Saturday, May 31, 2014

In the mail

I don't usually get unsolicited books in the mail—well not anymore. When I worked at Eisenbrauns, I got plenty! So it was a nice treat to open the Post Office box yesterday and see a copy of Goldingay's The Theology of the Book of Isaiah from InterVarsity Press.

I'm adding it to my stack of books to read. Now that summer is almost here and the cabins are picking up, I probably won't get to it immediately, but it looks very interesting. Goldingay is a good scholar and he knows Isaiah well...

Friday, May 30, 2014

More legalism thoughts

Legalism is slow torture, suffocation of the spirit, amputation of one’s dreams. Legalism is just enough religion to keep you, but not enough to nourish you.

So you starve. Your teachers don’t know where to go for food, so you starve together. Your diet is rules and standards. No vitamins. No taste. No zest. Just bland, predictable religion.— He Still Moves Stones, 119

<idle musing>
Too true! Wesley used to say something to the effect of "pity the religious man, for he has enough of God not to be able to enjoy sin, but not enough of God to enjoy God." It's the same with the legalist. They have enough of God to know that their current behavior is less than satisfactory, but not enough of God to realize that the answer isn't striving, but abiding...
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Debbie was reading a Max Lucado book the other day and read me a part of it. I had read the book years ago, but had forgotten this chapter. Here's a snippet, for your edification:
A legalist believes the supreme force behind salvation is you. If you look right, speak right, and belong to the right segment of the right group, you will be saved. The brunt of responsibility doesn’t lie within God; it lies within you.

The result? The outside sparkles. The talk is good and the step is true. But look closely. Listen carefully. Something is missing. What is it? Joy. What’s there? Fear. (That you won’t do enough.) Arrogance. That you have done enough.) Failure. (That you have made a mistake.)

Legalism is a dark world.— He Still Moves Stones, 118

<idle musing>
Good, isn't it? I'll post a few more snippets from this chapter over the next few days. Lucado has a good way with words. I've read probably a dozen or so of his books over the years; they aren't terribly deep, but he tells a good story in a way that gets the point across.
</idle musing>


Indeed, the church, having failed to become good news for the oppressed, may at times even be bad news! It seems to be forgotten that God’s kingdom is the message not the church’s kingdom. The message is not the church. To put it rather baldly and perhaps badly, we need kingdom growth and kingdom good news, not church promotion and church growth.— Shalom, page 139

<idle musing>
Amen! That's an excellent observation. Yoder was writing over 20 years ago, but the church growth movement has been even more damaging since then, what with mega-pastors, not just mega-churches. Of course, with mega-pastors has come mega-egos and mega-failures if a mega-pastor falls into mega-sin.

Whatever happened to micro-churches with a mega-God? and micro-people with a mega-God? That seems to be more biblical, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's all in the definition

When we understand justice procedurally, the law becomes a conservative force—it operates to maintain the status quo because it is primarily concerned with carrying out rules. When we understand justice as a substantive, then law operates to transform society by instituting an equitable set of social relationships within society. This latter function was, of course, the concern of biblical law. The implication of this seems to be that only as justice passes this test, will it be shalom justice and lead to shalom. Shalom will not result from procedural justice alone.— Shalom, page 83 (emphasis original)

A fitting end—or beginning

There is a better way to understand both revelation and doctrinal development. Revelation is neither contentless experience (liberalism) nor timeless propositions (conservatism). It is the dynamic self-disclosure of God, who makes his goodness known in the history of salvation, in a process of disclosure culminating in Jesus Christ. Revelation is not primarily existential impact or infallible truths but divine self-revelation that both impacts and instructs. The mode of revelation is self-disclosure and interpersonal communication. As such it is pregnant with significance and possible development.— Flame of Love, page 226

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from this book—a fitting end, don't you think?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Speaking of surety

Second, obedience is liberating, because it is self-accepting; we do not have to prove our self-worth before God, or before others. We already have value because God loves us and has acted in grace toward us. God wills liberation for all; people do not have to earn the right to be free. Legalism, on the other hand, feeds on guilt and insecurity because we can never quite be sure we are good enough or that our efforts will suffice. As a result, legalism tends toward moralism and contentions which can divert attention and energy from responding to God’s will for liberation and shalom.— Shalom, page 75 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I'm convinced that the desire for surety in things leads inevitably to legalism. What do you think?
</idle musing>

But I want more

Revelation is not primarily a communication of timeless truths otherwise inaccessible. Revelation is conveyed in the story of the mighty acts of God. There is no box full of pieces for the theological jigsaw puzzle. The Bible offers little if any truth expressed abstractly, in noncontextual ways. Scripture does not provide detailed legislation for every situation.— Flame of Love, page 225

<idle musing>
That's a problem for some people...they want everything laid out in black & white—no gray areas, thank you. But life doesn't work that way, and scripture certainly doesn't.

I'm convinced God did it that way to make us rely on the Holy Spirit. If everything were laid out nice and straightforward, why would we need God?
</idle musing>

Monday, May 26, 2014

A serious lover

God is a serious lover who does not allow persons to perish without any opportunity to respond to his love. We do not know how the opportunity presents itself, but we can be sure that it does because of the loving heart of God.— Flame of Love, page 212

<idle musing>
No wonder Pinnock wasn't liked very well by the Reformed crowd...but I firmly believe he is correct. It certainly lines up with the God portrayed in the scriptures.
</idle musing>

Thought for today

As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. (Psalm 55:16-19, 22 NIV)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sad news

I just read on Rod Decker's blog that he has left us after a long battle with cancer. The posting, by his wife, is very moving.

