31 October, 2006

Predestination: Eph 1:b - The Revelation and the Inheritance

I have about a half hour to kill, and a blackberry. Our parking garage is jammed up all the way to the the fifth floor. But, things are moving, if ever so slowly, and there are little kids hoping the Great Pumpkin comes. So, I must not give up and go to a restaurant to wait it out. I must get home, and hand out the candy!

Hmmm, and my power brakes won't kick in until I build up some speed.


I needed a leg workout anyway.

So, the question arises whether this was little predicament was predestined, or whether it is merely the outworking of a sinful world supported by the providence of God. Did God foreordain me to endure this parking jam before the world was created?

The largest objections to predestination in our little discussions have circled around the love of God, and the will of man. A predestinationist seems to assert that the love of God does not extend to those who are not elect. (Let's just agree to ignore those predestinationists who believe God created a group of reprobates for the pleasure of damning them. Nobody here thinks that.) If God knows that a person will eventually be damned, can He still love that person? What if the only reason a person is saved is because God gave special grace? Then God becomes the efficient cause of every damnation.

Could a loving God possibly withhold grace?

The predestinationist seems to say, "Yes, God has withheld grace." The rest seem to say that God has given His grace equally to all out of His equal love to all, but that some decline to receive it.

And then there is the argument from human nature. To recall Dostoesvsky's line of reasoning, man treasures above all other advantages, the right to capriciously choose even that which is to his own detriment. I could choose to drive all the way back up to the 5th floor right now if I wanted to (I am down to the second floor now) and I treasure that freedom. In exactly the same way, I could choose hell with a clear eye, and many do.

The argument continues that by honoring man with this ability, God gives man the highest degree of respect. And by rewarding man's choice of hell with eternal punishment, God affords his choice the ultimate dignity. God gives man a tremendous gift in free will, and exacts of him a tremendous price in honor of that gift.

And could a man who was nothing more than a piano key truly love God? If man falls in love with His God at the time and to the degree that God fingers his heart, is what man experiences love at all? Or merely the tinkling of a sounding piano? And could our love survive the revelation if we found out we were not its authors?

(I'm out of the garage, and onto real pavement now! Halloween may yet be saved.)


Time flies.

It is now almost 4 hours after the start of this post. 1.5 of those hours were spent getting from the office to home. There, I found that my son had decided to have mercy on the munchkins, and stayed home to hand out candy until I arrived to free him for an evening of rock climbing ... but he forgot to turn on the porch light. Chuckles. :-)

I handed out happiness to nothing but little kids tonight. It's wonderful to have gotten such a batch of pleasant little kids. Last year was a little rougher. I don't know why.

Dinner. A little discussion with the boy, and the dishes are done. My side work can wait until this is posted, and all is well with the world.


So, as I post Eph 1:b, you know the questions. How do you think this passage answers them? Was I fated to spend 45 minutes going from the 5th to the bottom floor of my parking garage tonight? Was I doomed to love the Lord and be thankful the experience? Or might I have resisted God's will, and been grumpy, bitter and damned?

Eph 1:6-13
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

30 October, 2006

A Note to a Niece

Update: I completely forgot to come back and link to Blest, who made the necklaces! I meant to do so immediately, but .... :8(


I wrote a birthday note to my nieces, and thought you might get a kick out of seeing how I torment the youth in my life. I have anonymized it, in case you are wondering why I use the awkward, "your cousin," over and over.


Happy Birthday, (Niece)!

11 years old. I remember a little bit about being 11. My teacher was Mrs. Smith, and she was really different. She was always going 100 miles an hour, and she wanted to show us a dozen new things every day. The world was really exciting for her, and we used to like the fun things she did. Your mom probably remembers more about her than I do, but I bet she was probably a hippy at heart. Mostly, 6th grade, though, was the last grade before Junior High. :-)

Your cousin is 18 years old, and she is in college right now. I'm guessing that sounds like it is really old to you, and like it will be a lifetime before you are 18 years old and in college. To me, it sounds like the blink of an eye.

In my mind, I imagine you reading this silly little birthday letter, and right about here your eyes feel a little dry and you blink. When your eyes open, your hand is big enough to wrap around a baseball, and you are so well trained in English that you can see all the little punctuation errors I make in this letter. Suddenly, you are 18 years old, and you are away in a dorm room in college looking at the present your crazy, old uncle just sent you and reading this note.

It's funny for you, being in college.

You have a lot more friends, and they are better friends, but you don't have as much time to be with them. And a lot of what you do together is work.

You have more friends because the more adult a person becomes, the more they work to accept the people around them. Some of the kids that you didn't like back in grade school, you like now because you are more mature. Your cousin went to a movie the other night with her friends, but it was not just any movie. She went to a movie where her friend was acting. Kind of. Everyone knows the movie, so some of the kids dress up like the actors and actresses in the movie, and while the movie is showing on the screen, they stand up on the stage and act the movie out! So, you can watch the movie and you can watch your friends acting the movie at the same time. In grade school, that friend might have seemed wierd, but in college she's just a lot of fun.

