Thursday, January 31, 2013

Further adventures in sourdough

I hadn't intended this to become a series! Oh well. I hope you are enjoying this; I sure am. So far everything has been edible, so even the ones I have decided not to repeat are not a loss. So far, I've got a 100% wheat, a 100% rye, and a cinnamon-raisin.

Today's experiment was with 50% oat flour. I used my standard wheat recipe:
1 cup starter
3 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 cups water
But, I halved the flour, splitting it between oat and wheat. I was going to do a 2/3 loaf, but we grind our own flour and I guessed wrong on the oat groats; I ended up with 1.5 cups : ) Oh well; life is tough! Anyway, I let that proof overnight.

It rose fine. But, when I went to punch it down...well, let's just say it collapsed at the first touch. It only has 1/2 the gluten, so it is pretty fragile. I stirred it down and let it sit in the bowl; there was no way I would be able to form a loaf, so I poured it into the loaf pan and let it rise.

After 2 hours, it hadn't risen much, if at all. So, I waited...after 3 hours, it had risen slightly, so I put it in the oven. Normally, you get what is called "oven spring" when a loaf bakes. That's where the loaf rises in the heat of the oven before the yeast dies. This loaf just stayed flat until over halfway through the baking, then the spring started developing. It wasn't done after 60 minutes, so I gave it another five.

The bread was definitely moist; oatmeal is a secret ingredient in some breads to make them moister. It wasn't too heavy, either. But the flavor was a bit strange while it was still warm. Once it cooled down, it had a nice flavor. I think I'll make it again; at first I didn't think I would.

Evening activities

I'm researching short season many catalogs do you see? There are 14; I had a hard time finding them all in the picture, but they are there. Plus, I have two in PDF on the computer. I decided to go with Glacier, Stupice, and Siberia. All claim 50 days from transplant...that's earlier than Early Girl— and they are open-pollinated, so I can save seeds from them : )

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Observations on sourdough starter

Not like I'm an expert after two weeks! But, here's some observations...

As I mentioned in the first post, I used the instructions here for the first week. At the end of the week, I opted to thin my starter out; it is now the thickness of a relatively thick pancake batter. I've had better success with it as a thinner starter.

I still feed it twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. I was feeding it a 1/2 cup of home-ground whole wheat flour, thinning it with water to get the desired pancake batter consistency. Then, one day while I was experimenting with rye bread, I ran out of ground wheat flour; I was too lazy to grind some more, so I used the rye flour instead. Wow! Did it ever grow! I would say it grew twice as fast. I cut back to 1/3 cup of rye flour and it still is growing like crazy.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do long-term. I might move it back to whole wheat flour; that's what I bake with most of the time. But, it sure is fun to watch the bubbles from the rye starter!

I don't think it matters much to the bread, although the rye might give a tarter flavor. I might fork the starter and have two going for a while and do a taste test. That sounds like a fun project. But, I think I'll wait for the starter to get a bit older first. They say that the starter keeps maturing for about 30 days. After that, the flavor has stabilized.

Sourdough, part 3

Yesterday, I told about the rye bread with 2/3 rye. It was so successful that I decided to try 100% rye. I mixed up the ingredients, using this recipe:
1 cup starter
3 cups whole rye flour
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon caraway
1.25 cups water
2 tablespoons molasses

I let it proof overnight. The next morning, I noticed that it didn't rise quite as high and the dough was thicker. I think that was more because I shorted the water to compensate for the liquid in the molasses; I might have overcompensated.

Anyway, I let it sit on the board for 20 minutes, formed it, slashed it deeper than before—the slashes have been working, but just aren't deep enough to be pretty—and let it rise. After 2.5 hours, it was doubled and ready to bake.

I baked it at 350° for 60 minutes, starting with a cold oven, same as usual. It was wonderful! I can't believe the difference from trying it with yeast! This one's going in my regular rotation of breads to make.

The results here got me about oat flour? Oat flour is heavy and doesn't rise well because it has no gluten; at least rye has some gluten. I think I'll try it, starting at 50% oat flour. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I am ashamed to think that any Christian should ever put on a long face and shed tears over doing a thing for Christ, which a worldly man would be only too glad to do for money.—Hannah Whitall Smith


A few interesting things around the blogosphere...