While I didn't always agree with Decker, he was always worth reading. I hope they are able to keep his valuable resources available on the web.

Friday, May 23, 2014

It's a response

First, obedience is a response to what God has already done, while legalism is doing right to gain a reward. Obedience recognizes that God’s grace has already been given in the past, and, in the present, God continues to will the salvation of people from oppression. This basic will of God for history is a given fact and cannot be earned by any deeds on our part. What we do is a response to this given; we enter into action on this basis as co-workers with God. Thus, obedience understands law in the context of grace and history; it understands biblical law as a liberation instrument which, as we will see, is to realize, maintain, and promote shalom. Legalism, on the other hand, believes we must do what is right in order to earn God’s favor or love. If we are good enough then God will reward us. Here, rather than responding to the divine will, we are working for wages.— Shalom, page 74

<idle musing>
Excellent analysis, but I was disappointed by the lack of mention of the Holy Spirit. As I mentioned in the first excerpt, that's the thing that always strikes me about so many Mennonite books. They get it right, but neglect the importance of the Holy Spirit in making it happen...
</idle musing>

Hopeful universalism

Although certain texts taken in isolation could imply universal salvation, the warnings that occur in the same books must influence their interpretation. Though God is able to save all people and would even like to, Scripture does not encourage us to think that everyone will accept his love or that God will use his superior power to overcome all rejection. The scope of redemption is universal, but Scripture suggests that one can be finally impenitent and be excluded from the kingdom (Rev 21:8, 27).— Flame of Love, page 190

<idle musing>
As C.S. Lewis famously said, the door of hell is looked from the inside. God has done everything necessary, and stands there, wooing us. Check that, chases us as a lover would be a better picture. But not everyone responds...
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Exciting new project

SBL just announced an exciting new project today. Here's the announcement:
Too cool! I'm looking forward to seeing it...

As was pointed out in the comments, this is the Oxford Hebrew Bible Project, but now under the auspices of SBL. I have it on good authority that they are anticipating 1–2 volumes a year, with Proverbs by Michael Fox being the first one.

Inwardly working, outwardly effective

Sin (in Paul’s writings, it is usually sin rather than sins) is a power that controls human life. (See Rom. 6.) It is a force which enslaves people and expresses itself in a variety of ways. Some of these, as we have suggested, are racism, sexism, materialism, feudalism, and classism. For people to be free and create a free society, they need to be liberated from these forces which bind them: liberated internally from these habits of thought and externally from structures which reinforce and express them through oppression and alienation. The cross of Jesus provides the power for people to become free from them by having new minds and wills to live in a new kind of life.— Shalom, page 66

<idle musing>
Good thoughts. Change has to start inside—we need to have our thinking transformed before we can change the circumstances. Praise God that the Holy Spirit is able to do that!

Along those lines, some good thoughts on LBJ's Great Society here. Hard to believe it's been 50 years! Yikes! That must mean I'm over 50...
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

The purpose of troubling experiences—so far as we can discern it—is to wean us from our idea of a God who always pampers us and to bring us to God as he really is, our rock and fortress. We are deprived of the pleasures of Christian experience in order to move to greater heights. We can be guilty of lust for spiritual things as well as material. We can lust for pleasures of the soul and not really desire virtue. We can be gluttonous for spiritual sweets and delicacies. We must be weaned from this and not shy away from the dark night. God is not always near and intimate. God pursues good purposes in the silence and aridity of the night too. The wilderness experience of withdrawal from spiritual sweetness is essential for maturing. Let us not flee from it—God has a deep work to do in our lives. Is garbage not taken out weekly, rather than only once? Is it a pleasant duty? The cup of discipleship must be drunk to the bitter end. Let us not shrink back and refuse to let God transform us. If renewal stops with spiritual delicacies, it will not fulfill its purpose.— Flame of Love, page 180

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Where do your allegiances lie?

Saw this posted today.
However, I think we’re having the wrong discussion on this issue entirely. Instead of a constant cultural debate over the wording of the pledge, I think a better question is:

“Should a Christian recite the pledge of allegiance at all?“

Admittedly, I never once asked myself this question until the last year or two. Once I really started to consider the issue from all sides, I was actually really disappointed that it had taken me so long to actually see this issue for what it was. In the end, I have become convinced that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is something that a Jesus follower probably shouldn’t do.

<idle musing>
Read the whole post to get context, but I believe he's correct. I haven't recited the Pledge since I became a Christian (back in 1972, for those of you wondering). I couldn't see pledging my allegiance to anyone or thing other than God.

At the time, I was a long-hair, so many assumed I was doing it as a sign of rebellion—which in a sense I was, just not the rebellion they thought. It led to many interesting conversations.

I also didn't stand for the national anthem for the same reasons...

This sometimes led to unfortunate confrontations. I remember one in particular, at the 1973 Boy Scout Jamboree in Idaho. I was on staff as a clerk at one of the Trading Posts, which left me plenty of free time for patch trading and other things. I was off-duty and sitting talking with other workers on the grass when the national anthem began. Everyone else stood up, turned around and saluted the flag as it was being raised. I remained seated. Remember, I'm a long-hair, in a Boy Scout uniform, with a staff neckerchief and an Eagle Scout badge sewn on my shirt. Sitting during the national anthem. Talk about a mess of contradictions in some people's minds...

