Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We died with Christ - the reality

Every once in a while, I'm given a critical piece to the puzzle that helps me to really understand certain aspects of my faith that I've puzzled over. One of those things was Paul's statement that 'we died with Christ'. I've never really been given a good explaination of what he meant when he said that; it was one of those theological truths that had no real impact on life -- that is until today.

Today I read Baxter Krugers blog on 'Why I Left Calvinism', and when I read the paragaph I've quoted below, I was blown away.

While the Son incarnate is certainly a real man, an individual person, he is much more. His humanity is, as J. B. Torrance insisted, “vicarious humanity.” What becomes of him is not small-print, back-page news, which may or may not be relevant to us. He is the one in whom all things came into being and are continually upheld, thus what becomes of him has immediate implications for the whole creation. This fact should lead us to see with Paul that when Christ died, we died. When he rose, we rose. When he ascended, we were lifted up in him to the Father’s arms (see Ephesians 2:4-6; 2Corinthians 5:14ff). But this is a subject for another day. For now, the point is that it was Jesus’ relationship with the entire cosmos and with the whole human race that called a halt to any notion of limited atonement that I had running though my brain. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of the incarnate Son/Creator was as wide and deep and large as creation itself. To deny this was simply to deny that Jesus was the incarnate Son of God and the Creator in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained.

This may be old news to you, but for me there are so many things that fit together better in my mind with this little revelation. One Baxter mentions himself in his post, Divine Assurance -- We can know for sure that the Father loves us. There is no wondering if you are one of the loved or not. The is no need to ignore 1 John 2:2 (Christ died for the sins of the whole world), it gives a much deeper meaning to the ordinace of Baptism, and helps to solidify my personal view of the Cross as cure just to name a few. I may post more detailed thoughts about this in the future, but wanted to put something up now while I was thinking about it. Be sure to read Baxter's full post, it's worth it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hell and other things

This week has been and interesting week; I had a confluence of messages from Father. The first message I blogged about in a previous post. Then I started reading "Abba's Child" by Brendan Manning. In the book he talks about how, in our relationship with Father, there are 2 critical things that need to be settled in our hearts; His character, and our identity. Brendan says that the biggest problem in the American church is self-rejection because it contradicts the voice that calls us 'Beloved'.

The 3rd message I heard this week can be found here:
Hell: Isn't the God of Christianity an angry judge?

I found this message on the website for a book called 'The reason for God' by Tim Keller. It might sound strange to say that this message fit in so well with the other messages, but you need to hear it to understand. Tim describes hell as placing your identity in something other than God, and to me that fit very well with Brendan's message that our identity is 'Beloved of God' as well as God showing me personally that I was not abandoned like I once thought.

I will say that I think explaining the Cross as cure, like Wayne Jacobsen does, actually would fit better in this message than Tim's brief description of the Cross does. At any rate, take a listen and feel free to comment!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Father's (and Grandma's) Undivided Heart

I'm not one to usually let people into my inner life -- not that I don't want to, it's just that historically I've found that people don't know what to do with the unfiltered me. As a result most people see me as a quiet or private person. Tonight, however, I've decided to let you get a peek into my inner life. Not a full exposure, mind you, just a peek.

One of my biggest struggles in life revolves around whether I'm likable or lovable. What does a broken person have to offer the world or God anyway? This has been a struggle of mine since childhood. During my childhood, I distinctly remember asking God to take me away from my family and put me in a family that was kind, supportive and loving; rather than one that was abusive and critical. I remember crying at night and through my tears praying this prayer for weeks. And finally one night, I asked God to do it or I wouldn't believe in him any more. He didn't do it, and I quit praying. I didn't really quit believing in God, but I certainly felt abandoned and unloved by him.

One of the bright spots in my childhood was my grandmother, Grandma was what I called her. She loved Jesus, and she loved me. I don't once remember her raising her voice to me, or ever even saying no to anything I asked (although I must say that the most outrageous thing I ever asked was to eat cereal for dinner). My mom tells me that she did spank me once when I was 2 for cleaning the fake snow off the windows she had just sprayed on. Apparently I thought she was cleaning the windows and was trying to help her. When she figured out that I thought I was helping, she was devastated. Whenever I would come to visit she would include me in her hobbies; she taught me how to pour, fire and paint ceramics, she let me 'play' her piano, and she let me help in the kitchen. She was a Sunday school teacher, and she would often practice her lesson (flanelgraph and all) on me.  I never outgrew going to Grandma's because of the love that she showed me. She died when I was 17, and it was her display of love that brought me back to God. So in one sense, you might say that my coming to faith is unusual. I didn't come to faith by fear of hell, but by love. One peculiar thing that I was told later in life was that my Grandma treated me differently than other grandchildren. She wasn't mean to the others, but she didn't spend the kind of time with them or show them love like she did me. I couldn't figure that out, until tonight; more on that in a minute.