The Eerdmans blog has a post (that finishes yesterday's) on abortion. Here's a brief excerpt, but do read the whole thing (and yesterday's as well):

We need better customs and laws enforcing male sexual and paternal responsibility. But still, the brute facts direct us to the particular life circumstances of women. We need to know what is happening in so many women’s lives, and in our culture more broadly, that leads to so many unwanted pregnancies for women. We do know a few things.

We know that far too many people are having sex outside of a context in which a resulting pregnancy can be handled without resort to abortion. Our culture lacks an ethic of sexual responsibility, and women disproportionately pay the price.

Note especially that last line: "women disproportionately pay the price." As Christians we are called to defend the helpless; that includes the unborn, but also the mothers of the unborn...

Alan Knox has a good note about finding church:

It’s true that many, many people expect to find “church” in a specially set aside building, and outside of that building they do not expect to find fellowship. Yes, this is a problem of expectations. But, this same problem of expectations based on location can affect Christians who do not gather in specially designated buildings.

What? That sounds crazy, at first. But, in reality, it’s all the same. You see, it IS possible to find fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ in “church buildings,” and it is possible to find fellowship with other believers in homes, and it is possible to find fellowship with other Christians in parks and beaches and pubs and any other location.

Expectations get in the way when we ONLY expect to find fellowship in a specific location (whatever that location), and expectations also get in the way when we NEVER expect to find fellowship in certain locations (whatever those locations).

<idle musing>
Yep. It isn't just traditional churches that are guilty; I've been in house churches where all they did was substitute a living room for the sanctuary. Once the "service" was over, no more talk about Jesus. You'd share a meal, but the talk was about anything other than God... Sad, isn't it?

God wants us always aware of his presence—talking about him and what he is doing in our life, as well as living that out. It doesn't matter whether you are a part of a house church, a traditional Sunday morning church, or a "seeker-friendly" church
; God wants all of us, all the time. Anything less is idolatry. Think about that for a minute...
</idle musing>

More adventures in sourdough

The day I made the cinnamon bread, Joel, Renee, and the grandkids came over. Debbie's been at her parents place, assisting for a week or so; they figured I needed company! They brought the main dish; I supplied the bread : )

At that point I had finished the original loaf, so I had a very dense rye, a very chewy whole wheat, and the cinnamon raisin. I sliced up some of each for everyone to try. As expected, the rye bread wasn't appreciated—by me either! But, the kids liked both the whole wheat and the cinnamon raisin bread. I gave Renee some starter for her to experiment and I gave her my revised recipe.

That night, I decided to try rye again, but using my own ideas. I took a cup of starter, 1.5 cups of whole wheat, 1.5 cups of rye flour, and 1.5 cups of water. In addition, I used 2 teaspoons of molasses, 1 tablespoon of caraway, and 1.5 teaspoons of salt. I mixed that whole thing together and let it proof overnight. The next morning, I poured it out onto the counter; it was very moist, almost too moist to work with. I put it into a parchment paper lined glass loaf pan, let it rise 3 hours, and baked it at 350°F for 60 minutes (no preheating of the oven). I lowered the temperature to 350° this time (from 375°) because of the glass pan...

Again, the parchment paper fell off the loaf when I removed the loaf from the pan. That's great for reusing; usually you have to peel it off the bread after it sits for about 5-15 minutes (Renee lets hers cool completely before removing it—I'm not that patient!). I let the loaf cool for an hour, sliced it, and tasted it. Delicious!

But, that got me thinking. With normal yeast breads, rye bread doesn't rise very well. I've talked about my experiments with rye bread before. But, this loaf rose so well, I figured I'd try a denser loaf. So, I went with 2 cups of rye and 1 cup of whole wheat. I left out the molasses, to see if the sugar had anything to do with the rising, otherwise I left it all the same. Plus, I used all the rest of the molasses in the baked beans that afternoon!

I didn't grind enough wheat flour, so I fed the starter with rye flour. The next morning, I fed it rye flour again. Let me tell you, I think sourdough starter loves rye flour! It was about ready to overflow the bowl after only 5 hours. I've read people who say that they can't get starter to grow except on unbleached flour; they should try rye!

