Archive for July, 2008

Friends,

I have this knot inside of me. Part of it is due to a conversation I have been having with another blogger. The knot concerns the theological construct known simultaneously as Calvinism or Augustinianismor Reformed Theology. I’d like to offer a few preliminary thoughts on this subject, but only insofar as it pertains to the popular promulgation of the doctrines in the form of TULIP. That is, I’ll constrain my thoughts to TULIP and not much beyond that (this is in no way meant to be a full out refutation of everything John Calvin every taught or believed). There are at least two or three doctrines that are closely associated with TULIP that I will, perhaps, touch on later. First, there is the idea of ‘original sin.’ Second, there is the doctrine of the Sovereignty of God. Third, there is the doctrine of free-will. And, I suppose fourth, there is the doctrine of infant salvation. I hope at some point to touch on all these in one way or another. (Upon reflection, I believe there should be a category also labeled ‘evangelism’ also.)

I am not writing these posts because I claim to be a theological expert on any of them, but rather because these things are weighing heavily on my heart and I wish to explore them. These thoughts are based on a few different things. In the first place, there is my ongoing investigation into Scripture as a preacher and minister of the Word. Some say the more they study the Scripture the more they affirm what I will generically, but not pejoratively, call Calvinism. I find just the opposite to be true. The more I read Scripture, the more I see the beauty of a Sovereign God who loves his children but does not feel compelled to act against (in the sense of a puppeteer controlling their every move or telling them what to think and do) their will–except in rare instances of what we generically call ‘miracles.’ (Job has a lot to say about this.) In the second place, I grew up as a Methodist and then moved into the Church of Christ (not a capellaand not Disciples of Christ). So perhaps some of the revulsion and angst I feel for these doctrines has to do with a certain part of the exegesis I have been exposed to through the years of sitting under preachers who think the same way.

In the third place, I have listened to many sermons, read many books, and studied deeply the teaching of many different so-called Reformed theologians. I am not on unfamiliar ground. I may not fully understand everything, but I am not coming at this uninformed or ignorantly. While I believe fully that these are men of God, and I should hope they believe the same of me, I am not convinced their position takes into consideration all of the Biblical evidence (even if they have ‘answers’ for everything I will say.) Finally, I should say this too. This is not a polemic against reformed theologians. It is a reflection on the nature of Calvinist theology, its implications, and whether or not it can be sustained Scripturally. I have, as I wrote, much respect, admiration, and love for theology in general and the men and women who do the hard work of theology. My shelves are lined with the works of theologians of all stripes. And, to be sure, I believe there is room within the church for ‘both’ ideas (although, it is impossible to narrow down theological systems to either one or the other). For the purposes of these reflections, I am limiting the scope of my investigation to two very narrowly defined categories: Calvinistic and not-Calvinistic.

The unfortunate thing is that so much of the theology that is being done is being done from a point of view that seems to misunderstand God’s sovereignty. Many not-Christians rightly react negatively to the Calvinistic portrayal of God’s sovereignty–to the Calvinistic portrayal of God himself! What I am hoping to accomplish in these posts is to simply reflect, in a very personal way, on these doctrines and seek to understand how two very different ways of understanding Scripture (Calvinist and not-Calvinist) exist. Why do I not see Calvinism (remember that is a ‘catch-all’ term not being used to define a system, but not to limit it to one person) in Scripture where so many others do see it?

As always, I am a learner and I am hoping to learn something about God through this public display of my questions and my thoughts. If you happen to be a ‘Calvinist’ or a ‘Reformed’ theologian or if you happen to be a sojourner with questions like me, please feel free to join the discussion.

_________________________

There are five basis tenets to the TULIP system. Total Depravity. Unconditional Election. Limited Atonement. Irresistible Grace. Perseverance of the Saints (Eternal Security). In this first post, then, I will be reflecting on the first of the five basic principles of Calvinism: Total Depravity.

I think what gets me about this is the qualifier: Total. It really does not seem to fit with the Biblical evidence. I’ll hold up an example from the Bible:

1At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

4Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. 5Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”

 7When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Here we are given every reason to believe that Cornelius was not, as it were, totally depraved. Here was a man who probably had some contact with Jews, but probably also had some contact with the Caesar worship of the day, and probably not a little contact with the pagan pantheon of gods too. And yet he, and his entire family, are described as ‘devout and God-fearing,’ people ‘gave generously to those in need,’ and ‘prayed to God regularly.’ Now none of these things necessarily imply that Cornelius was a ‘saved’ man in the sense that the Christian might understand salvation, but he was certainly not a man, despite the fact that he was a Roman centurion of all things, who was thoroughly, completely, utterly, defunct and depraved.