Acting a movie like that sounds like a lot of fun to me! I was jealous.

Your friends are better, because they let you be different. When I was a kid, I used to get teased because I was a dork, and none of the kids would hang out with me. Now that I'm an adult, I get teased because I'm still a dork, but everyone hangs out with me anyway and we have fun. It's not like I suddenly became one of the cool kids. They just learned that dorks can be fun, too, and we talk and laugh a lot. Let's just say there wasn't much laughing with the other kids for us dorks when I was your age.

In college, you don't have as much time with the other kids, even though they are great friends, because you have so much to do. Grade school is an odd time, because you are learning harder and harder stuff, and for the littlest reasons. Learning how to count is pretty easy. But learning how to add is harder. Learning how to subtract is even harder. Then multiplying is really hard, and dividing (especially long division) is really hard to do right. And the only reason for learning that math is so you can learn harder math later!

Ah, but now that you have blinked, and you are in college you know why you are learning all that.

Your cousin is still not sure what she is going to be, but she is thinking about biology now. Biologists study living things. They are not doctors, who try to heal people and animals, but scientists who try to understand what kinds of things are alive, and how they succeed at life. So they study how many ants can live in one anthill if there are berries around, or how long a cell can live in your body if you eat nothing but peanut butter. It takes really hard math to figure out the answers to those questions, but it's OK, because she knows that she wants to do it. Now that you're in college, you know why you are working, too.

And it's really cool, because your college friends are all working as hard as you are, and a lot of the time they are learning the same stuff that you are. Back when you were in grade school, everyone was always learning the same thing, but it's not like that in college. Everyone wants to do something different, so everyone is learning something different. But, you are never learning anything alone. If you are taking biology, there are forty other kids learning it with you, and you get to work on biology together. You are allowed to help each other a lot, and it makes learning a lot more fun.

Some of your friends are taking biology with you, and some of them are taking math, but there's a lot more to take. Maybe you are taking literature. That's probably the most fun thing to take in college. I know it sounds boring, but it's not. In grade school, you had to learn where to put a comma in a sentence. (Or your, sentences, would be really hard, to read.) In college, you know all that, and now you are working on what you really mean to say when you are writing. Studying literature is studying what happens inside people's hearts and minds when good things and bad things happen to them.

I just read a book about a man who was so mean that he hurt all his friends, and lived his whole life alone. There was even a girl who wanted to fall in love with him, and he was so mean that he hurt her feelings and she never came back. But, the book was not about what happened. The book was about what he was thinking the whole time while he was being so mean. It was scary and cool, because so many of the things that he was thinking are things that I think too, but am afraid to admit. For 100 pages, I got to be someone that I am afraid to be, and that I don't even want to be. I got to feel what it is like to be a nasty person, and think about it. So, I got to learn some things that I do that are stupid, and hopefully, I learned not to do them as much.

If you are taking literature in college, you are learning what it's like to be a completely different kind of person than you are now.

But, you also get to do more fun stuff. Your cousin lives 600 miles away from me. I can't even tell you what she's doing any more, because I don't know, but she tells me that it's really exciting. Now that you are 18, bet you are doing some exciting things too.

You look away from this little letter, and you think about what you are going to do tonight, and you get a little smile on your face.

And you blink again.

And your hand won't wrap around a baseball any more. Suddenly, it's 2006 again, and you're not 18 any more. You have to go back to grade school again tomorrow, and learn all that boring stuff. But some day... Some day it will be just like the blink of an eye, and you will be on your way to having your own family, and your own kids to teach about life.

And then you'll be glad that you didn't hurry, and skip all the way to 18 years old in a blink. Really.


I hope you like your necklace. I know you look really, really pretty anyway, but I hope you're just a little prettier with it on.

I had a friend who makes jewelry for people all over the world make it for you. I tried to design it for you the best I could, and I hope I did alright. If not, forgive me, and know that I love you anyway.

Happy Birthday!

29 October, 2006

Presbuteras: Junia

If anyone would like to participate in a thorough discussion of whether Junia was an apostle, one is going on now at Better Bibles Blog.

After 3 posts, Suzanne has pretty much finished the initial look at whether Junia was a woman. I cannot begin to predict the level of detail to which she will drive, but it's all good stuff so far. She has found and posted a quote from men who quote the only ancient to identify Junia as a man.

Given Suzanne's level of scholarship, and the training of the regular commenters over there, and my lack of both, I will probably be silent for a good while, but I've learned a lot already.

Junia, the Apostle: Part 1
Junia, the Apostle: Part 2
Junia, the Apostle: Part 3

28 October, 2006

Engaging God: Hearing from your kids

My daughter is in college now. It's a good thing. I'm happy (aside from the occasional day when everything seems to pile in on me - well you know) and I'm happy that she is kicking butt on her new challenges.

