Thursday, April 29, 2010

Explanation of Below

In regard to the Monday post: I know Arizona will be hauled into court and some left-wing judge will say their immigration law is unconstitutional. I believe they know that, and expect it. But .. . it's a cry for help. It's a rallying call. It's a statement, and somebody has to make it.

Time for Some Randomness

Just heard that Algore and his wife are buying a 8 million plus dollar home. What is wrong with this picture?

I also went to see a colleague in another department Tuesday. He/she was not in office, but I looked at the door schedule. Hummm. Four office hours, one class, and I know that class has twelve people in it. Now, let me see. People in my department teach four or five classes a semester (and are encouraged to do more since we have so many students) and each class has 25-28 students. Plus we have to have eight office hours. What is wrong with this picture? We are in the process of hiring our next provost. That inequity is the first thing he/she will have to deal with.

But what I walk away with is: stop working so hard. Start having fun.

It's the end of the semester. Yes,that's a good place to start having fun.

I said no to a ministry this week. It's a good ministry, but someone else will do it well.

Change subject. During the Bush administration (according to some,the darkest days of American history), there was a bumper sticker that said, "If you aren't appalled yet, you're not paying attention." I am not totally unsympathetic to that sentiment during the Bush years, but for different reasons. He let the government get too big, good neocon that he is. However, we need to bring that bumper sticker back. I am appalled by this president.

I am a student of rhetorical history, and part of that is how the presidency changed. When he was an academic, Woodrow Wilson wrote books on how the constitution was an inadequate document, one reason being because he believed it did not give the president enough power. He also preached that the president should be the "voice" or "interpreter" of the people. We have the legacy of that, except it is all perception. The average American people have gotten so far away, in their understanding, of what the constitution says about the presidency. Now the president is the fixer, the solver, the "decider" (Bush's funny words), yeah, even the savior.

What a disaster when the American people so misunderstand their own government and want some media darling to solve their problems instead of being left alone to solve their own.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Addendum

Below there is a post about Hallmark movies. I want to add that my comments are only true of about half of them. Many Hallmark movies are superb and can be watched over and over again.

Gurus revisited

Looking at a Christian online bookstore site, I saw the following _____ Helps Women Say Goodbye to Insecurity.

I won't say whose name appeared in that blank, but many could figure it out. I have written about this woman before, and positively. It's not her, it's the headline, it's the promise, of this ad.

Do they really think women can say goodbye to insecurity just by listening to a speaker or reading a book?

And is insecurity all that bad? If it's insecurity about the covenant grace of God, then yes. Hopefully, that is the point of the book being advertised.

If it's insecurity that we don't measure up to a cultural standard, then no. Insecurity can be a motivator. It can motivate us to say, "The cultural standards are nonsense, I'm going to pave my own way," or "some of these cultural standards may have some validity. My house is a mess and I shouldn't be satisfied living like this; I don't have an education equal to supporting myself if I needed to and I should focus my efforts on that; I am too worried about myself and I'm not others-focused and serving my neighbors, my church, and community."

Yes, most of us women are insecure about something and we do crazy things to relieve that insecurity, and just make ourselves more insecure. For myself, I know I am graceless in the physical and social sense. I'm clumsy, I drop things, I am too opinionated and loud at times, and I often find myself just this close from disagreeing with someone and it's only God's grace that keeps me from alienating everyone with my bluntless. And that insecurity sends me to the cross. I don't think my gracelessness is going away anytime soon. And maybe it shouldn't. God said, "For my strength is made perfect in weakness." I Cor. 9:12.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hallmark Movies

I am working on something but have a Hallmark movie on. I used to say that these Lifetime and Hallmark movies have five plots that are just recycled. I am beginning to think there are fewer. These are the normal elements.

