30 September, 2006

Predestination: With One Voice

Thank you, all, for responding so generously to my post calling for opinions about predestination. Toward the end of day 2, I had given up on getting much response, but everyone warmed up to the topic, and very helpfully. Thank you!

I'm not ready to talk about my beliefs, because they are back in a wonderful state of flux. But let me talk about yours. And I mean everyone's. With one voice, everyone who has been here more than once agreed that standard predestination is a stomach turning doctrine.

  • I just have to say that I have a physical reaction to the notion that not all have the opportunity. My heart aches at the mention of the idea.
  • It always breaks my heart to think that the Lord would turn away his children. Either He loves us or He doesn't.
  • It is because at its very foundation is God who loves "all" ...but won't let "all" have the option to love Him back.
  • The gift of salvation is open and freely given to all. This paraphrase of scripture flies boldy in the face of predestination, and punches it right in the chops.
  • I can't imagine that He would pre-ordain people to Hell. Plain and simple.
  • When speaking with a friend about Judas, I used the words how sad his story is to me because he was predestined to betray.

And for some it was even more personal:

  • there is a certain arrogance to the predestined folks that "know" that they are elect
  • That means we must be willing to work with Him, and that equates to our having a say in our salvation: "My Lord and my God!" or not.
  • I'd say the problem I have with predestination is that a person who believes it might use it to argue for or against the salvation of another person. That type of prophecy is very suspect.
  • It’s easy to think sure this wonderful life was predestined, harder when the walls are falling in on us. Faith is a big thing.
  • It’s hard for someone to sit on a cold marble bench and look at the grave of their child and think that it was predestined.

I have heard predestinationists answer all the these objections, and that is much of the reason that I question predestination. Their answers often have a sterile arrogance that I never liked, even though I believe they are right and can repeat those arguments at will.

So, in my next post, I hope to start a look at Eph 1. The point will not be for me to tell my views, and for you to rebut them. I am not looking for scriptural evidence either for or against either of our points of view. Believe me, I have been around that mulberry bush too many times.

Rather, I hope to look into those verses and find something breathing. The word "predestined" appears in Eph 1, but as of right now, who knows what it means. God did something. He did something big, bold and beautiful, but He didn't do it alone. He didn't even stop at "involving" us. He "included" us in what He did. So, if we are included, what does predestined mean?

I don't know, but I hope that we find something we can hold on to together.


Let me tell a little story that made me think of all this.

One of my young friends has found the girl of his dreams. She is gorgeous. I've never seen her less than bubbling with natural enthusiasm. You know the type, all wonderful, and probably a Cat 4 hurricane to live with?

Anyway, they are going through the stage of wondering whether marrying will be the right move. Specifically, I guess they are asking whether, "He/she is 'God's best' for me." Of course, that's a tough, tough question if you take it at face value. If you question the question, though, it's even tougher.

Does God give us His will, or does He predestine it? Or does He just reveal it generally in scripture, and require us to figure it out?

Does He rely on His own great grace, or on our weak obedience?

I see a lot of ways in which this is like the questions behind election. Was I fated by God to marry a girl who could not stay married to me? Of course not. That was my mistake and my sin. I praise and thank the grace of the Lord that I have not followed my marriage fall with the larger fall of turning from Him. It is by His mercy that I still rest in Him.

So, though I doubt that this young couple will ask advice of a man who has already failed at his own marriage, what would I say to them given the chance? There's never any telling with me. I don't even know what I'm going to post until my fingers show me. :-) But, I guess it would be something like this.

If you marry each other, you might be making a big mistake.

If you don't marry each other, you might also be making a big mistake.

But, don't try to second guess God. God is working for your maturity, not merely for your obedience. He wants to grow you into a man and a woman who can bear responsibility in His kingdom. To do that, He will make you exercise real wisdom, rather than just seek a "word of convenience" from on high.

So, seek wisdom and have the courage to do the best thing. Don't seek God to give you the best thing. If it is wisdom to get some issues under control before committing to marriage, then do it. That will take courage. It will take courage to tell him or her, "Not yet, and maybe never." Stand up and do it. If it is wisdom to begin the next adventure of your life, then propose.

Only don't let circumstances push you. Make your decision. Get on your knees before God and in front of wise men and women. Educate yourself until what you want and what you know is wise are the same thing. Then do that thing.

That's my stock advice on almost everything, actually.

I think there are some who would question whether that outlook is consistent with predestination.

Maybe I should be questioning predestination too.

Oh wait. I am!

23 September, 2006

Predestination: The Humanity of it All

I doubt that I have seen how to resolve this issue for anyone, but I believe I may have seen why no one likes predestination. That's a big step forward for me. :-)

[Please keep in mind that I am looking at the ugly underbelly of predestination here. This is an inaccurate representation of the doctrine, but I believe it to be a faithful telling of the misrepresentation it often receives.]

The predestination taught by wonderfully logical men who have searched the bible from cover to cover sometimes sounds awful. The Father communed with the Son and Spirit, and decided to create x-billion people, then damn 90+% of them for not believing in Him. That's pretty ugly. Of course, it's scriptural to one degree or another, but so is _______ (I'll let you fill in this blank - I don't want to seem to pick on anyone's pet doctrine. ;-)

That's hard for the 90% to accept. God threw some dice (then He controlled the way they fell) and if your name didn't come up in His book of life, then you're just out of luck. You never did anything wrong. "Nothing" had not even been created yet, and already the Lamb's book of life was fully complete, but your name was excluded. And now God dangles promises in front of your nose about anyone who believes being saved, but you're not so allowed. Your name is not there.

But, it's just as hard to accept for the 10%.

We want to be loved, but in this teaching we are mere lottery winners. God decided to love 10% of x-billion people, and we were just in that 10%. He doesn't love us. He loves .1*x billion humans, and we happened to be born in the right skin.

But that's not how He made us. We cannot be made happy like that.

Imagine the following novel. A girl sits at home, waiting to be courted and loved. Just then comes a knock at the door. When she opens it, a man is there. She's not quite sure what to make of him, until he blows pixie dust in her face. Suddenly and irresistably she is compelled to fall in love with him. And they lived happily ever after.

They may live happily ever after, but our hearts break. There is a violence to that story that we cannot endure.

Every love story that touches our hearts is about courting. We want to see someone drawn with cords of a man, and bands of love; not thumped on the head, and carried to bed. There has to be a moment when their eyes first meet, and then they find each other special, and finally they decide being together is worth overcoming whatever obstacles dare try to keep them apart.

The love that might be forced on the unsuspecting is no love at all. It is mere mastery.

Doctrinaire predestination writes a story of mastery. It is one thing to write a story that gives all glory to God, but quite another to write one that makes His glory so great it's appalling to His lovers. God forbid anyone should make the salvation romance abhorrent.


So, what do you think? Have I captured the essence of the things that drive you from predestination? Or is it something else? BTW, I am asking here about those presuppositions you bring with you to scripture, more than about what you find after you get there.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

Regeneration: God Moves First

I'm being unusually quiet these days. No big deal, really. Just a whole lot going on. Nonetheless, my silence gives me a good excuse to post this. I wrote it nearly 2 months ago, and decided it was not important enough to interrupt the Presbuteras stuff I was putting out there. In some ways, this is vastly more important to me, but in terms of it's being the oldest, tiredest internet argument going, I figured it should wait.

Some of you may remember that I watched with great care Weekend Fisher's exploration of Systematic Theology hoping to learn something about predestination (speaking of whom, check out her latest!) More of you will probably remember that I met Charles on an airplane, and that he through some serious scripture my way in favor of whatever you call non-predestination. I was really looking, because I wanted to give regeneration a fresh look. Even a vagabond like me gets tired of being the only one of his species.

After all that, I am only more convinced that God has to make our hearts alive before we can believe Him and be saved. He makes us alive apart from any believing that we do, and every one of us that He makes alive, He makes alive indeed.