Anyway, after the anthem, we all resumed our conversation—for about 15 seconds. Suddenly, a man in a Scoutmaster's uniform comes up to me, points his finger in my face and begins to berate me about disrespect and how it was shameful that I was allowed to wear a scout uniform. He threatened to report me to my boss and get me in some serious trouble. Without waiting to listen to any reply, he turned and stalked off.

I figured the best defense was a good offense, so I went to my boss, along with a couple of the people who had witnessed the whole thing, and told him the whole story–including why I chose not to stand. My boss promised to bear all that in mind if/when the Scoutmaster came and talked to him.

I never heard another thing about it, so I'm not sure if the Scoutmaster ever did go to my boss or if he just figured I'd be scared into submission...anyway, do read the post I've linked to and seriously consider where your allegiances lie.
</idle musing>

Corporate yet personal

Sin is much more than personal misdeeds for which we feel sorrow. Sin has to do with the values and orientation by which we live—the powers wiich control our lives like materialism, feudalism, and greed. Before we can be liberated and before we can build the social structures of liberation we need to be freed from the control of these forces and the structures which embody them and keep them alive. This view of the atonement reinforces our discussion above about the need for both inner change and the change of structures which express and promote sin and oppression.— Shalom, page 61

<idle musing>
Good thoughts. In the Evangelical subculture, there is a tendency to minimize the corporate nature of sin. Yet, that is where it hides the most easily—and where it has the most subtle influence. To paraphrase Jesus, "we need to attack the one without neglecting the other..."
</idle musing>

Terminology or experience?

The issue is not terminology, and the question is not when but whether one has encountered the Spirit in experience. To paraphrase Jesus, what does it profit a man if he receives initiation without power? Reality, not terminology, is the issue. Whether we call it Spirit baptism or do not is unimportant compared with the problem of Christians who are experientially deficient, who do not know the Spirit’s power. We must know God experientially, not just cognitively. We need to be empowered for mission, freed from fear, able to speak, full of praises. We need a breakthrough in the realm of the Spirit, an awakening to the presence and power of God.— Flame of Love, page 170

<idle musing>
Indeed. Terminology can get in the way; far too often the terminology just puts it in a convenient intellectual mailbox. Tucked away where we can periodically examine it, but otherwise conveniently ignore it.

An encounter with God through the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, has a way of trashing our mailboxes. Even so, come Lord Jesus! Tear down our mailboxes and let us encounter you!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A much needed house-cleaning

I'm very poor at maintaining the layout of this blog. Witness the "What I'm reading" as an example. I finished one of those books months ago and excerpted from it. The other one I've finished but haven't excerpted from it yet. Maybe I should just delete that section...

Anyway, the other section that I'm even worse at maintaining is the blog list. I hadn't changed it in probably 3 years. Over the course of that time, my interests have changed, blogs have died, others have started, etc. OK, the real reason I haven't updated it is because I didn't want to admit that some of the first blogs that I started interacting with almost nine(!) years ago are dead. There's a psychological thing about cleaning up the list and I wasn't willing to face it.

What finally made me do it was an e-mail sitting in the Inbox for the last two months. It was from a dear friend asking for a link. It sat there until Debbie asked me if I was ever going to delete it. Well, I can't just delete it without taking care of it, can I?

Long way around to say, I've updated the links on the side of my blog. They reflect what I'm actually reading as of May, 2014.

And that friend? Well, it is Emanuel Hausman from Carta; he asked me if I would be willing to link to them. I told him that I'd be delighted to link to their web site. It took two months, but the link is there now. They produce great stuff and I was proud to distribute them while I worked at Eisenbrauns (Eisenbrauns serves as their North American distributor, so I've also linked to the Eisenbrauns web site for those of you in North America).

Remain in sin?

What is important in the atonement is that a person is now in Christ, a member of the body of Christ. The lack of attention to this New Testament emphasis has at times led to the notion that the atonement is a legal fiction: God treats us as just, but we are still the same old sinners. On this, the New Testament is clear—we are not the same old sinners. If we remain in sin, then we are not in Christ, and if we are not in Christ, then Jesus died in vain.— Shalom, page 57

<idle musing>
Really, I didn't do this on purpose! The two books are just lining up that way. But I love it! Must mean it's important : )
</idle musing>

You can't separate them

The key thing is that salvation involves transformation. It is not cheap grace, based on bare assent to propositions, or merely a change of status. Romans 5 with its doctrine of justification is followed by Romans 6 with its promise of union. It is not just a matter of balancing two ideas; it is a matter of never conceiving of the former without its goal in the latter. For the justified person is baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is no newness of life, if there is no union with Christ, if there is no coming out from under the dominion of sin, there is no salvation.— Flame of Love, pages 156-157

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! Salvation is not an intellectual event, it is a life-changing encounter with the living God. With all the emphasis on orthodoxy these days—and we need good doctrine, so don't misread this—we need a reemphasis on orthopraxy—right living. Don't stop reading at Romans 5! Read through 6, 7, and then 8. Death to self via union with Christ in his death and alive in Christ through his resurrection with the result that we live a victorious life via the Spirit, who lives in us.

That's something to get excited about!
</idle musing>

Monday, May 19, 2014

There's still more to it...