It's funny, though. It is just exactly like the cartoons all say it will be. I only hear from her when she needs something.

Her needs are commendable. They are light, and she is flexible about them. She is frugal without being miserly toward herself, and I applaud her. I even love to hear that she needs something that I can provide. It is my joy to bring her joy.

The other day, though, I got a call from her. I braced myself. I always fear that something awful has happened, and that she needs something terrible, and that I won't be able help her. I never know what she might need, but I fear it anyway.

She was going to a movie.

She called me along the way. Just to chat. It was one of the high points of my month.

And so it is with our Father.

We can pray to Him for no better reason than to be with Him. And when we do, we can be assured that we have given Him great cause for joy. He rejoices when one sheep returns to Him, and He rejoices every single time we come back to Him. He loves us, and He loves to hear our voices.

The plural in that last sentence is more than significant to me. That plural is actually the subject of this post. Consider that it is our voices that He loves to hear. Not my voice and your voice spratley, but our voices joined together. Consider that when we gather, we have the opportunity to do more than sing, listen and learn. We have the opportunity to share our love, our passion.

When a tennis bud and I meet, we dispense with discussion of the weather and the kids in moments. Soon we are talking about Federer (who won Madrid handily, btw,) injuries, and points we wish someone had been watching. Nobody has to make us talk about tennis! Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

How much does that experience remind you of your last trip to church?

Is it a testimony to lukewarmness that we don't talk of Him incessantly from the moment we hit the church doors? Or is it a testimony to our low training?

With better training, would we talk of Him more? Would we talk to Him more?


If I say that we should talk to God without requesting anything of Him, what do you think of saying?

Praise, right? We think of praising Him for what He has done for us. The wonders of the world around us. The beautiful provision He has made for us every day of our lives. The constant care He takes of us. The way that He came and suffered to save us. The fact that we are redeemed because of all He did.

Amen. This is a good thing.

But what if I say we should talk to God without mentioning ourselves at all, not as needy, and not even as blessed. What would you think of saying then?

Have you ever been taught to pray without mentioning yourself? I hadn't. My experience is not universal. If I have learned anything in this year of blogging, it is that everyone has learned something different in their pursuit of God. :-) I went 20 years as a Christian without ever having heard anyone mention such a thing. Now, I cannot imagine living without it.

Once, for a few years, I was in a group that regularly prayed together without ever mentioning themselves. It was food in the desert, and manna in the wilderness. For a few minutes the world faded away, and the taste of heaven was everywhere.

My little girl called the other night, and nothing else mattered.

I suspect our Father feels a lot the same.

27 October, 2006

Touching Base

So much going on. :-)

I know I have been late posting for weeks now. It's worse than that. I have had at least 8 posts just rot and die in the mind during those weeks. I hate that. Ideas should not just be allowed to shrivel up in loneliness.

In fact, I am only writing now because I jogged three miles in the rain to make it to the repair shop to pick up my car, and they are not here yet. Grrrr. I want to give them my $2k, and get on with my day. But, at least I have my Crackberry to keep me company, which is a lot like having all of you out here standing in the rain with me. :-)

And that $2k is tied in with me not writing, too. I am approaching a deadline on the bit of sidework that will pay for a major portion of this car repair, so I have been trying shoehorn 15 more hours into my week while getting 1/2 hour more sleep each day. Hey! It's a plan, not a promise.

And it is "feast" time at work. I had been deadly bored for months, but I fixed that. All of my suggestions were taken at once. I now literally have 5 projects to do. 2 I can back-burner, but the other three all come due at once. I love this stuff. Nothing makes me feel like going to work like the certainty of failure (in small doses.) I love to prove reality wrong.

Anyway, I still love you all. Probably in a month or so, I will be trying to wear ya'll down with 30 pagers again, but until then I'll just keep up with the short thoughts.

We will get back to Eph 1.

23 October, 2006

Predestination: Capricious Conclusion

I am listening to Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground on tape.

Evidently, this was his breakout novel, if you can call it that, and the thoughts he introduces here underpin the rest of his writings. I'm enjoying the book enough that I will probably go ahead and listen to Crime and Punishment.

The protagonist has an immense amount of fun with his depressing and negative view of life, so I am loving it. I have spent the first couple hours of the book with a huge smile on my face. I don't know whether that's appropriate, but there you have it.

Our cave-dwelling, bureaucratic, emotional writer (I don't know why the book appeals to me. :-) goes on at length before he seems to arrive at the keystone of his argument. He begins to rail against predestinationists - scientific predestinationists, but all the same - and their understanding of man as a creature that seeks his own best good. He talks of advantage, and how men are always supposed to be seeking their own best advantage. He thinks that is all well and good, but that they leave the best advantage of all out of their calculations.