To those who took the time to offer me differing perspectives, I thank you. I admit openly that some of you are vastly superior to me in these things. I hope you will understand when I continue to maintain the position I held when I started bugging you. I will probably quit bugging you now, but feel free to keep offering any thoughts you have. :-)

For the approximately zero of you who are still here to find out why I did not change my mind, this is a really long post. Really long.

I figure I'm pretty much writing the rest of this for myself.

Of the things that influenced me, the biggest may be my personal experience of meeting the Lord.

Isaiah says there was no beauty in Him to make us desire Him. That was true in my life. And then, suddenly, He was gorgeous. First I could not look at Him, and then I could not look away. The transformation of Christ before my very eyes was total. The preaching of the word and the work of the Spirit in my heart were overpowering. I was entranced. One moment He was a fairy tale, and the next I knew that He had worked miracles for me that I could never repay. I confessed Him with my mouth and believed Him in my heart the same way I would gravity.

Maybe I was intellectually or emotionally persuaded to see Christ in truth, but I don't think so. Maybe the Spirit inspired my human faculties so that my free will could bow itself to Him, but it sure didn't feel like that. My heart, which had felt neither fear nor love toward this invisible One, suddenly broke. Bowing my free will to God in that moment would have required a strong delusion of granduer in me. I was crushed, and so prostrated that I would have had to rise to bow. Only a miraculous condescension by God could save me. I awakened to life damned. My eyes opened to learn that I had offended the one Person in the universe I desparately wanted to love. In one moment I felt everything - need, fear, love, despair, hope - where before I had not even known I was numb. My heart burned, and then I confessed and believed.

I did not freely "will" that terror on myself. Had there been a back door, I would have fled it, but He was everywhere. Once the Truth had come, I could not sidestep it. Jesus was everything He said He was, and I could no more freely "disbelieve" than I had freely believed it. I could no more doubt Jesus' sacrifice for my sins than I could doubt my guilt before Him. I might have believed my mother and father might were space aliens fattening me for slaughter, but Jesus had died because I sinned against His holy law. This thing was beyond question.

The Spirit made known to me the perfection of Christ's sacrifice, and that it extended even to me. It was like hearing that the cavalry was coming. It was great news, but I was too busy panicking to really figure out what that meant. But, the Spirit opened the gates to the city of refuge so that I could safely stop, and hear out His case. Slowly, against all reason, I learned that Jesus was of a mind to take me in. My struggle to believe was not that I needed to be saved, but that God might be so irrationally merciful as to pass over me. When the Spirit made me see the inconceivable, I fell at His feet.

"Deciding" for Christ was never more than a formality for me. One must stand at the altar and say, "I do," before one is married, but the answer is not in question.

My evaluation of the scriptures may be affected by my experience. :-)

Still, the second major thing that affected my decision was the scripture. Scripture always trumps experience, but the day I really researched the scriptures I learned that they affirmed my experience.

The experience of being surrounded by people who know I'm wrong is a heavy one, though. Of the dozens of people I might call close acquaintances, only two agree with me about predestination. That's a burdensome ratio! Of people I blog with and attend church with, I believe the number is zero. Of course, I could switch churches, but that's cheating in my code of conduct. I'm even surrounded by people who hold the other view when I get on an airplane. :-)

I felt the need to revisit the scripture, and hence I started asking questions a few months ago. Charles really unsettled my confidence in my convictions, so I hit them pretty hard. I decided that I needed a way to be sure I was looking at the scriptures from both sides as best I could.

Nave's Topical Bible has a Regeneration topic containing 100 passages. It seemed like an objective way to pick scriptures on the subject, so I decided to look at those 100 passages and see what they said from both points of view. I looked at each passage from the "other side," that man's belief of God's testimony enabled God to make him alive, and I also looked at them from my initial perspective. I asked, from each point of view, whether this passage supported or weakened that thought.

I won't pretend that my survey was truly subjective, but it was the best I could do. I think if you know me, you know that I am subjective at my core. I also realize that most of the world has looked at these same 100 verses and reached "the other" conclusion. I don't know, though, what more I can do.

Anyway, I rated each verse for each perspective. My scoring was 1 (weakens the position badly) to 3 (doesn't really give any answer) to 5 (utterly convincing when seen from its own perspective.) 9 of the 100 passages rated a "5" for "We believe because God makes us alive." 7 passages rated a "5" for "We are made alive because we believe." Amusingly, I scored two of the passages as a 5 for both sides. For all of the passages, but especially those two, it depended entirely on perspective. "John 1:4, 13" and "1 John 5:1, 4-5, 11-12, 18" were those 2 passages. (Remember that Nave did the cherry picking, not me - I read the whole chapter in context on each of them.) Of 100 passages seen from 2 points of view, I only found one verse that I thought was a "1" for either side. Ezekiel's valley of dry bones described my salvation experience perfectly. It was probably the passage that moved me the most.

The final score was 9 to 7 on strong passages, and 3.5 to 3 was the difference in average score. In other words, I don't think the argument is a slam dunk for either side.

The difference in the argument is whether you believe that free will is inviolable. I do not, and so I read a bunch of these scriptures differently.

No one, and none of these 100 scriptures, has ever convinced me that free will is a biblical doctrine. I hear it invoked over and over again, that God would not want to be loved by creatures who were forced to love Him, but I don't see it anywhere in scripture. It is invoked as a self-evident fact, but I don't even see it as self-evident in the world around me. Does a baby "decide" to love his mother? No. Every baby loves his mother every time. Even so, I love my Father simply because I was born of Him.

Many, many of these verses refer to the will, and to deciding. I believe that man must will and must decide, but that God moves first or man cannot move. So, if you do want to try to understand where I'm coming from, start by understanding that willing is the act of a person made alive by God.

Anyway, here are the verses I explored, as selected by Nave's Topical Bible, with all my scores. You well know that I am willing to talk about them at length.

Love and peace to you all.

(Here's the new format)
Quick summary of the verse's contents
Score for "Regeneration happens first"
Score for "Regeneration happens because we believe first"

God circumcises that you might

The Lord had NOT given them
heart, eyes, or ears

1 King
God might incline our hearts

Ps 36:9
God is source of life and light

Ps 51:2,
7, 10
Wash me, create in me a clean

Ps 65:3
He will purge away our

Ps 68:18
He led captivity captive that
the Lord might dwell

Ps 87:4
God counts where a man is born

Ps 110:3
People are willing in the day of
His power

Keep your heart, for the issues
of life are in it

Righteousness leads to life

Fear of the Lord is a fountain
of life

Motions of the heart and tongue
from the Lord

1:16-17, 25
Purge yourself; I will purge you

Is 4:4
Lord will have purged

Is 12:3
With joy you will draw from well
of salvation

Is 26:12
Lord worked all our works in us

Is 29:23
See Abraham's children and
praise God for His work

32:3-4, 15, 17
The Spirit will change hearts
and actions

The blind will see, and many
other like things

Is 42:16
God will guide the blind in a
new way

Is 43:7
God will call out His own from
every compass point

God will pour out His Spirit on
the dry ground

Is 49:9
God gives a Messiah that He may
call prisoners

Come, everyone one who thirsts,
to the Waters

The leopard cannot change its
spots, nor you good

Those who forsake the Lord will
be ashamed

Jer 24:7
God will give them a heart to
know me

31:3, 33-34
I loved you, so I drew you. They
will all know me.

I will give them one heart, and
put fear in their hearts

Jer 33:6
I will cure them

I will give them one heart, that
they may walk rightly

Ez 16:9
I washed you, and girded you

Ez 18:31
Make for yourself a new heart,
for why will you die?