Thus when we limit salvation to only a spiritual concept, when we think of salvation only as the saving of some soul which has a separate existence of its own apart from the person’s total being, we no longer have a full-bodied biblical salvation, but a disembodied view of salvation. This is not how the Hebrew Scriptures talk about God’s salvation, nor is it how the Synoptic Gospels talk about Jesus’ saving works. Biblical salvation is liberation for the whole person, both materially and spiritually.— Shalom, page 49 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I didn't plan it that way, really, I didn't! But this excerpt sure dovetails nicely with the Pinnock excerpt earlier today. Think God's trying to say something here?!
</idle musing>

There's more to it

Being forgiven and acquitted in no doubt important. Justification is a moment in salvation, but not necessarily the central motif. Since we have been forgiven, our eyes are on the goal of union with the love of God. Christian experience is more than a feeling of relief at having evaded divine retribution. Justification is a step along the road of salvation, but it points forward to transformation and union. It is not the principal article of all Christian doctrine, as Luther claimed. It captures a truth—the truth of God’s unmerited favor—but it cannot be the model of salvation as a whole. Being saved is more like falling in love with God.— Flame of Love, pages 155-156


Good post by Roger Olson today. Here's snippet to whet your appetite, but you'll have to read his post to get a definition of MTD:
I am afraid that it is becoming increasingly harder to find the gospel in America. It is either wrapped so tightly in the flag as to be virtually invisible or relegated to a footnote to messages about “success in living,” being nice and including everyone.

Again, this is not a new situation; other countries have experienced it to their shame. A German theologian said that when he goes to church he listens for the gospel but comes away thinking the gospel was what should have been said (or sung) but wasn’t. The German Christians of the 1930s certainly didn’t think they were accommodating the gospel to a culture alien to it; they thought they were discovering new dimensions of the gospel that would bring revival to their churches.

<idle musing>
Yep. Anytime you idolize something—in this case either the country or self—you end up in a mess...
</idle musing>

Saturday, May 17, 2014

About that water closet

These cabins have been around for a while—more than 50 years. Consequently, they require a good bit of maintenance—as I'm sure you can imagine and have seen in my posts : )

One of the areas that seems to require the most attention in plumbing and plumbing related problems. Between faucet, toilet, and bathtub/shower leakage, the floors take a beating. That's why we replace two bathroom floors this year. Usually, it's been a matter of slow leakage over the years; you just don't notice it until suddenly, the floor is soft or—worse yet—starts sinking. That happened last fall in one of the motel rooms. One day I went in to clean the bathroom, and there was a 1 inch drop in the bathroom floor by the toilet. I climbed underneath only to discover that the original plumber had cut the floor joist to install the toilet!

I've discovered since then that this was a fairly common event around here. "Good enough for a seasonal place" seems to have been the motto. Anyway, when that happens, you are supposed to install a header/daughter board to tie the whole thing together. They didn't. And it held for 58 years. Until one day, it settled. I got out my hydraulic jack and pumped up the floor to level again.

Obviously, that was just a temporary fix...although I'm sure that if you look under some places around here...anyway, I digress. I ordered a post and installed it. It wasn't practical to install a header and it would just rot out eventually anyway. Maybe the post will rust, but it will probably outlast the rest of the building!

But, that's not the subject of today's musing. This one is a fast leak and a pool of water. We had rented out this particular cabin for most of the summer, so we hadn't been in it much. This spring, after we turned on the water, I went back through the next day to take off the water heater bypasses and bleed the air before turning on the hot water. I didn't expect any new problems; we had already discovered enough—or so I thought. Until I walked into the bathroom! Swimming pool! Or it would have been if there weren't a way for the water to drain under the cabin. And coming from the water closet. I turned off the water at the shutoff, only to discover that the shutoff leaked. back to the house and shut off the water to the cabins (beats the claustrophobic route). It was obvious that the water hadn't leaked from the valve, though. I checked the water closet, to see if it was tight. It wasn't. In fact, the thing was so loose I think it must have been leaking a good part of last summer...

No biggie. Just buy replacement washers and reset it. So I did. I also replaced the shutoff valve at the same time. I turned the water back on and figured I check it again later. I came back in an hour to two and had a new swimming pool...OK, now what? I checked the seal where the ballcock joins—see the graphic (which I stole from here). No leak there. No leaks on the screws that hold the tank to the toilet.

Must be the flush valve gasket. No problem; I'll just get a new one. I bought what looked like a replacement, but when I got home, I realized it was the wrong gasket. It was close enough that it looked like it would fit, and almost did, just a l-i-t-t-l-e bit too big. I'm nothing if not stubborn, but even I couldn't make it work. Bummer. Back to the hardware store. Turns out I have to buy the whole flush valve assembly just to get the gasket!

I replaced the whole thing, tightened it down to what I thought was tight. By now, I've wised up a bit, so I just put about 2 cups of water in the tank and wait. No need to wait! The water came pouring out as if there weren't a gasket there at all!

I took it apart and cleaned the tank area where it connected. It was pretty messy, but should have sealed. I tried again. Slower, but same result. OK, I need some serious wrenching action on that connecting nut! Only I don't have a 3 inch wrench. And neither did Max. I walked down to the hardware store again to find a large ChannelLocks™ that I had seen the plumber use when he replaced a valve earlier this week (that's another story...). They didn't have any!

Too late to go to the other hardware store outside of town, so I waited a day...

Next day, I got the 18" ChannelLocks™, cranked on that monster and cranked on it some more, just enough not to break anything! And turned the water back on just enough to get a few cups in there. Turned the water off and left for a few hours. When I came back, there wasn't a pool. The floor was damp, but that was only from being a swimming pool for a few days...success!

