30 November, 2006

FHC: Inner City Church Anyone?

The more I think about it, the more I'm liking my little off-the-cuff idea of starting a cross-denominational neighborhood church in the bowels of downtown. Lots of thoughts. No answers.


BTW, I got to talk to a brother and sister from our little home church of the '90's last night. That was very cool. And I got to take an almost 2 hour long walk with the boy.

What a great night!

I won't apologize for any lateness in my post or comments. :-)

29 November, 2006

Engaging God: What is a "Timeless Prayer?"

When you can pray a prayer that's just as true on the day you meet your Lord as on the day you praise Him at His throne, that's a "Timeless Prayer."

Lord, guide our leaders as they face this crisis.
Lord, heal the rift between my brother and I.
Lord, provide the need of Your body.

These are all great prayers, and necessary, joined as they are to needs in time.

Lord, You order all things for Your glory.
Lord, You are the Ligament that joins brothers together.
Lord, You are our Daily Bread.

These prayers are just as true to the situation, but they are also true 10,000 years from now when you are standing in His presence. In every prayer there is a little of the timed and of the timeless, and we are blessed by both. But, since we are trying to start a little blog based on the latter, let me illustrate the difference.

My little boy had to get his first haircut. We hopped in the car, and all was well. We got out, and we talked of our plans for the day. We went into the barber's lair, and the munchkin was chipper. We took our seats, and he was bored. Then the barber waved him into the seat, and he came unglued. His eyes filled with liquid agony, as the certainty arrested him that I was sending him to some murderer with a buzzing guillotine.

He prayed of me that I would relent, but I was merciless. His mother had already tried that on me, and if she could not sway me, this boy certainly wasn't going to. (Could neither of them see Goldilocks as "he" climbed trees all over our yard?) He clung to my leg, and averted his gaze from the man of sin. Eventually, he looked at me, and really saw me. I watched him as his little eyes measured mine, trying to read whether I meant evil toward him. I took the time to remind him of good things that I had done for him before, even against his wishes. Eventually, he believed in me, and I was $15 lighter.

The trust he found in me was bigger than the moment. It was not exactly timeless, but it strengthened the bond between us for the rest of our lives.

Prayer is an outpouring of the renewed heart to its God. There are prayers of hurt, of praise, of need, of triumph, of love, of coldness. There are prayers together, alone, from a book, ad lib, before a crowd, by a crowd. There are too many kinds of prayer to exhaust them all, but everyone one of them is an outpouring of the heart.

Prayer is also a filling of the heart.

When my boy stopped praying "for" and decided to trust, he grew up a little bit.

My favorite example is from Psalms 42 & 43. The psalmist chides himself. He reminds Himself of Who God is toward him, and chides his heart to remember the Truth of his life. He has real reason to despair, and to ask for relief, but he does something else. He fills his heart with reminders of God's care and power. He kinda asks for something, and he kinda praises God, but really he just declares what's true. And that's enough.

There is a place for praying that the thorn will be removed from my flesh. There is also a place for reminding myself in prayer that God knows about this thorn, and that He is God. Praying against the thorn may heal me. Praying the Truth back to God will heal my broken spirit, even when I cannot understand His plans. We are not on this planet to live long and prosper. We are here to know the Lord, and to love Him and each other. God knows that thorns do not hinder love.

Song 8:7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.

Every prayer can serve both functions, outpouring and filling, at the same time. When you pour out your prayer to God for a toddler's boo-boo, you tell God your concern, but you also fill your hearts with hope in the ever-caring God. Even so, when you pray the most God-centered Psalm back to Him you fill your heart with pictures of the Eternal One, but you also pour out your love back to Him.

When I write a timeless prayer, I skip past the part where I scream for God's deliverance, and jump right to reminding myself that He is a Deliverer. This is a nice blog application, because we can all use the reminder of Who He is. And because I can use the chance to remind myself Who He is. Reading or writing such prayers may take a little getting used to, or it may come naturally, but it is extremely valuable either way.

I pray you find it so. :-)

(For those of you who need to know, Goldilocks now controls his own haircuts. Let us simply say all the women in his life are delighted. ;-)

27 November, 2006

FHC: The Church of Tomorrow - Part 2

Last week, our hero said,
In the church of tomorrow, the pastorate is going to collapse under the strain of its own inefficiency.

After that happens, everything is going to go to pot. There are going to be a hundred different alternatives to the old pastorate, and some of them are going to fail spectacularly. A lot of them are going to look at lot like the current pastorate, but the differences are going to be crucial. I mean, it's not like 400 year old denominations are going to just fade away. Remember, though, that none of those denominations are more than 500 years old - except one.

In the end, one general pattern is going to succeed. The doctrinally agnostic fellowship group is going to rise. It is going to be characterized by high standards for entrance, and lots of opportunity to be busy for the Lord.

In part one, I asserted that the pastorate as it is currently exercised will fail to keep up with GenY Christians. I'll grant you that this may be wishful thinking on my part, and that a betting man might be wise to put his money elsewhere. So, for the sake of argument (only ;-) let's assume that the pastorate is doomed to survive.

My second assertion is that the doctrinally agnostic fellowship group is going to prevail.

Ya'll know that my dream is for saints to quit driving across town to love the Lord with their doctrinal allies. You know I want people to start fellowshipping with their believing neighbors - nearly daily, and in ways that might change the world.

Today, let me do what I meant to do the other day.

A friend of my son's was grilling me a little on my wierd set of beliefs. It was a joy to talk to someone genuinely interested in why I would want something so odd as a neighborhood church.

He brought up the usual assortment of counterpoints, but he did it pretty well.

What if someone starts teaching error?

I contend that serious error is the domain of theologians and denominations. More specifically, serious error begins when money enters the picture. If I am your brother in Christ, why do I need to split the hair's breadth of difference between whether you are saved by grace through faith, or by faith that comes through grace? Why do I need to discern whether you believe in inerrancy or infallibility to call you a brother?

If you believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God and if you take His Word for your guide for life, then we can start the business of loving Him together. One of us may make a mistake somewhere, and the other will make a mistake somewhere else, but we can proceed down the Way.

Ah, but if I am a pastor of denomination A, then I have to distinguish myself from denominations B through Z. Now we have a marketing battle on our horizon, and don't think it doesn't happen. Suddenly, the church is about product differentiation. Our church is more friendly, more accurate, more worshipful, more missional, more doctrinal, more, more more.

They say that to err is human, but to really mess up it takes a computer. Even so with Christians. We all err from time to time, but it takes a denomination to lift those talking points up from the earth, and draw all like men unto them.

The right answers that separate Methodists from Baptists are worse the errors that they might have made together.

But nobody ever did anything like that before.

I am not an archaeologist, but I am given to understand that early Christianity tended to gravitate to a given quarter of the city. There was a known "Christian quarter" in Antioch, for example, and in Rome. Whether it has been done since then is immaterial to me. If it was good enough for Antioch, it's good enough for me.

I drool to think that all of the Christians in Columbus might buy up every available house in the most depressed part of inner Columbus. It would give us something to do that could make a difference. It would give us good cause to materially help each other with some home repair at the very least! It would send a clear message to Columbus that the church is a real thing, and really cares. And we would be close enough to real people to love them. Mostly, though, we would be close enough to each other to really love one another. That is worth its weight in diamonds.

But what about our witness to our neighbors?

Seriously? What witness to our neighbors?

No individual can really be a witness to his neighbors. Even if his witness is perfect, the neighbors cannot help but ascribe his loving deeds to his nature. But when a church steps out, that is a witness!

I know each and every one of my neighbors, and they think well of me. It took me a while to do that, because it's hard for me to walk up and be friendly to people. But, I got it done.

They all know I'm a believer.

So what?

What is it about the fact that I am a nice guy that will teach anyone that Jesus Christ is Lord over a people who really know how to love? What is it about a half-million Christians spread liberally across Columbus that will give the slightest light to any of them? Can we inspire them when they know that we hardly talk to each other? What about when my neighbor knows that his neighbor two doors down is another type of Christian, and that we don't talk to each other? How does that fulfill Jesus command/prophecy that they will know we are Christians by our love?

Nah. That won't fly.

We need something different.

Denominations are killing the church. If you don't believe it, just look at Pepsi-Cola company and your nearest mega-church. The only difference is the budget. It's not about product any more for either of them. It's all about "customer experience."

I'm 42. I'm past the age of idealistic declarations, and yet I would endure anything to see our denominations stripped of their majesty. The majesty is not His. The blood that keeps them running is green. Dollars flow through the smallest of denominations (in the largest of denominations) in a way neither Peter nor Paul could ever have imagined, much less robbed from each other.