36:26-27, 29
I will give you a new heart to

Valley of dry bones come to life
by God's command

Ez 44:7,
The uncircumcised in heart
cannot worship

They will look upon Christ

12:33-35, 43-44
Make the tree good, and the
fruit will be good

13:23, 33
Seed on good ground brings forth
fruit, leaven grows

Must converted and like little
children to enter in

Seed cast in ground grows by a

John Baptist will prepare hearts
by Spirit

8:35, 38-39
Legion cast out - victim should
tell his city about it

1:4, 13
To as many as received, born not
of the will of man

Every one born of Spirit, but
don't know how

Whoever hears and believes,

6:44-45, 47, 50-51, 57
Cannot come to Christ unless
drawn by Father

8:12, 32, 36
Light and Truth make free indeed

Any man who comes through the
Door is saved

Jesus must wash us before we can
come to Him

15:1, 3
We are clean through Christ's
word spoken

Christ gives eternal life to
those give Him

2:38, 47
Baptize for remission and
receive Spirit

The Son turns us away from

11:17, 21
God gave gift to gentiles and
many believed

Purified the gentile hearts by

The Lord opened Lydia's heart

God had wrought salvation for
the gentiles

Jesus will open men's eyes that
they might receive

Circumcision must be of the

reckon and yield

Rom 7:6,
Delivered from Law and from
death to delight in Law

8:2-6, 9, 13-16
The spiritual mind lives to God

Rom 12:2
Be transformed by the renewing
of your mind

Gentiles sanctified by the Holy

1 Cor
1:9, 24, 30
Preaching saves them who
believe, Greek + Jew

1 Cor
Natural man receives not things
of God

1 Cor
3:6-7, 9
Preachers labor with God who
gives increase

1 Cor
You were sinners, but you are
washed by Spirit

1 Cor
12:6, 13
All received one Spirit

1 Cor
Grace saved Paul

2 Cor
The Spirit sealed us

2 Cor
3:3, 18
Epistle written on the heart and
being transformed

2 Cor
God commanded light to shine -
creation and hearts

2 Cor
5:5, 17
In Christ a new creature

Gal 2:20
I'm crucified, Christ lives in
me by belief

Gal 4:29
Born after the Spirit

Gal 6:15
A new creature avails

Eph 2:1,
5-6, 8-10
Were dead, but saved by
God-given faith

4:7-8, 16, 21-24
Given gifts, so put on the new

Eph 5:14
Awake dead sleepers and Christ
will give you light

Phil 1:6
God will finish the work He

Quickened with Christ through
faith of God's work

You have put on the new man

2 Th
Chosen through Spirit and belief

Saved by washing of regeneration
and renewing

Preaching needs faith, harden
not your heart

10:16-17, 22-23
New heart, so hold faith without

Jas 1:18
Of His own will He begat us by
the word of Truth

Convert a sinner, and hide a
multitude of sins

1 Pe
1:2-3, 22-23
Elect through Spirit to
obedience, born by word

1 Pe
2:3, 9
Chosen priesthood tasted the
Lord's grace

2 Pe
He has given all things and

1 Jn
2:27, 29
We abide in Him and do right
because born of Him

1 Jn
3:9, 14
We don't sin/do love neighbor
because born of Him

1 Jn 4:7
Every one that loves is born of

1 Jn 5:1,
4-5, 11-12, 18
Everyone born of God believes

Gen 3:29

1 Sam




19 September, 2006

Engaging God: Link out

This post is not about my comments and thoughts, but about another blog's comments and thoughts. They ring true and wise to me.

But his thoughts and struggles mingle with mine. I posted just a short time ago about knee rehab. As I was chatting with a friend the other day, I was prattling on about emotional rehab. After the conversation, I kept thinking about those two things in juxtaposition. I rehab my knee by doing intelligent, planned things that hurt it until it quits hurting, and then I move on to something more challenging. I wonder whether the same thing could be done for emotions?

Is there an exercise that would stretch my emotions where they are damaged, and that would let me grow more flexible and stronger?

Just this evening I found a yardstick. Dan Allender says that a healthy person has an optimistic resolve about their future. That is a great, fantastic phrase. I am in awe of it. It is perfect. It is measurable, achievable, and meaningful.

I don't have any exercises yet, but the juices are flowing, and the gears have started grinding. Who knows what may get mangled before it's all over. :-)

So, what about that link I promised?

The blogger at Beauty Out of Ugly Things is posting more than honestly about his current rehab. As part of his weaponry, he answers 10 questions with a brother every morning. The practice, the questions and the lessons woven into his answers are substantial and more than humbling. If you visit, I'd take my hat off before I entered.

17 September, 2006

Book Review: Dorkman by Pearce & Story

I know almost nothing about books written for 8th graders. I barely know anything about being an 8th grader! I belonged to a sub-caste of 8th graders who were even less social than the Dorkman himself. Frankly, I learned more about junior high in Pearce and Story's couple hundred pages than I ever did while embroiled in the experience. :-)

Mostly, I learned what could have happened if only I'd been wise and brave enough to reach for it.

Hence, I recommend the book.

Dorkman is no dress-up morality tale, though. The narrator and protagonist of the story, Cole, is the problem. And the problem is that he is a normal kid, with normal wishes and desires. Pearce and Story never play those wishes up or down, but give them to the reader straight. Cole wants exactly what I wanted in 8th grade, only he's got the talent to get it all. When he has to bend a couple stuffed-shirt principles to keep what he's earned, I could hardly blame him. I was too busy being jealous. :-)

That's what delighted me about the book. The conflicts were real, and the decisions Cole makes were real, too.

At the same time, you get to meet 4 other primary characters, two guys and two girls. A couple of them are "good guys" and a couple are not, but all are portrayed sympathetically. That is so key to me. Black is black and white is white in Dorkman, but the people are real. When the book is over, you know why Gordon or Ashley did the things they did, and you know whether you might do them. Or whether you could do better. Brilliant.

The book explores reasonably adult subject matter in an entirely G-rated way (which is much better than can be said for the real 8th grade!) but in a very challenging way. Peer pressure and young relationships form the matrix of the story, and are played to maximum effect. At least three times I wanted to put the book in the freezer! And all three times, what happened exceeded my fears. That's cool.

At all ages, reading is about roleplaying, imagining whether you could be like the hero. Dorkman will have your kids asking themselves some really good questions. I highly recommend it.

For a flavor of the book, here's the first chapter courtesy of http://www.dorkmancometh.com/

16 September, 2006

Engaging God: Smelling the Answer to Guilt

Ecc 4:8
yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches;

Wealth is a bottomless pit. You cannot make so much money that you cannot use it, whether well or poorly. Bill Gates wishes he had more money, so that he could give it away, and he has more money in real terms than anyone has in the last several centuries.

If I had twice as much money as I have now, I would need a little more. If I had half as much money as I have now, I would have to change a number of things, but I would, and in the end I would need a little more.

Want another bottomless pit?

How about Christian guilt? Workaholism is a problem for me (but I'm in remission. ;-P ) There are plenty of sayings of our Lord that give me fits as a workaholic.

Matt 25:28 & 29
Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Mt 13:23
But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Mt 5:48
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

For some of us, of the pleasing of God, there is no end.

I am not against pleasing God, but I am against this feeling that wells up in my heart that "I have not done enough." This fear that nags me around the clock, often as I am doing one thing for God, that the needful thing remains undone. That, "if only" I could do the right little bit more, or a little bit more sincerely I would be able to stand before God and hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Imagine that your spouse's adoration of you grew with your service to her. Imagine that by doing more, he or she would love you more.

That thought makes the guilt-driven, workaholic types among us drool with envy. We would be the most loved people on earth. Only, we wouldn't. We would work so hard and so long that we would forget to be loved. Our misery would be shameful as we filled a bank vault with love, and never stopped to make a withdrawal.

And remind yourself that God is invisible, untouchable, unreadable. Because we cannot read Him, we project onto Him our fears, and in our minds He becomes One who fears those same things. We put on Him our needs, and our pleasures, and our diseases. Our God becomes a monstrous, silent idealization of our selves. Are we perfectionists? He requires something more than perfection. Are we emotional? He requires perfect joy.

It is the silence of God that kills us.

Into silence, something must be read. Silence is never just silent. Silence is echoes with our fears or our hopes, however our moods dictate. When you have not heard from your sister in too long a time, you don't just call her. You ask yourself what happened. You wonder whether it's you, and you fear. Then you call her, but you only get voice mail. And she doesn't call you back for one day, then two, and then a week. And your fears grow. Eventually reality comes to the rescue, and you find out she was just happily busy all along.