He was a man, however, who was totally guilty. It is my contention that there is a huge difference between being totally depraved and totally guilty. In Romans 1, Paul explicitly makes the case for the latter, but says nothing at all concerning the former. In fact, it seems to me that he explicitly refutes the former. Consider these two verses side by side:

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing them, now even defending them.” (2:14-15, Romans)

AND:

“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (3:22b-23, Romans)

The difference in these two verses is simply this: The former shows that some Gentiles do keep the law which means, at least, that they are not completely unable to keep the law (whatever law that happens to be). And yet the apostle says in the latter verse that all have sinned. Well, if some Gentiles keep the law (and by implication this means that some Jews also keep the law also) and all have sinned what else can this possibly mean but that all are totally guilty even if those guilty ones (by virtue of the fact that they are demonstrated here as keeping a law they do not even possess) are not totally depraved?

__________________________

This is not the total case, but I’m sure I will have a few more thoughts along the way. I’d like now to share some thoughts I have had concerning this issue of total depravity.

First, I fully affirm that the Scripture teaches we are ‘dead in our trespasses.’ This is the clear teaching of Scripture and only a fool denies it. However, it does not necessarily follow that since we are dead in our trespasses that we are unable to make any sort of decision for right or good or, ultimately, God. These are simply not logical connections to make. It seems to me that the knowledge of good and evil–a gift given to us at the fall–at least–even if we have a propensity for choosing evil–at minimum teaches that we can make a choice; we just happen to make the wrong ones more often than not.

Second, if the Scripture is true, and God’s law is still written in our hearts then I don’t think that just because we are sinners–people who aim at but nevertheless miss the mark–God suddenly decided to unwritethe law from our hearts. In other words, there is still that sense in us of right and wrong. If we can choose wrong, why can’t we choose right? Experience teaches, and so does Scripture I believe, that people do choose right and wrong every day of their lives. If James is right and we fail the whole Law by the transgression of one part, then it seems logically true that if we keep one part of the law we are not guilty of breaking the entire law. That is, James means we are guilty. He, along with Paul, is speaking of our complete legal position, not our complete moral condition.

Third, in my estimation, if total depravity has any merit at all it is in this one thing: We simply do not have the means necessary, of ourselves, to keep the law perfectly. That does not mean we will not keep the law at all. As an example, most people in the world choose, every day, not to murder someone. We choose to obey the traffic laws when we drive our vehicles. It is perfect obedience to the law–whatever law that is–that makes salvation possible, right: “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (2:7-8, Romans) What we are unable to do, therefore, is keep the law perfectly unto salvation. That is what we do not have the means to do, but this does not mean we have no ability to keep the law at any point. And if we can keep it at any point, then it follows that we are not totally depraved; even though our failure at one point does mean we are totally guilty.

Fourth, if we were totally depraved then the world would be the worst possible place to live. No one would do any good or any right. But Paul’s point in Romans is not to drive home our total depravity, but our total guilt. Scripture seems to make clear that we are not, nor is the world, nor is evil, as bad as it could be. “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” (2:7, 2 Thessalonians). Even when it came to Israel ‘invading’ the land of Canaan we are told that the sin of the Canaanites was ‘not yet complete.’ I take this to mean that it was not as bad as it could have been and that it would not get to that point either.

_________________________

What I am arguing for, then, is total guilt as opposed to total depravity. James says that if we break just one law you have broken the entire law even if you have kept the rest of it (James 2:10). This doesn’t mean, surely, that all sins are equally bad or that the entire body is thus corrupt, but it certainly does mean that we are thoroughly guilty and without excuse.

Why does this matter? Well, for a few reasons anyhow. First, I think it leaves people absolutely hopeless. In other words, it leaves them in a position of thinking either ‘I can’t choose’ or ‘I don’t have to choose.’ They become complacent or apathetic. Yet Scripture makes clear, time and time again, that we have to ‘choose this day whom we will serve.’

Secondly, I think this misunderstanding leads necessarily to the points (in the TULIP) that follow. For example, unconditional election. Well, if I am so depraved that I cannot say ‘yes’ to God and cannot say ‘no’ to evil, then I must necessarily sit around and wait for God to say ‘yes’ for me. This flies in the face of Scripture’s constant admonition to exercise faith in Christ. And what about those people for whom God never says ‘yes.’ In my opinion, this paints a rather grim picture of the Father who ‘desires that all people come to salvation and a knowledge of the truth.’ If God desires it, and has the power to effect it, why doesn’t he do just that? Why does he leave the vast majority of humanity trapped in their depravity and guilt? This is not the picture of the God who ‘so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son.’ This God is a tyrant.