In assuming that man wants peace, wealth, and freedom, the scientists become unable to predict a real man's behavior. The man will often do that which is not to his own advantage, and no scientist can explain why. They are able to prove with certainty that every man always does what he perceives to be to his best advantage. And, yes, they can prove it with mathematical precision, but they can only prove it using math. A man is not a "math," and they cannot explain, much less predict, what a whole man will do in real life.

"Twice two makes four," he says (and I lifted the phrase in my previous post because it's really cool) is simply not true of a man. If it were true, it were no sense to bother being a man. A man is but a ledger entry if, "twice two makes four," can explain him. There has to be something more.

(Those of you who may know Dostoevsky inside and out, please forgive me. All this is from one listen, one third of the way through, to my first of his books. I cannot reference anything but memory to see if I'm portraying him even reasonably close to rightly. Much less do I know whether he undoes everything he says in part 1 before he closes part 3. Part 1 was just fascinating enough to give it a post.)

Dostoevsky finds his answer in, "caprice."

Man finds his greatest advantage sometimes in the simple exercise of caprice. Man wants to be able to go his own way even more than he wants to go the best way. It is for freedom that he was set free (I believe the verse allusion to be mine, not the author's,) and he will run freely, whatever the cost. He will spite even himself, if in so doing he might distance himself from twice two is four. The conscious exercise of caprice is so great an advantage, in and of itself, as to often overrule all the advantages of being right.

What think ye?

Does predestination require deterministic fatalism? (Am I just living out a script, and have no control over the outcome?)

Is caprice a great advantage? (Is the exercise of free will more beneficial than doing good for others?)

Is caprice an outcome of the fall? (If I were not a fallen man, would I always do the right thing, even if it were predictable?)

22 October, 2006

Bible Study: Thou hast the Words of Life - John 6:56

Jesus said that His Words were Spirit and Life

In one way, that's a declaration like twice two is four. In another, it's as inscrutable as quantum physics.

This is a sentence on which we can bank our lives. It is a solid rock, on which an eternal kingdom can be founded. It is a simple peace to which we can give ourselves forever. Jesus said that He is Rest to the weary, so we come to Him, and find peace for our fractured souls.

But, what is Spirit, really? And what is Life?

Minutes before saying these words, Jesus said that true work is believing. He said that it was by eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood - taking Him into us - that we are taken into Him. He was uttering nonsense. And now He is making audible words, sound travelling through the air, to be life its very self. Of course, I learned with a little study that the Greek, "rhema," doesn't mean, "words," so much as the things the words embody. "Logos," is for words that verbalize ideas, while, "rhema," represents things. Jesus' words stood in place of things, things like Spirit and Life.

That doesn't help anything, though. The question of what Life and Spirit are remains.

The ancients postulated an ascending order of life, based of self-awareness. A plant knew more about itself than a rock, because the plant could grow toward the sun. An insect knew more about itself than a plant, because it could both seek food, and avoid becoming food. An animal could play, and a human could reason. More importantly, a human seeks opportunity for love, both to give and receive. This sets man at the pinnacle of earth's order of life.

So, what is that sets God above man in the order of life?

We are like God twice over, in that we are made in His image and we have the knowledge of good and evil. And yet, neither of those things elevates us to His level. There must be something else. He created the universe, and created us. That's surely something, but it's not the thing. A dog might look at me, and be amazed that I can move a car, but it's not my power that makes him and me different. It's the creative, engineering mind of the human that separates us.

What is the thing that separates us from God?

It's in His Name.

I AM that I AM.

It's that God has the power to BE.

God wishes to eat? He IS Food. He wishes to rest? He IS the Sabbath. The IS the Blessed One, the Captain, the Water, the Truth, the Creator, the true Friend. God never needs to look outside of Himself. He IS everything He could need in order to attain His every Holy Desire.

So, when Jesus says that His Words are Spirit and Life, He is talking about something of shocking intensity!

He told us that we can eat His Flesh and His Blood, and be grafted into Him. He told us that His Words are Spirit and Life, and that when we believe them we come alive as He is alive. Jesus told us how to come alive in Him. We need only believe to become part of I AM that I AM.

That which God is, in and of Himself, He desires to make us. He desires for us to abide in Him, and to be as He IS.


As I wrote this, children were playing right beside me. In a little lawn of long unmown grass, a mixed herd of 3-8 year olds ran back and forth. I could throw a brick from one end of this lawn to the other - left handed - on one foot. It's a teeny, green postage stamp on this massive globe of ours, and at one side it sloped downward a little bit. Three of the kids ran to the bottom of the slope, giggling and nattering the whole way.

One little toe-headed kid was still at the top of this incline, and watching the others and their adventure.

Suddenly, he announced to his brother that, "I'm going to run down there!"