That last part doesn't happen with God.

He is always silent.

Even more. We never smell God.

[Smell is the most concrete of our senses. When you smell someone, you really, really know they're there. Do you doubt that? Remember the sight or the touch of your spouse 10 years ago. Now remember the smell. It's not easy to remember a smell; we even fear doing it sometimes, but when we do, the memory overwhelms us. Your memories of his or her sight and touch are disembodied. When I remember a vision, I bring the memory forward to me, here and now. There's nothing to fear in that. Smell drags me back to the memory, though - there and then. Smell impacts.]

I bet Thomas remembered the smell of Jesus for the rest of his Life, as he moved his fingers toward those wounds.

We build our vision of God without ever having seen Him, touched Him, heard Him, or smelled Him. We build our expectations of His expectations of us without reality to check us, to redirect us, to save us from embodying our worst fears onto our vision of God.

We build our vision of God from the bedrock of scripture, but even that is not sound. We too often build our vision of Him from our projections onto the scripture. And somewhere in that process, our God becomes a gaping maw, needing most what we fear most we cannot give.

For the record, none of this applies to our good days. I am writing about our bad days. I'm writing about the days that we wake up wondering what will happen when we stand before His throne, and when we know that we lived for ourselves and not for the One Who did everything for us.

On those days, workaholics forget the verse:
Matt 11:29 & 30
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The scripture can be the cruelest scientific experiment I have ever seen. It often seems nothing but a huge rorschach inkblot test, and we say far more about ourselves when we interpret it than we say about God. And yet it is the fundamental, foundational truth on which the entire universe is built. The answers to all my fears about God lie within the covers of that book, but on my bad days I cannot find them there. The monsters in my head impose themselves on every promise, and incarnate themselves in every warning.

At the start of this post, I called that feeling, "christian guilt," and I called it a bottomless pit. I can try to fill it all day with my works, and I will never hear the first stone splash at the bottom of the well. Or I can trust God blindly. I can trust Him Whom I have never smelled to have filled that pit for me.

Jesus is the Answer to everything.

I need that. I need to know that. But I need something more than that. "I" am too involved in my trusting of God, and when I wrap myself around an axle, I need help.

I need brothers and sisters who are strong where I am weak, and who love Him the same way I do. I need the verses they understand, and that I never really will because I'm crippled toward them. And when I cannot smell God, when I cannot believe He's really, really there, I need to smell them. I need to know that a brother who knows me believes that I should rest. If he knows me well enough, and if I trust him, I just might actually try not feeling guilty some day.

We were made to need each other.

Humor: A Plague Across the Land

Imagine, if you will that the master in the old TV series, "Kung Fu" had called his apprentice "locust" instead of "grasshopper."

Then it's just a short little trip to a plague of kung fu apprentices across the land. :-D

They come from nowhere, moving in a mighty wave. Leaping over each other, and doing really bad backflips. Swarming 3 and 4 deep at times, destroying all small wooden and brick objects in their path. The click - click - clicking of their chopsticks filling the air, as they try to catch the flies that flee before their destruction.

Yes, my son and I had a little quality time tonight. It all started with a discussion of his being stuck in a box, then I turned it into a cocoon, and then we got to caterpillars, and finally to locusts and grasshoppers, and Kung Fu.

We both wondered whether anyone had ever made it down that train of thought before.

Thinking - maybe not. :-)

14 September, 2006

Engaging God: Rehab

If you've never had reconstructive surgery, let me tell you a little bit about it.

I went for 4 years on a knee without an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL.) No big deal. You only need an ACL if you do one or two specific motions, so I could do everything that I could do before the injury, except sports. That's important to my story. I was not disabled in any way, except in something that I didn't really need anyway. I was working 15 hours a day, and spending my free time with my family and the church - I did not miss sports.

There was nothing wrong with me.

The end of the 4 years came when I got out on the court with a friend's wife just for old time's sake and dislocated my knee. We finally had health insurance, so we could afford for me to get it fixed. I went under the knife, and I came out with a shiny, new ACL.

And 9 months of rehab.

I went in on a Friday, so I could be back at work in Monday. First, though, I had to go to my first rehab appointment. On Friday, I had been able to do anything at all, except sports. On Monday, I could not tense the muscles in my thigh. You're thinking maybe I could not straighten my knee. No. Straightening my knee took a week or two. That first day, I could not even tense the muscles that would some day straighten my knee.

They put four electric probes on my quads, and juiced those muscles - thenthey tensed. Boy, did they EVER tense! It was one of the most frightening things that has ever been done to me. They exploded with their full power, and I really did not believe that they could do that without tearing my patellar tendon. The pain clearly said that I might never walk again.

The muscles obviously could still work, but my brain did not remember how to use them.

Over the ensuing weeks, I re-taught my leg to do 100 things that it had been doing for 34 years. 1 week learning to straighten again. 3 weeks forcing it to bend to 85% again. It took me months to get it to bend 100% again. Months building up straight-line strength. Months teaching it twitch movements, necessary for balance and reaction. Failing at that means rapid reinjury, because the leg cannot protect itself. And every minute of the training painful. The moments not only felt like I was tearing muscle and ligament, but that's exactly what was happening. That's what needed to happen.

5 years later, when I started tennis again (yeah, really I've only been seriously back on the court since the divorce almost 3 years ago,) my right calf was still much smaller than my left.

All that to fix something that nobody besides me had any idea was broken. All that to restore abilities that were not gone before I got the surgery. I could run and jump and lift heavy burdens before the surgery. And after everything was fixed, I couldn't even straighten my leg on a bed any more.

Getting fixed broke everything.


As I sat here tonight, frankly a bit "down," I thought about my spirit.
Pr 18:14
The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?

It occurs to me we are converted by the Lord, and our spirits are made alive, but they are made alive much like my knee was fixed.

We are given a new spirit, and it's a living spirit, but we need to learn how to live with it, and even how to do those things that we used to take for granted. There was nothing mystically different about straightening my leg after I received my a new ACL, but I was forced to learn to do it all over again.

After receiving this new life in Christ, we need to learn how to be happy again, and how to be sad. We need to learn how to think and plan our lives, and how to be impulsive. We need to learn poetry all over again, and math. We used to be able to do all those things, but now we learn to do them all over again - with Him.

2Co 5:17 & 18
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

Ro 14:8
For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

With corner of our lives, we are the Lord's.

And if it takes years of sweat and pain to "rehab" our spirits, to know Him, yet He is a Pearl worth every drop of sweat my weak will can force from me. My knee was designed to straighten and bend, and my life was meant to be lived with Him.

Lord, build up my spirit. Let me hallow Your Name, and love you with every fiber of my being.

13 September, 2006

Engaging God: His Servants - His Friends

Kansas Bob said that the hardest thing about engaging God is engaging my heart.


This series is about finding a way to stir our hearts toward Him. A fresh sight of His face can put wings on our feet. If God is kind, this series will never end. And if God grace abounds, it will be worth reading. :-)


Jesus had ministering servants, angels, while He was here on earth. We seem them a time or two in the gospels. He also called His disciples servants, for a while. And we are His servants still, but only in part. Our friendship with Him is a much bigger deal.

Joh 15:15
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Being the servant of God is an honor beyond anything to which we might aspire. In Isaiah and in the Revelation, the angels stand before the Throne, and cry out, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." They are privileged to worship Him. But Jesus promotes His disciples above those angels. He acknowledges them as His friends.

What do you look for in a friend?

Presumably, not someone to follow you around all day, extolling your virtues. ;-) [Though, reading Dorkman is causing me to see this sentence in a different light.]

That's not what God is looking for in a friend, either. What He is looking for is much, much harder. He is looking for a partner to share His life, His experiences, His plans. God is looking for His equal.

And He has found that in you.