I know I'm a fool to hope that anything can take the denominations down, but hope I must. What I won't do is ever believe that it is Christ that preserves them. They rest on dollars. They move on dollars. They even pray on dollars. And obviously, they pray for them.

I'd better stop. I try only to get this wound up in person.

But, remember me talking about football and advertising? Yeah, I wasn't thinking about football and advertising. I was thinking about the denominations. 33,000 of them, and growing every day in division, cunning and wealth.

Lord save Your church.

Necessary clarifications:
+ The church that is a member of a denomination is not the object of my ire. They need to be rescued, not rejected.
+ The saints who service these denominations are not the object of my ire. They may be making bricks without straw, but they are doing it unto the Lord.
+ Money is not the object of my ire. Money has never loved me, nor Christ's church, but it's never hated us either.
+ It is the act of denominating that kills us.

I don't believe the church of tomorrow will foreswear denominations due to spiritual insight, but because of greatest diress. And when the trial comes, I will hate it as badly as the next guy. But when the church emerges from the ashes like the gold of 1 Cor 3, I will weep with joy.

Movies: Bond or Bourne?

Kansas Bob has given Casino Royale a pretty solid rating, and I gather that this means something coming from him. :-) I was happy to hear it, because I'm pretty sure I will rent it some day. It sounds better than any of the recent Bond fare.

This week, I am finishing The Bourne Supremacy. (It won't be hard. She's standing right next to you. B-)

So, what do you think. Bond or Bourne?

26 November, 2006

Presbuteras: Stan Gundry - Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers (Not)

Mr. Gundry has written an excellent piece on his emigration to egalitarianism. For those of you still interested in the subject, I highly recommend it.

I also learned a new big theology word, "synthetically." It means to take all the little pieces, and see what they mean when put together. I recently received an anonymous critique that I might be making too huge claims based upon just a verse or two plus my fallen opinions. Now I know a big word to describe what I am really doing when I'm making this person unhappy.


I promise that as a rule, I have a lot more little verses in mind than I type out on this blog. If anyone would really like for me to reference more completely, I will consider it. It's just that once I have chewed on enough weeds, I want to get up over them, and look at the big picture. I'll admit that I may do it too quickly, and certainly always seem to do it too quickly, but I ask you to challenge me and let's see what comes of it.

Until then, I'm hiding behind "SYNTHETICALIZITATION."

Random: God Greater than All My Sin

Grace, Grace
God's Grace
Grace that can pardon and cleanse within
Grace, Grace
God's Grace
Grace that is greater than all my sin

This song flits through my mind pretty regular'. It's part of the whole subconscious thing. Songs come to mind that suit my mood, and that usually reveal it. I often figure out my mood from the song on loop in my head, rather than the other way around.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago this song was in my head, and an odd metaphor attended it.

The movies make a lot of noise about vampires and how much they dislike the sun. Vampires avoid sunlight at all costs. Maybe it has something to do with the way they incinerate into little dust piles whenever the sun touches them.

Light does that to sin.

It's really quite a powerful picture of sin in our lives. There is very little that tempts us that can survive the full force of a look from God and His saints. The more we can keep our lives in the light of those who truly love us, the better off we are.

Peeling back another layer of the metaphor, I often keep things hidden that are no sin. I experience an awful lot of life as embarassing, and I hate to be embarassed. So I keep normal but embarassing human parts of me in the dark. Vampires are known (or they were before Anne Rice) as pasty, white little critters, because they never saw the sun. Those things in me that don't fit my heroic image of myself get pretty pasty-white too. The parts of me that wouldn't shine in an Ayn Rand novel start to look pretty vampire-ish after their decades locked in the basement. I treat them like secret sin.

As I slowly begin to drag sins out of the basement to see God's light, and my brothers' light, some innocent refugees get to escape too. Becoming human is such a slow, painful process. Being heroic, and always having the right answer is much, much easier.

The last layer of the metaphor, though, is the one that arrested me and made me write this note.

No vampire has ever turned the sun into dust.

We think about the holiness of God, and how He can never allow sin into His presence. We read about the way the holy things were handled, and how God punished what's his face for reaching out to prevent ark from falling. We read that no sinner will ever see God.

Maybe it's just me, but I find the feeling in me that I have to protect God from unholiness.

It's as if I have keep the sin out of His presence, or "POOF!" God might have a really bad day.

But God can and did allow sin into His presence. He's always been able to do so, but about 2000 years ago, He pulled sin right into His bosom. He loved sinners face-to-face. He loved them so much, that He embraced their sin, and wouldn't let it go, until all the poison was gone from it. He reduced every ounce of sin that weighed against us to dust, when He allowed His Father to roast Him for us.

His presence is a safe place for sinners.

I don't need to ask whether the lesions on my soul are sin or inferior humanity. I can go to Him. He loved people just like me, and embraced them in the shame of their foolishness. He has already taken the worst of me into His breast and cast it away. When the flawed being that I see in my mirror goes to Him, I know His Love and His Light will work together for my good.

Grace, Grace
God's Grace
Grace that can pardon and cleanse within
Grace, Grace
God's Grace
Grace that is greater than all my sin

Movies: Stranger Than Fiction

Favorite movie: Braveheart. It's just mandatory, since the Scot is the only part of my mongrel heritage I'll claim.

Real favorite movie, though: Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day is the perfect movie. It takes a really messed up guy, and puts him in hell. It tantalizes him with hopes of heaven, then pulls the rug out from under him again and again. He changes focus and objectives again and again, to no avail. He still ends up on his butt repeatedly. Then finally he finds life and joy, and even salvation, in caring for people who can never care for him.

It's just too perfect.

Stranger than Fiction may not be quite that good, but it's in the same arena, and I loved it. I think I even liked it better than Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day had one Sisyphean tragic character. Stranger than Fiction has no fewer than four. Will Ferrell and Emma Thompson both reduced me to laughter and fetal huddling in the space single scenes, but Dustin Hoffman's character and the love interest have moments too. (My son pointed out that it was the first movie in which I liked Will Ferrell. Yep.)

The fifth character is literature. Lit is not personified, or anything silly like that, but it's always on the screen, and it pushes the plot forward. As I am making my first forays into literature, this made the movie that much more significant for me. It asks what I think are important questions about literature, and reaches conclusions that I found really satisfying.

Now, unless I'm mistaken, I have not even given away whether or not the movie has a plot. It does. But, I'm not going to tell you anything about it. I think the movie should probably be seen twice, once with no clue what it's about, and again to appreciate how it gets there. If I go again, I will probably wait until I don't have to spend full price because of the whole Scottish thing, but I'm glad I dragged the kids there last night.

If I go again, though, at least I won't have to worry so much about embarassing them with my constant over-reactions. :-(

25 November, 2006

FHC: The Church of Tomorrow

Everyone wants to talk about what's wrong with the church today.

Me too. ;-P

But I will try to resist that temptation. Instead, I am going to talk about the church of tomorrow. About 3 months ago, I said that I was going to stop talking about the Familyhood Church. Some of you may even have noticed me actually stop. Others of you may not.

Andreia once described me as conflicted. :-)

Anyway, on to the subject. The church of tomorrow will finally have those flying cars.

OK, OK. Too many IBM commercials.

[Speaking of conflicted - now that I have finished the post I realize that I wrote about a completely different subject that I had in mind when I started. Maybe tomorrow. :-) ]


In the church of tomorrow, the pastorate is going to collapse under the strain of its own inefficiency.

After that happens, everything is going to go to pot. There are going to be a hundred different alternatives to the old pastorate, and some of them are going to fail spectacularly. A lot of them are going to look at lot like the current pastorate, but the differences are going to be crucial. I mean, it's not like 400 year old denominations are going to just fade away. Remember, though, that none of those denominations are more than 500 years old - except one.

In the end, one general pattern is going to succeed. The doctrinally agnostic fellowship group is going to rise. It is going to be characterized by high standards for entrance, and lots of opportunity to be busy for the Lord.

And then the Lord is going to return.


Let me focus in this post on the first line. I predict the pastorate will not survive recognizably into the 2020's.

This is not exactly what I want to happen, but I think it would make me happy enough. In my perfect world, the church would suddenly realize that the pastorate is anti-scriptural, and we would hurl it like a primed grenade. That's not going to happen. In my perfect world, the church would ignite with the idea that praise is something everyone should be leading at the same time, and worship leaders would become worship trainers, then step aside during the meeting. That ain't going to happen either.

The classic pastorate is going to fail under the strain, though. And we are going to have to find something else to do with our churches.


