Archive | September, 2014

When we tell someone that a promise in God’s Word isn’t for them . . .

30 Sep

“Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18-20)

I admit it. I was for many years one of those who would do my morning devotions by taking my finger and sticking it into the Bible somewhere. Well, not quite that bad, but close. Kind of like using the Bible as tarot cards or a ouija board, only not even that organized!!! God forgive me (and He has!).

What I see as an opposite extreme though is the tendency of some (even in my own denomination) to overcontextualize (I think) every passage of Scripture, with subsequent claims that “those promises belong exclusively to the Jews” or even “those promises only belonged to Jews in the Old Testament.” When this happens, much of the Bible becomes nothing more than a history text, informing us of situations and promises that once existed but don’t anymore!

The above passage has been referenced, in context, to refer to church discipline, the subject of Matthew 18 (although, in all fairness, the chapter breaks were not divinely inspired).

The passage is then further parsed from Greek to say that what we bind on earth has already been bound by God in heaven and what we loose on earth is already loosed by God in heaven. In other words, we are merely pronouncing realities which God has already ordained. We are not ordering God around by binding and loosing various things which He must also do once we have done it!

Okay, I get that.

But then the verse about Christ being in the midst of two or three gathered together in His name. Does that have conditions applying *only to a church discipline situation? Where? And, if so, how cheerless. He will be in your midst when you are disciplining another believer but at no other time? Very grim, that.

That is just one example where narrowing down the conditions of a promise in God’s Word (not necessarily supported by the text because, although this verse applies to the church discipline situation, there is nothing in it to say it *only applies in that situation) can result in a sense of despondency in Christians who are seeking to follow God’s Word in all its fullness.

God’s Word becomes a depressing tool, full of conditions God requires of us but devoid of most of the promises that we might have once thought applied to us in a very open and wonderful way.

I am not a Sunday school child anymore so I no longer sing “every promise in the Book is mine.”

But I also don’t think that *none of them apply.

What say you, wise ones?

P.S. I also believe that it might be a particular bane of seminarians everywhere to “look for the loopholes” in every promise first. While the believer in the pew may *overclaim promises from God’s Word, seminarians seem to eventually become those grim, cheerless people who go around explaining that *none of God’s promises really apply to us in the way we think they do. That seems to be a seminarian’s default setting.

He’s Not Scary, He’s A Little Boy

29 Sep

Awww, sweet Jameson’s story.

Jameson's Journey

We’ve had some encounters recently that have inspired me to write this post.  This is something I hope everyone reads and shares.  This is a message that doesn’t just pertain to Jameson, but to all children who are made fun of and singled out for their differences; and I am pretty sure their parents feel the same way I do.

I want to begin by saying that I don’t hold anything against these children, or their parents.  I understand that it can be extremely awkward when your child is the one making fun or being mean to another child.  But, the next time this happens I hope these parents do more.  Because although I cannot take offense, I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt.  It does.  It hurts to see my child be made fun of, knowing that this will be a big part of his world…

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Avoiding the Appearance of Evil . . .

24 Sep

What is avoiding the appearance of evil (a Biblical phrase) and what is it not?

Those of us who have heard this phrase and have used it to calibrate our lives might be surprised to find that it does *not mean avoiding that which *appears to be evil (because whose judgment do we use for that?) but rather it means to avoid every place where evil *appears.

If we are in a place where an orgy is breaking out, we need to get out of there.

If we are in a place where a pornographic movie is being shown, we need to leave.

If we are in a room thick with marijuana smoke, we should make a quick exit.

If we don’t use the correct definition of “appearance of evil” we can end up calibrating our entire lives by the perceptions of the person in the room who has the dirtiest mind.

Think about it. Just say you are walking into church one morning and there is a troubled but vocal person there.

What might she see as you cross the room? Whom did you not greet? Could she portray that as you ignoring those people?

Whom did you greet? If any of those people were men who are not your husband, what might this observer see? Did your eyes seem to linger a bit too long on one of them as you exchanged a joke? Did your eyes brighten a lot as you shared with one of them about the Lord’s goodness? From across the room, could this person have seen the possibility of an illicit romance?

See where I am going with this? There will *always be at least one person everywhere we go who is famous for “reading into” the actions (or omissions) of others. If we let this person’s mind determine for us what evil is and is not, we will spend our lives in fear of being falsely accused, doing nothing most days in order to avoid the possibility of something we do being wrongly construed.

And, in the end, our avoidance is futile anyway, because a person determined to find fault in us and to start rumors about us will *always meet her goal, even if she has to makes something up out of whole cloth.

We need to avoid actual sins and places where a whole lot of sinning is occurring.

Avoiding the accusations of a rumormonger is probably impossible. Don’t spend too much of your life and effort worrying about it.

The Dangers of Trusting Wikipedia

22 Sep

Wow, an author is told he is not a sufficient authority on his *own novel by Wikipedia standards. Be careful out there, folks.