Well, these are some preliminary thoughts that I will no doubt need to evaluate and re-evaluate as time goes on and I learn new things. But for the time being, this is where I am at with total depravity. To state clearly again my position: 1) We are totally guilty, 2) We are not totally depraved, 3) This has implications on the nature of our evangelism and our conception of God.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Advertisements

Friends,

A friend of mine gave me a copy of Hans Kungs On being a Christian the other day. I have had only a chance to browse through it a couple of times, but today, while studying the way in which the prophet Isaiah uses the word ‘justice’ (Hb tsadiq or tsadiqa), I opened it to see if he had any comments on it and came across this paragraph near the end of the book:

Obviously we are not going to make a sweeping attack here on achievements, good deeds, work, professional advancement, as if the Christian were not expected to make the most of his ‘talents.’ The Christian message of justification does not provide justification for doing nothing. Good deeds are important. But the foundation of Christian existence and the criterion for facing God cannot be an appeal to any kind of achievement, cannot be any self-assertion or any self-justification on man’s part. It can only be absolute adherence to God through Jesus in a trust inspired by faith. What is proclaimed here is an extraordinarily encouraging message which provides human life with a solid basis, despite all inevitable failures, errors and despair, and which at the same time can liberate it from secular pressure for achievement, bestowing a freedom which can sustain it even through the worst situations.” (588 )

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

Since not all of you will happen to visit CRN.info, I have decided to re-post my latest entry here at Life Under the Blue Sky. While the catalyst for the post was Ingrid Schleuter’s compelling review of the Inspiring Excellence pageant at Tinley Park, Illinois, the bulk of the essay concerns unity in the church and the eschewing of the sort of judgments that exclude the majority of Christians from God’s grace by other Christians. This unity is not manufactured by the things we do and say but rather by the grace of God and because of the blood of Christ. Furthermore, we are not well situated to make the sort of judgments that some bloggers make about other Christians and their work or standing before Christ. If you would like to follow the comments and conversation, please use the big blue link. As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged here at LUBS.

jerry

Concerning Discernment and Birds

Posted by Jerry on Jul 23rd, 2008
2008
Jul 23

Friends,

Good morning! It is a glorious Wednesday morning here in Northeast Ohio. My wife and I woke up early this morning–well, I did ) anyhow. I walked to the bathroom and washed my face and then down the stairs from my bedroom where I would meet with the Lord in prayer and Scripture. What I learned this morning is that the Lord was already speaking in His Word and that He was waiting on me to listen. Surprisingly, and much to my dismay, the the Lord got along quite well without me while I slept.

I want to begin this rather short post by first reminding everyone to continue praying for Jim Bublitz, Mrs Schleuter, and Pastor Silva among others. I did that very thing this morning and also remembered Pastorboy and Samuel Guzman (the nice young man from Reformata and Always Ready). I also prayed for CRN.info and asked the Lord to help me understand how the prophet Isaiah used the word ‘justice’ (KJV, ‘judgment’) in his preaching. Finally, while reading a small book Disciplined by Grace by J F Strombeck, I was reminded that

“Grace, then, is God’s provision to bring into being, sustain, and perfect His new creation in Christ Jesus. It is the operation of his infinite love on behalf of such as are worthy of everlasting punishment. This outpouring of God’s infinite love is possible only because Jesus Christ, by his death, fully satisfied the demands of God’s justice. As grace came by Jesus Christ, only those who receive Him are under grace.” (19)

Now, on to other issues, not nearly as important, but equally confounding.

I have been following rather closely the posts made by Mrs Schleuter at SOL concerning the so-called ‘Word of Faith’ at the inspiring excellence conference in Tinley Park, Illinois. I was actually rather surprised that Mrs Schleuter would attend such a conference after so roundly rejecting the invitation to attend a conference by Rick Warren. But I’ll leave that alone for now.

Actually, in my estimation, Mrs Schleuter has nailed it down with her latest post on John Avanzini. Those ‘preachers’ are hucksters and it is good that someone is pointing this out to people. Sadly, no one is taking steps to point it out to the people who are actually being taken in by these hucksters and I was a bit dismayed that at the end of her rather well written essay that she actually offered a link back to the Family Harvest Church so that her readers could implicitly support the Word of Faith movement by buying CD copies of the conference speakers. Hmmm. But I’ll leave that alone for now.

Here’s the point of my morning conversation with you. It seems there is a very low threshold of tolerance for orthodoxy when it comes to certain ODM’s. Do you know what I mean? I fully grant that Mrs Schleuter and others are dead on when it comes to ‘word of faith’ ‘preachers’ because it is so patently obvious that those preachers are not preachers of the Gospel at all. Frankly, my sons could make those sorts of discernments and judgments. What gets me is that, at Slice for example, everyone gets lumped into the same category. I wonder then if I can trust the discernment of Mrs Schleuter when, for example, the same criticisms that are leveled against Mike Murdoch and Robb Thompson are leveled against Rick Warren or Rob Bell or Ray Comfort or Doug Pagitt or (insert name of favorite Slice heretic).

Seriously. Is  it really so easy to lump together a World Harvest Church and a Granger Community Church? Is it really so easy to lump together all things Emergent with all things Word of Faith? Is it really so easy to lump together all things Name and Claim It with all things Purpose Driven? Is it really, gulp, so easy to lump together all things Health and Wealth with all things Roman Catholic? Do you see my point which is that if you are outside that small, narrow, myopic, Spurgeon, Edwards, Washer, MacArthur, Piper worldview then you are automatically outside of the possibility of God’s grace? Is it really so easy for people to dismiss the large majority of Christians on the planet just because they don’t see things exactly the way ‘you’ do? Is it really so easy to dismiss what the grace of God might be doing in the lives of others? Is it really so easy to sit back and make such judgments about people for whom Christ died?