1. Woman as main character. She is thin and beautiful.
2. She is successful but unhappy. She is either a journalist or a lawyer or high power businesswoman
3. She is usually engaged or involved with an obnoxious, much older, controlling, and/or distant man who either has a lot of money or whom she works with.
4. For some reason she has to go to a small town and stay in a bed and breakfast or with a kind family.
5. She meets a hunky guy, who is of course available, very quickly upon coming to the town, but she usually is way uptight and does everything she can to run him off, but he is too good a guy to conclude she's the witch she is.
6. She keeps running into the hunky guy in her adventures in said small town, and he ends up being a lawyer who does lots of pro bono, a widower with a cute kid, an undiscovered artist/writer/doctor who would win a Nobel prize if the world knew about him, but he's not motivated by money, or a combination of these.
7. She of course falls in love with hunky guy, but it takes a while and there are of course obstacles, such as a. jerky fiance or b. her own personality and desire to get back to her life in the big city or c. some plot circumstance such as a toxic landfill or a big company trying to take over the town, etc.
8. she has an assistant back in the big city who is either gay (quite obviously, no doubt about it) or a friend who is an unattractive but sassy female; or she has both.
9. The town is full of eccentrics.
10. The eccentrics are played by old TV and movie stars, such as Ernest Borgnine or Rita Moreno (sort of like Touched by An Angel) and old fogies like me say, "I thought he/she was dead."
11. Often there is a type of deus ex machina that comes early; what I mean is there is a time travel, or reality switch, or magic, or wishes, or some gimmick that puts her in a position to find out how she has missed the life she should live.
12. There is tragedy somewhere in the two hour, but the witch becomes plucky.
13. All the houses are beautiful, like a catalog.
13. Everything ends happy, and the protagonist stays in the small town, saying goodbye to sassy friends and gay assistant and jerky fiance and successful job to live with hunky guy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

Who are we to believe about the environment.

Example: I recycle, by choice. By taking the recyclables to the landfill/recycling center, I use energy and time. (I have to take my garbage to the landfill anyway, so that's a wash). I assume the people who run the landfill actually take it to the processing plant. I assume that the materials taken to the plant are re-created into something useful and not discarded. I assume that less energy is used to recycle than create anew. I assume everything that is advertised as recycled products (like cereal boxes) really are.

In other words, we trust a whole lot, and take for granted it's all true. Why? Because people like me want to do the right thing, and throwing away just doesn't seem like the right thing anymore after all those years of being told to recycle! And to drive fuel efficient cars. And to turn off the lights that aren't being used.

This is the safe, Christian, conservative version of environmentalism. Who can argue with reduce, reuse, recycle, when the Bible so clearly confronts our American obsession with excess. But it's as far as I'll go. People come first. Animals second. We can't deny the third world what we have wanted--and they don't look like they want to be denied, either.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fellowship--More Than a Covered Dish Dinner

The following is my lesson for April 18. It is a little long, but I enjoyed this study, especially the Old Testament part.

I. The model of fellowship: God’s fellowship within the trinity. John 17:11. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one. John 15:9 9."As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10.If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.

II. The basis of fellowship: God’s faithfulness in our redemption. That is what we have in common. Isn’t that enough? Yes. 1 Corinthians 1:9 NIV God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

III. The requirements of our fellowship with God: All references to fellowship in the OT are in reference to peace offerings.The peace offerings/fellowship offerings possible because of atonement sacrifices. Peace offerings were not to atone for sins but to make a statement that one was in fellowship with God, to celebrate it.

The following material is from http://www.alccok.com/ChristintheOTsacrifices.htm “The peace offering consisted of a sacrificed animal, some which was burned to the Lord, some eaten by the priest, and some returned to the worshiper to eat. ‘This sacrificial act was always a social occasion, the worshipper invited friends to the meal, to eat and to drink before Jahweh. This sacrifice which, more than any other, came into the category of a communion sacrifice, the participants knew Jahweh to be invisibly present as the guest of honor.’ ”(von Rad pg.257)
When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering, if he offers it of the herd, whether it be male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. And he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and Aaron’s sons, the priest shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the Lord. (Lev.3.1-3)
The peace offering could only come after the burnt offering and the meal offering. The only way back to God was the death of Christ. "Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Rom. 5.1) Jesus, being our peace offering, has given us access by faith back to fellowship with God. It is only through the shedding of blood that we have peace and can rejoice in the grace of God.
“The unique feature of the shelamim was the accompanying communal meal which signified the fellowship of the believer with God as a consequence of the atonement. In addition to the offerer’s family and ser¬vants, the community Levite, sojourners, orphans, and widows were to be invited to the meal (Deut. 16:11). In this way the peace offering expressed ‘peace in its maximum sense of wholeness and fellowship – with God, with His ministers,’ and with one’s fellow man” (Kidner, 133).