Because GenY and the Millenium Generation just don't put up with that nonsense. According to a seminar I attended the other day (I always provide the most reliable of sourcing for all my quotes, I know) GenY and MG want some things very badly.
1) Something important to do.
2) Someone to hold their hands.
3) The right to define their own schedule.

If you are older than 28, you have probably seen this happening in your workplace. The new kid joins up, and he wants to change everything and save the world and do it right now. And at the same time, he wants to have constant reassurance and affirmation that he is doing everything just right. And, BTW, he wants Thursdays off. He was raised to believe that he was the best soccer player ever - "See, I got this trophy!" All the other kids can play soccer "their" way, and "his way" is just as good. Sometimes the coach's "suggestions" work, but when they don't, he'll just keep doing it his way.

The pastorate works because everyone defers to the pastor. This makes it possible for him to steer the ship with a minimum of effort, leaving him time to do the 60 hours worth of other work the job requires every week. The elders may or may not defer to him, but they ain't called elders for nothing. They have a special dispensation to be crochety. Everyone else kowtows. Or at least they used to, before GenY started going to church.

Our churches are trying to attract GenY into their numbers. If they are not careful, they are going to harvest a bunch of highly intelligent, highly energetic people who have never heard the word "obey," and who need constant affirmation. They will be taking Thursdays off at work so they can spend some time with the pastor, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday too. They will want to be in charge of 3rd grade Sunday School, but they will want the pastor to go over every lesson.

And he going to find problems.

GenY is identified as the hardest but most rewarding group in the history of the American workplace to manage. This is because they are one of the best educated generations ever, and they are comfortable with modern information management techniques. I suspect, however, that they are one of the least educated groups ever theologically. They are being hit with everything from traditional to post-modern theological thought, and the contradictions have to be taking a heavy toll.

The trick in the workplace is to give GenY constant one-on-one attention, lots of very significant work, and full training. Busy work kills GenY because they don't trust in long-term transactions - if a job is going to pay, it has to pay now. They want to be doing something that matters now, and they want to be doing it when they are available to do it. Expect the same behavior in the church.

In the church, we will need to add Theology 101 to the mix.

The pastor cannot meet this need under the current system. The pastorate will crack. We will need a lot more people doing the pastor's job than there are now.

They say that 4% of our youth is saved. That is the most appallingly low number of Christians ever in our history. If the Lord is gracious, and if revival comes, the church is going to be inundated from that age group, and she is not going to know what to do.

Of course, I have some ideas. :-)

24 November, 2006

Bible Study: Assurance?

In our Thursday Bible Study, (cancelled this week, and deferred last week for a feast,) we have been wandering aimlessly through the scripture picking on a verse here and a verse there as it interests someone. It's been fun.

It does not really surprise me that a pattern imposed itself, but what the pattern was shocks me. 5 weeks in a row could all be described as being about "assurance of salvation." Not exactly one of the hot-button topics of the faith, I would have thought, but it emerged apart from any leading from this child.

The first two weeks the discussion edged that way. The next week was about the sin against the Holy Spirit. Then the verses chosen were actually chosen by people specifically because that was on their minds.

So, I am wondering.

Is this a topic of interest to anyone else? Is our little bible study "normal" or odd in this focus?

It so happens that I have been reading Jonathon Edwards' "Religious Affections" (for a long while now - I am ambling through it at best) so I have been amply equipped to go on about the subject.

It so happens, but not by coincidence.

I am reading Religious Affections because one of my chief questions in the faith these days is whether the church of our age is comforting too many people with promises of salvation. Is our church telling too many people that they are at peace with God, when really they are without Christ?

Imagine 2 people who have never known honey.

They are both brought to a bowl full of the golden syrup, and given a swizzle stick. They both are amazed at the color. They love its thickness, and how it slowly flows off the stick. They put it in their mouths and swish it around.

Mr. Edwards suggests that if only one of those people has the faculty of taste, only one of them will ever know that honey is sweet, but both will describe it in much the same language. The soul that cannot taste doesn't know what he's missing, so he describes the sensations of feeling honey on his tongue the same way the other person describes tasting it. When the tasting person describes a sticky sweetness, the non-tasting person will agree, and maybe elaborate even further, but not really have known honey's prime virtue.

He relates this back to the saints he shepherded through 1 Cor 2:14.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The natural man, he reminds his reader, cannot taste the things of heaven. He can be impressed with them naturally. The wisdom of Jesus might look beautiful to him. The ideals of the church might appeal to his sense of justice. The care of the saints might impress him. The hope of heaven might comfort him. But the sweetness of Jesus he might never have tasted, having been assured too soon that merely admiring Christ was the same as having eaten His flesh, and tasted His blood.

Saying the sinner's prayer alone does not a conversion make.

So, what do you think?

23 November, 2006

Thank You

The turkey is in the oven, and the plans are all laid, so there is a moment.

Thank you, all, for welcoming me into your thoughts, and for sharing the Lord with me. It would be hard to describe how much it means to me that you come here and share our love for the Lord, but it is beautiful to me.

Kansas Bob
Danny Kaye
Weekend Fisher

I hope that I have returned to you a fraction of the joy you have given me.


22 November, 2006

Costa Rican Tacos

Do you ever just feel like a Costa Rican taco?

My family took a vacation in Costa Rica one year. (I was not there. Long story, and I have taken my beatings for it.) Being in a wonderful, South American country, they decided it made perfect sense to order tacos.

They received corn tortillas with browned pork, cabbage, sweet red peppers, and mayonaise.

Think about it.

All the ingredients looked exactly like an American taco, but they all tasted wrong. I am given to understand that it was a wretched shock. :-)

Would that I were always what I appear to be.

20 November, 2006

Cool times 2

First, check out this video:
Dude loses his ball.

Second, I am typing my first post with my new clicky keyboard. :-)

It is a strange thing. My fingers have pretty much forgotten what's like to have key resistance. But, I'm already working on getting used to the track pointer in the middle of the keyboard, and the keys are starting to feel familar again.

I think I'll be downright happy before it's all over.

I'm already happily being forced to keep my hands in the right position. Oh yeah! I remember that position - it's a good thing, someone said. :-)

Now, back to the first thing again (after filling up a little space on the screen before explaining the purpose of the video.)

I love little videos like that. For a full explanation of what happened, you can see Scientific American's article.

Only about half the people were fooled by this simple illusion, but the intent is not to be totally deceiving, but to allow the scientists to track how the deception worked. (Pretend you were fooled for the rest of this little post. :-)

They explain over there that for the first 2 tosses, your eyes tracked the ball, but on the third toss, your eyes went to his face. You did not see the ball, so you went to the next best source of data - and the most natural source of data. You relied upon societal clues. It so happens that this member of society had decided to lie to you, and you were deceived.

This fascinates me.

Your eyes were not deceived. Your brain was. Your eyes were looking for the ball, and did not see it. But rather than take the simple facts that your eyes found as facts, you sought additional explanation, and you sought it from a fellow human. And you did it in less than the blink of an eye.

If that's not cool, what is?

Many people actually described the ball as going up off the top of the screen. In actuality, he palmed the ball. It never left his hand. You see it easily if you know to actually watch the ball.

We do this a hundred different ways. We see things that are so spot-on obviously in front us, but we look to each other for clues.

Usually it works.

18 November, 2006

Timeless Prayer: Loving Each Other

How does one comment on a prayer?

If you love the prayer, do you say so? It seems a little awkward, doesn't it? And the author of the prayer doesn't really want to be praised for it. The whole point was for Christ to praised!

There is a cool way to run with this.

Let me first digress, though.

Picture in your mind a rope. Not just any rope. Picture a cotton rope thick enough, long enough and strong enough to moor an aircraft carrier to a pier. Details don't matter, but this rope is bigger around than you are, and longer than any clothesline you have ever seen.

How is it made?

I don't know the process, but if you look at it, any rope is a collection of twisted ropes. Those ropes are collections of twisted cords. Those cords are collections of twisted threads. Those threads are collections of twisted fibers. And those fibers are grown from seeds.

So it is with the church.

The body of Christ extends from the beginning to eternity. Adam and Eve are its first fibers. Seth and Abel joined them. The Seed of God's Life was planted in their lives, and it bore fruit.

They became cotton bolls!

Adam and Eve were around long before Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, so someone had to work them into the rope of God by hand. From Wikipedia on Cotton, "When the cotton boll (seed case) is opened the fibres dry into flat, twisted, ribbon-like shapes and become kinked together and interlocked. This interlocked form is ideal for spinning into a fine yarn." The little cotton bolls had to become kinked together, and interlocked, so that they could be twisted into something amazing.

That kinking is what life does to us.

