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Why Does God Keep Secrets From Me?

20 Jun

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Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

In a discussion of where children go after death if they die before an age where they are conscious of God, we encountered the idea of God having secrets from us. The fate of unborn children and infants who die is one of those secrets. The Bible is silent on it.

We had to avoid arguing from silence and just say that God is absolutely good and absolutely just–that we can trust Him to do the right thing in those secret areas the Bible does not address.

Now sometimes some of us rebel against God reserving the right to keep secrets from us (even forever, if we can project forward from Deuteronomy 29:29).

Why do we rebel like that? I can think of three reasons.

1) In a crisis. If someone has just lost a baby, I totally understand her desire to know for sure her child is with God. That is not the time to have a deep theological discussion about arguing from the Bible’s silence. Just be comforting and keep the theological discussions for later.

2) Because we have control issues and resent the idea that God can fence off part of reality, including part of our own lives, and not let us have control over it. But . . . let’s face it. Even one devastating tornado in our neighborhood will prove to us that there is much in our own personal lives we do not and cannot control.

3) Because we have been hurt in the past by bad secrets and assume that secrets are inherently bad. That is where we make a huge theological error. Treating God like a monster because someone in our past has been a monster is just bad theology. God is not an exalted version of the most powerful human being we have known in the past. He is transcendent, meaning totally different from us in form and substance and everything else. The only reason we can ever hope to be like Him is because He is also immanent (become one with us) in Jesus Christ.

While I have all the compassion in the world for a child who was caught in a whirlpool of bad secrets, I cannot and will not form my theology from someone’s emotional state. This world is fallen. That will not change till later, when Christ makes all things new. But He remains God and is sovereign over this fallen world. We must trust Him to be as good as the Word says He is, and as wise and just as well!

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An Interview with Ravi Zacharias

2 Apr

An Interview with Ravi Zacharias

Like C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias brought deep thought and insight into 20th century Christianity.

Ravi continues in this new millennium.

Is he always right?  No, and we non-Catholics don’t have a doctrine of infallibility for anyone at anytime.

But he is always worth a listen (or a read).  My world is better for having known he was in it!

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The Hipsters, who Distance from the Fundies, Review Ken Ham through their Lens of Christianity

5 Feb

The Hipsters, who Distance from the Fundies, Review Ken Ham through their Lens of Christianity

Disclaimer: not all young Christians are hipsters and not all hipster Christians spend their time acting like they would like to hide the fundamentalist folks in Christianity in a broom closet, along with their hardworking old grandmother who makes them feel ashamed in front of their friends by her terminal lack of coolness.

But there are enough young hipsters like that in Christianity to be ironic.

Ironic because they denounce fundamentalists for hating them and trying to make them go away.

They denounce us while using these same tactics against us.

Enough already. Mom here! I don’t care who started it. Let’s just stop it. We are all part of the same Christian camp.

The above post doesn’t address many things theologically.

If you want to be a hipster Christian and defend marriage as being other than Christ defined it (one man, one woman, for life), then show me where the moral authority comes from to do that.

If you want to believe in theistic evolution, explain to me theologically how death came along before Adam and Eve fell.

If you want to reconcile a world that is millions of years old with a Saviour who was born of a virgin, explain to me how a God who wasn’t capable of creating an old universe in the Old Testament (with starlight already in progress, since stars that we can see are millions of light years from earth) suddenly became capable of creating a virgin birth in the New Testament.

There are lots of things that need to be addressed theologically by the above post. They were not even attempted. The writer merely did some terminally cool posturing. I throw a flag on his play.

And just sneering at fundamentalists does not count as a logical argument. In fact, that is called an ad hominem argument, for anyone who is truly looking to learn the fair rules of debate.

Just sayin’

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Learning to Lay Down our Preferences . . . For the Greater Good!

31 Jan

Learning to Lay Down our Preferences . . . For the Greater Good!

It remains one of my greatest joys to see the Church of Jesus Christ working together and loving each other, despite the vast diversity therein.

It remains one of my greatest puzzles to try to understand how, sometimes, people can sit one seat away from each other in church, then spend the week savaging each other behind each other’s backs.

What is worse, sometimes people can equate their snarkiness and sarcasm with spirituality. Well, it is spiritual all right, but not of the place we strive to enter at life’s end . . .

But at the end of the day, I will take my church and its people, warts and all. God knows what He is doing there and why He put us together.