Anyway, I let the bread rise overnight, poured it out the next morning, and made a loaf. I didn't notice any less rise than with a 50/50% mixture. I let it rise in the loaf pan; after 2.5 hours, it was ready to bake! It actually rose better with more rye flour! I baked it as usual and let it cool for about an hour. The flavor was intense! You can taste the sour of the sourdough more.

I think I'm going to go with 100% rye this time, add the molasses back in, and see what happens...stay tuned!


Humans are inherently social creatures. Even those of us who are relatively serious loners are only loners intermittently. We are all parts of a complex web of relationships and mutualisms. It isn’t normal, natural, or healthy for us to be “independent.” What is healthy is interdependence. In ordinary and good times, we don’t really seek true independence, but rather, enough knowledge and skills so that we can build and hold up our end of honorable interdependence. I think the same applies to even mega-hard times. —Carol Deppe, in The Resilient Gardener

<idle musing>
Excellent insight. Who wants to be totally independent? That would be a lonely life!
</idle musing>

Monday, January 28, 2013

Adventures with sourdough

I've been experimenting with sourdough for about 2 weeks now. I made my own starter using the instruction here. I used rye flour; the instructions say not to use home-ground flour, so I had no other choice. It didn't grow for 24 hours, but that's normal. After that, I fed it every 12 hours, gradually switching to unbleached flour in the fourth day. I kept it on unbleached flour for 3-4 days, then switched to whole wheat flour.

They say not to use it until it is a week old, so I didn't. But, the day it was a week old, I attempted to make a loaf. I followed a recipe that says to only let it rise 1.5 hours. It didn't move, so I let it rise another 3. It still wasn't very risen, but I baked it anyway...I didn't slash the top of the loaf, either.

The results were edible, but dense. Because I hadn't slashed the loaf, it tore along the sides. Oh well, at least it was edible! That night, I tried again. This time, I used a different recipe. Actually, I tried two; one was a rye bread and the other a whole wheat bread. The rye recipe called for 2 cups of rye, 2 cups of whole wheat, 1/2 cup starter, and only 1 cup of water. That was way too dense to even work with, so I added another 1/2 cup of water and let it sit overnight.

The other recipe called for 1 cup of starter, 3 cups of whole wheat, and 1.5 cups of water (plus 1.5 teaspoons of salt). I just mixed up the ingredients and let them sit, covered, overnight. The next morning, I poured the dough out on a floured surface, let it rest about 20 minutes before forming it into a loaf; I didn't grease the glass loaf pan. I then let it rise for about 3 hours and baked it in a cool oven at 375°F for 70 minutes.

At the same time, I was attempting to make the rye bread. It had barely risen; it was way too dense to rise much. Well, I figured it was worth a try, so I kneaded it some, formed it into two loaves, using lightly greased stainless steel loaf pans, and let it rise for 3 hours before popping it into a preheated 450°F oven.

I ended up with a very chewy whole wheat bread and 2 dense, barely edible rye loaves. The ungreased pan stuck, but I used a paring knife around the outside edge; the greased pans made the crust tough. Not too bad for the second try. Good enough to try again, anyway.

That night I made a cinnamon raisin dough. I used the same recipe as the whole wheat, but added 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, a tablespoon of unrefined sugar, and 1/2 cup raisins. It rose nicely overnight. I formed it into a loaf, used parchment paper to line the glass loaf pan, and let it rise about 3 hours. I popped it into a cool oven and baked it for 60 minutes at 375°F. The parchment paper almost fell off the loaf when I took it out of the pan. I let the loaf cool for about 1/2 hour (they say to let it stand for an hour—yeah, right!) It was delicious!