Life goes pear-shaped on us, and someone is there to help us through. Or we have things go wonderfully, and someone is there to rejoice with us. We are happy types, and the sad people around us cling to us; or we are melancholic types, and the happy people around us rejoice in our depth. We are different, and in our differences we catch at each other and interlock. It's chemistry, it's beautiful, and God deserves worship for making us this way.

But kinking isn't the end.

We have to be spun into something more.

Without the kinking, the spinning would not work. The Spinning Jenny of our lives is the body of Christ. The body twists us together, and applies that tension and friction that forges from our kinks a solid thread. Those threads, God uses to form His everlasting church, a rope strong enough to display the manifold wisdom of God, and to delight the omniwealthy Creator of all things.

There are a hundred things that can twist and entwine us together. Sitting and listening to a sermon every week together might be worth a half-a-turn, but you won't get any more than that out of me. It's working together that joins us together. Are you reaching out to your neighbors together? That will bind you together. Are you reaching out to the needy together? Are you bearing each other's burdens? Are you calling celebration dinners when someone graduates or survives some other trial? These things will entwine you together with dozens and hundreds of turns.

Worshipping together has the potential to bind us, too, if it is done with heart and everyone is heard.

A shared experience of true love toward God will make you see your brother in a whole new light. Hearing a sister declare the same awesome beauty of the Lord that was just moving you. Hearing a brother praise the Lord's majesty in just the way that you were feeling but could not express. Saying something so intimate, so risky about the Lord that you almost were silent, then hearing another saint pick up your words and carry them a little further. Being stirred by a sister's prayer, and feeling a little more for the Lord than you did 30 seconds ago, and turning that feeling into one more expression of Love for Jesus Christ.

These things forge a body. These things teach you to depend on one another.

We love the same Lovely One, and when we do it together, the work binds us together. Loving God is work as hard as digging a ditch, and as rich as chocolate pudding pie. It can be hard to start, and and hard to stop. The key is to build on each other's work.

Which brings me back to Timeless Prayer.

The best way to comment on a prayer is to pray.

First you read the prayer, and then you come back to it and pray it. If you like it, print it and pray it when you have a little more time. I suspect that pretending someone else is praying it will help. You are merely listening to her prayer. And as you see, touch, smell, hear, taste things of God in that prayer that stir you, stop and add your prayer to hers.

Come back later and type a little bit of your prayer as a comment on the prayer that stirred you.

So, we will provoke each other to love.

And so we will be wound together.

And so we will display the manifold beauty of the One Who loves us.

America: This Post is Not About Football

I am a resident of Columbus, OH on Nov 18, 2006 at 5:20 PM. Therefore, The GAME is on.

The GAME is the Ohio State Buckeyes hosting the Michigan Wolverines in football. It is the last game of the college football regular season every year, and they measure the score by the series. The GAME even has its own Wikipedia entry, and they count the score like this:

Michigan leads the overall series 57-39-6 and the conference series 45-39-4. However, in the last 50 years, they are even at 24-24-2.

I love football. It is the perfect game for men. It has everything. Individual performance matters. Team performance matters. Toughness matters. Heart matters. Like Lombardi said, the most competitive men love the most competitive sports. In football, a game can be decided when one person, on one play, steps too far back by one foot, and cannot throw the critical block. All 44 people on a team can win or lose the game every day.

It's a magnificent game.

I despise football.

Let me quote from "Play," the New York Times Sports Magazine.

This year, the NFL will reap a staggering $3.7 billion from television networks (including DirectTV, which has out-of-market rights), billions more than any other sport commands. Much of that money is distributed equally among the 32 teams; it is such a huge sum that it essentially covers the players' salaries, which for any football team is its largest expense.

The NFL has commanded its brand with a brutal genius.

The hammer the NFL holds over the networks and ESPN is fairly obvious: if the other networks aren't willing to ante up, well, the NFL can always decide to withdraw a rights package and put the games on its own network instead.
And that's the other, more immediate purpose of putting those eight games on the NFL Network: to apply pressure to the cable companies.

That game, and The GAME have nothing to do with games any more. They are all about American eyeballs. $3.7 billion dollars is only the revenue from television, but it's enough to talk about for purposes of this post. $3.7 billion dollars comes from New York Life advertising eternal promises. $3.7 billion dollars comes from Best Buy keeping their name on the screen during every replay. From Pacific Life giving the game summary. $3.7 billion comes from hundreds of advertisers paying for our eyeballs for 3 long, interruption-rich hours.

The Ohio State Buckeyes charge about $18,000 dollars per year to attend. The GAME makes them so popular that they need offer ZERO financial aid to most students - as a state university. The boys out on the field during The GAME think they are half playing, half gambling their lives, hoping to make it into the big time - to play for the pros. But really, they are just marketing toys for NCAA financiers.

The GAME's not football. Those boys demonstrating the fruit of their discipline and talent are deceived. And the millions of American men watching them every week are too. They think it matters what happens on that field. The only thing that matters is that millions of eyeballs cannot turn away. As long as football can sell eyeballs to television networks, football's power brokers will continue to collect money.

There are things in life that matter. Being a member of a society that has no clue how to entertain itself matters. Being a member of a city that has no idea how to care for its own matters. Whether the Buckeyes Beat Michigan! does not matter.

Except to the people in those towers. Those money-addicted people in those towers, those men who pull the strings of America, deciding which tv network will be allowed to pay them billions for their piece of the millions of eyeballs tuned in every week, to those men it matters. They need the game to be compelling. And they need it to be expensive for tv networks and cable companies.

And there's precious little they won't do to make sure it is.

The only way [the cable companies] can stay an unregulated monopoly is to provide the programming." Congressman love football, regulators love football, lots of people in important places love football. And as usual, what the NFL wants, the NFL will surely get.

America. You are dying.

15 November, 2006

Engaging God: Timeless Prayer

I don't want to post about praying within the blogosphere; I want to pray here in the blogosphere! And I'm hoping you'll join me. :-)

There are a number of ways one can pray profitably. Most of them may not work out here. They are too individual. But there is one way to pray that I believe will work out here. There is a specific kind of corporate prayer into which I believe we can all join and be blessed as both listeners and speakers.

Rev 4:8-12
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.


Revelation 19:1-4
And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.

Please do me a favor, at this point. Give this a chance to be something more than worship, at least as we currently use that word. For just a minute, entertain the hope that this might be something more.

There are two commands that excel above all others, love the Lord, and love each other. Prayer cannot encompass everything expressed in those commands, but it embraces more than you might guess.

Prayer is a chance to appreciate our God.
Prayer is a chance to depend upon Him.
Prayer is a chance to declare His entire fitness.
Prayer is a chance to flee to Him in fears.
Prayer is a chance to rejoice in His many triumphs.
Prayer is a chance to awe at the obstacles He leaps.
Prayer is a chance to know Him.
Prayer is a chance to know ourselves through His eyes.

Prayer is a fine conduit for fulfilling those two great commandments. Is there anything more that any lovers do, than what is in that list?

Like any conduit, though, prayer is nothing if nothing flows through it. (How many of you are old enough to have been raised on, "Nothing from nothing and nothing remains?") I will also say that prayer is very little, if very little flows through it. How many of us have given up on "eloquent" prayers? Or how many of us pray nothing but eloquence?

There is a prayer, very like the elders pray in the Revelation, that we can pray together and that has deep meaning. There are innumerable such prayers, but there are 150 that we all know, and want to know better.

I am extending an offer to investigate the Psalms experimentally with as many people as would like to go.

To this end, I have created a group blog on the Blogger Beta site called "Timeless Prayer."

I would like to invite any of you (and anyone else) who would like to pray through the Psalms to join me as editors of Timeless Prayers. We will speak and hear the Psalms in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ 500-1500 years after they were written, record these new perspectives, and pray them again. Reply to the first post over there, and I will add you as an editor. (On blogger beta, I have taken the name, Odepoke.)

May the Lord be blessed in our experiments.

Even Less Important!

I found this while making sure the recipe for Green Bean Casserole was as easy as I remembered it to be. I didn't mean to find it, but it should be blazoned all over the internet.


14 November, 2006

Tennis: Federer versus Roddick

OK. I was wrong. So very, very wrong.

I expected Federer to roll right over Roddick. The very first set proved me wrong.

It was tight from the very first game, and in the third game, Roddick broke Federer. He retained that break until 5-4, 40-30 - set point Roddick. There were two points that told the tale of the match, and this was the first.

Roddick served, and followed it straight into the net. Roddick's volley off Federer's return was solid, if uninspiring, to Federer's backhand. Federer was out of options, so he hit a conservative backhand over Roddick's backhand shoulder. Roddick decided not to play it, electing to let it sail long. Only it didn't. It landed a good foot inside the baseline.