I am not the only person who has a familymember struggling with OCD or another life-dominating condition. It is easier to struggle alongside others who understand what it is to struggle . . . and might even have suggestions that help in my struggle.

It is better to be around people who remind me that nothing is too hard for God, even when it is too hard for me.

Who encourage me to come back to fight another day!

I am convinced that the biggest killer of fellowship and, really, of hope itself is comparisons. Especially within the Body of Christ.

God told us not to compare ourselves to others but the human race is blighted with this tendency.

I am learning, as I age, that I can’t stop that happening. I can gently point it out. I can gently refuse to join the conversations that start that way. And I can gently just leave people alone when they pick at me or others, realizing that it is not really all that important to stop them from comparing themselves to others and trying to come out favorably. Does that really harm me? No.

I love the verse that tells us to agree with our adversary on the way lest worse things happen than her accusations. I am learning to do just that. If someone is picking at me, I ask for specifics. There may be some. Or maybe not. But I won’t know if I don’t ask. And if there are specifics, God can show me whether they have some validity or are just a figment of the other person’s imperfect imagination.

What do we have to lose, other than our defensiveness? And isn’t that a good thing in the end?

I love the Body of Christ.

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What Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson Can Teach Us about Authenticity!

28 Jan

What Downton Abbey’s Tom Branson Can Teach Us about Authenticity!

A teaching on holiness riffing on Downton Abbey themes.  What could be lovelier?

Imago Dei

21 Jan

“Oh, yes. We take shortcuts in getting to know others and sum them up in ten words or less. And we do that to people made in God’s image. What smugness we exhibit.”

The above was an update I posted on Facebook several days ago.  I truly believe that.  Almost all of us have to work hard to realize that other humans are just as complex as we are.  

I see dismissive Facebook posts all of the time.  Posts that sum up an entire viewpoint in one dismissive sound byte.  

Even posts that sum up an entire group of people (all teenagers, dieters, drinkers, non-drinkers, etc.) in one dismissive sound byte.

Thing is, we all have a story.  And, most importantly of all, we are all God’s image bearers.  

Our church has often taught that principle.  No matter how fallen, each person bears somewhere in his soul the mark of his Creator.  Even the alcoholic, on his deathbed, lying with a swollen, distended abdomen amidst his own waste in his apartment (that image is courtesy of a friend who once watched her sister die that way) is an image-bearer of God’s holy image somewhere in his being.  

I know some churches teach that, since the Fall, we are created in the image of Adam, not in the image of God.  I don’t see that in Scripture anywhere and no one has been able to point me to anything confirming that view.

I think that view makes it easier for people to be dismissive of their fellow humans.  Like Pharisees, they can just cross the road when they see an alcoholic dying, saying, in exactly five words, “He brought it on himself,” then forgetting about this person who needs Jesus.

I pray in this New Year we may realize that others have stories and dreams and souls and that we may reach out to them.  I pray we may care that they might perish without our Saviour.  

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True Story: This Pastor Got His People to Eat Grass

19 Jan

True Story: This Pastor Got His People to Eat Grass

How people who like to grab power over others can do so and still claim they are doing it in Christ’s name!

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Getting Your Reputation Destroyed . . .

14 Jan

Getting Your Reputation Destroyed . . .

Yes, we are to judge. Righteous judgment. This post addresses what is and what is not righteous judgment.

Hearsay evidence has destroyed more lives than wars have. Just look at how it has been accepted under such regimes as the Reign of Terror in France, the totalitarian Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Khmer Rouge Cambodia . . .

The author rightly asks, “Is this the moral universe we would choose for ourselves?” For the Bible clearly follows the command to not judge (unrighteously) by telling us that the way we judge others is the way we ourselves will be judged.

The Command to Forgive . . .

8 Jan

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

This verse is quoted a lot to teach us that, in Christ, we have a principle that we will be blessed back in the same measure that we are generous . . . 

We know that not all of the gospel accounts of Christ’s life are chronological.  We know that because Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic writers, don’t always put events in the same order.  For example, Matthew 12, a parallel passage to this one, reorders some of the events.

However, thematically, God the Holy Spirit inspired these exact words (in the original language) in the order they are written.  So there is always a need to check context when we study to see what the Holy Spirit may be saying there.

This verse comes immediately after the admonition to not judge and to be full of forgiveness.

It comes a few verses before the famous cry, “Why do you call me Lord and not do the things I say?”  And the story of the man who builds a foundation-less house that falls.

