Sunday, October 9, 2011

In Everything Give Thanks (1 Thess. 5:18)

It seems from the scriptures that our thanks to God should be an attitude toward Him, because of what He has done; especially in terms of creation; and then in terms of redemption (which it may be suggested… is a stage in the ongoing act of creation.)

But sometimes, although we are surrounded by the wonderful evidence of creation, it all seems quite distant from our personal experience. Although the meadow is full of wildflowers kissed by the sun and dripping with dew, it does nothing to alleviate our personal pain.

We have all heard the story of the little girl who when her mother tried to reassure her that God was with her, replied, “I know God loves me mommy, but, when it is thundering and lightning, I want someone with skin on to love me.” I think, though, that there comes a time when the reverse is true. Human comfort can only go so far and we come to the point that we need to be assured that God loves us and that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

At such a time, it is simply His presence with us that becomes the focus of our thanksgiving.

Are we thankful for the beauty of creation, for friends and family who love us, for perceived blessings and benefits and privileges…yes. But…

It occurs to me that our thanks is sometimes pretty conditional. Not based on the vastness of God’s plan…but on our own small role in that plan. A personal story by way of illustration:

Our dear little granddaughter at age three began to suffer from the sudden onset of a mysterious illness… Diabetes Insipitus. Missing the hormone which makes it possible to concentrate urine…. She was constantly insanely thirsty…and it went straight through her so she was urinating gallons of almost pure water. Many prayers were offered and medical expertise came to our aid providing an artificial hormone to help with the symptoms…but not an understanding of the first cause.

We gave thanks. Her immediate need and her suffering were alleviated.

It took almost three years of difficult investigation, frustration and prayers….but when the second hormone…her growth hormone… was knocked out, doctors had a diagnosis... Langerhans cell histiocytosis.

We gave thanks. A treatment plan could be put in place and while it wouldn’t restore what had been lost, the growth hormone could be replaced too when the treatment was completed…and treatment would arrest the progression of the disease to other less remediable areas such as organs…brain…bones.

It is with agony that we imagined our darling child undergoing the harsh treatment of chemo-therapy. Why should a perfect little angel, so beloved by all who know her, be subjected to a disease which required a full year of such a difficult regimen of treatment? Wonderfully, though, we find that she is strong, and such a beautifully happy personality that she has not seemed to suffer many of the ill effects of the surgery to implant the port nor the harsh chemicals received through that port.

We give thanks. She is happy and active and robust in spite of the serious nature of her disease and the toxic chemicals used to treat it.

That has been my pattern anyway… And I don’t think I’m alone in this. I’m thankful (only) for the good (little) things that happen.

But wait just one minute!

We all prayed for complete healing…for several years now. This is not healing! We know that God could have healed her! What’s wrong with God anyhow?

Am I in effect saying, ‘Well… this was the best He could do…at least He tried…at least He minimized the a few things right.’

We can thank God for what he does right….and yell at Him when He lets us down…. We can say there really is no God after all and we are just kidding ourselves to think that He’s involved in our lives. Or we can accept the fact that He is here…with us…not only allowing, not only NOT intervening… but causing. As in the case of Lazarus…where Jesus stayed away exactly long enough to allow him to die…so He could accomplish a greater work than healing.

I guess I find myself circling around to the question of, “Does God love me?” Are the millions of people born since Adam simply fodder? Does He care about each individual one? Or will he just choose a few precious individuals and discard the rest?

Unless God cares about us as individuals, why are we expecting Him to take any kind of an active role in our practical lives? Could He just not pick out the pearls when they happen?

But if He cares about us as individuals, then it makes sense, that He is active in each of our lives. Doing what He deems necessary to bring us from wherever we start out in life…to what He is making of us. “Some through the fire, some through the flood, some through great danger but all through the blood.”

It is hard sometimes, but necessary, to learn to give thanks in ALL things…..because all things are of God. Someone that I’ve read a while back…D. Willard…W. Nee…can’t remember who....used the term “first cause” and it has stuck with me. The gist of it is that though we might be angry about something that has been done to us, we are more able to release our anger if we remember than whoever has wronged us, is only the secondary cause (the tool). God is the first cause. So even if we don’t understand…we are given an opportunity to lay down our anger, receive what has happened from God… and to live and react out of the resource of HIS life; rejoicing that He is taking an active part in our “progress” towards spiritual maturity.