Example and text from Ernie Brown (http://www.biblecentre.org/addresses/eb_the_peace_offering.htm): Imagine, for a moment, that I am a happily married man, which I am! Imagine, also, that I love my wife very much, which I do! Imagine, further, that I try very hard to avoid upsetting her, which, again, I do try to achieve! Imagine, however, that, one day, I do something which upsets her very much. What am I to do, to put things right, to make amends? I know. I will go out and buy the biggest box I can afford of her favourite chocolates. I do so. I give it to my wife, saying how sorry I am for what I had done. She accepts my apology. She is duly placated. She enjoys the chocolates. We are back to where we were before I offended her. Everything is fine. The enjoyment of our long-term relationship is restored. Well and good.

Now, many people would say that I had given my wife a Peace Offering. However, in the proper sense of the term, as defined in the Bible, that would not be so. Strictly speaking, I would have given her a Trespass Offering, which is not our subject now.

Imagine, then, a rather different scenario. Imagine, as before, that I am a happily married man, which I certainly am! Imagine, as before, that I love my wife very much, which I certainly do! There is no outstanding grievance between us. All is well. Imagine, then, that, thinking about this, I ask myself, ‘How can I show my wife how much I really love her? What can I do to share with her my enjoyment of our most happy relationship?’ I know! I will buy the biggest box I can afford of our favourite chocolates. We will sit down together with the box of chocolates, enjoy each other's company and the chocolates we both like, and share together our mutual appreciation of the joy of our long-term relationship.
Now that would be a Peace Offering. Not as something necessary to make peace, or even restore peace, but rather a celebration of the peace which already exists. Note, it is the same box of chocolates, but enjoyed for a very different reason.

Some details of the Peace Offering
Now let us see how the details of the Peace Offering in Leviticus 3 and 7 graphically illustrate what the New Testament plainly teaches. Going down the verses, we notice that:
(1) A voluntary offering
The Peace Offering was a voluntary offering.
(2) Unrestricted access
It was open to the offerer when he came, and, within prescribed limits, what he offered. Hebrews 10 (vv. 19-22) affirms that we have constant, immediate, unhindered access into the very presence of God at all times.
(3) A sweet savour offering
The Peace Offering was a sweet savour offering. In taking the opportunity to present to God the preciousness of Christ, we know that we are offering that which is well pleasing to Him. Our appreciation of the fragrant perfections of the Person and work of Christ arises as a sweet savour unto God.
(4) A flawless animal
If the offering was to be a fair picture of the perfection resident in Christ, the animal must be completely without flaw.
(5) Male or female animal
In some offerings, the male animal is specified as being appropriate, in others, the female. In the Peace Offering, the offering could be either the male or the female. What can we learn from that distinction? There is only one way to find out. We must compare Scripture with Scripture, and the usage wherever the concept is introduced. That is the only true way to arrive at a conclusion about what we are intended to learn. When we do that, the distinction becomes reasonably clear. When the male is specified, we are directed to think about God’s side of the matter, that is, the revelation of what God has done in Christ. When the female is introduced, it is more the worshipper's apprehension and appreciation of what God has done that is involved. Sometime, check it through for yourself. I, for one, am satisfied that the usage confirms the suggestion. It fits.
(6) The fat given to God
Consistent with all offerings, all the fat, the sweetest part of the animal, must be given to God who Himself knows best the perfections of His Beloved Son. The blood, shed and applied on and round about the altar, testifies to the fact that the peace enjoyed has been secured on a righteous basis. As we read in Colossians 1:20: “He has made peace by the blood of His cross”. Most of the flesh of the sacrifice must be burned upon the altar, in token of the fact that the righteous claims of God had been fully met. The application of the fire served to bring out the aroma of the sacrifice, which then arose to God as a sweet savour. The more intense the fire, the sweeter the aroma that arose to God as a sweet-smelling savour.
(7) Oil
We learn in Leviticus 7 that the use of oil was prominent in the way the Peace Offering was celebrated. A reminder, surely, that all the Lord Jesus did, in life and in death, He did in the energy and power of the Holy Spirit.
(8) Leaven permitted
Significantly, leaven, which in Scripture is always a symbol of evil, was permitted, but it must be carefully controlled. There is no reference to leaven in Lev. 7:12, which speaks of Christ personally. There can never be any suggestion of evil attaching to Him. However, there is a reference to leaven in verse 13, which brings us, the offerers, into the picture. Even there, the leaven had to be carefully controlled. There is no suggestion of the leaven being active. It has been in the oven and baked, judged in the presence of God by the application of fire. Furthermore, the offering must not be stale, but absolutely fresh. Then again, no uncleanness could be permitted in anything which represented Christ.
(9) How the offering was presented
The manner in which the offering was presented had a delightful significance, too. The breast of the sacrifice was waved in a horizontal movement which released the full savour of the offering before the Lord, in appreciation of and enjoyment of His love. Similarly, the right shoulder was heaved in a vertical movement unto the Lord, in appreciation and enjoyment of the power and ability of Christ to secure everything for God.