Forgive me if I don't know whether that statement needs to be defended. Do you find that controversial, or do you accept it as a glorious, but elementary part of the faith? I will offer this one brief defense. We are to be the bride of Christ, and marriage partners are to be equally yoked. God would never violate the words He gave to Paul. Ergo, He finds His yokemate in us.

The relationship we have with God is not that of puppy to master, nor yet of servant to master. We are members of the promised helpmeet of God, and He treats us as friends.

Friends do not worship each other, but share each other's lives. They laugh with the good things and cry with the bad, together. They go with each other to the hard stuff, and to the fun stuff. They wait in the courtroom and the hospital to hear how things went. And they check out plays and parks. They share life.

He respects you more than you do.

And that is why He shares things with you that you may not understand. Gifts? Servants don't get gifts, but wages. Suffering? He knows that He has endured suffering, and that you will overcome it, too. Enemies? He had to face the worst and overcame.

He has promised us that where He went, we will follow.

Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.

12 September, 2006

Better Bibles Blog

Suzanne has two posts out there, and Wayne one that really, really are fascinating.

I recommend looking at:
A heart of compassion
Translation of biblical poetry
Robert Alter's Narrative style

Only the first one requires kleenex, but it requires a box when you click through to the story she wrote, and another when you get back.

11 September, 2006


This won't be moving or poetic. I admire all the 9/11 tributes, and the 2996 project is more than inspiring, but it is not in me to follow suit.

I found out about the first plane just before the second hit. The first words I said after hearing about that second plane were, "We are at war."

That has not changed.

Rome was sacked, not by some other empire, but by Gauls, Vandals, Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Rome's size, wealth and technology gave her great advantage against her terrorist foes, but did not deliver her forever. The rabble took Rome's glory.

We are pitted against Islam. My time in Saudia convinced me of that long before 9/11/2001. To underestimate our foes is a grave mistake.

That said, to overestimate ourselves is a greater mistake.

Every year we come closer to being that empire that persecuted the church. Every year we slide further into the immoral morass and spinelessness of which our enemies accuse us. Every year we vote with our wallets, but each year there is less restraint of conscience against it. ("It's the economy, stupid.") Every year I wonder a little bit more at our arrogance, and at God's willingness to let us slide.

Rome fell when she lost the backbone to stand.

Rome fell when God removed His last support from her.

We are at war. We must and will prosecute this war, and I believe we will win round 1.

Round 2 makes me very nervous.

09 September, 2006

Tennis: The US Open so far

I have not said anything about the Open so far, mostly because the Engaging God stuff is so big for me right now. I have another one of those in the hopper - I just have to type it and find out what it's about. :-)

I have been nursing a bum wrist. I am hoping that it's just a tiny thing. I've felt it before, a number of times, so I'm familiar with it anyway. It's hard not being able to get out when I feel like it. That's alright. I will try to strengthen the muscles around the weak joint, and see if I can't get things working again.

The smartest, best, most exciting match of the Open was Youzhny/Nadal.


We all know there's no love lost between Nadal and I (all respects to Anon out there, but... ;-) I was looking forward to Nadal/Federer again, but Youzhny had something special in mind. Nadal changed his game for the hard court season. He started hitting a flatter forehand.

That may not mean much to you. Let me explain. Most people hit a topspin forehand for security. They can add 20 miles an hour to the ball, and be twice as sure the ball will go in anyway. It's a great idea. In fact, nobody hits a forehand slice consistently, except Fabrice Santoro - the Magician.

Nadal does something different.

He hits a topspin forehand to break your wrist.

When Nadal finishes his classic forehand shot, his arm is not around his right shoulder like the rest of left-handed mortals. No, his arm is wrapped around the back of his head! He spins the ball furiously. When he spins that forehand, the ball goes egg-shaped. And when it hits the ground on the opponent's side, it bites the clay and jumps for the sky. The opponent has two choices. He can guess just how it is going to jump, and swing where he guesses, or he can back up 15 feet and wait for it to come back down. He can guess wrong and commit errors all day, or he can give Nadal all day to pick angles and dissect him.

Did you notice that I said, "clay."

Yeah, that doesn't work on hard courts.

On a hard court, a pro can predict the bounce. The guesswork is gone. And it will bounce about 2 feet lower, too. Nadal's wicked topspin fades to somewhat unpleasant.

So Nadal flattened out his forehand. He is hitting a forehand like everyone else (in his own inimitable style, of course.)

And Youzhny was the first guy to put 2 and 2 together.

Youzhny must have figured that Nadal could not possibly be 100% comfortable with his new forehand, so he decided to test it. He spent the entire match hitting directly into the most feared forehand in tennis. Nobody ever thought to feed Nadal raw meat, but Youzhny tossed him filet mignon for 3 hours.

And it worked.

The first two sets were close. Youzhny took the first, and Nadal took the second. The third was where the showdown happened. It went to the tiebreak.

I watched as Youzhny sliced to Nadal's forehand 8 times in one point. Nadal smacked them all back. But, if you were watching closely, you noticed Nadal starting to wrap his arm around his head again. You noticed him using a different motion for each shot. You watched him losing confidence in either shot. You watched him losing it.

He lost that tiebreak 7-5.

But then he lost the next set 1-6.

Youzhny had walked onto the court with a daring, unthinkable straightedge, and he had broken down the most feared forehand in tennis by walking straight into the buzz saw. I could NOT have been more impressed.

Youzhny's game did not match up so well against the new and improved Andy Roddick, so he put up an entertaining struggle, but it was pretty much Andy's to lose and he failed to do so.

The second most entertaining match was Federer/Blake.

I don't often find myself even remotely wanting to cheer for both players. (Not root, but cheer. Aussies understand.) Thursday night, I could not help myself.

Blake is Han Solo to Federer's Obi-Wan Kenobi. Blake is all laser blaster, while Federer pulls out his light sabre, and deflecting impossible shots, he works his way in to finish the fight up close. Blake sends a 95 mile an hour screaming forehand into Federer's backhand corner, and somehow, with a gorgeous flick of the wrist, Federer deflects it back.

For 2 hours.

The first set was awesome. Blake was on. Really on. He was cranking the ball like a madman, making shots work that only a delusional would try. And Federer was answering everything. When Federer broke for the early lead, most of the audience started collecting their things, because it was going to be a short evening.

Then Blake immediately broke back. The match was back on serve, and suddenly looked interesting. Of 90 service games, it was only the third one Federer had lost since the start of the tournament. Blake was going to be able to touch him. Suddenly, nobody knew how this might end. Could Federer have one of his rare but real weak nights? If so, Blake was having a hot one.

Anything could happen.

Blake forced the tiebreak, but fell behind. A mini-break they call it, because it's enough to win if you play perfectly, but nobody ever does. Federer didn't. After 4 straight points to Blake, it was he who held the mini break, and he held it at set point. With one serve, Blake could break history. In 4 matches, Blake had never taken a set off Federer. The blaster could overpower the sabre.

Federer didn't blink.

Blake had two more chances. He only needed to win one point, and the set was in the bank.

He didn't choke. I don't care what anyone says. Blake did not choke. He kept ripping his shots. Federer just quit making mistakes. He moved his points of aim in, 6 inches to the safe side, and kept ripping his shots right back. He built his points. And when the opportunity came to close a point down, he did. Federer has an eery ability to just stop making mistakes when it matters. We all do, to one degree or another, but he has it on a tennis court, and he has it when the point matters most. Blake was suddenly hitting into a man who could do no wrong.

3 set points were erased against Blake, and soon Federer had one. It was all he needed. The set was Federer's. It had been Blake's, but Federer snatched it right out of his hands, and slammed it down on his side.

The next set was pathetic, in the classic Greek sense. Noble Blake was on the verge of tears at the beginning of the set. I'm not sure I didn't see a little moisture in his eyes, but don't tell anyone I said so. I don't like Blake's style at all. He plays a game of pure power with no margin. But I sure like Blake. I would gladly serve with him anywhere, any time. He is the consumate sportsman, and has the tenderest heart of anyone out there. That he could weep on that stage, in that moment, is a weakness, but what a glorious weakness.