That shout of joy filled my heart. The other kids had already gone first, but that didn't matter. This was his adventure, and he was grabbing it with both hands. In just a couple brief decades, the whole world will lay open before this little boy, but at this moment the grass was greenest on the other side of that lawn. His world was no bigger than his experience, but he was about to experience a new piece of lawn, and he was going to do it with all his heart.

Wow, it's cool to be alive.


Daddy. Jesus. Thank you for Your Words of Life written and given to us.

I'm going to run up there!

I tried to upload a picture and failed. It would have been great, though. Picture by Avalore

16 October, 2006

Predestination: Something I don't like

Let's try an experiment.

I have put out there things that I figured ya'll didn't like, and I was basically right. Now, let's try putting something out there that I don't like, and see whether any of you agrees with me? Let's just say that I will spare you any doubt about why I don't like these statements. ;-)

From, to be told: Know your Story - Shape your Future by Dan Allender (FWIW, so far I give this book 2 stars. It has lots of potential, but fails to deliver on most its promises.),

... Evil malignantly grows from the freedom we possess to love or not love. Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love.

If love is coerced, it is at best obedience that fears reprisal and at worst insincere manipulation to gain what the object of our love can give us. But genuine love arises in the complex interplay of desire and gratitude. I want and God gives. He gives so far beyond what I need that I am caught in the swirl of mouth-open awe and stunned gratitude. We write best when, in loving God and being loved by Him, we are thrown into the space of awe and gratitude.

The bolded sentences make my skin crawl.

Dr. Allender here is attempting to protect any of his readers who might be tempted to wander off into predestination. He is talking about God, and how he relates to us, and in throwing out the baby, he manages to throw out most of her siblings, too. But, at least he wastes the bathwater.

Love would be meaningless if we didn't also have the option to not love.

Find me a verse in scripture that says this. It ain't there, because it ain't true. This gets thrown around like it's gospel, but it's just common sense, like, "everyone knows if you sail too far you'll fall off the edge of the world."

Do you know anyone who has been abused by their parents? If you do, then you know that one of the most terrible things about helping the abused is that they love the one who abused them. They are confused by their own feelings, because they want, need, and love their worst enemy.

Do you know anyone who was not abused by their parents? Do you think they deserve commendation for loving them?

You are born with a love for your parents that you almost cannot break. I've seen it broken a time or two, but that's it. It is a love that is compelled by the accident of birth, and forced upon an innocent child before it is ever able to choose to love or not love. This coerced love is surely not meaningless. And we won't even talk about the "choice" a mother makes to love her newborn babe.

The first occurance of the word "love" in the scripture refers to the love of a parent for a child.

This love is compelled by simple genetics and hormones. There's no "choice" to this love. And yet it is strong enough and meaningful enough for God to use it as one of the strongest metaphors in His repertoire to explain His love.

If ... IF ... my love for Him is without choice, how is that less just, less true, less meaningful than my love for my mother and father?

If love is coerced....

So, just how is a baby coerced into loving his mother? It must be the crassest form of manipulation.

That baby has to listen to her voice for long months as his only lullaby in the womb. He has to come to know her every habit and gesture and rhythm as she moves throughout her day. Then, when he is born (the first time) he is forced to find his only nourishment at her breasts. What a cold-hearted thing for a selfish woman to do to an innocent babe. He was never even given a chance at a fair choice!

Why do we have to assume that our spiritual birth must be any different from our physical one? Why does it have to be free-will or coercion? Why is it not the most natural thing on earth for us to love our heavenly Father from the first moment we feel His warmth?

... it is at best obedience that fears reprisal and at worst insincere manipulation to gain what the object of our love can give us

Exactly wrong.

Coerced love is neither of those things. The coerced love of an infant can only be a purely dependent love. Such love cannot rise to the level of manipulation.

The love of free will, on the other hand, must resist the urge to be manipulative. If we "choose" God, do we do so because we fear reprisal? Do we choose Him because want to gain heaven? I say not, but how often are we told to "sell" Him this way? How often are we encouraged to sell the benefits of giving our hearts to Jesus?

If love is not coerced, then it is almost certainly the result of an obedience that fears reprisal and is an exercise of manipulation that seeks to gain what God can give us.

Finally, Dr. Allender encourages us to find a space of awe and gratitude.

I find awe and that gratitude when I consider how powerfully He wooed me. I am amazed when I learn how irresistible His Love is, and thankful when I learn that He knows how irresistible He is.

Prov 30: 18 & 19
There be
three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

Those are mere shadows of the way of our God with His people.

Powerful Stuff on Modelling

The Campaign for Real Beauty has put a video out there that shows, not just the before and after of a girl modelling makeup, but how they take her there. It's a must see. No wonder our images of beauty are so distorted.

Every Westerner should know what he or she is looking at when looking at one of these women.

HT: The Boar's Head Tavern

14 October, 2006

Engaging God: Eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood

I'm sorry to be so long away from the site. It's no sin, of course, but it is unpleasant. I have had at least 3 posts go stale and die on the mind, while I have been too busy to do much typing at all.