So, in the midst of wanting to be generous and receive generosity in return, there is that troublesome matter of also needing to heed the warnings to not judge others (the Bible defines sin for us and we are told to speak against sin, but judging the motives of another’s heart is just plain presumptuous) and to forgive others when they wrong us.  These are commands which the believer cannot “magic” out of the Bible.  They are Christ’s very words.

Forgive others when they wrong us.  This will happen.  We live in a fallen world.  The only question is whether we will spend our lives accumulating grudges or forgive, as we have been forgiven from on high!  

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Maybe Some Films are Irredeemable Muck After All!

6 Jan

Maybe Some Films are Irredeemable Muck After All!

I think someone has finally said this in a balanced way. I agree with him about Les Miz, by the way. I read the book (in English translation, of course) with our son in homeschool when he was about 15.

Is OCD the Elephant in the Room? (OCD #2)

1 Jan

A friend jokingly messaged me that, by posting on my son’s OCD journey yesterday, I had turned and pointed out the elephant in the room of evangelical Christianity.  

Fair enough.  After all, I called my blog “Iconobaptist”.  That should call up historical thoughts of iconoclasts breaking treasured images in the churches during the middle ages.  Not everything that we hold close as sacred actually is . . .

I am going to say that we can’t help people with disabilities/mental illness/disability of the mind (or whatever else we may term it) if we can’t accurately label what they are undergoing.  

It was easy enough for me to speak out emphatically against the first counselor who recommended to me that I could probably rid my son of autism if I just spanked him more.  I took the point that our son had to be held accountable for his behavior, like anyone else, but the implication that autism could be caused by bad discipline and cured by good discipline was staggeringly ignorant and I said so at the time!

Since then, however, I have noted the tendency in certain quarters to just treat my son as invisible and to not acknowledge our struggles with autism/OCD at all, much less trivialize them. I think this comes from somebody not being able to square his theology with the existence of mental disabilities.  Or at least some folks can’t find simplistic answers in their theology to paste over my son and others who are like him.  And thank God for that.  

Even though the Bible’s theology is simple enough for a mentally retarded person to understand it and be converted, God does not boil down to a simple formula! His answer for life’s trials is not simplistic explanations of them, but rather a promise to always be with us, till the end of the earth and till the end of time.

That is my very great comfort and my only hope.  

If we give people anything less than that, we give them less than the gospel and send them into potential despair.  

If our gospel only gives hope to people who are pretty good that God can help them become a little bit better, then it is no gospel at all.

If our gospel is anything, it is everything. It is hope for the parent whose child faces OCD or autism or both, or compulsive shoplifting or habitual lying or drug addiction or sexual compulsions or . . . 

We are in a fallen world.  The only people who have the luxury of holding a simplistic theology that denies God’s power over all sin and all brokenness all of the time are people who either have not faced life-dominating struggles yet or who have faced them and decided that God could not help them with them, then buried them deep underground.  These folks, sadly, spend their lives denying their own brokenness, lest it break through and remind them of the inadequacy they perceive in God.  

No, God is not inadequate.  If you have perceived Him as such, you have not gotten deep enough into Him to see that He is infinite and never runs out of resources, even in the midst of seemingly endless troubles and sorrow.  

I don’t know many answers in regards to my son’s OCD right now.  But I do know that God does. And I know God and know I can hold on.  Even if I can’t . . . He can hold on to me.  

My son, my husband and I are eternally secure in Him.  And that is worth all the wealth of the world, right there.  

When OCD is Not a Joke! (OCD #1)

31 Dec

Many, many of us with OCD tendencies joke about that!  Our name appears to be legion.

But what happens when OCD crosses a line and is not a joke?  What about when you cross the line from sometimes going back into the kitchen to make sure, one last time, that you turned off the oven and wind up in a place where OCD immobilizes you for hours?  What then?

What happens to those whose OCD becomes life-dominating, keeping them from much productive activity?  

I am still new enough at this journey to say “I don’t know what happens then . . .”

Our beloved son has OCD, along with autism.  The autism is manageable, even endearing.  The OCD . . . well, I wish I could jerk it out by the roots. 

The OCD has only recently become unmanageable.  Our son will get on a perseveration (obsessive thought sequence) that will spin him into an emotionally volatile state.  He doesn’t seem to be able to move from that state, regardless of consequences imposed.  

He gets to a place where he believes some injustice has occurred, with him being one of its victims, and he can’t let it go.  He becomes angry about events that are real enough, but on which he has placed an interpretation that would not occur to most of us.  