He lost that set 0-6.

He was doomed in the third set as well, but his professionalism asserted itself. It didn't matter whether he won or lost any more. He was going to play the game like a man. Slowly, painfully, he fired laser blasts back at his Jedi nemesis. Contrary to all expectations, he held twice for 2-2. Asking for a third hold, was too much, though, and he fell behind 2-4.

And he broke back for 3-4!!!!

Where did that come from? He stopped the master! Federer is known for stomping on people when they're down - granted, he uses a velvet boot, but he never lets a beaten man breathe. Blake had taken his game to Federer.

He stood to the line to serve again, and the crowd gave the chair umpire a rousing raspberry by doing the wave twice around the stadium despite his clearly spoken, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, but play is about to resume." Federer backed away from the service line, and Blake just stood there and glowed in the joy of the moment - he was where he wanted to be; with his fans, his game, and his nemesis - and he loved it.

The third set went to a tiebreak.

Blake actually had 5 - yes, 5 - set points in that tiebreak. He had worked hard to jump out in front so fast. Federer swatted them all away with errorless precision. Hearts were broken all over America, and on one side of that net. Blake alternated between his soldier face, and his warrior face. Yes, there's a huge difference. A soldier gives his life for a cause. A warrior takes his opponent's life. The one look Blake never had was the quitter's.

He stood in like a man.

At 8-9, Federer served for the match. Blake returned it, to live for one more stroke, but Federer put it high into Blake's backhand. And Blake drilled it flat into Federer's forehand corner. Federer didn't even take a step. The shot was too good.

If Federer had made that shot, Blake would have said, loudly enough for us on TV to hear him, "Too good." It's one of the things that makes Blake who he is, and one of the things that I just love about him. Federer, looked down at his racket, and lined up to serve again.

Blake tagged the ball in that rally too!

Now the ball was on Blake's racket at 10-9, and he had his 5th match point.

He served and stepped in. Federer returned well, but short, and Blake drilled into into the center of the court and followed the ball to the net. Federer's return came right at Blake, and he volleyed into the deep backhand. Federer stepped over for it, and forgot to put his foot on the ground. Falling to his knees, Federer still managed to put a racket on the ball, but it sailed forty feet long, and it was over.

Blake had taken a set off the Jedi.

Many players have been handed a set by Federer, but they were not player enough to receive it, and Federer snatched it back at the last minute. A few have held on, and gotten their set. Blake ripped this one from Federer's fingers while he was clearly on form.


Federer took the 4th set, as he surely should have. Blake gave him a little scare when he started to choke. If Federer was going to hand out a free set, Blake was certainly going to take it. But Federer closed the match down resoundingly, and Blake went back to the practice court.

I don't know whether Blake will ever string together three perfect sets, and beat the light sabre with a blaster. I rather doubt he will. But he knows now that it's possible.


Bagel of the Year:

I hand out the bagel of the year to the producers of the CBS coverage in their promotion of Sharapova's glistening legs to the exclusion of her more highly rated opponent. Come on people! I would rather see Sharapova beat Miss Anti-Sportsmanship, but when you run 3 spots of 30 seconds each on the US Open Women's final, you MUST give at least 1 second to the other opponent.

Literally. Not one shot of Henin-Hardenne appeared in 3 - 30 second spots until both of their head shots were put on the screen side-by-side.

It's the tennis. Focus!



Federer in 4 over Roddick. Roddick is playing better, but he's not playing "Blake" better, much less "Federer" better. If Federer is Obi-Wan, and Blake is Solo, then Roddick is Greedo. (And yes, I know Solo shot first.)

Henin-Hardenne in 3 close ones over Sharapova. Get real. Yes, Sharapova has awesome focus. (BTW, if you have not seen the commercial of Sharapova and "I Feel Pretty," you MUST correct that deficiency. It's excellent!) But excellent focus cannot correct the fact that she has a one-dimensional game. Henin-Hardenne's all-court power/touch game will prevail.

08 September, 2006

Humor: Life

Courtesy of Locusts and Honey, the perfect picture of life.

Engaging God: Steering into Trouble

I have shied away from talking about engaging God since I started this whole blog experience. It's pretty easy to explain why. It's terrifying.

Engaging God is terrifying, but we all have to do it anyway. Admitting publicly that I have really experienced God is awkward, but awkward doesn't seem to stop me often. Trying to find words to capture the experience, though, is utterly daunting. I'd rather write a whole post about how hard it is to write a post about engaging God, than to actually write the post I know I should.

So, let it be known that this is hard, but I hope it's a living experience.


Carrie Underwood sings (and maybe wrote, I never know) Jesus Take the Wheel.

Here's a part from the middle with the chorus.

She was sooo scared
She threw her hands up in the air

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel

There are a lot of details to complain about in this song, but I go verklempt every time I sing it anyway. I can't tell you how many times I've been so scared I just threw my hands up and hoped Jesus would steer, so scared I froze with my arms wrapped around my head while I hurtled toward an oncoming bus.

Jesus never took the wheel.

My God let me crash.

He does that.

In the stories everyone tells, it's like God is playing chicken with Satan, and Satan's driving a bus. He lets our little car keep speeding up, and keep guiding toward that bus, until it seems like it's impossible to find a happy ending. The tension is so thick you could cut it with butter, and nobody can see a way out. Life about to crush us, and then bingo! The miracle comes. God waited until the last possible moment to steer us clear of Satan's devices.

It didn't work that way for Jesus, and I don't find it works that way for me.

No, I am not talking about our Lord's death and resurrection. I am talking about the temptation in the wilderness. I am talking about Jesus standing on the hill overlooking Jerusalem, longing for His people to turn back and love Him. I'm talking about Jesus abandoned in prayer by His friends, in the dark by all His disciples, and in broad daylight by His entire nation.

It didn't work that way for Paul. Paul, who was beaten time and again for having the gall to spend his life destroying his body traveling between churches. Paul, who gave his last testimony alone because his brothers turned aside from him. Paul who died at the hands of his enemies with so much work left to do.

God may play chicken with Satan, but if He does, He sure decides not to steer away an awful lot.

And it's our hearts that are broken in the crash.


Well the obvious and real reason is that I made mistakes. Every scar I bear is my own fault. Nobody did anything to me that I didn't call down on myself to one degree or another. The claim to holiness was reserved to Job.

But, I prayed for wisdom, and I meant it. I prayed for guidance, and hedges and that His will would be done, not mine. None of it worked. I still crashed.

So, Why?

Another real reason is sin. Sin works in me, warring against law of my mind, causing me to do that which I would not. Sin works in the flesh of my brothers and sisters, and those who don't know the Lord. Satan works too. If it were not for sin and Satan, that bus would never be headed in my direction, and I could never have crashed. There would have been nothing to hit.

But even so, God could turn them aside, and He doesn't. For some, especially privileged people, God even gives Satan a free hand.


Not, "Why did this happen to me?" but, "Why didn't God take the wheel?" "Why didn't God send someone into my life with that one little clue that would have changed everything?" Not, "Why me?" but, "Why didn't God ...?"

No, I don't know the answer.


I don't know why God didn't take the wheel in my life.

I have learned a little something about it, though.

I have learned that He is not scared.

I am terrified, but He has complete confidence in me. That is an other-worldly, unimaginable, insane sentence, but it's true. It is totally unbelievable, except that God really does have confidence in me. His confidence is not that I will steer clear of the crash, but that I will walk away from it. He knows that some day I will sing. His confidence is that when the bones have set, and the stitches have healed, I will love Him even better than I could have dreamt of loving Him before.

His confidence is really in Himself, and how He will woo me during those long, long nights of healing.

Evil comes into our lives, and when it does it is evil. Christians seem to try to convince each other that evil is good, because God intends it for good. It is not. Evil is in this world, and when buses hit us, it is evil. God even seems to protect the drivers of those figurative buses as much as His own children (Please know that I don't have anything against professional bus drivers - all metaphor here.) He sends His rain on the just and the unjust, because His love is perfect. Even as they sin against us, God allows them to live another day. Even the saints under the throne cry out for God to execute judgement, but He is patient.