IV. The importance of fellowship
I John 1:3.We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.4We write this to make our joy complete.5.This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.6If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.7.But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.8.If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.9.If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.10.If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

Specifically with the Holy Spirit
2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Philippians 2:1 NIV [Imitating Christ's Humility] If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,

V. Our fellowship with each other

A. The requirements of our fellowship with others:
Acts 2:42 NIV They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
1 Corinthians 5:2 NIV And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV [Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers] Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Galatians 2:9 NIV James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.

B. And the way to strengthen fellowship.
1. Intentionality: Desire, not just an assumption that it will happen by being there (although being there is the beginning—80% of life is showing up)
Philippians 3:10 NIV I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

2. Time

3. Open-ness

4. Realistic expectation

5. Equality – recognizing the ground at the cross is level.

6. Not confusing friendship with fellowship. I can fellowship with all like-minded believers who are seeking the same closeness to God. Some people I am going to be closer to. But cliques are evil, as they are a type of divisions, and that is strongly condemned in the NT. When you read the book of Philippians, think about it that way: two women were dividing the church over a disagreement. Other verses on divisions and cliques, which show, I think, that such divisions are a sign of immaturity in Christ.
Romans 16:17 NIV I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.
1 Corinthians 1:10 NIV [Divisions in the Church] I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
1 Corinthians 3:1 NIV [On Divisions in the Church] Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ.
1 Corinthians 11:18 NIV In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.

7. Sometimes, repentance and confrontation of sin
1 Corinthians 5:2 NIV And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this?
2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV [Do Not Be Yoked With Unbelievers] Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

8. Understand that it’s all about the Lord
We can have unity and not fellowship, but we can’t have fellowship without unity. Unity—singleness of mind, of purpose, of doctrine (ONE LORD< ONE FAITH< ONE BAPTISM< ONE GOD AND FATHER OF ALL) has to come first, but fellowship goes another step to the choice of commitment to other people. As Pam talked about last week, when the pastor leaves, are we still a church? Yes, but the absence of the pastor makes us more aware of it, I think.