So it is not schizophrenia, as schizophrenia operates in a fictional world.  Our son’s world is real enough–it is just that his interpretation of it makes it unbearable to him.  I believe his autism contributes to the OCD interpretations.  That is probably why it is hard to “logic” him out of them.

His autism already makes it difficult for him to perceive the world the way most others perceive it. And his autism makes it hard for him to trust anyone, even his mother, who tells him his perceptions are not accurate and should be set aside.  

I am working with his special needs college and his psychiatrist to help him.  There doesn’t seem to be a standard protocol for this yet.  As a Christian, I just have to term it “life in a fallen world” and stay in prayer about it.  There is definitely not a “one size fits all” solution for this, much less a magical solution that can occur without a lot of hard work and effort.  

I guess, with each successive generation, we are just one step further removed from Eden and the perfection God created.  The genetic mutations seem to become more and more pronounced.

I know some things that will not change.  I will not stop imposing consequences for sinful statements our son makes, even when OCD-driven.  I can’t.  I have seen the fruit that grows in far too many families that “cave” and allow their special needs members to drive the family agenda because it is “easier than fighting the tendencies.”  Sure it is easier.  But, ultimately, deadlier, too.  

We had a family friend who died a couple of years ago after a lifetime of letting her OCD daughter control her by way of threats to cut herself or commit suicide.  Now that fifty-ish daughter, who has never worked any job for long, is all alone in this world.  Her brother and her father (the parents were divorced) are, quite understandably, not able to help her in her world, in which she thinks saying, “I will cut myself if you don’t do things my way” is a legitimate option. Her story has always been heartbreaking but is totally so now.  

I will not allow my son to take our family into such territory.  Something I say to him every day is “I do not live in OCD-land and I am not going there with you.”  Sometimes I add that it would be a waste of my time.  It would.  But it would also be unkind to him, ultimately, to let him dominate me in such a sinful way.  Whether it seems sinful to him or not, it is sinful to cave in to such impulses.  Man was not created to live immobilized by perseverations.

No, there is a better way.

And we will find it.  So help me, God!

Letting Go of Grudges

20 Dec

This mama’s story is awesome. Learning to forgive in the face of a real and measurable hurt to her child. Forgiveness is hard, but it is a requirement.

Sowing Mercy

“When we forgive, we are released from the bondage of the grudge.” Dr. Stephen LeBar, Pastor of Jenison Bible Church.

Grudges, or the longterm withholding of forgiveness, occur when our sense of justice has been offended. I may feel that I have not received the respect I deserve, the fruits of my labor, or someone I love has been hurt. We have been wronged, and we simmer with resentment. Grudges can also harm our own health and affect the people around us. They cause trouble and defile those around us.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15

When my oldest daughter was nearing kindergarten age, we noticed…

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Arab Spring: Replacing One Autocrat with Another . . .

19 Dec

Taking a break from the endless Duck Dynasty controversy in the U.S. (yes, it is a first world issue, as the worker bees of this world have to work hard to make a living and don’t have time to get into endless arguments about who could have said “homosexuality is sin” in better words than Phil Robertson did), I tuned to BBC World News coverage of the Arab Spring and of one country where homosexuality is still regarded as sin, without much debate on the issue.  Egypt.

Interesting that the analysis being presented shows a pattern in Egypt that prevails no matter how much the people want change:  Egypt is always, always ruled by an autocrat.  Mubarak was one, Morsi was one, the current general who is running the country and looking good to be freely elected in the next round of elections is one . . . As the BBC said about Egypt and about other countries involved in the Arab Spring, they have only changed autocrats.  No one has ever yet achieved democracy.  

Why are we surprised?  Those raised without freedom don’t know how to handle it.  So, when given a chance, they will vote against it and “dance with the devil that brung them.”  Or, rather, they won’t even run any candidates representing true democracy.

If a country wants to develop democracy, they need help over a number of years, if not decades.  

And maybe they don’t need help from the likes of us, as we only seem intent on stifling opposing viewpoints over here these days . . .

Rather than turn back to Duck Dynasty (urp!), let me turn to a group I know pretty well.  

I turn to my friends, the IFB (Independent Fundamental Baptists) and their next generation, many of whom are anti-IFB.

This is my beloved denomination, by the way.  It has warts, both nationally and in each local church.  But which body of humans does not?

What I have been seeing that is disheartening though is that the “next generation” of pastors and theologians who are rising up to rebuke the simplistic thinking and the sound bytes that have been issued from IFB pulpits over the decades (we are not a denomination known for writing or even reading many books–to our great shame, I am afraid) are falling far short of any scholarship of their own.  