He gives them more time to repent.

Just like He gave us.

And the sin crashes into our lives, and we cannot steer clear of it, and He won't take the wheel to steer us clear of it.

But don't all things work together for us who are called to be confirmed to the glorious image of Christ?

Yes. God redeems all these things. And He makes all things beautiful.

I praise God for the buses that have torn through my life.

There are some things in my life to which I do not yet see the beauty, but they are fewer every year. God has met me in desparate times and thorny places that were NOT of my choosing, but they have become beautiful to me. He was there. The old Footprints in the Sand story is simple, but it is so very, very true. God did not keep me from being knocked off my feet, but He dressed my wounds and carried me while I healed - and my spirit was infused with His presence.

It was during those times that Jesus and I fell in love.

I don't see it, but I trust He is conforming me to His image. What I can see is that He is reshaping my mental picture of what "Lovely" is like with every crash. My idea of "Beautiful" looks more like the real Jesus every year, and He holds a bigger part of my heart after every long night of healing.

I still won't ever steer into a crash, but I fear each one a little less. I know the Nurse really well now, and I treasure that time with Him.

He loves perfectly.

07 September, 2006

Steve Irwin: Interview from 2001 by Scientific American

I was never a big fan, though I respected his work. When I saw this interview in Scientific American, I knew that it would interest some of you greatly, so I am linking it here.


06 September, 2006

Songs: Why 20 year olds should not be allowed to write them

This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything that you dreamed
That it would be when the world was younger,
And you had everything to lose?

This song, This is Your Life, never fails to depress. It got me pretty good on the way home today.

They are trying to encourage themselves to make good choices. I get the idea. And I could have written the same kind of thing when I was their age, except that I was failing at so much of life then, too. Somehow, challenging me not to have failed for the last 42 years just doesn't encourage me much.

No. Life isn't everything I'd dreamed.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me.

05 September, 2006

Presbuteras: Summary and Index

Well, some day I am going to want to find these, so I had better index them. Who knows, maybe even some of you will want this. You should be able to find this post by searching for "Presbuteras codepoke summary" on any major engine. That's how I'll find it when the time comes.

As I reread them (skim them) I am disappointed at how long and rambly they are. I'm sure, now that they are written, that I could shorten them. Well - maybe I could add more content to them and keep them the same length. We all know that I cannot really shorten anything. I hope that they were not too very awful to read.

The comments make the difference for me. Without them, these would be half as valuable as they are (which avoids saying how valueless they were without them. :-)

Thank you all for keeping me typing.

In chronological order:

Presbuteras: Before I Start
The subject of women living in submission under men is a very personal one, and one about which feelings always run deep. Before starting, and before emotions have gotten wrapped up in the discussion of theological matters, I address the reality of the abuse of women under the protection of complementarian churches. Complementarianism does not cause this abuse, but it has not demonstrated the ability to address it.

Presbuteras: to Weekend Fisher
Weekend Fisher asked whether addressing an already emotional subject so emotionally might possibly be inappropriate, and added several points on reacting to abuse. I agreed with most of her points, and answered a couple. Find her post linked at the top of this one.

Presbuteras: What difference could it make?
I contend that women should be brought into full leadership in the church. I obviously believe that there is something to be gained by doing so, but what? Feminine insight and perspective directly involved in setting the vision and overseeing the follow-through of the church will strengthen us all.

Presbuteras: The Image of God
Women bear half of the image of God, Who is neither male nor female, and Who has both male and female attributes. The church cannot fully display the image of God when half His image is barred from setting the vision and course of the body. 1 Corinthians 11:7 has been used to suggest that women do not bear the image of God. Comparing scripture to scripture, we see that this interpretation must be wrong, or this verse would stand alone as an island.

Presbuteras: 1 Cor 11:1-16 - Veiling the Daughters of God
The great headcovering passage stands alone in scripture. There is no other passage that suggests that women should be veiled before God, so the interpretation of this passage must be rock solid for the practice to stand. It is another island in scripture. Actually, the traditional interpretation falls apart very quickly. Paul is here attempting both to end the practice of male head covering, as shameful before the Lord Who bought them, and to barely permit women to veil if not doing so would shame their husbands.

Presubuteras: Silencing the Daughters of God - 1 Cor 14:34 & 35
Paul does not tell women to be silent in the churches of God. Jewish legalists wrote a letter to Paul, asking him to confirm a number of their cherished traditions. Paul here quotes from that letter, as he solidly tells the Jewish crowd that the word of God did not come from them, and it will not be silenced. Women are not to be silenced during the meetings of the church.

The Familyhood Church: Presbuteras: Passing Over the Daughters of God
Paul's letters to Titus and Timothy describe the character of elders and deacons. Women are not directly mentioned in these descriptions. Does this mean that women cannot hold these positions? No. Phoebe is proof enough that women can be everything that these passages allow.

Presbuteras: Phebe - "Deacon?" - Demoting the Daughters of God - Rom 16:1&2
Phoebe's role as a true and meaningful deacon defended in detail.

Presbuteras: Subjecting the Daughters of the Lord - 1 Tim 2:11-15
Paul forbids women to take authority, but does he forbid all women to take any authority, or some women to take some authority. In light of the rest of scripture, and of Paul's comfort level working with women, it is hard to imagine that he prohibits all women from taking any leadership here. The work of Dr. Ann Nyland bears this hypothesis out from the Greek. Paul is specifically and directly confronting an Ephesian variation of gnosticism.

Presbuteras: The Early Church?
Is the tenor of the scripture as a whole really set against women taking authority? No. There are numerous examples of women in positions of authority in the church. This post contains links to 3 other posts that give copious details.

Presbuteras: Following the Daughters of God - Gen 21:12
What will it look like if women are not given the authority scripture allows to them?

Complementarianism needs to change to deal with the present and real effects that the recent cultural changes have had on women. It is not enough just to throw out proof texts, and let women figure out how to fit into their mould. Women will force themselves into that mould, but it is wrong to ask them to do so.

And what if they are given true, spiritual authority?

A number things will change, though the changes may not be dramatic from the first day.


The scripture calls us to discover whole truth about God, and we need our sisters to step up to this last plate before we can answer that call. Here's praying that it happens soon.


03 September, 2006

Presbuteras: Following the Daughters of God - Gen 21:12

Gen 21:12 ... in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Abraham was about to make a mistake, when God told him to listen to his wife.

Why would God do that?

It's simple, really. Sarah was right, and Abraham was wrong.

Care to guess why I desire to submit to women in the church?

I know a 75 year old woman who knows the scripture and who knows pain. She's right and the men she follows are wrong a predictable portion of the time. She should be leading in that body. If she were, it would be a different and better place.


I was thinking about practical rules to put in place to move women into leadership in our churches.

First, turning the church entirely over to women is never what I wanted, so don't sweat that. It's not practical, and not profitable. Neither is making a rule that it is OK for women to lead, and waiting until the Spirit brings along Paulette the Apostlette. If a church waits for a woman so impressive that nobody could gainsay her appointment, no progress will be made.

I came up with the number, 20%.

20% seemed eminently practical. One in every five is enough to sway a vote, and few enough to allow women to mature into the position.

Then 2 details came to light that made me grin. First, DugALug let us know that 20% of the leadership in his church is female. Second, 20% of all legislators in America are female. I have not done an analysis of the names and roles mentioned in the new testament, but I'd just about bet that there's about a 1 to 4 ratio of women to men there, too.

So 20% really does seem like a good number. I think it's a great place to start. The next step is simple.

If your church has 4 elders, you should immediately appoint your most qualified woman to be the 5th elder.


Now, assume your church does the opposite. Your church decides that women's roles are limited by scripture.

What do I think will happen?

