22 December 2013

God Robbed. Goes to get back goods.


...God robbed....Goes to get back robbed goods...Read on...

Holy Sonnet XV
Wilt thou love God, as he thee? Then digest
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make his Temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting, (for he ne'er be gone)
Hath deigned to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir t' his glory, and Sabbath' endless rest.
 

And as a robbed man, which by search doth find
His stol'n stuff sold, must lose or buy 't again:
The Son of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom he'd made, and Satan stol'n, to unbind.
'Twas much that man was made like God before,

But, that God should be made like man, much more.


  • John Donne (1572-1631)

14 December 2013

ExtraOrdinary: The First Christmas

ExtraOrdinary: The First Christmas

What the innkeeper
turned away
he could not forestall.
Camels gawked
as earthbound Frost
kindled Heaven’s Fire
and Christ slipped into time
in a Bethlehem stall.
- A Charity Johnson © 

Great is the mystery of godliness:
  God was manifested in the flesh,
  Justified in the Spirit,
  Seen by angels,
  Preached among the Gentiles,
  Believed on in the world,
  Received up in glory.

20 November 2013

Christ Walks The World--I'm Going with Him

Christ walks the world again, his lute upon his back,
His red robe worn to tatters, his riches gone to rack.
The wind that wakes the morning blows his hair about his face,
And his arms and legs are ragged with the thorny briar's embrace,

For the hunt is up behind him, and his sword is at his side.
Christ, the bonny outlaw, walks the whole world wide,
Singing: "Lady, lady, will you come away with me,
To lie among the bracken, and eat the barley bread?
We shall see new suns arise, in golden far-off skies,
for the Son of God and woman has not where to lay his head?"
  • Dorothy Sayers

02 November 2013

Don't Be Like Tech Support to Me!

I take care of my own tech problems but occasionally I call tech support. Once I’m outed as a middle-aged woman, I’m always pigeon-holed. Invariably I dash tech support’s preconceived ideas about middle-aged women.

Jesus has perpetual appeal in this; he always dashes preconceived notions of who he should be and how he should act. The Pharisees embroiled him in debate but it took a sharp turn when Jesus responded with a category-smashing, liberating statement for humanity: “… are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man's whole body well? Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:23b, 24).

When asked “where I am” on the complementarian /egalitarian debate in the church, though I’m weary of the topic, my conscience won’t let me ignore it. Through my brushes with male chauvinistic attitude (from both genders) and with the power-hungry, I’m aware that churches persist in judging by appearances and not with right judgment. I’m convinced the church needs every adult, male or female, who is willing and qualified as teacher or church leader. This reawakens me to the urgency of “smashing categories."  

Why now? The problem is the numbers: they don’t lie. Young women and men believe church is irrelevant to any world they occupy. They are right. Women are allowed to do anything, until they walk into church (granted, not all churches). Young women tell me they see the flaws in the “Christian womanhood” model. You'd have to be blind not to: no one can live up to it because it is a fabricated ideal.

Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The church has dealt with the Jewish/ Gentile rift, and it no longer supports slavery. Yet, females are still barred from particular church roles (even though the Bible is shot through with women leaders such as judges, prophets, apostles, and more).
The consequence of barring women is that churches are anachronisms when it comes to women.

There are two main currents which herd women away from leadership in the church.
Neither of these two currents is a Christian injunction. The church’s health is not benefited when either current is promoted. The currents are often promoted in ignorance, or on a kind of unthinking “auto-pilot,” or a combination of both.

The first current is gender tendency. Churches which make gender tendency prominent submerge individual distinctions. Gender tendencies are either promoted openly or implied as the preferred “way to be.”

The second current is that churches fuse (consequently confuse) the early Christian era and culture with the current one.

1) Tendencies (& Abilities)

There is nothing in scripture to support that idea that God has delegated gifts, vocation, and talents according to gender. More women than men like to cook: this is a tendency. (It happens to be a tendency I lack.) There is nothing scriptural or godly for a church to encourage people to conform to “typical” gender types.

Beyond that, there are also gifts and abilities unique to people. A male chef may be extremely talented: that’s his gifting. It’s how God made him.

There is nothing holy or humble about keeping your gifts hidden or repressed. Repression takes on expressions—one of which is depression.