With the set on his racket, Roddick decided to hope for a free point.

That's never a good sign.

When you trust your opponent to miss more than you trust yourself to hit that shot, you are having some fear problems.

Roddick went on to win the next two points, and closed out the set 6-4. But it was a telling moment.

Against Nalbandian, Federer turned it on in the second set. Not so against Roddick. Roddick may have been afraid, but he was handling it. The highlights showed some inspired play by both players in the second set. They quickly jumped to the tiebreak. Roddick was up 6-6, 6-4 - double set point Roddick. It was only by clear, calm play that Federer pulled his way back first to 5-6, and finally to a 9-8 lead in the tiebreak. Roddick was serving to stay in the set. (This is normal. In a perfect tiebreak, the server is always serving from behind.) This is the second telling point of the match.

Roddick served a screamer to Federer's backhand. There was precious little Federer could do, so he just blocked a floater back. Roddick leapt at the ball, and smashed it - 4 feet long.

It's just a mistake, but with that mistake the match was over. It was a free point, if Roddick played it right, but instead he played it loose. He was feeling a tremendous relief at having gotten the free point, and then he gave it away. Fear makes you do things like that.

They showed some highlight shots from the third set, but nothing memorable. Except one shot in which Roddick served a screamer to Federer's backhand, Federer blocked it back, and Roddick leapt at the ball, and smashed it - 3 feet in.

It's amazing what a difference a complete lack of pressure can make.

Federer 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

Nothing Important!

And with this silly discovery, I enlist in Danny Kaye's ranks.

The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

13 November, 2006

Watch the Tennis Master's Finale - Free on the Internet!

No joke, no spam.


For $5 you can watch a 5 minute highlight video of every match of the entire week, and for free you can watch the whole doubles tournament. It's seriously good stuff, and it doesn't take too long to watch.

This is a complex tournament. Only the 8 best men in the world are invited. They break into 2 groups of 4, and play round robin. The two best of each group meet in a semifinal. The winners of the semis play the final on Friday.

Federer and Nadal are in opposite groups, so they can only meet in the final. Already, though, we have seen Federer and Nadal show the contrast of their games.

Federer versus Nalbandian saw Federer drop the first set under a withering barrage by Nalbandian - then come back to win the next two sets 6-1, 6-1.

Nadal versus Blake showed the opposite. Nadal lost the first set, jumped out to the early lead in the second, and then saw Blake nibble his way back into the match. The announcer credited Blake's control of the errors that almost gave the set away. Then came the deciding tiebreak, which Nadal lost 0-7.

Nadal's power/spin game is not suited to the hardcourts yet, and any game that is one-dimensional is subject to meltdown. Federer can always reach back for another strategy. Nadal must work his way through every problem on sheer muscle-strength - more power, more spin.

There are two more round-robin matches for each of them. Federer plays Roddick tomorrow (or early this morning, or some such - the tourney is in Shanghai.) Roddick is fresh off a sound thumping of Ljubicic. We'll see what he can bring, but I call it Federer in two, though the first one should be close.

(If anyone cares to talk doubles, I'll call that one too! Bryan/Bryan should win this thing, but they were shocked in their first match. :-( )


Maybe you don't make your living with a keyboard. Or maybe you don't accidently sit down to write a quick post and get up a day or two, 13,000 words and 7 posts later. Still, you have to have learned to hate what the keyboard has become.

Dell makes dissatisfyingly mediocre keyboards. Their left shift key works on union scale, taking breaks every two hours no matter how important the job. They saved themselves about $0.30 worth of plastic, by getting rid of the 1/2 inch border around the actual keys - leaving the (somewhat?) important ESC, CTRL, Windows, "Second" and ENTER keys exposed to every careless brush of the palm. And they keep lining up the Insert, Home, Delete, End, Page up, Page down keypad differently every year. I will risk the judgement by calling them morons. Was anybody thinking? Could it really be that much more efficient to randomly rearrange them again?

But worst of all, Dell's keyboards are not, and nor will they ever be, IBM keyboards.

Ah. Do you remember the IBM keyboards? IBM still puts real keyboards like that on their laptops (last time I got to touch one, anyway.)

Their keyboards click.

That doesn't sound like much, but it's the world.

The click rewards the user twice. The first reward comes because your ears know what your fingers are doing. You can blithely tap along, reassured with every meshing of push, click and sight that all is well with the word. Every push yields a click, and every click yields a character. Oh, and to hear the shift key before the character key... heaven.

The second reward comes when your fingers know they can rest again.

You see, the click of the old keyboard was not just a reassuring noise. All keyboards make noise - nasty, pointless thunking noise, but noise. No, the click came when you had pushed the key about half way down, not all the way at the bottom. And once that key had clicked, your finger's work was done - every time. You could push that key half way, knowing the click would come, and quit. And, sure enough, the click came, and if the click came the character showed up on the screen.

Every time.

And rapture of raptures, when you hit the shift key, and you made it click before the character key, you could be SURE the character would be in upper case. Those shift keys worked on a commission, I tell you. They knew if they took a break, productivity would fall, and they'd be begging bread for their children!

Give me my Dell computer, and watch me backspace over and over and over because the shift key was only 83% depressed, while the character key was 86% depressed.

The agony!

Even using shorthand as I do (so that a 60,000 character series of posts only requires that I type 33,000 characters - now you know my secret) having to press every key through the bottom of the keyboard just to be sure it will show up on screen gets painful! And while you may wish that my keyboard hurt me enough to make me shorten a post or two, it never works that way. I am compelled to keep clicking through the pain until the muse leaves. (Actually, maybe if I would quit when the muse did people would read more?) I hope it's enough merely to know that I hurt with each word I write as much as you do with each word you read.

Anyway, if anyone knows of a good keyboard out there, I'll buy two, maybe three of them. Elsewise, I'll be cruising the IBM peripherals site in the next day or two.

11 November, 2006


Not to Your church, O Lord, not to Your church
But to Your Name
Be glory for Your grace
And for Your Truth's sake.

Why should the blind say,
"Where is their God now?"
Our God stands in the heavens
On feet of flesh like brass.
He has done what His Father has pleased.

Their idols are silicon and glass
The work of men's hands.
They have theses, but they don't guide their thoughts.
They have proofs, but they don't lead to Truth.
They have vision with no sight
Missions with no goal
Charity with no love.
The path of their understanding leads to confusion
They are confounded by their wisdom.


Trust in your Lord!

He is your Deliverer.
You that are born into Him,
Trust in Him.
He is your Redeemer.

The Lord has remembered us
And given us everything He promised.
He has blessed His kingdom.
He has blessed His bride.
He has blessed every one who loves Him
The man on welfare, and the man with options.

He has multiplied Himself to us.
Every blessing in heavenly places He has given
To us and to all who call on His Name.
We are the blessed of the earth.

The heavens are the Lord's
And Jesus added the earth to His possessions.
He put His feet down on the earth,
And left His kingdom to conquer in His Name.

Those with no spirit breathe no praise to the Lord
Those with no mouth say nothing to His glory.
But we must sing of the glory of the Lord.
But we bless the Father and the Son
Here on earth
And in heaven

Praise the Lord

Psalm 115 - retold as if written in 2006.

Election: Republicans Take a Beating

But the phone calls have ended.

Merciful, merciful RNC and DNC, we are free at last.

No more listening to voice mails that all say, "Hello, my name is beep-beep-BEEP," 17 times in a row. (If I hit 3-3-7 as I am listening to a voice mail it takes me to the end of the message then deletes it.) I figure I did every politician a favor with my 337 solution. If I had allowed them to say their names, I would have loathed them. By silencing them so soon, in the prime of their messages really, I kept myself from despising them.

Do they not realize that voice mail is not like junk mail?

I laugh at junk mail. Each day my son and I chuckled, because each day Deborah Pryce and her opponent (whatever her name was) seemed to alternate mailings. Each day candidate A was either going to save the world or damn it. We joked that we were so confused. Which was true? Was Deborah saving the children from a cruel death by taxation, or was she eating them as after-dinner snacks? It was all so upsetting. She was like a mother to me, until the next day when Pilate would have feared her.

See? Just amusing. We'd laugh at our little stories, then recover the only real value in all the mailings - namely the raw value of the wood fiber - by putting them in the recycle bin. We certainly didn't learn one worthwhile piece of information from any of them, but at least they only took 5 seconds to throw away.

Voice mail?

Not so much.

The morons at the Republican and Democratic HQs seem to assume that I want to listen to their vapid hyperbole for (who knows how many) seconds. "Daft," does not begin to describe their asinine stupidity. Didn't they realize I could be fishing crud out from between my toes? I could be scrubbing behind the toilet. I could be standing in a driving rain, trying to wash away my guilt. I cannot think of anything I'd willingly quit doing in order to listen to a moron exaggerate half-truths while never giving me one useful fact.