So, whatever is happening, we can be thankful to our Father because we are His workmanship and when we finally learn that He loves us… we will be reconciled to Him and able to “bear all things believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things” knowing that “He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it.” He loves me…and He is here….and for that, I am thankful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dragging the future into the present

"Dragging the future into the present." I like that phrase. It's from Rob Bell's book, "Love Wins", and he uses the phrase with reference to the effect of Christ's followers, who pray, "Thy Kingdom come" and then get involved in making it happen. Another writer described it as, "making the invisible visible." Same idea. It's like if we can envision what it would look like, if God's will was done...if His Kingdom had come...and then look around ourselves and as much as we are able in our little bean patch...flesh out that vision...bringing mercy and grace into the little situations in our life... or even being interveners in big ways in our world....dragging that future...that expected and longed for Kingdom into view...wouldn't that be great!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Victoria 40 day vigil for life.

Just a few reflections and surprises on my first hour of the vigil. (I will certainly be participating more during the 40 days.) I guess I hadn’t expected that someone would have come in the night to prepare the sidewalks with pro-abortion graffiti. (hoping for rain tonight to wash it off) That made me almost wish there was a little sign or something that would allow me to identify which side I’m on. The presence of security guards in numbers equal to ours was a surprise. Then reinforcements arrived with a banner…and that was a surprise to me too. The attention of the police…if only to photographically record the graffiti... Then the arrival of the media. I didn’t expect that either. It all made me wonder how I had managed to pick a time slot with so much external stuff going on. I know there are hours that are uncovered….and no one will be physically there praying, and there will be hours when there’s just a couple of people…and no-one will even know what they’re doing, or notice there’s anything going on. No banner…no media…no police….etc…

But my point is…all those other things are peripheral… our prayer is the effective tool we have; allowing us to partner with Father in His work of redemption. In our culture there is a lot of stock put in making a statement; raising awareness; and bearing witness….and these are all good things but it is the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man which avails much. Even if some people can’t participate on location…their prayers added to ours are the most powerful tool we have. For me, though, it helped to come down in person for the purpose of prayer. Having done so, I feel like the prayers will just continue throughout my day…. I know there are many who’s hearts are with us but for whatever reason, don’t like to confront, or make a scene. I get that because that is me too. This was my first hour of the vigil….and if people knew how easy it is to just log on…sign up…show up…and then just walk and talk with Jesus….and pray the prayer of Jesus, Thy kingdom come… Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven… just hang out on the corner and silently pray through the psalms or breath out their own prayers …. So, as a newcomer, I’d like to challenge other newcomers to sign up for their first hour of the vigil…

Monday, September 26, 2011

He loves ME because I'm His child

I’ve been reading two books recently about Germany in the Hitler years, “Bonhoeffer- Pastor-Martyr-Prophet-Spy” by Erik Metaxis and “They Thought They Were Free – The Germans” by Milton Mayer. Both books speak of the nature of the relationship between the people and the state and the church and the state, and it has been interesting to read them in tandem. I have been struck by my own need to stand up and be authentic about what I think and believe, because it is only in every individual excusing his silence and opting out of the dialog that evil and error are allowed to thrive.

It was Martin Niemoller, one of the founding pastors of the “Confessing Church” in Germany (which was formed to resist the Lutheran State Church’s apostasy) who wrote the now famous words,

They came for the communists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me -
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

The Confessing Church which Niemoller helped to form (along with Bonheoffer) was not perfect. It still had a lot of stuff that left you wondering about their teaching, traditions and beliefs. It was made up of individuals who all seemed to have a variety of ideas about where to draw the line concerning the direction that Hitler was taking Germany and the Lutheran State Church.

I certainly would have found it difficult to aligning myself with them on all points.

Most of them were far too strong on “The powers that be are ordained of God.” Some of them were stronger on “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Some even joined in a conspiracy to kill Hitler, believing that in the grand scheme of things, it was less evil to murder Hitler than to allow him to continue to murder thousands of other people.

I found it disturbing that they wanted to take the place of the State church. Did they not realize that the reason the church had become so antichristian was because it was the STATE church...controlled by the Hitler! The pastors didn’t want to lose their jobs and government salaries (not to mention their lives) by speaking out…so they just went further and further into idolatry and apostasy. So the Confessing Church….imperfect as it was….was raised up in opposition to it.

The thing is…they did something remarkable. They stood against evil, and despite the fact that in a way, they accomplished very little; possibly went about things wrong; were slow to take stands that seem obvious now; many of them sacrificed their lives to stand against evil.