I come from a church that has traditionally been a part of a movement called the “Restoration Movement” (even though for a good part of my life I was Methodist). You know what the hardest aspect of being in a Restoration Movement church has been? Allowing God to remove the mindset from my heart that believed I belonged to THE ONE TRUE CHURCH, that ‘our’ way was the only way, that ‘we’ had all the right doctrines and that if anyone didn’t belong to the Restoration Movement then they were simply lost. It was my job, so the mindset goes, to convert the heretic Baptist, the recalcitrant Lutheran, the wayward Methodist and to avoid the hypocritical Catholic and so on and so forth. What I learned a few years back was this: It is not my job to convert anyone (Thank God!). Rather it is the job of the Spirit to convert the heretic jerry, the recalcitrant jerry, the wayward jerry, the hypocritical jerry and so on and so forth. Ironically, one of the ways the Lord has done this is by putting me in communities where there are very few Restoration Movement preachers. My first preaching ministry in Brandywine, WV was in a town of 500 that had 6 or 7 churches: Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Brethren, etc. (There was even a female preacher in the next town over. That took a while too, but that’s another story.)  In my current location, there are other Restoration preachers, but my two best friends here are an Anglican priest and a retired Pentecostal Methodist. Both decidedly saved by the grace of God, and both ridiculously sold out for Jesus Christ. Isolation from same feathered birds has taught me about grace. [Edit: Upon reflection, I thank God that RM churches are not the only Christians. To be sure, one of ‘our’ slogans has always been ‘we’re not the only Christians, but Christians only.’ In my estimation, this has not been practically applied, evenly taught, or theologically embraced. I think that is, and has been, gradually chaging as more RM folks start to see God’s grace at work in the church. Nevertheless, in some corners it is still thoroughly rejected which is why some Church of Christ folks are viewed more as a cult than a church. Sad.]

A lot of this is about maturity and growing up and taking Doctrine of Grace (TTH 560 at CCU). The thing is, God’s grace is evident and present in all sorts of places and ways. This is why, for example, there are 4 Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John) instead of one; we get the complete picture by seeing four views. This is why there were 12 apostles (or 13). You can’t tell me that Matthew the Tax Collector always got along well with Simon the Zealot! But, from 12 points of view, He gains a more complete mission. Matthew could minister to a group of people that the Simon could not and vice versa. Likewise with Paul, the Pharisee! It’s not that they shared everything in common, but that they held One Person in common: Jesus Christ. Ironically, in the Gospel, Paul wrote this: “There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” What he didn’t say is this: There is one opinion; one point of view. Here I tread carefully because this can be taken too far to the extreme. Some things are purposely ambiguous; we have to learn to live there.

This is true also of the ongoing efforts between churches of Christ a Capella and not a Capella to forge some sort of unity. In reality, all that needs to happen is for Christians to acknowledge the unity that already exists by virtue of the grace of God. As it is, two different congregations can reach two different groups of people: One that prefers musical instruments and one that does not. That’s just one (post) modern example. Fact is, I would have a hard time worshiping in a place like Granger on a regular basis and I would probably be left unsatisfied listening to Rob Bell every week. To me it (Granger) would be like Church camp every Sunday. I am much more comfortable in my tradition. But that doesn’t mean Granger is wrong or outside of God’s grace any more than it means John MacArthur’s church is right or has an inside track on God’s grace. It means they are different while being the same. It means that God has created them with red and yellow feathers and he has created me with blue and white feathers and still others have been made with red and green feathers. It means that where Christ is King, we are all different and yet all the same.

In conclusion, I will say this: If Mrs Schleuter or Pastor  Silva are right about WOF, this does not necessarily guarantee they are right about everything. And the problem is that they hold to a monochromatic view of God’s grace: all they see is Crows and not Birds of Paradise, Goldfinches, Parrots, Peacocks, etc. The God of Creation, however, made flowers, and animals, and a thousand different kinds of birds and trees and fish. So creative is He, so fascinated with diversity, that no two of us have the same fingerprint profile. He didn’t make one, but many; and yet many are also one. A fascinating picture of this is in Revelation 7 where from God’s perspective there are 144,000 Jews and from John’s perspective there is a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language. One; yet many. The same; yet different. 

What I’m asking for is more discernment in the way we discern. It is not right to lump all people together the way certain ODM’s do. And the sooner clearer distinctions are made, the better. Does this mean every single Emergent church pastor is among the wheat or sheep? Nope. But neither does it mean that every single Spurgeon toting, Washer quoting Reformed church pastor is either. What it means is that every single one of us is dependent upon the grace of God. What I am asking, pleading for, is that grace find a way to insinuate itself into the online discernment ministries and conversations. As I said in a reply yesterday, God could have given us straight-forward Levitical law type instructions about the church. But he did not. Some things He left purposely ambiguous and sometimes I expect He did so precisely because He wants to see just how much we really love one another and how much we love Him. Or maybe He has a sense of humor and likes to see us trip all over ourselves in our efforts to ‘Lord it over’ one another while Jesus remains enthroned at His Right Hand.