If your love is teaching, you should be able to teach (male or female). Doing what you’re outfitted to do well is a form of worship: don’t shoehorn yourself in—or stay away from— what you do best.

Whatever your strengths, they should be encouraged by the church. But if not, don’t wait—you just may need to blaze a trail.  

2) Era & Culture Fusion

A) Cultural Differences

It’s unfair to me that in some cultures I’m not called by my first name, but by husband’s first name. It’s also unfair that my husband is treated better than I am. But, while in foreign culture, it becomes my cultural reality. I must accept the non-western culture in its own context on its own terms and accommodate it outside of home.

However, when I return to my own culture, I would be extremely weird to insist on retaining the foreign culture out of some twisted sense of loyalty.

Similarly, the culture of the 1st century was different from the dominant Western culture; it was different, not better.

The point is simple: To force the culture of a different time and place into our Western culture is both unnecessary and strange. And, it’s lethal for a church to ignore the “local” cultural reality.

B) Era Differences

People don’t change, times do. My grandmother could kill and pluck a chicken, I never have. That doesn’t make me a better (or worse) person.

Schooling (literacy) and a middle class is relatively new historically. For women, universal schooling is even newer. Today, more American women than men have graduate degrees.

Little wonder we lose our way if we drag standard practices of the early church (which was very superstitious and mainly unschooled) into this century.

A different era requires different (and changing) demands. When a preacher or a writer fuses the era and culture of the Bible with ours, it’s not warranted, nor right.

What the Church Most Needs

Everyone is unique—uniqueness defies stereotyping. Creating a categorical rule from a biblical passage is deleterious, it relegates women to non-people—an anti-Christian perspective. It’s not only wrong but in practice, it is harmful.

People rightly sense that the dominant message regarding women isn’t applicable; to reverse the clock is to live in a fantasy world. Customs are time/ place-specific, and serve society. While customs change, truth doesn’t. Complementarianism is not a truth of Christ. Blocking women from leadership has no basis in truth: this custom no longer fits our society.

Christians are tired of bridging opposing worlds—to commend one custom outside of church but to uphold its opposite inside the church. Happily, if the church navigates our cultural current, the incongruity can be easily put to rights.

It’s a win-win for the church: it can only be strengthened with additional good, godly collaborators of any gender. When we bring out the best in each other, male, female, young and old, in the resultant “rising tide, all boats are lifted.”

I have long since finished with making anyone an idol. My life is in Christ, the Head of the Body, the Eternal Lord. Only Christ is life-invigorating, liberating and category-smashing.

28 October 2013

Progress Despite the Permanency of Trouble

The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travelers. – GK Chesterton
A recent article claimed that we are in the midst of a “sea change” (hasn’t this been our continual state?). It suggested that that our current woes stem in the West stem from three causes: 1-the dis-establishment of legal authority in the 18th century, 2-the subsequent dis-establishment of civic authority in the 19th century, followed by 3-the dis-establishment of cultural authority in the 20th century. While this presents an interesting socio-political framework for thinking about systems, cultures and mores, it’s a sociological perspective, it’s a filter. 

Perspectives are ways to look at things. The proverb says if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. In this case, the use of perspectives is a tool—a useful one, now and again–but it’s not our sole tool.

Our fundamental cause of our woes is that from our origins: it’s man’s sin problem–and sin originates from within ourselves–and becomes seen in our words and behaviors. However, identifying our sociopolitical (or other) problems is not the same as rectifying them. Recognition and solution are miles apart. 

Yes, I believe we can make progress (or good change). CS Lewis said progress can be accomplished, yet only if we start “at the right end," that any progress required a stable core, and for that we need the Permanent. The Permanent is the root from which change takes place. 

Lewis thought that in the changing demands of culture on morality and ethics, only an unchanging system of thoughts and values can accommodate the continual increase in knowledge:

“A great Christian statesman [politician], considering the morality of a measure which will affect millions of lives, and which involves economic, geographical and political considerations of the utmost complexity, is in a different position from a boy first learning that one must not cheat or tell lies, or hurt innocent people. 

But only in so far as that first knowledge of the great moral platitudes survives unimpaired in the statesman will his deliberation be moral at all. 