Now, about that valve the plumber replaced...maybe tomorrow.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Radical call

Many people abandon themselves, quite successfully, to certain encounters with the cross; but refuse to abandon themselves to all such encounters. One thing they can never prevail on themselves to allow: that their reputation, in the sight of men, be taken away. and yet it is here, at this point and similar points, where God is aiming. He will bring you even there! And expect of bitterness!

Your Lord intends for your soul to really die to the ways of the self nature!&mash;Jeanne Guyon

A biblical definition of justice

While we are prone to assess blame—the plight of the poor and disadvantaged is their own fault—or to assign responsibility—someone eslse is responsible for their situation—Jesus acts to deal with the need. He performs an act of shalom justice. Regardless of all other considerations, people ought to see rather than to be blind! People ought to be liberated rather than be oppressed. As a result, shalom makers are more concerned with transforming situations rather than meting out what people deserve.— Shalom, page 34

<idle musing>
I like that! It's a picture of what God did and is doing in Christ. A picture of what the church as a body should be doing. What I should be doing—in Christ.
</idle musing>

What to do?

The world did not set the agenda for Jesus. People could not predict what he would do next, because he had no plan but sought what the Father wanted. He did not operate from a program. Need alone did not constitute the divine call. He waited for God’s urging and the Spirit’s guiding. In the same way, the church should not go where God is not leading or become involved just because the world tells us to. There is no formula or doctrine of the church’s role in society. The church lives out its witness in concrete historical situations, waiting for God to lead. There is a role for thinking about what to do next, but this thinking should be always done in the context of waiting on God.— Flame of Love, pages 145-146

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A tale of two faucets

Yesterday, I told what happens when a pipe breaks. But a far more common problem is that sediment breaks loose in the pipes. Think about it, these cabins are older than I am—and that's pretty old, right!—and the water has been turned on and off every year. The violence of air being blown through them can't be doing any good. So, stuff breaks loose and it needs somewhere to go. We always remove the aerators from the faucets before we flush the lines and a lot of junk comes gushing out.

But, occasionally, the debris is too big to fit through the supply lines...

When that happens, the fun—and mess—begins. This year, I had two faucets that gave me only a trickle. One was the hot water in a shower; I thought about letting it go and making everybody take a cold shower! NOT! The other was the cold water at a kitchen sink. Hey, let them use the hot water for everything! OK, not practical either.

So, you start by turning off the water or you get a huge mess—don't ask! Then, you take apart the faucet and look for debris in the valve. If there isn't any, you put a towel and bucket over the valve hole—it's just a wide open line for the water to rush (we hope!) through. Then you turn the water back on. The theory is that that without the valve, the water pressure will push all the debris out of the line. If that works, you have a clean line—and a big mess of junk to clean up. Hence, the towel and bucket to control the flood.

If that doesn't work, you start taking apart pipes until you find the always hope that the flexible supply line is the problem because a) it's the closest and b) it's easy to replace if you can't clear it.

First I attempted to clear the kitchen faucet. Unfortunately, there wasn't a water shutoff valve under the kitchen sink. In fact, I had two options: I could climb underneath the cabin next door—Spruce, the claustrophobic one!, or I could turn off the main water to the cabins at the house. I chose the house—wouldn't you? But that meant I couldn't monitor the water flow; I had to guess how long to keep it on.

Being the type who doesn't enjoy cleaning up large masses of water, I chose to start with a 5 second burst. Nothing! The towel was barely wet. Back to the house. A 10 second burst. Not much better. OK, let's get daring...45 seconds. Still not much of a flow of water. The dish tub under the sink had about an inch and the sink about 1/2 inch. Sigh...

Let's take apart the supply line...There it was, a large piece of rusty metal, can I get it out? Grab the needle-nosed pliers, shake that line to get the piece as close to the large hole as possible. Grunt, squirm, wiggle my nose, generally make it think I know what I'm doing...there. Got it! Now, put everything back together again, making sure the connections are tight. Turn the faucet off! Now turn the water back on...test the faucet. Good water flow. Any leaks? Nope. Good. Now clean up the mess and on to the next one...

The hot water was in a shower—that means the water will probably hit the far wall, but at least it won't spew on the walls of the bathroom like a tub would. Remember, its coming from the faucet, not the spout. I turned the water off—why don't any of these problem faucets have accessible shut off valves? I had two choices: Climb through a narrow crawlspace access into an alcove like crawlspace that allowed me to access the shutoff valve through some mud, or turn it off at the house. Yep, the house won again.

I took the faucet apart—the knob was corroded and stuck to the valve. A good bit of hammering and pulling with a large 18" ChannelLocks™ helped to eventually get it off. The valve itself was all brass, at least these older fittings aren't junk that corrodes and breaks the first time you apply a little pressure. But they sure are tight! It finally came out—and so did some very dirty water. That faucet was jammed with junk! I made the mistake of turning it so that the stuff would fall down before I put a towel under it...yuk! It took about 5 minutes of cleaning and blowing and cleaning before it was finally clean. Now, just put it back together and tighten everything up...not too tight or I'll break something and have a bigger mess. Clean up the shower floor—and my boots!—before I track it all over the cabin. Turn the water back on. Success!

Wasn't that fun!? It wasn't even too bad. I just had to replace two other supply lines because the compression washers were disintegrated, and one shutoff valve. Oh, and that toilet water closet...that's a story by itself for another time...