Racism and Repentance
One Church's Story
April 16, 2010
But humans being what they are—fallen creatures—we will always struggle with sin. And racism, like all sins, will be always be crouching at the door. Even within the church.
I was reminded of this recently by a pastor I had dinner with in Mobile. He told me a great story about what happened to his former associate, who took over the First Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. His name is Dr. Stan Lewis.
First Baptist had struggled with racism since the 1960s. On Easter Sunday in 1963, the Rev. Earl Stallings, who was then the pastor, had welcomed African-American Freedom Riders to the church, but the ushers refused to seat them. Still, Martin Luther King commended Rev. Stallings later that week in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”
Things got worse when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed and four little girls were killed. Based on the reaction from First Baptist, Rev. Stallings was forced to write in his weekly newsletter, “The hearts of some of us [were] broken last Sunday when the despicable crime of the bombing of a house of worship and the taking of the lives of innocent children became a reality.”
Stallings would later be honored for his efforts at racial reconciliation, but the church, which he left in 1965, continued to be divided. As late as 1970, the First Baptist congregation voted to deny membership to African Americans. With that the church finally split, and a new church was formed.
But what of the old church? Dr. Lewis says, “Over the next few decades First Baptist Church would continue to decline in membership and influence.” During these years the church “stumbled and lost its identity...The church struggled with strife over theological and cultural issues.”
That’s no surprise, is it? When a church follows cultural instead of scriptural standards, theological troubles are certain to follow. In 2009, Dr. Lewis, new in the church, decided it was time for the church as a body to repent of its sin. He preached a message of “corporate repentance” from Nehemiah chapter 1.
The deacons led the congregation in a “time of confession and repentance,” and the church went through a period of prayer, fasting, and reaching out to other churches for guidance. “Since that time,” Dr. Lewis told me, “we have seen more people baptized and join our church than ever before. There is a sense of freedom from past sin.”
I think this is a wonderful model for any church to follow when it confronts corporate sin—whether it’s the sin of racism or anything else.
As Christians, we cannot change the past. But we can be accountable to God for what we do now. We can appeal to Him for forgiveness, restoration, and direction. Then and only then can we really be free to be God’s people.

1973 Started it All

I am willing to accept that I may be wrong on this theory, but it's worth considering.

The great turning point of political history was theRoe v. Wade decision. Why do I say that?

1. It mobilized a lot of people who were appalled by the numbers of abortions and the reasoning behind the decision.

2. It made people realize (or at least gave fuel to the argument) about activist judges.

3. It led many people to change parties.

4. It led many Republican politicians to deceive many Americans, especially naive Christians, that they would do something about the issue.

5. It changed the dynamic of church/state involvement in politics, for better or worse.

6. It established a litmus test for Supreme Court and other federal judges.

Did the Warren court know they would do that? The evidence is that they thought they were solving a social problem (not sure which one). Law of unintended consequences.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Don't Be Accepting Those Online Agreements without Reading Them!

I thought this article was funny. We all so glibly accept those conditions on email and downloads without fully reading them. Mephistopheles must have written this one!

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/04/15/online-shoppers-unknowingly-sold-souls/

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Nice Change

Because golf is a cult at my house, I have watched quite a bit of the Masters this week. Golf is limited as a spectator sport, and I'd rather play; if it weren't for the dangerously high pollen level right now, I'd be on the course. As it is, everyone is miserable with itching eyes, blurred vision, headaches, bloody noses, coughing, wheezing, and sneezing.

At any rate, I have to say two things about the Masters, and they are not at all original but are heartfelt.

The media is complicit in all of Woods faults. At one point, ESPN had as its headline: "Tiger in third place." The secondary point was actually who was winning. It was nauseating.

I felt marriage and commitment were affirmed by the winner and his reaction with his wife. It was quite touching. Phil may or may not be the best golfer, and maybe some of the others don't like him as much (but these are the same ones who covered for Woods); he was just the best this weekend. But his example of what a husband should be was heartening and maybe a few spectators will slough off their cynicism.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Just Wondering Again

Why do women call into talk programs on Christian radio stations and start crying as soon as they are on the air? I turn the radio off immediately when that happens. Keep it together, for goodness sake--or don't dial the station!!!

Unity

Our church is in the middle of a "capital campaign." These things are inevitable, I suppose, because we live in bodies that must go into buildings, buildings must be functional and a little impressive to draw crowds, drawing crowds is good, etc. etc. I understand the purposes of the campaign and support them generally but am also a tad ambivalent about them.

A company has been hired to help us, and part of the campaign involves teaching Sunday School lessons about "one" in the month of April. "One mind" is this week's theme. The passage, of course, is Phil. 2:1-11.

I hold all the Bible in great esteem, especially the New Testament (don't accuse me of heresy here), but there are certain passages that are especially dear and awe-inspiring and terrible (in the best sense of that word). John 11 is one (it will be read at my funeral); Romans 8; parts of Revelation; I Corinthians 13. And Philippians 2:1-11, part or all of which was a hymn in the early church. The Old King James has a poetry to it, but the theology is better explicated in newer translations.