Many are reading the New Reformers (Young, Restless, and Reformed) and either accepting Calvinistic thinking in one swallow (not thinking it through first) or rejecting Calvinism but pasting the rest of the New Reformed thinking over their current theology.  

Can you think of anything more convoluted and confusing?  I honestly have not reached conclusions about many areas of doctrine as taught by Calvin, Spurgeon, etc.  But rather than just start spouting words which I don’t fully understand yet, I leave the issues on the backburner of my mind and heart and read more about them . . .

That is how reasoned theological stands are formed.  That is also how reasoned (and reasonable) debate takes place.  People who merely quote sound bytes they heard from people who were much more educated than they were (and who took the time to think through their stands) do much violence to the cause of Christ by not really knowing what their theology is at all. It is so unnecessary to be this way, too. Rather than sniping at the Old Guard, these guys could be engaging in some scholarship of their own!!! 

But, ironically, rather than work on forming a solid theological understanding, these are the guys who spend their time rebuking their elders for inconsistent theological stands based on sound byte theology.  

Far as I can tell, extremists in both groups have done exactly the same thing. They have resorted to sound bytes in order to rebuke everyone who disagrees with them.

One group of autocrats replacing another.  Mubarak (the IFB elders) being replaced by Morsi (the anti-IFB young bucks).  

Thank God the living, breathing, loving IFB pastors whom I know locally are not of that ilk. They study, they teach, they preach the gospel tirelessly. Bless them.

The others, the extremists, will just stand there rebuking each other for the next several decades while a world of lost people slides closer and closer to hell . . . 

Know-it-alls are often autocrats.  Autocrats are often know-it-alls.  Neither are people in a position to lead us in evangelizing a lost world . . .

Abusing Grace!

2 Dec

I had a dream just now as I was awakening . . . that is often when I have my most vivid dreams.

I dreamt we were back in World War II and we were bringing some German prisoners of war into Virginia Beach (that actually happened at lot–one of our favorite restaurants, Steinhilbers, is on the site of a former German POW camp).  

They were being brought in by a fellow professional in my field who happens to have been born in Germany right after the war.  In my dream, we had prepared a nice hors d’ouevres buffet for the prisoners, knowing they had been starving.  Actually, that often happened too–not the hors d’ouevres so much, but the starvation.  It was well known that German troops liked to be taken POW by Americans near the war’s end because they could eat here instead of starve there (and we were not too unkind to them).

So, my dream changed it up to make it a fancy reception but the idea was the same–Germans would be fed upon arrival.  Sometimes for the first time in many days.

And, in my dream, the POW’s appeared to have some high-ranking officers among them.  These men immediately assumed that my German-born friend was a Nazi sympathizer and began making arrogant comments about how we were throwing them a lavish reception because we realized they were the master race and they were going to win the war!

Such cockiness!  Such a lack of awareness of reality!  Even at war’s end!

As I awakened, I realized my dream was a story about grace.  God extends grace.  As we live in Him, man learns to imperfectly extend grace to other men.  And often God’s grace, as we extend it, is trampled by arrogance. By people assuming that they are getting the buffet because they deserve it.  Even assuming that they are getting the buffet because they are superior to you and all your church friends and your God and you are trying to curry favor with them for some future day of reckoning!

Question.  When people abuse grace, does that change its nature?  Does God’s buffet suddenly get redefined by the arrogant person trampling on God’s grace or questioning your motives for extending it to them?

No, no, and no.

That person trampling on God’s grace may very well be a legend in his own mind.  He may convince others of his merit.  He may convince dozens of others or hundreds of others.  He doesn’t convince God.

Just because you stand at the overflowing buffet of God’s grace and claim that God and man owe it to you does not make that true!  Words are just words.  They are often untrustworthy.

God’s grace remains God’s grace, no matter how man may trample it or attempt to redefine it. You see, man’s time and authority are limited.  He may get away with redefining part of God’s universe, putting it under his own control temporarily, but, as we saw with Hitler, no evil lasts forever (and, yes, I purposely call it evil to trample God’s grace).  

The Psalms express the heartsickness that we can feel when someone tramples God’s grace repeatedly and seems to get away with it.  But God is not mocked.  He just won’t get on our timetable.  He won’t let us abuse His grace either, by appointing ourselves judges of the other folks who abuse His grace  . . .

In the end, He is God, we are not.

And He’s got this . . . 

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