* Your explanation is going to have to get a lot better
You can tell a child that the "music truck" drives through his neighborhood every afternoon so that people can enjoy its (tired, boring, old) songs. That will last until the child notices his friends getting ice cream from it, and then things are going to have to change. You don't have to buy the ice cream, but you know you're going to have to come up with a real answer to his tough questions.

Today, I am prevented from being in a church led by my elder sister, my mother in the Lord, and I know that I could be. I've seen the ice cream in the workplace, and I've seen it in government, and I've seen it in my recreations. I want to see this woman leading in the church. I know she could be setting an agenda that would warm my heart, but she is prevented. She has no husband, and she has no other man's ear, so she will never have any kind of voice in her church. I want my ice cream. I need a better explanation why I cannot serve under her.

Throwing 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 11 & 14 at me and expecting me to stand down won't work, either. Even if I thought there was merit to the traditional interpretation, that's not an explanation. That's laziness. I need to hear how this church plans to ensure gender-based abuse will stop. I need to hear how they expect the full masculine and feminine sides of the image of God to be displayed before the world without direct feminine input. I need to hear how women with the gift of teaching will be encouraged to live out their calling. I need to hear how women with a vision for the church will be heard. I need to hear how, when the time comes that Sarah has a truth that Abraham lacks, Sarah will be heard.

If you want me to be happy in your church, build me a picture that I can get excited about.

No, I don't believe that you can.

* Women will continue to support your church
Women, please forgive me for what I am about to say. I know it is unpleasant, but I believe it is true.

You may not have noticed, but the most passionate defenders of complementarianism are women. You may also not have noticed, but most of the passionate defenders of the burka are the women who wear it. It's like Stockholm Syndrome, and it is a painful thing to watch.

Women, being dynamic living beings just like all of us, want to share in every facet of the church. They are told from the time they are 6 years old, though, that it is rebellion to want to speak truth to men. This is unnatural. It is confusing and painful.

Men, truly take a minute to imagine that you read in scripture that people with eyes the color of yours are not allowed to speak in a bible study - ever. Really, think about it. Eye color. It's a flawed, but useful analogy because it is completely out of your control. Imagine that Jewish men have thanked God for millenia that they were born with ANY other eye color than yours. From the time you were six, every bible teaching you received about speaking the truth had a little parenthesis added to it about your eye color. Before you were 20, you had been told 500 times or more that your eye color just doesn't see some truths of God, so you must submit to everyone else. You live in a community that will never, ever let you forget that you are different. Even in marriage, your sole job is to make sure your "other-colored" mate is able to do those things for God that you cannot.

You have a choice. Will you or won't you give up your desire to speak? Catch that. You must give up the desire to share God's truth. Anything less is a rebellion of the heart. You want to serve the Lord, but you mustn't do it by teaching. You want to talk about Him, even as you're sweeping floors for Him. You'll gladly be a janitor, but can't you just say a word or two? Can't you declare before the congregation the things that fill your heart?

You have a choice. You can either live with this secret rebellion in your heart, or you can turn fanatically against it. You love the Lord, so you will decide to purge yourself of this unholy desire to speak when your eyes are the wrong color. You will prove your zeal to yourself, to God and to your brothers by not even wishing your eye color was different, and squelching any who do. Your submission will be known to all when you argue against anyone who supports the holy hunger that still cowers in in the corner of your heart.

Women will support your church and its laws.

Shame on you for letting them.


Assume your church does put women in positions of true leadership.

What do I think will happen?

* The sun will rise in the morning, just like yesterday.
Hey. I know this isn't going to cure the common cold. It's likely to result in more chicken soup being handed out when the cold runs it course through the church, though. Let's face it. We men pretty much look at whoever is sniffling and tell them to buck up. But we all like it when someone we love brings us a cup o' soup.

Our problems won't go away because women are allowed to tackle them with us. We'll just have a more perfectly balanced set of tools with which to address them.

* The henpecking will go down by half.
Seriously, do we think it could be made worse? Do you complain more when you can or when you cannot directly improve your situation? Receiving authority always reduces complaints, or the whole of corporate America would not be singing the praises of empowerment. When you can control your own destiny, you don't complain; you throw your back into making things better. Much of the nagging in this world is an expression of helplessness, not bitterness. As soon as the disease is addressed, the symptom will fade on its own.

* Priorities will shift by about 20%, but that 20% will make a huge difference.
Women "do" life differently than men.

Take the example above with Sarah and Abraham. Women are criticized for being territorial, but Sarah was being territorial in that moment. That's cool because God needed someone to stand up and be territorial. Abraham was not going to be able to do it, so God placed Abraham into submission to Sarah. (OK, OK. Maybe God placed Abraham into submission to the truth that Sarah was declaring. :-)

Men and women cave on different issues, and stand firm on different issues. Women are caring and territorial. Men are goal oriented and hierarchical. Some men are more naturally caring than others, and some women are more naturally hierarchical. That's cool. The point is not to define the stereotype perfectly, but to get the benefits of balance. Yes, all men should learn to be more caring, and all women should learn to... well something, I'm sure. ;-), but that's peripheral. The point is to balance the church, and the balance will best come by putting women on the scales along with the men. Asking men to change their spots just ain't a recipe for success.

I don't even want to know what happens if women are running everything. I'm sure it would not be pretty. But, we already know what happens when men run everything. We get exactly what the male stereotype predicts. We get thousands of denominations, and the threat of another church split with every disagreement. We get doctrinal litmus tests, and a pecking order of theological machismo in every church. We get a church in which cool programs are launched to help widows and orphans and then forgotten as soon as the next goal shines just over the horizon.

* More needs will be seen
Women are amazed at how we men don't care about the needs all around us. But, that's exactly why we need women in leadership.

Us male creatures care deeply, once somebody helps us see what what to care for. Our eyes are on goals. The church is not praying. We are not deeply enough into the word. There are 34,827 people in our sub metro area, of whom 16,289 are probably unchurched and 853 may never have heard the gospel. You say Mary's roof is leaking? Wow! Why hasn't someone done something about that?! Let me get on the phone! We'll have Mary a new roof this week.

We may carry coffee around just like women, but we don't talk about the same things while we are doing it.

* Third party church leadership will end
The solution to unseen needs is not for women to, "tell their husbands."

Third party leadership is demeaning to everyone involved, and it is vastly less effective than first party leadership. Please, just let the woman who sees the problem have the power to call in every necessary resource to fix it. There is no good argument against this.


The status quo is gone. Grasping at the traditional interpretations is clinging to the railings of a sinking ship.

Our sisters have already tasted total freedom in every sphere of life, except the church, and that taste cannot be taken back. If you believe feminine freedom to be the curse of Pandora, and that it must be fixed, then do it wisely. It is the work of fools to try to turn back the hands of time, and to make believe that women cannot lead men. It is the work of slave masters to quote a verse, and to expect quiet obedience. It is the work of the kingdom to set captives free.

If you believe you can do this, and if you do cling to the traditional interpretation of Paul, then tell me how you will set my sisters free. If you believe you can draw out every gift God gave to women. If you believe you can stop the history of abuse that women have suffered under the church's care. If you believe you can find a way for my 75 year old mother in the Lord to be truly fulfilled and obedient to the scriptures while hiding truth she has received out of them under a bushel basket, then paint that picture.

I believe you will find your labors wasted. Paul is the only writer ever accused of saying anything against women being in charge, and he never said what you ascribe to him. An open look at each of Paul's statements shows that in every case he sets women free. We don't appeal weakly to culture, or to times having changed to sweep Paul's words under a rug. Paul worked easily and happily with women, and he wanted to see them trained and respected as leaders. His words to Corinth and Timothy show that clearly enough.

Instead, let's take a brave look at what it means for women to to be presbuteras - elders. Let's see how far the church can go when everyone in the ship has their oars in the water, and is rowing for all they're worth and according to the gifts God has given them. It may be that there are ways of loving God, loving each other, and overcoming the world that remain to be displayed before men and angels. Let's go through the door Paul threw open.

If you wonder how to make the church more effective, you could do worse than to remember the Lord said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."

We need each other.