[But] if that goes, then there has been no progress, but only mere change. …change is not progress unless the core remains unchanged.  A small oak grows into a big oak: if it becomes a beech [tree] that would not be growth, but mere change.”

It’s not possible to make effective change unless we know what to change—and we cannot know that until we understand what is intrinsically critical, necessary, and permanent to our existence prior enacting a change. 
Simply, without goal you can’t know where you should go; without a budget, you don’t know how much you can spend before going broke. 

Imagine the vagaries of the weather from one week to the next, or one year to the next—the effect on crops, roads, and even your attitude. In contrast to the changeable weather, imagine that you awaken one day and to find that all that is critically necessary to life (the permanent), say, the sun and the moon, are obliterated. 
At this moment the day’s weather would be your least concern—you’d find yourself in a science-fiction horror film!

Lewis said, “…there is a great difference between counting apples and arriving at the mathematical formulae of modern physics. But the multiplication table is used in both and does not grow out of date.”

He goes on:“The possibility of progress demands that there should be an unchanging element. New bottles for new wine, by all means, but not new palates, throats and stomachs, for that would not be for us, "wine” at all. 

…we find this sort of unchanging element in the simple rules of mathematics. I would add to these the primary principles of morality. And I would also add the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. 

To put it in more technical language, the positive historical statements made by Christianity have the power, elsewhere found chiefly in formal principles, of receiving without intrinsic change, the increasing complexity of meaning which increasing knowledge puts into them.”

The truth (and the necessity) of Christ’s coming, of  His sacrifice, our redemption, and His transformative work in his disciples in so many people throughout millennia and cultures supports Lewis’ assertion in practice. 

Anything worthwhile has been done out of hard won laborious love. The world hasn’t progressed by accident, evolution, or mere government. When it has “progressed,” it has been because of the long, mostly laborious efforts of people who’ve grasped the big, permanent truths.

Love chains us and binds us to seek improvement for our families and for others. 
GK Chesterton said: “Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.”

I know no more sound, biblical, no more permanent Christian “system” than the Creed. The Creed is our comprehensive succinct expression of biblical truth of God, His work past, present and future, both in the world and in me. 

Stamped throughout out the Creed are expressions not simply of historical fact or theological assertions, but of supernatural and sacrificial love. It is out of the “permanent and fundamental principles” of faith that our lives can grow and bend as the seasons, times, cultures and environments. 

I can grow and change without losing my original God-ordained purpose, placement and end.

If you’re not familiar with a Christian creed, such as the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed, here it is. 

For readers unfamiliar with the biblical hand-prints all over the Creed, I have placed some recommended scriptures after it. (The Apostles Creed is shorter than the Nicene Creed).
Nicene Creed
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
Amen.”