Self denial

The great effort among sinners has always been to be saved in some way of self-indulgence. They are slow to admit that self-denial is indispensable—that total, unqualified self-denial is the condition of being saved. I warn you against supposing that you can be saved in some easy, self-pleasing way. Men ought to know, and always assume, that it is naturally indispensable for selfishness to be utterly put away and its demands resisted and put down.—Charles Finney

Intellectual assent

Many in the eighteenth century viewed Christianity as an intellectual system, centred on systematic theology; belief was then an intellectual quality involving the comprehension and application of propositional truth. This was certainly congenial to the developing Enlightenment approach to the study of religion and was popular with many Calvinists. Wesley believed that Calvinism erred by focusing on God’s sovereignty, with the consequent emphasis on rules, regulations and perfect compliance. While Wesley was influenced by these developments, he clearly rejected their main thrust in order to embrace Christianity as a personal encounter with God, a relationship based on trust, centred in the heart, and with an affinity for personal knowledge rather than abstract truth.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 211

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! I am not against intellectual knowledge—how could I be with all the years of schooling?—but without the Spirit of God quickening that knowledge, it is worthless ("knowledge puffs up while love builds up").
</idle musing>

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Thought for today

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hosea 14:9 TNIV)

Saturday, January 26, 2013


...they put this matter of becoming holy off to the most distant time possible. Feeling a strong dislike to it now, they flatter themselves that God will take care that it shall be done up duly in the next world, how much soever they may frustrate His efforts to do it in this. So long as it remains in their power to choose whether to become holy or not, they improve the time to enjoy sin; and leave it with God to make them holy in the next world— if they can't prevent it there! Consistency is a jewel!
And all those who put off being religious now in the cherished delusion of becoming so in some future time, whether in this world or the next, are acting out this same inconsistency. You fondly hope that will occur which you are now doing your utmost to prevent.—Charles Finney

Friday, January 25, 2013

Full salvation is for now

Many would be willing to be saved in heaven, if they might hold on to some sins while on earth-- or rather they think they would like heaven on such terms. But the fact is, they would as much dislike a pure heart and a holy life in heaven as they do on earth, and they deceive themselves utterly in supposing that they are ready or even willing to go to such a heaven as God has prepared for His people. No, there can be no heaven except for those who accept a salvation from all sin in this world. They must take the Gospel as a system which holds no compromise with sin-- which contemplates full deliverance from sin even now, and makes provision accordingly. Any other gospel is not the true one, and to accept of Christ's Gospel in any other sense is not to accept it all. Its first and its last condition is sworn and eternal renunciation of all sin.—Charles Finney

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An iron collar

It has often struck my mind with great force, that many professors of religion are deplorably and utterly mistaken on this point. Their real feeling is that Christ's service is an iron collar—an insufferably hard yoke. Hence, they labour exceedingly to throw off some of this burden. They try to make it out that Christ does not require much, if any, self-denial—much, if any, deviation from the course of worldliness and sin. O, if they could only get the standard of Christian duty quite down to a level with the fashions and customs of this world! How much easier then to live a Christian life and wear Christ's yoke!

But taking Christ's yoke as it really is, it becomes in their view an iron collar. Doing the will of Christ, instead of their own, is a hard business. Now if doing Christ's will is religion, (and who can doubt it?) then they only need enough of it; and in their state of mind they will be supremely wretched. Let me ask those who groan under the idea that they must be religious—who deem it awful hard—but they must—how much religion of this kind would it take to make hell? Surely not much! When it gives you no joy to do God's pleasure, and yet you are shut up to the doing of His pleasure is the only way to be saved, and are thereby perpetually dragooned into the doing of what you hate, as the only means of escaping hell, would not this be itself a hell? Can you not see that in this state of mind you are not saved and cannot be?—Charles Finney

<idle musing>
That seems to be the attitude of far too many seeker-friendly churches...God deliver us from ourselves!
</idle musing>

Sin defined

...sin is defined as a deliberate violation of the law of love, making it voluntary, intentional and culpable. This means that infirmities, errors, mistakes, and misjudgements, that are obvious violations of the original covenant of works with Adam, do not violate the covenant of grace as long as there is confession, repentance and gracious remediation. Under these conditions, all involuntary shortcomings that would earn condemnation under the covenant of works are now graciously covered by the atonement. This makes a relationship of perfect love defined by purity of intention, singleness of purpose and a heart’s passion for God possible under the present conditions of bodily existence, but not perfect performance or conformity to a standard of conduct defined by impersonal law and sovereign decrees. Salvation is thus centred on a whole-hearted passion for God rather than perfect conformity to rules and regulations. Wesley believed this was biblical, clearly supported by antiquity, the Church of England and modelled [sic] in the lives of numerous ‘saints’ and the people called Methodists.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 211