May they be forced to press Q-tips into their ear canals until dead.


The Republicans took a beating.

They earned it.

Now it's the Dem's turn to make the populace angry. We'll see how that works out for them.

It's still a great country, and I thank the Lord He has made a place in the world where His church can live and move in peace.
1 Tim 2:1-2
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

We pray for government, not that America might be great, but that the church might be allowed to serve HER GOVERNMENT in peace. The government here serves only one purpose - to make a peaceful place for the church. Our forefathers' prayers for a nation that might give freedom to God's church were answered.

I think we'd best start praying that the church finds some way to capitalize on this gift we've been given. The return on the investment God has made in us is pitiful. Much freedom and untold wealth have been given to us, and the profit from it will surely be expected by God. 4 hours a day of television (the national average) is going to be hard to justify when He makes an accounting of us.

The Republicans took a beating.

So what?

What's the church doing?


(Maybe we should be starting a voice mail campaign?)

10 November, 2006

Predestination: The Series is Over - Was I right?

Of course, that is the wrong question. There is another, better question.

+ How right was I?
I promise I don't know, but I feel like I am righter than I was 2 months ago. Many of the things you guys said made a difference in my perspective.

As I was writing, I did not try to represent or to answer your thoughts in these posts. I hope none of you took that as a slight. I realize that I wrote this series as if I had believed every word of it my whole life. The truth is that the discussions of Sept through Nov shifted my opinions a great deal, especially on man's free will.

I've never given free will the time of day, and never been troubled by the fact. About half way through our talks, I started being troubled over free will, and by the end I began to see things differently. I had always seen man as dead, and needing to be made alive. Hence, free will was extraneous. Oddly, I also saw man as needing God's Life ingrafted, but never saw the connection with free will that made me want to rewrite my whole perspective from front to back like that. You will read my old position in these posts as part of that ascribed to Calvinists.

Regarding God loving all men equally, I am not persuaded. I know that's not popular, but despite all the verses I quoted, there are just too many that inform those verses the "other way." Who knows? Maybe some day I will shift here, too.

Two things happened to drive me to this series of posts so suddenly, and so "lengthily." One of them was the feeling that I had reached some new ground, and I needed to capture it on paper. The other was a desire to change subjects, and the feeling that I could not do so without closure on this one. I'm always game for a discussion on the subject, but I am going to move in a new direction shortly.

Thank you to everyone who commented as I built up to this. Your provocative thoughts were profitable for me. I hope the discussion was to you, too.


I also want to extend a special, heartfelt thanks to Milly. Your faithful comment at the end of every post, letting me know that you had actually read each of them, was a tremendous encouragement - especially since I know you were enduring eye trouble that made reading long posts especially painful. I am honored.

Thank you, Milly.

09 November, 2006

Predestination: TULIP - The Missing Foundation

And so we come to the "R" in Plenus EMPTOR.

Redemptor is one of the Latin names for Christ. That would make an outstanding "R," but I don't think that even Christ's name says enough. There is a LOT more to be said than just a single Name, even that Name above all names. There's even more to the story of that Name's value.


TULIP stops at a really critical place, and kind of an odd one. Its friends will be quick to explain that this is because the 5 points of the Remonstrance stopped just there, but that's not really of consequence to me. Whether TULIP or Remonstrance, they both stop at the same place.

Man is depraved, so God intervenes by electing some somehow, paying for their sins, converting them, and seeing them safely all the way to heaven. Through "EMPTOR" I have dealt with my thoughts on how God does these 5 things, but there is a massive, gaping hole this picture if it is going to try to explain salvation.

TULIP and Remonstrance both rest on a foundation of sin, and man's need.

The missing foundation is God. All 5 of these points concern man, and only introduce God as in relation to man's needs. That is falacious.

God has works an incredible change upon Himself in the story of salvation, apart from any effect He has on man. The most amazing thing in the redemption story is how I AM that I AM changed Himself in taking captivity captive. As long as we are pinning butterflies to styrofoam, let's catalog the greatest metamorphosis in all history, pre-history, and even non-history.

The Living God became the Resurrected Seed.

Ge 1:12
And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Much like a seed, this verse contains the full fruit of God's experience, but in a nutshell, waiting to be revealed in the rest of scripture.

All of the living beings in Genesis 1 reproduce after their kind. This is a picture of God. The herbs, the trees, the fish, the fowl, and the beasts all multiply after their kind. The plants, though, are described as bearing seed, and that is a little more careful picture of Him. And the tree, in particular, is described as bearing fruit with its seed within in it, both in verse 12 and in verse 29.

Everything has its picture of the image of God, but the tree yielding fruit is called out in particular.

Ge 3:15
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Now the idea of "seed" gets transferred to human children. Satan will reproduce after his kind, and Eve will reproduce after her kind. She will bear a Seed that will grow and destroy Satan's seed, though at a cost to Himself.

Ge 12:7
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

Paul notes a little later that this Seed is singular, but see that God is talking about His kind on earth. The children of Abraham are a better picture of God than the fruit from a tree.

Ge 15:5
And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

The seed are not always singular!

Ge 15:13
And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

Nor will the seed always be comfortable.

In fact, the nation of Israel is identified as the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You can track their fortune through scripture exclusively by searching for the word, "seed." You will see every time they do well and every time they fail, because God continues to refer to them as the seed over and over.

Ps 22:30
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.

Even when the kingdom is but a remnant, and only one single seed remains, God still counts that solitary seed as a complete generation.

Ps 89:29
His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.

But the key meaning of Seed is still the promised One.

Isa 66:22
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.

He is the Seed, and His Name will be hallowed.

So, far, I would describe none of this as terribly mysterious. Certainly, none of this involves the metamorphosis of God. This is just standard stuff for a God Who rules everything in Truth and Justice. He stands at the beginning of time, and foreordains that He will come as the Son of a woman some day, and that Abraham will be the father of the great nation from which He will spring.

Then, He says this:

Joh 12:24
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

And in one sentence Jesus turns two thousand years of Jewish interpretation of prophecy on its ear.

They have expected and waited on a Redeemer Who would deliver them from the hands of their enemies. They have, instead, received Jesus, Who has come to lay down His life.

Jesus is teaching His disciples that He must be lifted up, and die, but not to redeem us. Yes, Jesus must die to redeem us. Yes, He must be the sin bearer. But, this verse is about something bigger, something foundational. Jesus must die in order to bear fruit.

Jesus must be planted in the ground.

Suddenly, the seed in Genesis 1 comes rushing back into our minds. The fruit must be planted in the ground, or the tree cannot reproduce. The seed must die, or the tree must abide alone. But, if the seed dies, then kind of its kind is brought forth.

It is not just trees that bear kind after their kind, but fish, fowl and beasts as well. Could it be that God, too, bears kind after His kind? Is this one of the things nature is portraying about God?

Jesus said that unless a man was "born from above," he could not see the kingdom of God. (I know the common translation is "born again," but that is derived from Nicodemus's misunderstanding. The other three times the word is used by John in his gospel, it is translated "from above.")

Unless a man becomes kind of the kind that is "from above," he cannot see the kingdom of God.

And unless the Son of God falls into the earth as a grain of wheat, He must abide alone.

But, am I just stretching things here?

1 Cor 15:35
But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

Paul doesn't seem to think so.

1 Cor 15:42
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

Paul is even ready to consider all our bodies seeds.

1 Cor 15:54
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

And how did our Lord give us this victory? By being the first to overcome death by resurrection.
Joh 12:24
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

CS Lewis refered to a deep magic, magic that was stronger than the law of the land. Here is that magic in plain view.

What was the magic that worked the resurrection?

It was the magic of a corn of wheat that falls into the ground and dies. If the Seed sown is alive, then it must rise again.

Jesus died so that He might not abide alone.

Let that sentence sink into a deep place in your heart.

Jesus died so that He might not abide alone. Yes, Jesus died for your salvation, but He died for something much deeper, much more fundamental than that. Have you ever wondered how to "bless the Lord?" Have you ever wondered what you might bring to God to please Him? Have you ever wondered what gift you might bring that would have meaning to an omnipotent God?

Jesus died so that He might abide with you.

But maybe you have assumed that He only died because things had gone horribly wrong, because Adam rebelled.

Jesus would have had to die had there been no sin and no fall of man.