It is hard to try to condense my history to help you understand where I'm coming from, so hopefully sharing all this will make sense to you as an outsider. Anyway, fast-forward to 2006 where I'm in what may be my deepest moment of doubt that I'm loved by God since my childhood. By this time, I've been well trained in religious thinking, and with that thinking comes the idea that if you aren't sinning then life will be good. Life wasn't good, and I'm thinking that I'm a total screw up, my family deserves better, and God must hate me. It was during that time that I stumbled upon the Jake book, and through that Lifestream. You might say that it was a message straight from God to me, once again replacing Fear with Love. In reading the books, and listening to the transition series a huge piece of my own great sadness fell off. And it brought me to a place where I could feel safe enough to ask God to show me how much he loves me.

Still there was that lingering question of abandonment during my childhood. And because of that question, along with some of the traditional teachings on God. It seemed that God had a divided heart toward humanity, and toward me. It's brought to the surface when I hear of a child that is abused, neglected, or killed. And it's brought to the surface every time someone talks about hell or God's 'wrath'. Such events send me into a mild depression, although nothing like I faced in the past. So tonight (after hearing a sermon on Sunday on God's wrath), I was walking in the neighborhood, and I asked God to show me how much he loves me, like I have many times over the past 2 years. After that and some random conversations with God, my mind wandered back to my Grandma and how she had loved me, and how that love brought me back to God. I was wondering why she treated me special, thinking that maybe she was there when my mom examined the impressions of my father's belt on my back. While I was thinking of this God spoke to me. He said, "I asked her to love you with my love." I don't often hear things so clearly, but I clearly heard that (and yes, I blubbered like a baby). God showed me how much he loved me; a love manifested in my Grandma. He showed me I wasn't abandoned after all, and that his heart was never divided. Tonight another large chunk of my own great sadness fell off.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Straining out gnats and swallowing camels

'The Shack' by William P Young, is a favorite of mine that has come under fire by some well known people within the evangelical community in America. Yes, the shack makes some theological statements in the book. And No, I wouldn't agree with every theological statement in the book. But this is a story, not a theological treatise on the Trinity. It is a story that reflects God's care for his children even in the midst of our sin, pain, and suffering. It is a story of how God desires relationship with each of us, not followers of a set of rules and principles. And I think there is so much more right in this book than there is wrong.

So who are some of the people who have criticized 'The Shack'? Mark Driscoll and Al Mohler are a couple of names that I can give you at the moment. For the most part, I would say that they draw invalid conclusions about specific narrative in the book. This is a broad problem that I see in western society in general. We tend to break things down into tiny fragments and examine the fragments, all the while missing the bigger picture -- straining out gnats and swallowing camels as Jesus put it. One quick example is Mark's claim that the book teaches modalism, and he pulls a statement out of the book that vaguely appears to support his claim. Yet on page 100, the Author's belief in the Trinity couldn't me more clear:
"We are not three gods, and we are not talking about one god with three attitudes, like a man who is a husband, father, and worker. I am one God and I am three persons, and each of the three is fully and entirely the one.

I could provide a counter point to nearly every objection raised, but I don't think that would change the minds of those who have already made a judgment call on the book. Even though there are a couple of things that I might disagree with in 'The Shack', I would still highly recommend it; not as a book that I would hand anyone and say 'This sums up my doctrinal beliefs'. Rather as a story that has the ability to let you get a glimpse of the Love our Father has for us.


Writing about this has reminded me about some of Jesus' words that really haunted me several years ago.

You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
-- John 5:39-40

I was once a lot like Mark, and Dr. Mohler; sure that my 'doctrine' was correct, and confident that my correct doctrine insured that I was worshiping the right god. But the more I though about Jesus' words, the more uncomfortable I became with studying doctrine. Did doctrine transform my life? Did Jesus spend time making sure his disciples doctrine was in order? Did the pharisee's spend a great deal of time studying scripture, and did that make them right? For the time being, I've abandoned holding doctrinal positions; that may sound crazy, but I felt impressed by God to do so because doctrine was my graven image. It was the thing that had usurped God's place in my life. I know doctrine can be good, but there is a danger of boxing God in, creating a graven image, or making God subject to scripture with doctrine.