Especially after posting such an emotional piece, I hate to create the appearance that there might actually be something wrong by staying gone so long.

There's nothing up that being a parent, a son, and a dude in need of money cannot explain. (I am also doing a programming side-job upgrading an application I wrote back in '98. That's pretty cool, BTW. To be called back to maintain a piece of software I wrote 600 miles and 8 years away, and that is still going strong is always a pleasure.)

Thanks for checking in.


So, I have been "teaching" a bible study on Thursday nights, lately.

Here's how it goes. Last Thursday I suggested a verse for everyone,
John 6:56
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

On Sunday, I gave everyone a half-sheet of paper reminding them of the outline of the process of studying a verse that I laid out back in July. It's a dozen or so steps to looking at a verse from numerous directions to try to open your mind to things it might mean. We all have established hamster trails in our heads, and anything that opens our mind to new thoughts is a good thing.

So, on Thursday everyone showed up for bible study. Seven of us, actually, which is a nice number. Of the seven, six had done some studying before getting there, and that's a really nice number. Nobody did anything much in the way of studying, including me, but everyone had looked at the verse and some references and a couple commentaries.

I actually looked at every single commentary this time around, because there was so little of value in any of them. When I was done doing that, I still felt like I was going to the meeting woefully underprepared.

When I do this, I am doing something very similar to what I do out here. I am hoping to stir a new thought, and learn something. I'm hoping that between the seven of us, we can find something new and inspiring about the eternal Lord.

For the first 10 minutes, I made everyone stop and just come up with questions about the verse. That was helpful, though not terribly rich. Then we prayed, and started looking at what everyone had found. It's a good group, so there's no problem getting people to talk. 4 of us went right away. The pastor is part of the group, so he works to make sure he doesn't over-function, so he went fifth. Eventually, everyone had shared.

All together, we basically came up with:

Jesus telling a crowd of complete strangers that they had to drink His Blood to be saved was shocking. Jews had never tasted blood, and never would. God would cut them off. So, for Him to say that was almost intentionally rude. He was not going to win friends and influence people.

This was not a foreshadowing of communion. Communion, rather, was a picture of this. Eating and drinking of Christ is the reality, and the Lord's Table is the picture and remembrance of that reality.

Eating and drinking ties back to John 6:29:
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

In that part of the incident, Jesus is talking about Himself being the Manna of God, and He directly ties believing and eating the Bread from heaven. So, eating and drinking of Christ is believing that which He has done, and that which He says He has done.

That's cool, because when we pray we pray believing. When we read, we read believing. And when we work, we work believing in Him.

And when we believe, we are eating and drinking. We are taking God's divine Life into ourselves. We are, by believing, bringing the essence of the eternal God into our own beings. But, when we eat and drink of Him, John 6:56 says that we are taken into Him. We abide in Him when we eat of Him.

So, believing creates a cycle. We take God into ourselves and we place ourselves into God. He is built into us, and we are ingrafted into Him.

That was cool, and that was past the commentaries. And that's the goal. We come prepared with all the data that we can find, but then as the Spirit opens things up, we move past our preparations, and we find Him.

Thank the Lord, though, He was not done yet.

Our youngest brother pointed out that eating was the very first thing. Right there in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were supposed to eat, from the very first day. We remember that they were commanded not to eat of one tree, but we need to remember that they were also commanded to eat of all the other trees! And especially of One Tree!

From there we talked about eating, and how we need to do it just to survive.

Then I remembered the Passover lamb in Exodus 12. There is a special way that lamb was to be eaten, and it was a picture of how Christ is to be eaten. Among the really cool things is that the stranger is allowed to eat exactly as the native person, so long as he is cleaned by circumcision. The lamb must all be eaten under one roof - no leftovers are to be taken away. And no bone of the lamb should be broken. The lamb must be roasted, too.

So, we learned that there was a special way to eat the Lamb. Had I been a little more careful, I might have remembered that there was a special way the Lamb must be prepared, but a sister had found that eating makes it all the way to the Revelation. In Rev 2, 3, and 22 we find eating, and even that there are 12 fruits to eat.

So the revelation of eating and drinking starts at the beginning, and is expanded and deepened all the way to the end of the world.

Praise the Lord.


If I had "taught" that bible study, it would not have been anywhere near so rich. Two of the six or so really cool things in that class were mine, but one of them would never have happened without building on what another brother brought.

We need each other to find the Lord.

08 October, 2006

Predestination: Grieving versus Depression versus Predestination

The world is a big, scary place to go. Bills and money, illness and injury, grief and mourning all await the adventurer through life. I don't know anyone who really wants to go there alone.

Be the world is more than that.