Scripture References for the Creed:
Deuteronomy 6:4, II Peter 1:17, Matthew 6:9 Job 4:17, 35:10, Isaiah 17:7, 54:5, Genesis1:1 Psalms 104:5, Jeremiah 51:15, Psalms 89:11-12, Amos 4:13, Revelation 3:5, Colossians 1:16, Ephesians 4:5,Romans 1:7, 5:1, I Corinthians 1:2, 6:11, II Corinthians. 1:2, 8:9, Galatians1:3, 6:14, Ephesians 1:2, 3:11, Philippians 1:2, 3:20, Colossians 1:3, 2:6, I Thessalonians 1:1, 5:9, II Thessalonians 1:1, 2:14, I Timothy 6:3, 14, I Timothy 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 25, Hebrews 13:20, James 1:1, 2:1, I Peter 1:3,3:15, II Peter 1:8, 14, Jude 17, 21, Revelation 22:20-21, John 1:18, Matthew3:17, John 3:16, Hebrews 1:5, John 1:1, Colossians 1:17, 1 John 1:1, Hebrews1:5, Micah 5:2, John 1:18, 17:5, John 10:30, John 14:9, I Corinthians 8:6,Colossians 1:16, Matthew 20:28, John 10:10 b, Matthew 1:21, Luke 19:10, Romans10:6, Ephesians 4:10, Colossians 2:9, Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:34-35, John 1:14,Matthew 20:19, John 19:18, Romans 5:6, 8, II Corinthians 13:4, Romans 5:8, I Corinthians. 5:15, Matthew 27:2, 26, I Timothy 6:13, I Peter 2:21, Hebrews 2:10, Mark 15:46, I Corinthians 15:4, Matthew 27:63, Matthew 28:1, I Corinthians 15:4, Mark 16:6,II Timothy 2:8, Psalms 16:10, Luke 24:25-27, I Corinthians 15:4, Luke 24:51,Acts 1:9, Mark 16:19, Acts 1:11, Psalms110:1, Ephesians 1: 20, Matthew 26:64, Hebrews 1:3, John 14:3, I Thessalonians4:16, Matthew 16:27, 24:30, 25:31, 26:64, Mark 8:38, Colossians 3:4, Matthew25:3146,Acts 10:42, 1 Peter 4:5, John 18:36, II Timothy 4:1, 18, Luke 1:33,Revelation 11:15, Psalms 145:13, Matthew 28:19, Acts 13:2, II Corinthians 3:17,John 6:63, Romans 7:6, 8:2, II Corinthians 3:6, John 14:16-17, John 15:26,Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:6, Luke 4:8, John 4:24, John 4:24, I Timothy 1:17, I Peter 1:10-11, II Peter 1:21, I Corinthians10:16-17, 12:12-13, Ephesians 3:16-17, 5:27, I Peter 2:9, I Corinthians 1:2,Ephesians 2:20, Revelation 21:14, Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:24, Hebrews12:23, I Peter 2:9, John 3:5, Romans 6:3, Ephesians 4:5, I Peter 3:21, Titus3:5, I Thessalonians 4:16, I Corinthians 15:12-13, 16, 52 and I Corinthians15:54-57, and Revelation 22:5

30 September 2013

Steep Yourself in His Personality Rather than Bottling a Sunbeam

…the teaching of Our Lord [Jesus Christ] Himself, in which there is no imperfection, is not given us in cut-and-dried, fool-proof, systematic fashion…He wrote no book. We have only reported sayings, most of them uttered in answer to questions, shaped by some degree by their context. And when we have collected them all we cannot reduce them to a system.

∞ He preaches but He does not lecture.
∞ He uses paradox, proverb, exaggeration, parable, irony; even…the “wisecrack.”
∞ He utters maxims which, like popular proverbs, if rigorously taken, may seem to contradict one another.

His teaching therefore cannot be grasped by the intellect alone, cannot be “got up” as if it were a “subject.” If we try to do that with it, we shall find Him the most elusive of teachers. He hardly ever gave a straight answer to a straight question. He will not be, in the way we want, “pinned down.”
The attempt is…like trying to bottle a sunbeam.

It may be indispensable that Our Lord’s teaching, by that elusiveness to our systematizing intellect should demand a response from the whole man..make(s) it so clear that there is no question on learning a subject but of steeping ourselves in a Personality, acquiring a new outlook and temper, breathing a new atmosphere, allowing Him, in His own way, to rebuild in us the defaced image of Himself.

Taken by a literalist, He [Christ] will always prove the most elusive of teachers. Systems cannot keep up with that darting illumination.

No net less wide than a man’s whole heart nor less fine of mesh than love, will hold the sacred Fish. 

 -CS Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, pp.112-119

22 September 2013

Lost And Found - George MacDonald

Lost And Found 


I missed him when the sun began to bend; 
I found him not when I had lost his rim; 
With many tears I went in search of him… 

And yet I found him—as I found the lark, 
A sound in fields I heard but could not mark; 
I found him nearest when I missed him most; 
I found him in my heart, a life in frost, 
A light I knew not till my soul was dark. 

George MacDonald

20 September 2013

God In Reality

We cannot worship the suffering God today and ignore Him tomorrow…
If we say or sing [praise to God], we commit ourselves, in love, to the work of making his love known to the world that still stands so sorely in need of it.
This is not the god the world wants. This is the God the world needs.

– NT Wright from Simply Christian

17 September 2013

The Impossiblity of Faith, Or Why Grace is Essential

“Faith is not an art. Faith is not an achievement. Faith is not a good work of which some may boast while others can excuse themselves with a shrug of the shoulders for not being capable of it.