Monday, April 14, 2008

When do we graduate?

This weekend I was talking with a friend about current church practices. We were discussing how everything in the modern church centers around church activity, and 'Bible Study'. I told him that it felt like it was like we were perpetual students, always studying, but never a chance to put our knowledge into practical use. Almost like students who never graduate and get a job. The closest we may get are the occasional field trips (Mission Trips).

Then today I ran across this post at run with it; I think she did a better job at stating the problems than I did:

I think the church-centered christian life (as opposed to a Christ centered christian life) that american protestantism has created in the last few generations is what is killing the church in america. and the new generations see it for what it is- empty activity that does little besides sustain itself for more empty activity. not that nothing good happens in local churches; far from it. but the abiding culture of complacency we've allowed to take over so overshadows the true mission of God's people that we risk losing it all.

we need corporate worship, we need corporate teaching, we need fellowship. But, we also need to get the heck out of the church building and live lives that show we care about somebody in addition to the people we worship with. we must address this corporate addiction to church that we ourselves have created. call it a church intervention, maybe. and if we succeed, the withdrawals will be ugly, angry, and very messy. If we don't succeed, thousands of local churches just like ours will be gone in 20 years or less. I'm not even sure if that isn't what should happen.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Wrinkle in Time

Every once in a while my daughter will hand me a book she has read and say something like, "Dad, you'll really like this one." The latest one that she handed to me was 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle. This book was originally published in the early sixties as a story that was intended to contrast state mandated uniformity (Communism) and individual rights (Democracy), and to bring to light the tyranny of conformity. I, however, felt that the story could be applied in much broader terms (as if my choice of picture didn't give that away). In the story you see unity, diversity, love, and relationship in the Murray family that is contrasted against the uniform cold efficiency of a planet called Camazots where "individuals have been done away with. Camazotz is ONE mind. It's IT." IT is the mind that thinks for everyone on Camazotz. In the story one of the children, Charles Wallace, falls under the control of IT, and shows the others how they deal with trouble on Camazotz:

"Now see this," he said. He raised his hand and suddenly they could see through one of the walls into a small room. In the room a little boy was bouncing a ball. He was bouncing it in rhythm, and the walls of his little cell seemed to pulse with the rhythm of the ball. And each time the ball bounced he screamed as though he were in pain.
"That's the little boy we saw this afternoon," Calvin said sharply, "the little boy who wasn't bouncing the ball like the others."
Charles Wallace giggled again. "Yes. Every once in a while there's a little trouble with cooperation, but it's easily taken care of. After today he'll never desire to deviate again."

In the end, Meg was able to save her brother who fell under the control of IT by using the one thing that IT didn't have. This is a children s book, but it is an excellent one none the less. If you haven't read it before, I would highly recommend it.

If you liked the image, you can find more like it at the blog: The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus -- Image 388 was a close second for this post, oh and 317 too! check em out!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


My 9 of Spades is a book called Adam by Ted Tekker. This book is a particulary dark story of a FBI agent on the trail of a serial killer known as 'Eve' and while I enjoyed the book, I don't think I would go see it in a theater -- I'm not into scary movies.

A few of the interesting subjects in the books that Dekker addresses are Near Death Experiences, the nature of evil, and demon possession (This book is refrenced in Adam).

Eyes to See

Eyes To See which is a collection of short stories is my eight of spades for the year. In the introduction the book made a steep promise that these are the kind of stories that will leave you changed; I would have to say it fell short in that regard. However, I still enjoyed reading most of the short stories in this book.

My favorite short story in the book is called 'What men live by', by Leo Tolstory. I feel that if I say very much about the story, I may end up giving it away and ruin the experience for anyone else who may want to read it. I will say that reading both Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky in this book left me with the impression that life in Russia was very difficult for the average family during the 19th century.

My least favorite story in the book was called 'A Good man is hard to find', by Flannery O'Connor. Somehow this story is supposed to show that grace is available to all -- but I didn't get that at all from the story. The feeling that the story left me with was that life was random and meaningless. I suppose that one thing I am thankful for in the story is that she doesn't create any really likeable characters. That may sound odd but if you read the story, you will understand what I mean when you get to the end.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and was happy to get exposure to a wide variety of authors.