Soli Deo Gloria!

jerry

PS–Poor Ray Comfort. The man cannot win for losing. Everyone is on his back now and all he really wants to do is love God and people and share the Kirk.

Friends,

I posted a day or two or three ago about being desperate for Jesus. I used a quote from Mike Yaconelli’s book Messy Spiritualityto convey the idea. Well I re-posted it at CRN.info and Analysis where I have been doing some writing and got some more good feedback from the readers there. One of the respondents asked me to clarify what I meant by ‘certainty’ and ‘desperation.’ He wrote:

Jerry,

Would you expound on the relationship between “certainty” and “desperation.” I think I know what ya mean, and probably agree…

As I see it, there are many things on which we can have certainty – the veracity of Scripture, our salvation, the uniqueness of Christ, etc… – yet in my own life I have been way too certain about things that are less obvious – dispensationalism for example.

Is this what ya meant?

Neil

And I responded:

Neil,

You know what it is? Last week I was at a camp with four kids from KCU. One has a 13 year old brother whose body is riddled with tumors.

I have a brother whose 30 year old brain is being crushed by a tumor. He is 30 years old and cannot control his piss any longer, eats paper, wanders aimlessly around the house. In short, he’s dying. 30.

I am about to take on a mortgage for my family, rejoice in God’s blessing, while others in the world are starving. Rejoice in all things, he says. And yet, I want this house so bad for my wife and sons and I shouldn’t feel badly that I have to have a place to live and that after 14 years of preaching I’m tired of living in a parsonage which provides nothing for my future or family.

I believe in Creation and the theological importance of such a belief. But what if Darwin was right? (I”m not interested in debating this so please spare me.) And why is what’s so obvious to me so hazy to others? (I’m not interested in debating so please don’t bother. Here I’m sharing those ‘certainties’ and ‘desperations.’)

What about all the lost? The Calvinist escapes this fear and angst by attributing all the lost to God’s just election. I cannot do that. Every person that dies without Christ tears me apart. What about hell? I don’t want to imagine it in any way.

What if David never really did exist?

What if I die some glad morning and I don’t have the requisite wings to fly away?

What if my sons grow older and end up hating God like my youngest brother does?

Why won’t my church grow even though I am preaching Sola Scriptura? Why does one man in the church continually harp on me about the length of the worship? Why have I been stuck preaching in small churches since the day I graduated while many of my peers have done far more?

Even on the mountain when Jesus ascended some doubted. The problem I have is that sometimes doubts have no answers.

Why have I had to struggle the way I have had to struggle with certain sins? No matter the prayers. No matter the faith. No matter the resistance. Struggle. Struggle. Struggle.

You know what it is? Grace. I cannot, no matter how much I believe and preach it, understand God’s grace. I am desperately clinging to that grace. Desperately.

PS. I don’t get dispensationalism either. Then again, I don’t get mathematics. I cannot reconcile Calvinism with Scripture and yet there are some who see nothing but ‘Calvinism.’ I don’t get ‘Left Behind’ and yet some see nothing but Left Behind. I play guitar and sing, but I don’t understand music. I am desperate.

But I’m learning that I am more desperate for Jesus than I am for answers.

I’m learning to live in the ambiguity of it all. Isn’t it strange that God could have give us straight answers–like the straight forward Laws of Leviticus–and yet he chose more often than not to give us ambiguity? Am I the only one who finds that strange, dissatisfying, and completely unfair?

I guess that’s what faith is about, huh?

jerry

Sorry for the long reply. Maybe this song is helpful to explain my position:

Well, sometimes my life
Just don’t make sense at all
When the mountains look so big
And my faith just seems so small

So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

And I wake up in the night and feel the dark
It’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

Surrender don’t come natural to me
I’d rather fight You for something
I don’t really want
Than to take what You give that I need
And I’ve beat my head against so many walls
Now I’m falling down, I’m falling on my knees

And this Salvation Army band
Is playing this hymn
And Your grace rings out so deep
It makes my resistance seem so thin

You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

–Rich Mullins

These thoughts were also picked up by Eugene at Eugene Roberts Weblog. My point is not to boast about my insecurities concerning faith. To be sure, there are some things that I am rather certain of and have no problems facing. Rather, what I hope to demonstrate here is that what is required is grace and faith. It goes something like this:

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, TNIV)

Christians are not Christians because they have all the right answers to all of life’s imponderables or because we necessarily rise to meet every occasion with perfect faith and joy. Rather, we are Christians and we persevere in faith, working out our salvation with fear and trembling, because of grace. It is grace, God’s grace, that is sufficient even when everything else in life leaves quite perplexed because of its insufficiency.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I have had my fair share of debate with Jim Bublitz the author of the blog Old Truth. Well, Jim is shutting down his blog for now due to illness. He wrote at his blog:

I’ve enjoyed interacting with many of you and posting on so many of the issues that effect today’s church.  I have, as of late experienced some medical problems that make it impossible for me to continue blogging at this time.  I recently learned that I have “Non Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver” which will require a liver transplant in order to survive beyond the next several years. For the past month I’ve spent a double-digit number of hours per day sleeping and have lost over 60 pounds in water retention.  As some of you know, I’ve also been battling broken bones this last year, several of which are still giving me some problems. 