So this week two things in my own life have stood out which have made me examine myself. One was the resignation of Rob Bell (author of Love Wins) from his mega-church. As far as I know he has simply resigned from “his” “mega-church” to do other things and was not forced to resign, but I went to Google him to see how it was being presented. What I found was an ugly slug fest amongst Christians and especially Calvinist Christians, who seem as anxious as their leader, John Calvin to murder those who oppose their view. Here is a small sampling from YouTube of their views. John Piper...who made the unloving and uncaring twitter… “Farewell Rob Bell” Mark Driscoll…another Calvinist speaks on hell Don’t know who this is but…could he be more graceless?

Anyhow, I have not yet read Rob Bell’s book, "Love Wins". I’m assuming he is making a case for the concept of “the restitution of all things” as taught in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. I am a believer in this teaching which I see as biblical…. Certainly more biblical than the teaching of ETERNAL TORMENT, ( I am absolutely powerless to type that in lower case) which is an affront to the character of God.

Plutarch, the great Greek biographer, once wrote, “I had rather a great deal men should say there was no such man at all as Plutarch than that they should say there was one Plutarch that would eat his children as soon as they were born” (He preferred to have men deny his existence rather than have them hold an unworthy conception of his character.)

Honestly, the only reason I didn’t read Bell’s book yet is because of his label as an “emergent church leader” and a pastor of a “mega church”. I thought I might have a tough time swallowing his culture and expression….but I was wrong to judge him just because he is younger and his style is different (he probably knows how to order coffee at Starbucks)…and his interface and involvement with the institutional church is different than mine. So now I’m going to get his book and read it and I think I will find that I enjoy it and probably learn something good…and even if I don’t agree with everything he has to say or his way of saying it, I will certainly agree with his title, “Love Wins.”

I made a supportive comment on one of his videos and (I didn’t know this would happen) my comment was posted to my FB page… and I am already paying for that one small comment. My point here is…. For the last three years, I have almost given up my right to think….certainly to express who I am and what I believe just in order to keep hostilities at bay….perhaps to prevent being labeled and marginalized by Christians in the same way Rob Bell now is… So now I see that I need to be taking my stand in my own little bean patch. I want my children and my grandchildren to understand me, even if they don’t agree with me. What is the point of them having a relationship with an unauthentic me?

Church history tells us that all the movements which have brought progress have brought it at the expense of “unity” and peaceful conformity in the church...but in every important case, these movements were in response to great evils which had corrupted the former established church. And then it seems, each new iteration of "the Church" has eventually been corrupted and supplanted by the next movement… Luther was responding the corrupted practice of the Catholic Church of selling indulgences….The confessing church responded to the Lutheran church’s adoption of Hitler’s paganism….etc…etc.

I believe there is now a movement about which seeks to correct a lie which has been taught about our Father God….that it is not His mercy…but rather his torment which is eternal and I find on reflection, that I could no more go back to believing in Hell is a place of torment where 99% of people already are or should expect to be spending eternity suffering in a literal burning lake of fire….than I could to believing in the tooth fairy. I cannot…so I will have to take my stand. I guess in the immortal words of Sammy Davis Jr., “I gotta be me.” (The lyrics to this old chestnut are actually more apropos than I had imagined)

In spiritual it seems in all of life, when we stop growing…we start dying. I confess I have stifled my own pursuit of God and His truth…simply to have peace and the hope of relationship. This I can no longer afford to do for several reasons.

Neil Anderson when talking about our identity in Christ says, “No person can consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with the way he perceives himself.” I think it has been harmful on many levels to do what I have done in simply sitting down and shutting up. I have never said that anyone should follow me or believe what I believe I just want to follow where Jesus is leading me. I believe that Father deals with us each in His own way and doesn’t need me to bully anyone else. I do wish though, that it wasn’t so habitual for Christians to become angry and hostile rather than patient with those who have divergent ideas, or even dare to question things that have been set down for them. How many times have we all heard people say, “The Bible is as plain as the nose on your face” about this issue or the other, when in fact…it’s often not that plain at all? Makes me wonder if they've ever actually read it.

Anyhow…enough of that for now… The second thing (if you still remember I said there were two), is that I have been inspired to take my place in the peaceful 40 day vigil for life. It’s something I can do. There are many things I feel unqualified to do…but here I have been presented with a small part to play in a cause I believe is important and vital…and so this is the time to do the small thing that I CAN do, rather than ignore the whole ugly issue. There is no point in being ashamed of my past under-involvement. The thing is that I begin to live out who I am. I am not called to be anyone else….but I fail God if I am not authentically me because he wants to work through and use MY life.

Do I think these two issues are linked? Yes I do. If God is a personal God….If He cares about the individual, then He hasn’t made billions of people so that he can choose say,144,000 (just an arbitrary number) to keep, and the rest, not only destroy…but torture…not just for a thousand years or so…but FOREVER…not to correct them…but well…why then?