Thus the argument between true and false prophets about shalom seems to boil down to whether peace / shalom refers to security and prosperity regardless of how obtained or at what price, or whether it refers to an okayness in all three aspects of life. The latter represents the true prophets’ point of view...Only the prosperity which comes from moral integrity and includes the well-being of all is shalom prosperity. In light of this inference, we may say that justice—not prosperity by itself—becomes the true measuring stick for whether or not there is shalom.— Shalom, page 18 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
I'm finally getting around to reading some older stuff...this book was originally published in 1987 (and is still in print!). I've been meaning to read it for ages, but finally ordered it via ILL and read it over the winter.

It's a great little book, and I'll be posting excerpts until I run out of them : ) My problem with the book is the same problem I have with so many books in the Mennonite/Anabaptist tradition: where's the power of the Holy Spirit? It's as if there are only two active members of the Trinity, with the Holy Spirit taking a sabbatical...what do you think?
</idle musing>

Why the Holy Spirit?

Mission is not human effort responding to a commandment. It is not even obedience to the Great Commission. It is natural and spontaneous. Only after the Spirit fell did the disciples speak (Acts 2:4). The Spirit creates a witnessing church. “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10:20). Spreading the gospel is dependent not on human wisdom and strength but on a demonstration of Spirit and power (1 Cor 2:4-5). Mission is not something we do to expand the size of the church; it is something God does to gather and bring justice to the nations. The Spirit is not the sustainer of the church but the driving power of its mission. The main thing for us to do is place ourselves at the Spirit’s disposal.

The goal is world transformation…Spiritual ecstasy is not meant to be an end in itself—the goal is transformation. The purpose of the outpouring of the Spirit is to bring the kingdom near and change real-life situations.— Flame of Love, pages 142-143

<idle musing>
Pinnock is an equal opportunity offender here! He clobbers the "go because Jesus commanded" as they do it on their own effort crowd. And in the next page he clobbers the "get filled with the Holy Spirit and everything is cool" crowd. Both have their place, but both need to be submitted to the overarching purposes of God. But we prefer extremes, don't we?

About 38 years ago, I heard Stuart Briscoe give a talk at a conference. His theme was "Trust and Obey" (yes, as in the hymn). He said our problem is we choose one or the other, so over here you've got a group of people with heavy burdens on their backs, hauling them around and saying, "Obey! Obey! Obey!" And over there you've got a group of people flapping their wings and jumping around saying, "Trust! Trust! Trust!" OK, it was better in person with him acting it out, but you get the idea...we have to hold the two in hand at the same time. You obey because you trust, but your trust must entail obedience. And it is all by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Let that water flow!

We turn the water off to the cabins every fall and fill the lines with RV antifreeze. If we didn't the pipes would freeze and burst. Not a pleasant thought! That means that every spring we have to turn the water back on and bleed all the antifreeze out. That's where life can get interesting...

Last spring was relatively uneventful, for which I am very thankful; we had enough new things without any added drama. This spring wasn't as uneventful...

To begin with, one of the cabins had the lines freeze before we could bleed the lines. This cabin has an exposed northwest corner and we had a week of very cold weather just before closing. From what I could see last fall, it looked like none of the pipes had burst, but I turned off the water valve to that cabin just in case—if there was a break, once things thawed, all the antifreeze in the system would have flowed out into that cabin. Pink stuff. All over. Not a pleasant thought!

Well, we turned the water on and began to bleed each cabin. I warned Max that this cabin might be a problem. So, I climbed under the cabin and slowly turned the valve. And breathed a sigh of relief; no water spraying around where I thought there would be a break. The relief turned to panic, though. Suddenly I saw water dripping down from all over the place!

I turned the water off quickly and we looked inside the cabin. Pink stuff. All over. Not a pleasant sight! And the smell of that stuff is like a cheap kid's perfume. Ugh! It didn't take long to discover the problem. Under the sink, right above the cold water shutoff valve. Broken pipe. Pink stuff. All over. Get out the rags. Clean up the mess.

The good news was that it was a clean break on a plastic pipe. A new ferrule (compression fitting) and within five minutes we were good to go. But that cabin still smells like cheap perfume...

I've got more stories of other interesting things, but they will keep. Stay tuned! And keep praising God—Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. (Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.) James 1:2–3

After all, if living in paradise were easy, everybody would be doing it and it would cease to be paradise (or something like that...)


Though we may believe intellectually that God can move in power, something inside of us says this is not going to happen, prayer is an illusion, the sick must only go to doctors. This may be coupled with a fear of change. We have our comfort zones and may prefer the orderliness of an unrenewed church to the disorderliness of renewal. There are reasons for not wanting the Spirit to move. We do not want to look ridiculous. We may not want to exchange Sunday-morning religion for real discipleship. We may not want to run the risk of opposition, which usually comes when the world discovers that the church is serious about mission. May the Lord shake us loose and allow us to see the possibilities of new creation.— Flame of Love, page 138

<idle musing>
Pretty scary thought, isn't it? Can you imagine letting the Holy Spirit run free in our lives? Why, we wouldn't be in control! There's a post at Missio Alliance today about that very thing...
</idle musing>

An offer

Like the manna in the wilderness, if we try to keep our holiness to ourselves, it will grow sour and rancid in us. But if we have learned Isaiah’s lesson—that holiness is not an end in itself so that we can revel in our own purity, but is for the sake of others—then our lives will be like the widow’s jug of oil which kept pouring out an unending steam of bright, pure oil. Then we will be free: free to love; free to serve; free to give; free to be self-forgetful. Then we will have begun to realize the purpose for which God made us. Then we will know that “You must be holy, because I am holy” is not a demand, but a wonderful offer.— Called to be Holy, page 199

<idle musing>
Why do we do that? Why do we take an offer from God and make it a demand? Wesley used to say that every command of God is really a hidden promise—if God commands something, then that means he is obligated to make the power to fulfill it available to us!