The Sabbath is a law, but its meaning changed. Thou shalt not kill is a law but it has exceptions. "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit," is like the law of gravity. It cannot be repealed. This law springs from the very nature of Life, from the nature of God. "Kind after its kind," is a law that exists on earth before even, "but of the tree in the midst of the garden, thou shalt not eat." This law was in full effect in Genesis 1, before there was any law.

"The tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good."

But there is an even deeper, more powerful example. The image bearer bore out this image as well.

Before Adam had sinned, he was found alone in the garden, without a mate, and God Himself declared that it was not good.

Adam could not produce kind after his kind. Adam could not fulfill the basic law of creation, and it was not good. And God declared it not good for a reason. God shared Adam's problem. God could not create kind after His kind. Adam was a tragically perfect picture of the perfect God. Flawless, alive, master of all he surveyed, and in violation of the law of gravity. Neither God nor Adam could produce kind after his kind.

God was ready to change this about Himself. God was ready no longer to abide alone.

First, He showed what He would do for Himself by doing it in Adam.

God caused Adam to sleep. Adam had to die in order no longer to abide alone. Adam had to be cracked open like a seed, and a half of him had to be removed. Maybe it was just a rib, but the Hebrew word would indicate that it was much more than a rib. If there weren't centuries of tradition to the contrary, I don't think modern linguistics would allow us to translate that word as rib. Either way, a piece of Adam was taken away in order that it might be grown into someone who could face him, love him, and receive love from him in return.

We know this is a picture of Christ, but consider that it is a picture from before sin. Sin has no part in this miracle. The only thing being rectified by Adam's death and loss was His loneliness - rather his aloneness. As Kansas Bob has pointed out, the two are indescribably different.

We have then two powerful pictures. The seed must die, or forever abide alone, and Adam must sleep to have his mate.

The unavoidable reality these pictures describe is that God created the earth so that He might Himself brave the same grave metamorphosis.

God in Jesus died for a purpose, and that purpose was not primarily to wipe away our 10,000 year stain of sin. There was eternal work afoot in Christ's passion. If Christ does not die, the Godhead, the Singular with three Persons, abides alone. Even if Adam did not sin, Christ must die. If Adam were without win, and Christ did not die, then man could never become more than Empty Humanity. We might have lived happy human lives on earth, but we could never see the God Who created us - not with spiritual eyes.

Yes, God walked with Adam in the cool of day, but only because He made Himself visible to Adam's naked eye. In this age and time of the revelation of God, we have been blessed more deeply. We see God invisibly in our hearts. We know Him as He knows us, in Spirit and in Truth. Adam would never have reached that glory, any more than my cats might write a sonnet.

Unless we are born from above, we cannot see the kingdom of God.

But, Christ did die.

And He rose again.

Joh 17:2
As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

In rising again, Christ achieved every goal of the Father. In dying and rising again, Christ broke open the shell of the Seed, and sprouted to become fruitful on a divine scale.

In Him, we rise too.

Re 20:6 Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

We have in us the new Life in Christ, because He fell into the ground and died.

God has been expanded, in the same manner that Adam was expanded. Adam became Adam and Eve, and the Lord saw that it was God. God has become the Son and His bride, and that is perfect.

The "R" in EMPTOR is for "Resurrected Seed, because on this foundation, God is blessed.


08 November, 2006

Sidebar: Religious Affections

I was reading Jonathon Edwards, and I laughed out loud. Frankly, that doesn't happen very often reading Mr. Edwards, so I figured I'd share it.

Does anyone attempt to nourish and strengthen a little child by repeated blows on the head with a hammer?

Alright, I'm a guy. I'll admit that. I cannot type that without laughing the whole time. I don't know why, but mousy little super-genius Christian philosophers saying things like that is just beyond funny.

But then he followed it with one of the most profound things I've read in a long time. This is going to be kind of long, but it's really unusual.

He is making the point that it is non-sensical to criticize a doubting believer for not believing in his belief. You might criticize him for not believing in God, but he is already criticizing himself for that. So, many people will want him to trust in the fact that he trusted God a long time ago. I pick his argument up in the middle of the paragraph. (This is all one paragraph in the original. For the sake of the reader, I will break it up into a few. The emphases are all his.)

Distant experiences, when darkened by present prevailing lust and corruption, will never keep alive a gracious confidence and assurance. If the one prevail, the other sickens and decays upon it. Does anyone attempt to nourish and strengthen a little child by repeated blows on the head with a hammer? Nor is it at all to be lamented that persons doubt of their state in such circumstances; but on the contrary, it is desirable and every way best that they should. It is agreeable to that wise and merciful constitution of things which God hath established. For so hath God constituted things, in His dispensation towards His own people, that when their love decays, and their exercises of it become weak, fear should arise.

They need fear then to restrain them from sin, to excite them to care for the good of their souls, and so to stir them up to watchfulness and diligence in religion.

But God hath so ordered, that when love rises, and is in vigorous exercise, then fear should vanish, and be driven away; for then they need it not, having a higher and more excellent principle in exercise, to restrain them from sin, and stir them up to duty. No other principles will ever make men conscientious, but one of these two, fear or love: and therefore, if one of these should not prevail as the other decayed, God's people when fallen into dead and carnal frames, when love is asleep, would be lamentably exposed indeed.

Hence, God has wisely ordained, that these two opposite principles of love and fear, should rise and fall, like the two opposite scales of a balance; when one rises the other sinks. Light and darkness unavoidably succeed each other; if light prevail so much does darkness cease, and no more; and if light decay, so much does darkness prevail. So it is in the heart of a child of God; if divine love decay, and fall asleep, and lust prevail, the light and joy of hope goes out, and dark fear arises; and if, on the contrary, divine love prevail, and come into lively exercise, this brings in the brightness of hope, and drives away black lust and fear with it. Love is the spirit of adoption, or the childlike principle; if that slumbers, men fall under fear, which is the spirit of bondage, or the servile principle: and so on the contrary.

And if love, or the spirit of adoption, be carried to a great height, it quite drives away all fear, and gives full assurance; 1 John iv. 18. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear." These two opposite principles of lust and holy love, bring fear or hope into the hearts of God's children, just in proportion as they prevail; that is, when left to their own natural influence, without something adventitious or accidental intervening; as the distemper of melancholy, doctrinal ignorance , prejudices of education, wrong instruction, false principles, peculiar temptations, &c.

I don't know whether that does as much for anyone else as it did for me, but it is fabulous.

Permission from such an esteemed man as Mr. Edwards, to feel fear and to feel oppression when lust prevails is a great comfort. To always be play-acting courage toward God is a life-destroying occupation. To let fear arise, when it must, and to allow it to drive us back to Christ is nothing but the greatest relief.

And to hope that God has ordered it just this way, is a beautiful thing.

Did lust and fear never play a part in my life, I could stand with all my brothers and sisters who remind me that "perfect love casts out fear."

I am not that man, so I will allow fear to drive me to my Love.

Predestination: TULIP - Perseverance of the Saints

This is the fifth of six posts regarding TULIP. Just one more to go. :-) If you are not familar with that acronym, Wikipedia has a number of articles on the subject. This one is probably the most succinct and provides links to the counter positions of Arminians.

5) Perseverance of the Saints

Perseverance of the Saints gets the least debate of all the points. Classical Arminians believed that any saint could apostasize, and be damned in the end, no matter how strongly they ran the course up until that point. Almost universally, Arminians and Calvinists now functionally agree with the simple formula, "Once saved, always saved," which moves the subject pretty much out of the arena. Calvinists twist once saved, always saved pretty aggresively, though, when they look at it very closely.

Calvinists hold that every believer must persevere in the faith in order to be finally saved. They believe that every truly converted believer will persevere and finally be saved, but they are not clear who is truly converted. Some might appear to have run well and then fallen away, but really they were never saved. They had simply deceived themselves and those around them. (This creates some serious room for doubt. A believer may find that same worry he might have spent wondering whether he will fall away in the end, he spends instead wondering whether he is deceiving himself.)

Arminians, hold to, "Once saved, always saved," with more conviction. In many cases, they now believe and teach that once a person has said the sinner's prayer with conviction, he is going to heaven no matter what he does from that day forward. It is an interesting, and rather extreme, change in position from early Arminianism, but so be it.

Codepoke believes that assurance is an important goal for every believer, but not one to be assumed lightly. Both Arminianism and Calvinism handle this well in theory, and a little worse in practice. I doubt any particular doctrine can do better, but let's try anyway.

Jesus decries blind assurance as a critical threat to the seeker after God. Blind assurance cripples the seeker by contenting him with a false achievement. He believes that he has achieved eternal security, when in reality, he has only dabbled in spiritual things.