Also, If God is a personal God, then He cares about the lives of the children that are conceived and murdered in their mother’s wombs…and He cares about the people who have been so hardened off to their humanity and identity in Christ, that they have lost even the basic animal instinct to protect their young. I believe that God is a personal God… that He loves individuals. And I believe that these issues are part of the larger question…. “Does God love ME?” Yes He does...and...LOVE WINS...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Parable of the fig tree

Ever notice how in Mark 11 the story of the cleansing of the temple is told within the parentheses of the parable of the fig tree...sorta makes me go hmmm.....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ideas about Home-churching children from a Grandma who grew up IN CHURCH

I responded to a thread on an online group today and since I had managed to thread together two or three paragraph's I decided to make a blog post out of it. It seems that having grown up in the Institutional Church, many people feel inadequate to the job of passing their faith on to the next generation. Like so many other things, we feel we need the help of professionals. Anyhow...without any further aduiu...(as a certain school principal of my aquaintance liked frequently to say) here is my perspective on Christian education for children:

With regard to home-churched children, I think it is a good idea to make the Bible a “Subject” whether you are homeschooling or not. So many have given that job up to Sunday schools for so many generations that they no longer feel qualified for it themselves. Having come through SS as a child, the one thing I can say is that I heard the Bible stories and over the years gained a familiarity with those. I think that’s a good place to start with your babies…..keep reading the Bible stories with them and as they get older looking at scripture a little deeper….especially focusing on the teachings of Jesus. If parents did only this they would be doing better than 99% of institutional churches. But if you add to that, everyday demonstrations of the Christ life… kindness…caring….apologies for your own mistakes….and explaining the why’s and the why not’s in terms of Christ’s character and teaching, then WHAM! (I am taking some liberties in the spirit of Timothy’s “older women”.) Work out your faith visibly and audibly in front of your children…being candid and forthright about your weaknesses and failures and questions…. Make them feel free to ask Father their deepest and most difficult questions. Dig in to understand WITH them…rather than giving them the pat answer which is unsatisfying. Keep talking….keep praying with and for them. You are partnering with Father….and your children are His workmanship, not your own. He will ultimately and certainly be doing His part and when we pray for wisdom about our part….we must assume we have been given that wisdom.

Teach your children some of the great old hymns that have good theology (of course some of them have bad theology….so discriminate)

Have them memorize great passages of the Bible. There has been a tendency to discard the Bible with some branches of the un-church….in favor of following the spirit, but that’s crazy. Children will desperately need a good grounding in scripture to be able to think in the same terms as Christ. (I am working on memorizing the sermon on the mount. Three chapters well worth committing to memory.)

I have found youth groups (I went as a youth….and my kids went…and now some of my grandchildren do) to be a source of negative socialization and bad teaching. Also that generally, they divided the loyalties of the children often turning them against parents (who presumably didn’t understand their children better than a freshly minted “youth pastor.”) Dallas Willard (in The Divine Conspiracy) uses the term, “Mutual Condemnation Societies” which is an excellent term for this phenomenon.

Consequently, (rather than youth groups) I think we (*you*…haha…I’m at a later stage) should cultivate the friendship of families that seem to share your values and so you expose your children to children who might be on the same track as you. Practice hospitality and initiate joint social situations. When our kids were growing up they told us that they liked our friends better than their own. Exposing your children to other adults who demonstrate the Christ life(as opposed to just church attendance) is good for them….and for you. Two of our three children ended up marrying the children from families that we had deliberately cultivated as friends. Don’t worry whether they will be “over-sheltered”….that is impossible in our world where they are constantly bombarded with other perspectives whether good or bad.

The only other thing I can think of is that we need to constantly and consistently study and follow Christ’s teaching and example ourselves. We cannot pass on what we do not possess.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What made me love Leroy

I was first attracted by his beautiful smile made all the more appealing by his outgoing friendliness… not to mention his perfect teeth

Next his seeming un-self-conscious, fun loving, get things going nature with regard to social events of which he was more likely than not, the initiator.

It was wonderful to hear his singing voice and virtuosity in playing guitar and then…to be drawn into participation with him in this was amazing.

I loved that he had a vision for his life and a plan for it’s unfolding. This gave me the confidence to link my future to his.

Leroy will most certainly do what he believes to be right.

Had I not the sense that he intended to follow Jesus wherever He led….Had I not the sense that he loved me and put me second….those would have been the deal breakers.

They were not….