I do not happen to know Jim personally, and I disagree with his take on quite a few issues; nevertheless, he’s a brother in Christ. Jim, I will lift prayers for you in the hopes that you will be healed. Godspeed friend. I will pray for your family as well.

jerry

Friends,

The last 4 weeks have been crazy. I had to prepare for two camps and then work them both. One I served as a craft leader and helped physically and mentally handicapped children build birdhouses. The second one was church camp. I’ve been very busy and I praise the Lord for that.

Anyhow, here are a few photos I have managed to capture on my Blackberry Pearl. Twice recently, we have had to catch a bat in our house. Below are pictures of my catch. Another picture features a gorgeous butterfly perched proudly on one of our echinacea plants. The third picture is of the beautiful sky that I saw on my way home from Junior High camp last Friday evening.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friends,

I probably do not need to say anything else.

jerry

Friends,

I am back from Junior High week at Blue Rock Christian Camp. What a fantastic week. We did a Route 66 class with the kids and took them through the entire 66 books of the Bible in 9 sessions. When I got their comment cards back–not one negative comment about it! Amazing!

I’d like to share some important information about recent developments in my life. First, my wife and I are in the process of purchasing our first home. We have been married for 17 years and lived in a church parsonage for about 13 of those years and lived in an apartment all the rest. This is an exciting development and we praise God for this blessing.

Second, I have been invited to write for a blog that some of you may know. The blog is CRN.Info and Analysis. This is a very serious blog that tackles the important work of dismantling the criticisms and un-grace of certain blogs associated with the ODM movement. I encourage you to visit CRN not because I write there, but because there is a team of dedicated writers who are committed to the Gospel of God’s grace. I should be making my first post there very soon.

I’m glad to be back with you in the world of blogdom. I’ll be writing to you again in the very soon future. Thanks to all who visited this week. I’m happy you were here.

PS–I also want to note that in my sidebar, I noted some changes that I made to LUBS earlier this year. These changes are mostly in attitude and graciousness. I still have strong opinions about some things, but I have decided to deal with commenters from a different point of view. Old posts may reflect a harsh point of view, but I have left them unchanged so that you may see growth of character and faith.

Thanks again,

jerry

Friends,

Next week I will be literally living under the blue sky as I play dean for a group of local junior high students at our local church camp, Blue Rock Christian Camp. That said, I will be on break from LUBS until at least the following Monday. I hope you will keep reading and replying, but I will not be responding. I will be able to continue approving comments via my awesome Blackberry Pearl, but I will not be doing any new posts. Last week was a good week for LUBS and I truly appreciate all who stopped by for a visit and to all who posted replies–even those I disagreed with. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this youtube video from the late great Rich Mullins. (Please research all links provided before investing in them.)

Have a great week, and I’ll see you or talk to you when I get back!

Friends,

In case you ever wondered what I look like…

Thanks Odgie!

jerry

HT: The Simpson’s Movie

Friends,

We recently (my family and I) took a trip to Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania. After an enjoyable afternoon of hiking, eating, swimming, and more we stopped at a small parking lot to watch a bunch of turtles sunning on a log in the middle of a pond. This is one of those rooftop carriers and it was plastered with all sorts of stickers that first caused me to think ‘Emergent Liberals,’ then second to think, ‘FSM Damn It,’ (see the FSM sticker?), then I saw the Penquins sticker and thought, ‘Cool, Pittsburgh!’ Then I snapped a Blackberry photo of the red one in the middle–not the one that says ‘we are creating enemies faster than we can kill them,’ but the other one that says ‘Fundamentalism stops a thinking mind.’ I wonder if it does? Strange that there are fundamentalists in Christianity and Islam. I just thought that was, well, interesting. I’ll leave it at that.

jerry

Friends,

A while back, I was assured by several readers that a certain House Bill H.R. 1592 and its Senate companion S.B. 1105 would in no way infringe upon the free speech rights of Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin and preach in accordance with the Scriptural (Old & New Testament) teaching prohibiting such activity.

One such commenter, DW, went so far as to accuse Christians in general (and I think me in particular) of being liars. He (or she) wrote:

Regardless of how one views homosexuality the bible is very clear about lying. I have read this bill and there is nothing in it that would prohibit free speech. I hate to say this as a conservative Christian who loves the Lord but it would appear that our fellow Christians are lying to us. Last time I checked ‘Bearing false witness’ was still prohibited under the 10 commandments. When we put out things that are not true we hurt our witness and destroy are credibility.