<idle musing>
"Salvation is thus centred on a whole-hearted passion for God rather than perfect conformity to rules and regulations." Amen & amen!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

God as love

From the very beginning of his Oxford years Wesley had visualised God’s essential nature as love; a love displayed amongst the Persons of the Triune Godhead and to all creation. God’s desire for loving relationships then defines and shapes the expression of all the other divine attributes. Human beings, who are made in God’s image, are to be understood primarily in terms of love and relationships, both with God and neighbour. The divine-human interaction is, therefore, to be defined by love and relationship and not by an intellectual comprehension of doctrine. Nor is it to be expressed by conformity to divine laws imposed by a Sovereign God, through a series of decrees that are isolated from mercy and justice. In harmony with this conception, he consistently declared that the whole of the law and commandments can be summed up by the call to love God supremely and the neighbour as oneself. Furthermore, this requirement was also a promise, for God does not ask anything of us that we cannot implement by his grace.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, pages 210-211


I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ (Daniel 7:16-18 TNIV)

<idle musing>
A perfect summary of the end of the world. Why do we need to know more? We win—forever! The rest is just fill...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Good theology

In these final years Wesley continued to maintain the vision of the Christian life that he had held from his time at Oxford. He retained his conviction that God was to be understood essentially as a God of love who desired a loving relationship with all people; all other aspects of his nature, character and purpose are to be understood in relation to love. Furthermore, there is nothing in God’s declarations or actions that would contradict the primacy of love. A love-based relationship could not exist without liberty and the power of contrary choice. In upholding the primacy of God’s initiation of the relationship, Wesley remained steadfast in his opinion that grace, truly understood, enabled a genuine human response to God’s invitation. Wesley was certain that his picture was both biblical and faithful to the early church and his Anglican heritage.Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 206

<idle musing>
And, indeed it is...
</idle musing>

Sunday, January 20, 2013


...we cannot hope to reach this maturity in any other way than by yielding ourselves up utterly and willingly to His mighty working. But the sanctification the Scriptures urge as a present experience upon all believers does not consist in maturity of growth, but in purity of heart, and this may be as complete in the babe in Christ as in the veteran believer.—Hannah Whitall Smith in The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What it is

All that we claim then in this life of sanctification is, that by a step of faith we put ourselves into the hands of the Lord, for Him to work in us all the good pleasure of His will; and that by a continuous exercise of faith we keep ourselves there. This is our part in the matter. And when we do it, and while we do it, we are, in the Scripture sense, truly pleasing to God, although it may require years of training and discipline to mature us into a vessel that shall be in all respects to His honor, and fitted to every good work.—Hannah Whitall Smith in The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

Friday, January 18, 2013

The promise

We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. A real work is to be wrought in us and upon us. Besetting sins are to be conquered. Evil habits are to be overcome. Wrong dispositions and feelings are to be rooted out, and holy tempers and emotions are to be begotten. A positive transformation is to take place. So at least the Bible teaches. Now somebody must do this. Either we must do it for ourselves, or another must do it for us. We have most of us tried to do it for ourselves at first, and have grievously failed; then we discover from the Scriptures and from our own experience that it is a work we are utterly unable to do for ourselves, but that the Lord Jesus Christ has come on purpose to do it, and that He will do it for all who put themselves wholly into His hand, and trust Him to do it.—Hannah Whitall Smith in The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life

<idle musing>
Ain't it the truth?
</idle musing>

Two roads diverged...

Wesley made explicit in his pastoral advice that all Christians had a choice to make regarding the depth and richness of their relationship with God. He noted that there was a higher and a lower rank of Christian. While both of them may be in God’s favour, “The latter avoid all known sin, do much good, use all the means of grace, but have little of the life of God in their souls and are much conformed to the world. The former make the Bible their whole rule, and their sole aim is the will and image of God.” The critical concern here is the heart’s desire for a deeper relationship with God–a matter of passion and relationship, not intellect and comprehension.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, pages 195-196

<idle musing>
I'll take the high road. What about you? Which will you choose? You don't know? Well, your daily actions are saying what your choice is already...
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yes, but...