The world is also beautiful fall days, moonbathed nights, work worth doing. It's the joy of eating when you're hungry, resting when you're tired, and sprinting when life overflows from your heart. I don't know anyone who really wants to go there alone, either.

I know I don't.

Life was never meant to be lived alone.

Facing every day life without a wife is a gray experience. It's not black, but it's not color either. Some days it's a nice sepia, but I grieve the color anyway. I grieve the intimate company.

Still, marriage is asked to fill the gap of loneliness too completely. A good wife could restore a lot of that which is broken in my life, but not everything. There are areas of a man's life that a wife cannot touch, and they are hurting too. To fill those areas needs a church, and not just a congregation. To fill those areas needs a brotherhood banded together and pulling somewhere with all our combined might. A brotherhood must do what men do when they're grunting with heartfelt strain.

(And that, BTW, is the source of the whining about the church being feminized. The problem is not sissy songs, but emasculating leaders. When a pastor thrusts his fingers into every man's work, he is the one doing the emasculating, not women and not songs. And then these pastors complain that the other men won't step up and do something.)

These griefs are there every morning when I wake, and they attend me until I close my eyes, after which they meet me in my dreams. I'm writing this because today they are especially stout, but even at their best they never sleep.

Even the thrill-seekingest teenage boy knows that a day of extreme roller coasters alone is wasted. Life is a beautiful thing, filled with thrills and joys, but if you cannot even enjoy amusement alone, how so the rest of it? I'm living it alone.

So I grieve.

So I am in trouble with Christians.

Phil 4:4 & 8
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. ...
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Depression is alternately called a disease or a sin. If you are taking the "steps" to cure it, then it's a disease. But, if you are "wallowing" in it, then it's a sin. And in this way, that which is almost too much for me to bear is made by well-meaning brothers and sisters into a blockage between me and my God, too. In one swift motion, my grief is transformed into a distrust of God, into a filth before Him, into a thing of which I must repent before I can come peacefully into His presence.

But how to I repent of hurting?

Do they think I weep for the pleasure of it? Maybe I do this because it's what I've always dreamt of of doing with a beautiful Saturday afternoon? Or maybe that I'm just too lazy to "get over it." Pity parties are usually called sin, and always shameful. Weeping is usually sin, and usually shameful.

I protest.

Grief, though it last for years, is honest.

I "get out." I "have fun." I have goals, and I strive for them, and achieve them. I live. I'm active in my church.

And I grieve.

I grieve for a mate, and I grieve for brothers. Neither alone would end my grieving. I accept the providence of God, and I praise Him for the many mercies He bestows on me during this time. I am blessed and covered by the One Who loves me more than a brother or a wife. I rejoice, too, in those gifts. But even as I rejoice, I rejoice alone, and a joy unshared is only half a joy. I'm standing in line for that roller coaster of a lifetime, and it just isn't what it was meant to be.

And then caring people need to fix me.

As if things weren't bad enough.

How, praytell, do they hope to fix pain? They tell me that my brain chemistry is altered, and that I no longer am seeing the world as it really is. I no longer see the bright side, because I've "got the depression." They counsel me to open my eyes wider, and to see all the things God has done. They promise me I'll snap out of it if I do. And if I don't snap out of it, then they tell me to go to a doctor. He has drugs that will restore my brain chemistry so that I can see the bright side of a well-digger's bottom!

Not this child. If I have to look at a well-digger's bottom, I want it to be dark, thank you very much.

There is a place and a wisdom in chemical therapy. I praise the Lord that He has provided it, but some fine objective observers assure me that I am not there yet.

And I still grieve. And I have for years.

And saints still try to fix me.

If the scripture counsels a brother to fix those who mourn, I have not seen it. I have seen a that brother should comfort those who mourn, and that he should weep with those who weep, but not that he should correct him. There's a place for wise counsel and caring comfort, but much that I've heard is best placed in intimate relationship to that well-digger's bottom.

You can't go too wrong weeping with those who weep - and stopping there.

This is all woven together with my search for a new understanding of predestination.

I'm sure the many ways grief and predestination might relate to each other are pretty obvious. My grief is known to God. Is it predestined? A large cause of it is my own fault and my own sin. Predestined? If I could make such massive mistakes in my life, what might I do next? Throw away my salvation? Is that possible, or not? Do I trust myself with my salvation if I might lose it? (No, I don't. You could sell tickets to my meltdown right now if I really believed my salvation were in my hands.) But, if I took up my salvation, then what is to stop me from laying it down? But where is the glory to God if my salvation is just handed to me, and I have no part in it? (That's not a question I have, but one that others ask of me.)

Hence, this series.

I am at a loss for words to tell everyone that I am not trying to convince you all to plant TULIPs in your hearts, but you are still here, so I will try.

You have all dealt with Calvinists before (whether you all consider me a Calvinist I'm not sure yet,) and you are defensive. I understand that. They/we have a world-wide reputation for intractability. I have been there, and been that. I repent in absentia to all those saints with whom I argued, but never heard.