A lengthy conversation ensued and I, as it turns out, had the last word. I don’t know what happened to DW.

Anyhow, I haven’t heard too much about these bills lately, and I don’t really know what happened to them. I was reminded of this conversation today when I saw this story posted at World Net Daily: ‘Gay’ Man Sues Bible Publishing: $70 million for emotional distress because homosexuality cast as sin. Says the article:

Bradley LaShawn Fowler, 39, of Canton, Mich., is seeking $60 million from Zondervan and another $10 million from Thomas Nelson Publishing in lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Grand Rapids Press reported.

Fowler filed his claim against Grand Rapids-based Zondervan Monday, alleging its Bibles’ references to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of “demoralization, chaos and bewilderment,” the paper said.

He filed suit against Tennessee publisher Thomas Nelson in June.

Fowler said in his suit:

Fowler, who is representing himself in both lawsuits, says in his complaint against Zondervan that the publisher intended to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group’s conclusion to cause “me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence … including murder.”

Well that should be quite enough to demonstrate that this man is serious about what he is doing. Bob Pratico had a brilliant comment:

He claims the “Bibles’ references to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of “demoralization, chaos and bewilderment ….”

Uh – yeah. Sin has a way of doing that.

I’m no alarmist by any means, and I want to state upfront that this lawsuit has nothing to do with the House and Senate Bills I mentioned at the outset of this post. However, I do not believe that this will be the last complaint of this nature that we see filed in a court. This fella may not have a leg to stand on, and didn’t do himself any favors by representing himself, but eventually someone will likely complain more, and eventually more ‘credible’ lawsuits will be filed, and eventually, in all likelihood, someone will win. It’s the way of the world. Eventually, it will end up in the 9th District Court in California where it will get all the necessary TLC it needs to succeed! I hope this is the last of this sort of thing, but I seriously doubt that it will be. Sad.

On another, final note, Zondervan, predictably, was quick to take the Adam and Eve way out:

Zondervan says that even if Fowler’s claim is credible, he’s suing the wrong party. A company spokesman told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids that Zondervan doesn’t translate the Bible or own the copyright for any of the translations but relies, instead, on the “scholarly judgment of credible translation committees.”

I think I’m done buying books from Zondervan. Maybe not. My God this world is ridiculously stupid sometimes.

HT: Parchment & Pen

Friends,

Yesterday I came across that stunning quote by the late Mike Yaconelli. Today, during some more preparation, I came across this quote by David Garland in the NIV Application Commentary on Mark’s Gospel (5:21-43):

“Faith is impelled by desperation that Jesus is sufficient to meet whatever need one has. The ruler and the woman did not take their plight stoically but desperately sought Jesus. The woman refused to grin and bear it. One student of this text draws a strange conclusion: She applauds that Jesus broke through purity barriers and social barriers but comments that Jesus should have accepted ‘the woman as she was, even if she was bleeding. If that had happened, I would call it a true miracle.’ One wonders how the woman in the account would have reacted to this comment…She was physically ill and needed healing. She forces her way to Jesus, confident that he will provide a cure for her disease. She serves as a model for people who are shy, ashamed, or afraid to come boldly to Jesus for healing. Desperation drives one to him. Martin Luther once remarked that his insight into God’s grace came to him while was ‘on the toilet’ (auff diser cloaca). George points out that the phrase was a common metaphor for being in a state of utter helplessness and dependence on God.

“Where else are we more vulnerable, more easily embarrassed…? Yet is it precisely in a state of such vulnerability-when we are reduced to humility, when, like beggars, we can only cast ourselves on the mercy of another-that the yearning for grace is answered in the assurance of God’s inescapable nearness.’ (Tim George, Theology of the Reformers), 105 (as quoted by Garland in situ)

“Evil, sickness, and the death of little children continue to exist in our world. Not every touch heals, and those with faith still hear the dreaded word from the doctor, ‘your little girl is dead.’…If God intervened in every situation, we would never have to exercise faith…The little girl is spared from death for now but has not been given a total reprieve. The woman has been healed of now, but she will face new ailments as she grows older. Faith, however, is able to hold on in the face of death, knowing that God has conquered death in the resurrection of Christ.”-(David Garland, 228-229)

I wonder why it is that I keep coming across quotes like this this week? What is it about our desperation that is so remarkable? What is it about our desperation that causes us to seek out Jesus like the man and woman in Mark 5? Here’s Mark’s account:

“When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet 23and pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24So Jesus went with him. A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40But they laughed at him. 

After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). 42Immediately the girl stood up and walked around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

I love this story. Leon Morris concludes, “Jesus speaks of ‘your faith’; it is important that the woman understand that she had not been cured by magic…her cure had been the result of a mighty power in Jesus, but it came to her because of her faith, not because of magic in [her] touch.”