Wesley was convinced that a genuine heart experience of God need not be tightly linked to a correct interpretation of the text, since God has full authority over the text and can apply it through the Spirit as he chooses. This affirms that Scripture, while at the core of his theological methodology, could not be substituted for the direct work of the Spirit in the life.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 169

<idle musing>
Jesus himself says that they will know we are his by our love not by our doctrine—not to minimize correct doctrine! But, the emphasis must be on love and an ongoing encounter with the living, resurrected, victorious Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Passion the heart of Wesley’s whole conception of Christian perfection was a passion for God, and it was this passion that was to be the motivation for the whole of life and ministry. He believed that love was essentially attractive and this should be the emphasis in preaching and teaching, rather than on the negative aspect of cleansing or purification.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 146

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Breaking the sin cycle

Were all therefore condemned to a life of endless sinning and defeat? Wesley strongly rejected this pessimistic conclusion. He argued that God had now established a covenant of grace with fallen humanity and all the requirements of the law were met fully in Christ who had now established the law of faith, so that the one who believed in him would be fully accepted by God. The “law of faith” established by Christ was fulfilled by love: “Faith working or animated by love is all that God now requires of man. He has substituted (not sincerity, but) love, in the room of angelic perfection.” Wesley agreed that it was still possible to offend against this law, since mistakes may spring from a heart of love. He reminded his people that they have no “stock of holiness” that is their own, but must always depend every moment upon Christ and so they always needed his atonement, intercession and advocacy with the Father. He was careful to maintain that we never achieved a state of grace in which we no longer needed the priestly work of Christ.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 136

<idle musing>
Amen! We always stand in need of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Any heart holiness we have is strictly Him, not us. But, heart holiness is possible!
</idle musing>

I will move you...

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:25-27 TNIV)

<idle musing>
I love that! God promises to move us; it's all him...
</idle musing>

Monday, January 14, 2013

Closer to God

"...growing closer to God has a whole lot less to do with any action we might take and a whole lot more to do with positioning our hearts toward His. It's what I call intentionally positioning ourselves to experience God—and the posture we are to take might surprise most well-meaning Christ seekers and followers.

"The posture isn't standing with our hands up high or arms outstretched. The posture is the lowest possible position in which we can put ourselves with empty hands and eager hearts. In other words, communicating with our intentions, our attitudes, and even our body language that we are willing to deny ourselves."— Made to Crave, pages 59-60

Friday, January 11, 2013

Love drives out sin

The vital quality [of Christian perfection] was a heart right toward God (a relationship), seeking only to love him, glorify him and enjoy him forever, through faith in Jesus Christ. The emphasis is undoubtedly on the positive presence of love in the heart that leaves no room for anything contrary. In other words, it is the infilling of love that lies at the heart of the experience, not a negative image of prior cleansing or purification before love can enter. Wesley’s preferred picture of the experience of Christian perfection began with the person’s positive desire to be filled with love, rather than having sin cleansed away.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 123

<idle musing>
I like that. So much of what is written about Christian growth concentrates on purification—which easily turns into striving and works. This is a refreshing emphasis on desiring to be filled. I read a comparison of the Christian life with the oak tree. Oak leaves don't all fall off in the fall; they are pushed out in the spring by the new growth (if you have oak trees you know what I'm talking about! You rake leaves 3 seasons of the year). Same with the Christian; the new life of Christ drives out the old life of self.
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sources for theology

...people devoid of the Spirit cannot comprehend the Scriptures as God intends. Furthermore, God can work directly in a person’s life without utilising the Scriptures (or any other means) at all. Wesley has made it clear that it is the direct authority of the Spirit that is absolutely indispensable in theologising, making God himself the sole authority in matters of faith and practice.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 103

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The mark of righteousness

It is important to note that righteousness is not defined by Wesley in legal terms as obedience to law or conformity to an absolute standard, but as God’s love expressed in a right relationship with himself and subsequently with all other persons. People were created in receipt of the fullness of God’s love and with the ability to fully return that love to God and to other creatures. This is summed up in terms of humans being both holy and happy through knowing, loving and enjoying God. Holiness is active love to God and neighbour based on God’s prior love poured into the heart; happiness is the enjoyment and security in such a love.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 92

<idle musing>
True holiness manifests itself from the heart, as Wesley knew. The love that pours out of us is a direct result of the Holy Spirit pouring his love into and through us. May we all be unobstructed conduits!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Love and trust