Quite the freeing thought, isn't it? The first time I read it, I had to go back and read it again to make sure I understood what he was saying. It takes our concept of God and turns it on its head. God isn't a demanding ogre, but a loving Father, always reaching out to us, always making the offer to come home. But we think home is a trap, a jail. We'd rather sit out in the cold rain and bewail our rough circumstances than come in and sit by the warm fire. After all, if we do that, we might have to actually talk to God! Imagine that!

We truly are foolish, aren't we?

By the way, that's the final snippet from this book. Not sure what I'll be extracting from next, but we'll find out tomorrow, won't we? : )
</idle musing>

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A new season

We are officially open for business again—actually we were as of Friday. It was fishing opener, but most of the lakes here are still iced over, so it was a real dud. We had no guests—not that we expected any with the temperatures being what they have been both here and in the Twin Cities. Nobody wants to escape the "heat" of 45–50°F to come up here and cool down.

Anyway, this years cabin prep was easier and harder than last year's. Last year we started in March and worked on seven cabins (out of nine), painting and repairing. This year, we started in April and only worked on three cabins. But the work we did on those three was more significant, by far.

We replaced two bathroom floors and one living room floor. The one in Pine was being held up by a jack that I put under there 3 weeks before the end of the season last year! The toilet was about to go through the floor...So this spring, as soon as the snow was low enough to enable us to get under the cabin, we tore it all out. I had a local guy helping me and he took a few pictures, but they got lost or I'd post them. Suffice it to say that it wasn't pretty! The floor joist had been cut to make room for the toilet and the header that was supposed to reinforce it had rotted out. All that was holding the toilet before I had put the jack under it was a pipe hanger wire that was about to let loose.

Can you imagine the scenario: Where's mom? Oh no! She went to the bathroom and now she's nowhere to be seen! Gives new meaning to the earth opening up and swallowing somebody, doesn't it? Sinkholes in Minnesota!

Well, that won't happen now : ) The floor is all repaired with new vinyl and fresh paint and caulk. Better than new, probably!

Notice that we don't show the floor in this picture!

The living room floor was in Silver Maple (actually a motel room). There isn't sufficient air flow under the motel, so the northeast corner was too moist and the floor was starting to rot out. We tore out a four foot by four foot section and replaced the joists and plywood. Pretty easy, actually. We were planning on putting new carpet and tile in there anyway, so it just added a bit more to it.

The one that surprised me was Spruce. From the top, it looked like a minor bubble in the floor where some tile was coming loose. Right! We tore off the tile in that section only to discover that we needed to redo the whole floor. The room is an L-shape, so that complicated things significantly. Add to that that the crawlspace will make even a person without claustrophobia claustrophobic! and you have a real good time...that one took the better part of two weeks to finish, but it's done now and looks great.

Next time I'll tell you about the interesting experiences of turning on the water this year...

What is real?

The sacramental principle, along with other beliefs of the church, such as the possibility of signs and wonders, has suffered from modernity, which leaves little room for the activity of God. In the modern view, what is real is what can be scientifically established. This mindset looks for physical causation and disregards divine action. It is materialistic in outlook and exalts reason while discounting revelation and tradition. When influenced by modernity, religion is powerless in both its sacramental and its charismatic dimensions. Modernity does not expect God to be present or to move in power in either realm.— Flame of Love, page 128

<idle musing>
Ain't that the truth! And to the degree that you don't expect God to move, to that degree you have become a practicing atheist, which I believe is the default religion of most christians in the western world...
</idle musing>

I-Thou rears its head

Above everything else, we must remember that holiness is a relationship and not an “it.” When we think of holiness as a thing in itself, something to be acquired or attained, as the Pharisees did, we immediately invite trouble. Holiness is a byproduct of a relationship. In a word, holiness is Jesus. Does God want us to behave in holy ways? Of course he does. It is written throughout the Bible, from cover to cover. But much more than that, he wants to live in us, and to have us live in him in a love relationship. This is what he really wants: that intimate, loving relationship that results from our complete surrender to his love and our happy obedience to his will.— Called to be Holy, page 191

Monday, May 12, 2014

How does my garden go

Yes, go, not grow : )

The first year at a place is always an experiment, and last year was no exception. The previous people had 3 large raised (and I do mean raised—3 feet deep) strawberry beds in the backyard—12 feet by 4 feet. It took up the better part of the yard. I tore those apart last year, using the soil, which was excellent, in the beds. I used the old logs that the beds were made of as sides for the new beds.

That wasn't the brightest thing I've ever done. The logs were starting to decompose—some more than others—and attracted slugs. I've never had a slug problem before, but last year I did. They are destructive little creatures! They eat just enough of something to destroy it and then move on. I resolved to eliminate their habitat!

So, this weekend I began building beds from 2x8 untreated boards. It was a beautiful weekend to work outside and I got most of them built. I even managed to plant 34 feet of straw potatoes. I had them "chitting" for a few weeks; they were getting nice and sprouted, so I cut them into chunks on Wednesday. They need to heal a few days after that, so Saturday was perfect for them.