101 Books

I use Wikipedia a lot. It’s one of my main sources of information while researching information related to each of the books I read.

But I always take an extra step. If Wikipedia doesn’t have a source, if it doesn’t link out to some other respectable site that provides the same information, then I won’t use it in that case.

So there are definitely dangers in trusting Wikipedia, and here’s a great example why:

Recently, Philip Roth (read my review of American Pastoral) wrote “An Open Letter To Wikipedia” in which he spelled out his experience trying to change a piece of faulty information in an entry about his novel, The Human Stain.

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Growing up Neglected . . .

22 Sep

http://www.tarabarthel.com/the-most-scared-i-have-ever-been-in-my-entire-life/

Tara’s voice is an important one for those of us who have *not experienced neglect as a child.

There are legions of children/young adults out there who have. It helps to know a bit about what they have experienced and what they might feel.

The Blogs Speak . . . on Gay Marriage

22 Sep

http://www.andrewtwalker.com/2014/09/18/a-very-brief-reply-to-brian-mclaren/

This conversation is worth having, if people are honest about examining the Scriptures.

Why Christianity in America is Declining

18 Sep

Thanks, brother Mike Lee. I needed this challenge this morning.

How Listening to her Black Husband Taught a Christian about Race Issues . . .

17 Sep

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2014/09/15/what-marrying-a-black-man-taught-me-about-race-and-why-ferguson-matters/

We need to listen to each other. And hear. And let the Lord heal our land from centuries of division by realizing other people have stories, too.

Avoiding the Guard Rails . . .

13 Sep

I have spent a large percentage of my life living by an application of Biblical truth called “avoiding the guardrails.”

This application uses the analogy of a highway, let’s say a mountain highway. It states that, while curving along a banked highway, no one wants to hug the shoulder/guardrail, lest he spin out of control and crash down the mountainside. On a highway, it is preferable to stay near the centerline. Preferable and far less dangerous.

The application is thus plain that, in matters of choice, we should stay as far away from sin as we possibly can, not walking/driving along the edge over which we could easily vanish if we get caught up in sin’s pull.

Some circles even teach that the law exists to be the guardrail in our lives. Live with an eye to the law, staying far, far away from where one would crash headlong into its restrictions, and one will live safely.

Only, is that true? Do people who keep next to the centerline fare better than those who stay next to the guardrail?

My experience teaches me that the guardrail does not function in a Christian’s life in the same way as a highway guardrail functions when he is out driving.

In fact, Christians who stay next to the guardrail may very well crash through it eventually, but that is very seldom an accident, from what I have observed. It is usually a slow, intentional drift toward the mountainside, often due to eyeing the law long enough that they get fed up with it and want to leave it behind.

On the other hand, there are people who suddenly crash through the guardrail. But often, ever so often, they were the very people who seemed to be hugging the centerline until that very moment. They spin out of control in one fluid motion, having a head-on collision with the guardrail and vanishing down the mountainside in a flaming explosion.

Why?

I don’t know, but I surmise that they were only hugging the centerline out of a sense of duty and they, too, got fed up eventually. They may have used the most pious words of anyone around but who can know the heart of another?

There are far too many people of pious words and acts who are seemingly serving the Lord one minute, then caught in a very public sin like an extramarital affair the next minute.

Sin has a powerful pull and if the law and the sheer strength of our own personality are the only things keeping us from driving headlong into sin, we aren’t going to stay out of it for an entire lifetime. No one is.

The Holy Spirit is the powerful One who can keep us from sin but, ironically, focusing on the guardrails can distract us from focusing on Him. Too much attention to the law can divert us away from the very One who can protect us from the pull of sin.

What does the Word say? God has richly given us all things to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17). That looks to me as though God intends for us to enjoy most things in this world, while giving thanks to Him for them. Cultivating a grateful heart, as they say.

He has given us His restrictions pretty plainly in His Word, too, but they are not many and they are not grievous.

For example, Jesus taught us that sexual expression belongs within marriage; there is no place for lustful thoughts outside of marriage. He didn’t give us a continuum or guardrails. He simply told us to not do it. To Jesus, there was no difference in heart attitude between the person giving a married person a flirtatious wink or someone giving that same married person a stolen kiss. Don’t go down that road of lust at all.

But Jesus left us many, many areas that are not forbidden.

I submit that too much focus on rules and on denying oneself, even with making up new rules that go beyond what God has said, is a dangerous game of trying to drive along the centerline while staring sideways at the guardrails.

I don’t recommend it.

Advocating for Joey . . .

10 Sep

There is something wonderful about finding a community for your disabled child. We have rejoiced as we have seen our son blossom at his three year college/horticulture program in Wisconsin. This is his second year.

Something really neat that happens is you start to realize how everyone in such a community plays a role in advocacy for the disabled. The disabled even learn to self-advocate.