This passage is about cosmic reality--the world beyond but including this one--and I have no real idea how I am going to teach it without pontificating or more likely, stumbling. And that is exactly it--all passages on unity in the New Testament go beyond a "let's all get along together" niceness or a "let's all play on the same team" motivational speech quality. Unity has its basis in theology. The Trinity is unity. Jesus prayed for us to be one--not just superficial agreeableness, but ONE. There is no free or slave or Greek or Jew or woman or man; there is already, in an eternal and heavenly sense, oneness. We just refuse to obey and recognize spiritual reality when we insist on our own way and cause division in the important matters.

I will add to this more later; it is my point of meditation right now so these thoughts are incomplete and fragmented. But I come back to the issue of this capital campaign. I have honestly told my class that if these lessons are about us being led to repentance and true obedience so that we are in a position to hear from God about our giving, then I'm for it. But if it's a way to manipulate people into feeling a unity that isn't there and give on an emotional basis, then I am not. The prospect of the latter scares me, but even more it angers me.

As I have mentioned before, our relationship with God is not quid pro quo. If we repent with an objection in mind other than repentance, because we are sinful, I'm not sure I believe that is repentance. Even if we repent to get "revival" (whatever that is), I doubt that is repentance. If we become unified to get a blessing from God, it will be short-lived, either until we get the blessing or we see we aren't going to. Obedience with a purpose other than the glory of God is not obedience.

I have heard people say they doubt God's love, maybe because their own experiences indicate to them that God doesn't love them personally because of the trials they have been through, maybe because of their own feelings or lack of feelings of warmth and concern from God in their own hearts, maybe because they are too sinful. These statements are sad but they are reveal nothing about God and only something about the speaker. God is love. God's love is as reliable as the sunrise, well, actually, more so. I do not doubt God's love. I often wonder why my heart is cold to God, and I often wonder why I am not learning the lesson or seeing the purpose of a trial, but I Corinthians 10 tells me I am not experiencing any trial lots of others haven't experienced. I often am overwhelmed by my sinfulness and apathy and failure. But that has nothing to do with God's love. It is the only constant in my universe. This may not comfort those who lived by their feelings. I find it very comforting.

Friday, April 02, 2010

I Have to Mention It

Whoever stumbles upon this blog would think its writer is a nutcase, posting on passion week one time and the Marx Brother next. So now is my regular random blog, a conglomeration of observations.

HallMark has made some great movies. I'm watching one of my favorites now (well, it's on, I'm blogging). They also have some truly lame ones. I'm not interested in all the variations of "Love's This" and Love's That" and "Love's This and That."

My garden is taking shape, after a lot of hoeing.

I gave up Fox News for Lent. A good choice. It has cured me of a default behavior (used to be called a habit).

And then there's LOST. This week's episode was not one of the best even though it was about my favorite characters, the "Koreans." At least we see a respect for marriage on this show, unlike most. And there were some great moments. Seeing Desmond again (who can't like Desmond, the Scottish loser who rises to the occasion and may be the central character after all) and when Jin saw pictures of his little girl and knew there was hope.

As much as I love the show, it's a cult for some people--even some Christians. While I am surprised by all the Biblical allusions, I don't expect great spiritual insights from those writers. The fellow who posts on Christianity Today is interesting but he takes it a little too far.

The Gospel

What is the gospel. The first answer is "good news." The second would be "what's described in I Corinthians 15:1 and following." Those are the standard answers, but I'm not sure how far we go with them. The gospel is much more, and I think we spend most of our lives trying to understand it. It's not just for conversion.

There is in the Bible more than one gospel, but there is one permanent one, for us. John had a gospel of the coming kingdom, Jesus sent the 70 of the disciples out to preach the gospel of the present king, and I Corinthians tells us the complete gospel. Do we always get the whole picture when we say we know what it is?