I will post again on Eph 1 here shortly. If it leaks through that I have beliefs on the subject, please don't assume that this means that I am not listening.

Right now, today, where I am, the thought that God is more than "just hoping" good things for me is a lifeline. That He planned these gray days into my life, and that He ordained them for my good, is a salvation in itself. To suddenly find a God Who has delegated my fate into my hands seems a terrifying thing. So, when I ask everyone with what comfort Paul intends to bless the Ephesians, I am asking what comfort I should find in God if His eternal purpose is not what I thought it was. How should I get up in the morning if I know God has entrusted my fate into the hands of a moron who has already failed Him for 42 years?

I am asking these things for all the reasons I have repeated so many times in the last couple weeks. I am asking because everyone else believes I'm wrong, and that makes an impression on me. I am also asking, though, because trusting God for that which He has not promised is foolish, and I want to be wise. I want my decisions to be made with the correct facts about God before my eyes. If I trust too much to God's sovereignty, I want to know about it.

Facts change decisions, and decisions matter, because decisions lead to works. Right decisions lead to right works, and right works carry weight. Don't imagine that because I believe that God predestines, I believe I am fated and therefore need not work. On the contrary, I believe that I am fated to work, privileged to labor, and that one of the first labors is to find out what the work is.

So, here I am searching.

And that is the difference between grieving and depression.

07 October, 2006

Life: Not today, my boy. :-)

In a subtle attempt to gain Alpha-male status, my son left me a physics problem that he could not solve.

He is taking AP Physics as a senior in high school, so it's college freshman level stuff. This problem required that I discover the coefficient of dynamic fiction if a 5 kg block falling straight down could drag a 10 kg block 1 m in 1.2 seconds. The best part, of course, is that the problem had stumped my lad.

Why let a little 25 year hiatus slow me down?

I had to go all the way back to page 13 to get one formula I needed, and I had to review the example problems about 5 times each, but that's not the point. The point is that I not only solved it, I solved it with book rigour. :-) I confessed to him that it took me the better part of an hour, and that I made 2 false starts (for which the errant paperwork was somehow lost) but he still had ample opportunity to call me nasty names.

And THAT is what a father lives for. :-)

05 October, 2006

Predestination - Sidebar: Does God Sovereignly Self-Limit His Sovereignty?

Weekend Fisher said:
TULIP makes Eph1 about us and about how sovereignty affects us, instead of about Christ and how God exercised his sovereignty by laying it aside in Christ.

...to which Oloryn commented:
I'll give that a big Amen! My sense of Calvinistic theology has long been that it won't let God be sovereign over His own Sovereignty. He's required to stay 'up there' and hang on to His Sovereignty for dear life, lest if He ever fail to exercise his Sovereignty in full measure, He somehow become less than God.

I questioned whether the idea exists in Eph 1, and Oloryn posited that it was a tie-in from other passages.

I am really curious about this line of reasoning, so how's about we go here for a while? I held to this belief back in '82, but not since then. So, I have to ask for help. Can ya'll fill the comments section with references that indicate or require that God has sovereignly limited His own sovereignty?


(I'm still under pretty stout time strictures, so I may not be back for a while - but I'll be back!)

01 October, 2006

Predestination: What could we mean?

Each of you is free to respond to this post as you will. I will enjoy hearing all your thoughts, I'm sure. But, let me tell you what I will specifically be hoping to hear.

I hope to hear what you feel like this passage means. What do you picture in your mind when you read this?

Starting in 1986 or so I quit reading the bible for about 4 years. I plain and simple put it down. I could no longer read a single passage of scripture without the din of arguments and counter arguments playing in my head like duelling auctioneers. The auctioneer championing "my" arguments was always the loudest, but I knew better than to trust to volume. So, every time I opened the scripture I heard a loud voice yelling things I figured were wrong, and a louder voice yelling things I hoped were right. When I read a passage like the one below, I heard cross-references shooting from ear to ear, threatening to rob my sanity if I erred to the right or the left - and crippling the little sanity I could claim with each proof-text.

In other words, my head was a lot like a blog conversation.

I don't like to go there any more.

So, I would rather focus on meaning and purpose.

Whatever else may be true of this passage, it is the words of a dear, brilliant, divinely inspired brother to a beautiful, loving, challenged group of the Lord's people. It is Paul's reminder and encouragement of something that he wanted to embellish on when he could be with them (or that he had already told them, but I think this was actually written for the church at Laodicea.)

What I want to hear is what Paul wanted those brothers and sisters to remember when he said, "predestined." What comfort did he want to well up from within them? With what encouragement did he want to impel them forward? What strength did he want them to draw from the picture he paints?

In verses 4 and 5 Paul encourages the saints directly with predestination. Verses 3 and 6 are related to the idea.

What is he saying?

Eph 1:1-6
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.