Salvation involves a reciprocal relationship of love, for God will only continue in a relationship in which we return the prior love he gives us. Failure to return the love is to experience God’s gradual withdrawal, leading to an eventual fall into inward and then outward sin. Wesley was convinced that a faithful relationship with God, grounded in grace, was possible from the very beginning. This was because its essential nature had to do with love and trust, not obedience and performance, though the latter elements would flow from the former ones and be defined by them.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 91

<idle musing>
But we try to put it the other way around, don't we? We obey and perform in a vain attempt to gain what we already have and become what we already are. We think if we just perform a little bit better, God will love us more. If we could just do this or that...all the while God is already loving us and telling us we are already sons and daughters through Christ—just love and trust. Obedience will follow out of his enabling power, not our struggles and strivings.
</idle musing>

Monday, January 07, 2013

The Righteous man

“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of the house of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or have sexual relations with a woman during her period. He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 18:5-9 TNIV)

<idle musing>
Did you see that? Ezekiel just defined robbery as not giving food to the hungry or clothing the naked! I'm tempted to take the next verse as a continuation: He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them. But, I think that might be stretching the syntax a bit. Nonetheless, how does capitalism fare in this evaluation? Not too well, does it? Food for thought... Just another
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Sin as intention

A critical development that hinges, at least in part, on his developing understanding of the centrality of love, is the distinction he makes between intention and performance. The will may have a perfect intention, but the performance may be marred. If God sees the intention, then is the person condemned simply because of faulty execution? Wesley defines sin (“properly so-called”) as a voluntary breach of a known law of God and this is based on his conviction that there must be personal culpability before we can be held accountable. Sin has to do with choices made where the consequences are known. The crucial question to be decided regarding whether an act, word or thought is sin has to do with its intention – is it intended to break or harm the relationship? If it is not, then the person is not culpable, and thus not guilty of sin. While breaches of the relationship may occur without the concurrence of the will, they are strictly speaking an infirmity. This is the crucial definition on which his whole claim to Christian perfection as a reality in this life stands or falls; it will occupy his pastoral attention for the rest of his life.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 87

<idle musing>
Indeed. This is the key issue. If sin is a failure to deliver due to being human beings, then Adam and Eve were sinners before the fall, as was Jesus after the incarnation! Don't want to go there, do we?

But, if sin is a willful act, then there is hope for all of us in Christ. The Holy Spirit can cleanse us from all of the junk in the old man—after all, Romans (and other places) says we are DEAD! And a dead person doesn't have life in itself. All a corpse can do is stink...
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

From assent to trust

If Böhler was correct in this estimation, the problem lay with Wesley’s attempts to reason his way through to a relationship with God. This was due to his continued practical understanding of faith as assent, even though he had intellectually come to see it primarily as trust. The critical phrase here is Wesley’s reliance on the propositional truth of Scripture as comprehended by the intellect, rather than a personal experience of God in the heart. Wesley, by his own confession, had a very limited personal experience of God prior to Aldersgate and all of his theologising up till this period was largely an intellectual affair...He was desperate for the experience Böhler described, but at this critical juncture he explicitly returned to the “testimony” of Scripture. It is of paramount importance to notice however, that it was not simply the written text to which he appealed, but the direct testimony of God himself through the written text. In a way that he had not yet clearly articulated, Wesley had come to realise the inadequacy of an intellectual comprehension of the text alone, and the vital importance of a direct spiritual encounter with God in and through the text, as well as in and through personal testimonies.—Wesley as a Pastoral Theologian, page 81

<idle musing>
May others come to that realization as well!
</idle musing>

Judgment falls

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it..."

While they were killing and I was left alone, I fell facedown, crying out, “Ah, Sovereign Lord! Are you going to destroy the entire remnant of Israel in this outpouring of your wrath on Jerusalem?” (Ezekiel 9:3, 4, 8 TNIV)

<idle musing>
The true heart of a prophet is showing here. Ezekiel, rather than rejoicing that he is spared, falls down to make intercession for the ones who aren't being spared. Notice that he doesn't try to excuse them—he knows they deserve it!—but he asks for mercy on them.

Makes me wonder how I'm doing at hearing the heart of The LORD...
</idle musing>