Matt 13:3-9
And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some * * fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold *, some sixtyfold *, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Of the four fates for the seeds Jesus sows, two result in the illusion of assurance. The seeds on the rocky soil spring up, but die later, and the seeds among thorns do well for a while too. If the seeker assumes that the growth in his heart is a sign of conversion, he faces a big, and possibly eternal fall. Jesus invites those who have ears to hear this parable, but He explains it in detail to His disciples.

Matt 13:18-23
Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 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.

There is no life-long benefit to these seeds for those who have no root within themselves, nor for those deceived by riches.

I am of the number who believe that the Word of the Kingdom, the holy seed of scripture, can be sown into the hearts of those who are not, and never will be saved. I also believe that the seed can be sown into the hearts of those who will be saved, or are saved, and still be choked out. So, I don't believe that this passage says anything conclusive about whether a person can be truly born again and truly apostasize.

My point in quoting this passage is that salvation is a struggle.

We must reach out and take salvation. We must become skilled in seeing the invisible, and loving God and man. We must be prepared to suffer, and become good at it. We must expect tribulation, and then not be surprised when it comes (I know that's redundant, but it's pretty real.) We must throw off the cares of this world (yes, even the good ones,) and handle money knowing it is a deceiver.

Christianity that introduces God primarily as a Helper Who wants to ease our lot in life is selling a bald-faced, blaspheming lie. It's an easy lie to sell in the land of TiVo and mega-malls, but the deception is real and vicious. Ease is a lie of the enemy, and one that has crippled the church.

Given the state of the church, and the state of our doctrines, it is very easy to believe we are saved, and not know Christ. It is very easy to believe that, "God loves me," but not to know the fear that comes of seeing the perfectly holy God, and knowing that we must somehow be conformed to that holiness. We will never fully conform to His holiness, but it must be a passion for us.

God's bride knows this and does it. All her members grow in holiness and grace, some 30, some 60 and some 100-fold.

1 John 5:4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

1 John 5:11 - 13 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

1 John 10:27-30 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.

Our faith will not falter, because the Son of God will not let us go. He will not allow us to fail. We might trust that in ease we would not fail Him, but He promises that He can keep us through every terror, too.

Rom 8:35-37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written *, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

God has Ordained Victory for Himself through us.

We don't need to pretend that this life is made easy by being His children. We can acknowledge that this life is always heartbreaking, and know that He has promised to see us through it anyway. This is what He must do to earn the joy that was set before Him, and He will not be denied.


07 November, 2006

Predestination: TULIP - Irresistible Grace

This is the fourth of six posts regarding TULIP. If you are not familar with that acronym, Wikipedia has a number of articles on the subject. This one is probably the most succinct and provides links to the counter positions of Arminians.

4) Irresistible Grace

Calvinists have been embarassed by this term for centuries. "Irresistible Grace" conjures images of a man trying to better himself by arts or sciences suddenly being accosted by God. He protests his innocence, and desire to be free of God, but He has chosen this one, and this one will be saved, whether he likes it or not. All the while, a poor peasant girl standing by and watching, wishing she could only know God, is passed over and damned. Had God wished her to be saved, her wish should surely have been granted, but God wanted to prove His grace's irresistibility, so He left her to die while taking the harder case.

It's a ridiculous picture, but it's a ridiculous term, too.

(Of course, the term could refer to a grace that is irresistible like a beautiful painting, not like a tsunami, but it's a little late to suggest that now. ;-)

The term came about because the 5 TULIP points were an answer to the 5 points of the Remonstrance. The fourth point of the Remonstrance was "Resistible Grace." Nobody could think ahead to how poorly the term, "irresistible," would market, so Calvinists are stuck with it.

Then again, it's a pretty good fit for the way most Calvinists understand it.

Calvinists believe that the Holy Spirit succeeds in attracting every person whom God selected from that great mass of the to-be-born. It is that simple, really. Some Calvinists portray God as a bulldozer, breaking down every wall of opposition in the hearts of the elect, while others portray Him as a velvet-lined bulldozer. Either way, God succeeds in drawing His elect.

Arminians, again, are repulsed by the thought. That God might be thankful for love won with a bulldozer is anathema to them. The human heart is driven by its own will. God ceded this element of His sovereignty in order to make the love of His children worthy to be called love. Hence, the Spirit's call is resistible. Try as any minister might, be the Son's gift ever so beautiful, and may the Spirit woo with all His guile, most men will still reject God.

It is on this point, more than the other four, that Arminians and Calvinists cannot hear one another. As I read the scriptures, it seems pretty clear why. The scriptures are crystal clear that men resist God's will, but not on why they succeed. The scriptures are also crystal clear that no one freely wills to come to God, but not on how God changes that will. And what does God do and not do for those who are never saved?

The upshot of this ambiguity is that Calvinists and Arminians can actually use the same proof texts to support opposite conclusions. For example:

John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

The Arminian sees all this coming because of God's gracious reaction to man's belief. The Calvinist sees a critical sequence of events. First, a person receives God, and then he believes. They can argue together for pages on this passage, and never really hear each other's reasoning.

But this post is about Codepoke. :-)

Codepoke believes that all men are born empty and dead, and that the deadness is the lesser of the two problems!

The Arminian says that God makes every man alive enough to choose to have faith or reject it by a little gift called "prevenient grace." Prevenient grace is defined as the grace that prompts our first wish to please God. It all sounds rather circular to me, but then I quit being Arminian 25 years ago.

The Calvinist says that God only makes His elect alive, but He stirs up their mind, will and emotions such that they will aways believe. Before God moved, the man was dead. After God moves, the man is alive, and the Spirit continues to work in the man's nature, guiding him toward a saving faith. If a Calvinist believes in a grace that is prevenient, it is only a formality. To a Calvinist, there is grace and there is "not-grace," and nothing in between.

Codepoke says that a piece of the divine nature of God, taken from Christ, is placed within a man according to the purpose of God. Without that piece, a man cannot sense God. With it, He cannot not sense God.

Every man were born without spiritual eyes, unable to see into the invisibles, and unable to see the Son or the Father. Christ came, and they did not know Him, nor comprehend what they saw. Their will is free, but their senses lie to them, and tell them that there is no God. After they receive spiritual eyesight, and after they see Christ, the whole avalanch of experiences necessary to salvation flow from their free will the way eating flows from the hungry.

2Pe 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

Gal 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Ezek 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

This newness is absolutely the core of salvation.

1 Cor 2:14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

The natural man is both dead and empty. The gift of the divine nature, given to him, changes everything.

Only the divine nature is capable of hearing the Word of God, and believing. Only the divine nature is capable of repenting. Only the divine nature can see God, even as He is revealed in the flesh in the first century.

John 10:26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

Looking right at the God of the universe in human flesh, they see only a competitor for the hearts of the people. And, of course, they are right. He's all that and more. They are just blind to the "more" part, because it is invisible, and they have no spiritual eyes.

So, I have to stand with the theory of the Calvinists, and say that God has to move first, and that God only moves for the ones He knew in His bride before He ever created anything.

Then I have to move over and stand with the practice of the Arminians, because Calvinists are not always very good at telling people they have to believe, repent, and be converted. True, mature Calvinism always does preach the necessity of these things, but too often the message is confused by the overly theological.

Placing the new man, the piece of the divine nature, is God's worry. Man's worry is to believe, repent and be converted! These things must happen to be saved, and they happen when a man can truly see Jesus. Preaching must show Jesus, Himself, in all His passion, beauty and faithfulness. It is when Jesus is presented, and the people see Him, that their hearts are pricked and they cry out to Him. Mature Calvinists get this, but every Arminian does.

2 Tim 2:10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

Salvation is not just given, it is obtained, even for the elect. For this reason, Paul must endure hardship, and everyone who would know Christ must endure hardship. Salvation is a thing to be worked out. It is no jigsaw puzzle, ready cut and made to assemble in 2 hours or your money back. Salvation requires that a man sell everything he owns.

The divine nature implanted in man, can see the value of that pearl of great price. The Christian man will do anything to have the pleasure of His Father and Bridegroom.

So, I believe in Transplanted Divinity. Not that God overcomes our will, but that He mingles His Life with ours, thereby allowing us a true sight of Him. Once we can finally see Him, the rest happens naturally. God is irresistible to us once we can finally see Him.

It is no longer fashionable to quote the Song of Solomon when explaining salvation, but...
Song 1:7
Tell me, you whom I love,
where you graze your flock
and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
beside the flocks of your friends?

Had she never seen Him, she would never have sought Him. And now that she has seen Him, nothing less will do. She has no desire to be anywhere but directly with Him at all times.

Song 5:
8 Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you—

if you find my beloved,
what will you tell him?
Tell him I am faint with love

When the Lord Transplants His Life into us, our free will does the rest.