It is a decisive insight of faith itself that all of us are incapable of faith in ourselves, whether we think of its preparation, beginning, continuation, or completion. 
In this respect believers understand unbelievers, skeptics, and atheists better than they understand themselves. 

Unlike unbelievers, they regard the impossibility of faith as necessary, not accidental ...” 

– Karl Barth

16 September 2013

St Bonaventure's Reminders

Do not assume that mere
Reading will suffice without fervor,
Speculation without devotion,
Investigation without admiration,
Observation without exaltation,
Industry without piety,
Knowledge without love,
Understanding without humility,
Study without divine grace.

~ St. Bonaventure (1221–1274)   
from The Journey of the Mind to God

14 September 2013

Grace-Full

You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
I am alive with the gusto of the Resurrection,
the marvel of truth,
And the thankful foresight of the coming King among us.
- GK Chesterton

11 September 2013

Seeking Refuge

In catastrophes we seek refuge.

If there had anywhere appeared in space
another place of refuge, where to flee,

our hearts had taken refuge in that place,
and not with Thee.

For we against creation’s bars had beat,
like prisoned eagles, through great worlds had sought
though but a foot of ground to plant our feet,
where Thou wert not.

And only when we found in earth and air,
in heaven or hell, that such might nowhere be—
that we could not flee from Thee anywhere,
we fled to Thee.

- Richard Chenevix Trench, Archbishop of Dublin (1807–1886)

04 August 2013

The Best State of Mind - CS Lewis

We should, I believe, distrust states of mind which turn our attention upon ourselves. Even at our sins we should look no longer than is necessary to know and repent of them: and our virtues or progress (if any) are certainly a dangerous object of contemplation.
When the sun is vertically above a man he casts no shadow: similarly when we have come to the Divine meridian our spiritual shadow (that is, our consciousness of self) will vanish.
One will thus, in a sense, be almost nothing: a room to be filled by God and our blessed fellow creatures, who in their turn are rooms we help to fill. But how far one is from this at present! 
- CS Lewis from "God In The Dock"

17 July 2013

A Changed Universe and The Way Forward

"The prophets pointed to the Kingdom ahead--the one that would come.
Whereas they were always expecting Christ, we of (post-Resurrection period) are always remembering the present Christ.

The uniqueness of Christ crucified and risen from the dead contains majesty inherent in it that cannot be undone... it is not merely factual, it is true, it is eternal.

It is not simply world-changing—it is universe-changing.”
- JS Whale

"(Still) when we give heartfelt allegiance to that which is not God, we progressively cease to reflect the image of God. 
(And, though we were) made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. 

(Yet, with Christ's resurrection) the new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world.

That is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into God's new world, which he has thrown open before us.

It is central to Christian living that we should celebrate the goodness of creation, ponder its present brokenness, and, insofar as we can, celebrate in advance the healing of the world, the new creation itself. 

Art, music, literature, dance, theater, and many other expressions of human delight and wisdom, can all be explored in new ways."

 - NT Wright




07 July 2013

Christ's Resurrection: the Singlemost Important Event

Plenty of people say Jesus was “wise” or “good” or someone to be admired. People choose His sayings as “life quotes.” 

But, Jesus is not really all that important if he did not keep his promise to conquer death: 

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” - Timothy Keller

What's So Important about Christ's Resurrection?

Many Christians highlight the crucifixion of Jesus as if it were with only event that was meaningful, and even more Christians glorify the birth of Jesus at Christmas. 

Yet, without the resurrection of Christ, we would have nothing to celebrate about the crucifixion or the birth of Christ.  

Another criminal disposed of, another child born, another prophet, another wise man—their lives impact only those they know. 

Only Christ’s resurrection affects all off human history. His resurrection and its effect is both profound and meaningful to the universe. 

CS Lewis called Christ "pioneer of life" because of His resurrection:

“He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so.” 

"This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.   What the apostles thought they had seen was... the first movement of a great wheel beginning to turn in the direction opposite to that which all men hitherto had observed.” 

- CS Lewis 

22 June 2013

How does love make sense?



"…love is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal.”
"...[we] forget that we are to love our enemies, not to satisfy some standard of righteousness, but because God their Father loves them." 

— Marilynne Robinson from her novel Gilead.