1. the gospel is the means by which we are saved.
2. the gospel is what we stand on
3. the gospel first is based on who Christ is. Notice Paul says "Christ," not Jesus, indicating the anointed one's identity. If Jesus is not the Christ, then he is really just another executed Jew. That's a shocking statement, but the same people who get all upset over Jesus on the cross don't often understand the centrality of his identity.
4. Second, the gospel is based on that fact that Christ died according to the Scriptures. That should make us stop. The New Testament had not been written when Paul said, "according to the scriptures" so he had to mean the Old Testament. The Christian is now sent back to the law, the prophets, and the psalms to figure that one out--a wonderful journey to those who are willing to risk it. Your mind will expand greatly when you do.
There is a lot to be said about "Christ died" according to the scriptures. I think the Old Testament and Jesus' own words indicate that it was to be public (John 3:14), fitting for a criminal (Is. 53), with the Gentiles involved, bloody, and indisputable (as only the Romans could do).
We can spend a lot of time talking about the physical suffering of the cross, and some people need that because they are desensitized and dull and indifferent. But that is not in the New Testament. Everyone knew about a crucifixion. What matters is what the cross means. I would send one to John Piper for that. He has a wonderful little book, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, that will explain it quite well. .

5. Third, the gospel is based on the fact that Jesus was buried. We usually skip over that. Of course he was buried! we would say. But it's an important reference to Is. 53, "And they made his grave with the wicked, but with the rich at his death." The burial means he was good and dead, again, indisputable. Only that will make the resurrection a real resurrection.

Paul and all the apostles knew that what they were claiming about the resurrection was crazy by all human standards, so they are careful to not act as if the resurrection were a secret, an esoteric thing. And that comes next.

6. The gospel is based (and it's all a package--nothing can be removed) on the historical fact of the resurrection. And there's something here I never noticed before. It's almost as if the gospel is also based on the eyewitness account. Now, I know that's not true--the gospel is about Jesus--but Paul doesn't stop. ". . . and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day (not three days later, by the way), according to the Scriptures (again, where is that in the Old Testament?) and that He was seen by Peter , then by the twelve,....." Being seen by eyewitnesses is part of the package, some how--a needed verification. Faith is faith, but Biblical faith is not a shot in the dark. If God is going to ask us to believe the impossible, He helps us out with 500 eyewitnesses.

Interestingly, when Peter preaches at Pentecost in Acts 2, he speaks at length on the resurrection and it is the climax of the sermon. No one disputes it (as they do on Mars Hill); they knew what had just happened; the facts were known about the executed rabbi who came back from the dead.

The gospel has power. It has cultural power, something Charles Colson writes about in the Breakpoint editorial yesterday. It changed the West from a pagan world view to a modern one, from a world of darkness and gods who needed appeasing and human sacrifice to a world governed by a benevolent lord who took care of the appeasing Himself, in a marvelous collision of love and holiness.

The gospel has power for us personally, but in that case we have to believe it. It frees from sin, but most of us don't let it do that. We prefer to stay in bondage, calling the bondage a habit or obsession or condition or mental state.

The gospel has power in society, one person at a time, one family at a time. I am not much of a one for connecting the gospel's power with social reform. It's there, but indirect.

It's Friday night, but Sunday is coming.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Gardening

I had planned to get my garden in this weekend. May not make it, but I'm hoeing now. It's about 200 square feet--not much, I know, but last year I learned what to do and what not to do. What not: cantaloupe and eggplant. Cantaloupe takes up too much space and eggplant just didn't grow, must be a soil thing, especially since the other things grew like crazy.

What: beans, squash (zucchini and crookneck, which I call duckhead to myself), cucumbers, lettuce, okra, peppers, and tomatoes (but they are on the side of the house to get maximum sun).

What I learned last year: you have to be after a garden every day--weeding, organic pesticide, water, fertilizing. You can't crowd (have made that mistake!). Don't buy dirt from Walmart. It's garbage. And okra reproduces like rabbits but gets really out of hand.

What I still need to figure out: lettuce.

I find gardening very satisfying, especially when the squash comes in and they surprise me--footlong green zucchini appearing what seems to be overnight. Nothing like picking a tomato off the vine for a sandwich.

My goal is to overproduce and give to a food bank. That might be overreaching.

Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 18 in total

I have decided to post all of my thoughts on Matthew 18 at once.  After this I will take a short break from posting about Matthew, not becau...