In our advocacy, we are not all the same. I am Joey’s mom. That means that my natural bent is to advocate for Joey. It doesn’t mean I *can’t advocate for others, but just that my most natural stance is as Joey’s advocate. The more successful I am at helping him, the more I can generalize my skills to helping others.

Meanwhile, the staff are the ones who have to advocate for everyone, to keep things in balance, and to make sure that no one gets left behind, even if their parents are *not strong advocates for them.

That advocacy is to be expected and honored. It is a totally healthy part of Joey’s community.

So it is that our latest challenge is how to find time for Joey, who was left in the dorms with one other second year student, to be part of his second year class, which is living, mostly, in a group home situation on campus.

One of their classmates is actually in the third year apartments and that person turns out to be Joey’s best friend.

So you have best friends who are of vastly different abilities. Happens all the time in the real world.

And you have college, where best friends expect to eat together and spend time chatting every day of the schoolyear. That is how all of us have experienced college. That is how people with disabilities like to experience it, too.

The school is growing and that is a good thing. Having too many people in a class to fit them all in the group home is a good thing, too, showing that we need to be serious about fundraising and getting at least one more group home built on campus.

But we have our individual children with disabilities living in this situation. We need to have the wisdom of Solomon so their college experiences will be as normative as possible.

I am glad I am working with a valiant group of advocates for the disabled. This wonderful group of staff finds solutions to help our wonderful group of students. Every time.

With God’s help we do this . . .

5 Best Things About Having No AC in Your Car

10 Sep

Yes, my A/C is broken this summer, too. And I love this post. Ya gotta be philosophical about it.

Killing Christian Hipster

10 Sep

Something to think about . . .

Things I don’t like about the Facebook Newsfeed . . .

6 Sep

http://gigaom.com/2014/09/04/twitter-cfo-says-a-facebook-style-filtered-feed-is-coming-whether-you-like-it-or-not/

I have much to caution us about from my experience on Facebook.

I have over 1300 Facebook “friends” and have requested a chronological feed (instead of a “main stories” feed, which ranks stories by how Facebook perceives them, not by how I perceive them) every choice I am given. Nonetheless, I only regularly see posts in my feed from friends whom I have made “close friends.”

Note: I did not say I only receive notifications for close friends. I only receive *posts for close friends, unless I purposely go looking on the pages of those others.

That is no way to run a railroad, folks. Apparently Facebook chooses for us our hundred or so most constant contacts and gives us those people in our newsfeed!

I am aware of their algorithms being in existence. So I exist to foil them. Ha ha ha!

One way is to go make everybody in your high school class a close friend. I know, they really aren’t. But do it anyway. Then in a month or so make all your college buddies into close friends and change the high school buddies back to casual friends. You will keep Facebook on their toes if you keep changing your “inner circle.” Let everyone get in it at least once a year!

Also, respond to things you see in your newsfeed. Especially if they are from someone you haven’t seen in a while. It is the law of supply and demand. You get more of that which makes you respond.

And, while we are on the subject, be careful of your “likes.” They give you away politically and skew your newsfeed in a certain direction of which you may not be aware.

Have friends who are conservative *and friends who are liberal? Used to only “liking” the posts from one side of the aisle? Guess what–Facebook will eventually only *give you posts from that side of the aisle. Yes, it is not only social media, it is social engineering. Like getting a newspaper with only your views in it. How do we grow if we never read anyone else’s thoughts?

I will leave you to think about all that. Be careful! As Monk used to say, “It’s a jungle out there.”

Tears in Church

4 Sep

From our church blog today! I wrote this.

Tabernacle for Today

untitledWe are all different.  God created us to be diverse, and we are not to try to make each other copies of ourselves.  That said . . . let me tell you why church is my safe place and why I have shed more than a few tears there over the years.

Ever since I was an officer candidate and attended my first chapel service after a grueling week of trying to stay up with my class at a very fast pace, I have understood church to be my safe place.  I shed an abundance of tears that first Sunday at Officer Candidate School because church was the first place I was away from my drill instructor and did not have to keep a look of determination on my face!

Over the years since then, church has remained that same safe sanctuary for me.  I respect the fact that others…

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Cancer’s Last Battle with Pastor Tom Craig

4 Sep

“You broke the tape. You crossed the finish line . . .”
Glory!

Zockollthoughts

Wednesday night.  It’s late, and I can’t sleep.

Earlier this evening I was given the news. They told me right before the church service started.

Pastor Tom Craig died.

My pastor.  My mentor.  My friend.

Tom was a genuine Christian – you could see his passion for Christ permeating his soul in ways both little and big.  The man simply had a sincere and abiding love for Christ.

On Monday, I am told that a group gathered at the hospital, sitting around Tom’s bed and singing throughout the evening.  After virtually every other chorus, Tom would quietly ask them to sing a verse or two of a special song entitled “Oh the Deep, Deep Love”:

image

Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
Far surpassing all the rest
It’s an ocean full of blessing
In the midst of every test

Oh the deep, deep love
All I need and…

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