my new toy. I'm telling you, kids don't know how to get excited about toys. They need to watch a 40 year old man giggle at a UPS box to understand excitement. I bought a tennis ball launcher. 33 years I've been at this game, and I finally broke down and did it. I've been out with it 4 times so far, and I'm still giggling. I am delighted to find that it cannot hit a ball so fast I cannot hit it back, but that it can hit a ball so fast that I can only control 1 of 5 returns. It can flat over-power me. Cool! I have even learned something new playing it. Just tonight I was working my backhand against low, fast, and away balls and noticed that if I picked a contact point on the ball the same way I would in billiards, I was able to control the ball much better. I had never made that connection before. Yeah, I'm jazzed.

OK, now. I promised an equivocation, a wavering, a repentance actually. I must back off from this statement from M & C - 4:

FWIW, this M & C - 4 is not about dreaming up castles in the sky, or a holy wish list. What I describe here I will either find somewhere or I will try to build it.

That little bit of locker room bravado just isn't true, so I figured I'd just admit it and get it over with.

I'm a little frustrated with the pastor of the church I currently attend. I have placed 4 ideas in front of him, expecting them all to be rejected. I was shocked when he rejected none of them. 4, I realize, is a huge number of ideas to throw at a pastor in only 7 or 8 months, so for him to start looking a little askance at me would have been completely understandable. That's not what happened, though. He ate my ideas up like candy, and said they would happen.

So far, he is 0 for 4.

I am not a naturally patient person, so for me to be a little anxious to get things rolling is not out of the ordinary, and for a pastor with a 12 month plan not to have implemented the plans of a frequent visitor is hardly rare. All in all, everything is still good, and I am a little frustrated. In other words, situation normal.

The point is that my bit of bravado says that I will either put my shoulder to this church, or drop out and start trying to make a church on my own. While either of those things might be natural for me in my fallen state, the Spirit seems to be more interested in watching me just fellowship and help out a little in this sweet little church that I am enjoying so much.

It's hardly a hardship. :-)

Must remember not to say things I have to munch on later.

May the Lord bless!