Faith. Desperation. What a wonderful couple.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Friends,

I realize the blog world is huge and so, at the risk of diminishing your constant support of my own blog, I have decided to step out a little bit and begin to highlight some other blogs that I happen to come across here at wordpress. I don’t know if I’ll get to it every day, but as often as I think about it I will. I want to expand my blogroll and hopefully make some new friends, join in some new conversations, and perhaps even increase my daily hit count (yes, there’s never anything done for purely unselfish reasons.

Today’s blog is called Eternity Matters. This is a well done blog written by a Christian whose name I have discovered to be Neil. The blog is family friend, and contains links to many well known Christian organizations and people like Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and more. There is an extensive blogroll and the host is decidedly pro-life. There are also many links to bible study websites and the host also includes a link to his personal website where one can find family photos and links to more Bible Study material.

I found this post of particular interest: But can you abort apes? Since I did a post on this subject myself, I was very interested in what Neil had to say:

So, these questions arise: Where do unborn humans and apes and born humans and apes allegedly without consciousness fit in the chain? Can you have ape abortions? Can you have ape infanticide?  Is a 2 yr. old ape worthy of more protection than a 1 yr. old human?

His thoughts echoed thoughts that I had, although I think I was a bit more sarcastic:

You know, there is a great irony in all this. Here’s what I think. I don’t recall reading anywhere, in the vast annals of scientific literature, that the Great Ape ’societies’ and ‘cultures’ have developed medical facilities where female apes can go to get clean, sometimes free, discreet, safe abortions on demand, up to and including partial-birth abortions as late as 5 months into the pregnancy. I have read nowhere in any of these books about the Great Apes debating before a supreme court over whether or not it should be legal to kill another ape just because it is unborn. I haven’t read anywhere, in any scientific journal, that the great apes had developed a systematic, legal, mechanized manner by which they might efficiently and effectively destroy the lives of other apes just because they were unborn. And yet the same humans who have developed and done such things are now going to extend the courtesy of the ‘right to life’ to apes?!? Forgive me if I don’t put too much stock in the survival of the great apes. 

Neil has many posts that are of interest. I Don’t Know But I’ll Find Out deals with giving answers to questions about faith; The Audacity of Being an Abortion Survivortells of Gianna Jessen who survived and abortion attempt, and also explains Barrack Obama’s position on abortion (this is a remarkable blog post); finally, What Jesus Didn’t Say? refutes claims that Jesus had nothing to say about abortion or homosexual ‘marriage.’ He summarizes this last post, writing:

So to summarize: Arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, Jesus inspired all scripture, He supported the Old Testament law to the last letter, the “red letters” weren’t silent on these topics in the sense that they reiterated what marriage and murder were, He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.), He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.), and abortion and homosexual behavior simply weren’t hot topics for 1st century Jews.

I encourage you to visit Neil’s blog. You will be thoughtfully challenged on a variety of subjects and I found myself agreeing with much of what he wrote (not something I do frequently with any writer). Take a look at Eternity Matters, you will find a lot of challenging and thought provoking posts and comments.

jerry

Friends,

I read this book a couple of years ago. I saw it on the shelf today while preparing lessons for my week of deaning junior high church camp next week. I saw one of those small green post-it flags attached to a page so I turned to it to see what had caught my eye two years ago. Here it is:

My father believes, as I do, that the church is the place where the incompetent, the unfinished, and even the unhealthy are welcome. I believe Jesus agrees.

Christianity is not for people who think religion is a pleasant distraction, a nice alternative, or a positive influence. Messy spirituality is a good term for the place where desperation meets Jesus. More often than not, in Jesus’ day, desperate people who tried to get to Jesus were surrounded by religious people who either ignored or rejected those who were seeking to have their hunger for God filled. Sadly, not much has changed over the years.

Desperate people don’t do well in churches. They don’t fit, and they don’t cooperate in the furthering of their starvation. ‘Church people’ often label ‘desperate people’ as strange and unbalanced. But when desperate people get a taste of God, they can’t stay away from him, no matter what everyone around them thinks.

Desperate is a strong word. That’s why I like it. People who are desperate are rude, frantic, and reckless. Desperate people are explosive, focused, and uncompromising in their desire to get what they want. Someone who is desperate will crash through the veil of niceness. The New Testament is filled with desperate people, people who barged into private dinners, screamed at Jesus until they had his attention, or destroyed the roof of someone’s house to get him. People who are desperate for spirituality very seldom worry about the mess they make on their way to be with Jesus.”–Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality, 33-34

You know what the problem is with us Christians? We become so certain of our faith in Christ, that we have forgotten what it means to be desperate, we forget how to be desperate. We are so confident in our Justification that we forget about Sanctification. We settle. And badly.

Perhaps it would behoove us to remember what it is like to be desperate, starving, dying of thirst. Perhaps if we remembered these, satisfied as we are, it would be much easier for us to understand those who still are in such dire straits. Perhaps we have forgotten how parched the land really is and why we came to Christ in the first place. Perhaps we need, quickly, to remember.

Soli Deo Gloria!