I cleaned up the beds, forked them over, and raked them out. Then I laid the potatoes out and put about 6–12 inches of straw over the top. Because these beds are exposed to a lot of wind coming off the ridge, I covered them with row cover to hold the straw in place. Once the potatoes start pushing up through the straw, they will hold it in place and I'll remove the row cover. The row cover also keeps them warmer, speeding their growth a bit.

I didn't have time to plant anything else, but I did transplant the broccoli raab. It should have been transplanted 2 weeks ago, but the beds weren't ready. It has started to bolt, so I may not get much production out of them. That's alright, though, I've started a second planting...

So that is how my garden goes...hopefully I'll be able to plant this week, although the forecast isn't encouraging. Neither is the weather right now; it's 40°F, rainy and very windy. Not the kind of weather that invites you to play outside!

There is a legal aspect

There is as legal dimension to the atonement, but it should never dominate and eclipse every other dimension. Human guilt is a problem, but mere acquittal was never the goal of the cross. As with Hosea’s marriage, God wants our relationship with him restored. Jesus suffered judgment in our place, and the consequences of sin fell on his head. But they fell on him not as a third party but as the last Adam. In him God was dealing with the old Adamic solidarity. The judgment did not fall on the beloved Son but on our representative and therefore on us. Christ delivered sinful humanity up to a well-deserved destruction.— Flame of Love, page 110

<idle musing>
Yes. That's the proper perspective for the penal aspect of atonement! It's more than a forensic judgment; it has to result in a changed life—a new life!
</idle musing>

Fulfilling the potential

So I am saying that the problem of sin in Christians can never be dealt with thoroughly until we recognize that behind the acts of sins lies the disposition to sin, and until we allow the Holy Spirit who is in us to fulfill the potential of our conversion, crucifying that disposition in order to fill us with himself. When this happens, the ancient command of God to Abraham in Genesis 17:1, “Walk before me and be perfect,” will become a reality in Abraham’s children.— Called to be Holy, page 181

Friday, May 09, 2014

Thought for the day

None but that one who dwells in God by love can place all his happiness in God alone. To seek to place your happiness in God by the strength of your will, or out of fear, or even “to please God” are all horrible states and poor motives.&mash;Jeanne Guyon

Which frame do you live in?

In the legal framework, the divine wrath has been viewed as vindictive anger and God as vengeful. But wrath is not a dark side of God that frustrates his grace and demands satisfaction. It is an aspect of God’s saving righteousness. It is the other side of God’s saving action, and it serves grace. Even in wrath, grace is working. Humanity is not destined for wrath but for salvation (1 Thess 5:9). God prefers not to be angry: “I will not execute my fierce anger” (Hos 11:9). He wants to be merciful (Rom 11:32). The cross reflects not God’s thirst for retribution but his determination to overcome alienation and enslavement.— Flame of Love, page 109

<idle musing>
Amen! Preach on!
</idle musing>

It's more radical than that

Paul is not suggesting in these statements that we simply try to stop doing certain acts of sin. He is demanding that we die to certain attitudes which produce these acts of sin. The “flesh” is that disposition in us to think that the satisfaction of our human desires for comfort, pleasure, possessions and security is absolutely all-important, and the conviction that we alone can meet those needs. This disposition is absolutely opposed to the idea that these needs are not paramount and that, in any case, the only way to genuinely meet them is to surrender them to God. The flesh is hideously subtle and will easily masquerade under piety as a way of hiding its total absorption with itself and its satisfaction.— Called to be Holy, pages 179-180

<idle musing>
I once read where E. Stanley Jones said that the flesh loved to put on its religious robe and sneak back up on the throne. Ain't it the truth! But, it's a liar and it's dead; it has no real power over us except the power we give it by believing it is still alive. We need to believe that we are a new creation in Christ—then we'll start living that way.
</idle musing>

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Why did he come?

Of course this [the theory of penal substitution] creates a very strange impression theologically. It pits the Father against the Son and construes forgiveness as something God finds difficult to give. It makes grace conditional upon penal satisfaction and gives the impression that the Father actually hates sinners and cannot love them until his wrath is appeased. It belies the central point that it ws the Father who took the initiative in reconciling the world through Christ...

God was not disinclined to be favorable until his wrath was appeased. He is not humanity’s enemy; it was love that moved him to send his Son in the first place. Love provided the incarnation and the atonement, not wrath. Our Lord’s self-sacrifice bespeaks a gracious God, not an angry God.

Yes indeed, God forgives n a way that takes sin seriously, but he is always ready to forgive and does not have to be persuaded on that score. Remember the elementary truth that the cross reconciles the world to God, not God to the world (2 Cor 5:19). God is the reconciler, not the one requiring reconciliation. God is the subject, not the object, of reconciliation. Love for sinners, not anger, brought Jesus into the world. — Flame of Love, page 107

<idle musing>
Amen and amen! God is the initiator—and praise God for that!
</idle musing>

A lamentable tendency

But the sin that the Holy Spirit has come to deliver us from is not merely acts, it is also a disposition. In earlier chapters we talked about the fact that there is that in us which prevents us from living the life of God. This factor is called by several names. In the Old Testament it may be called the “evil imagination,” or the “spirit of prostitution,” although most often it is not named at all. It is simply described as that lamentable tendency in the Hebrew people to break the covenant even when they know it is a good covenant...This understanding that we have a disposition to sin explains why we cannot seem to stop performing acts of sin, and in some cases, certain acts of sin. And it is this disposition which prevents us from fulfilling God’s expectation that we be holy people. It is not enough that our acts of sin be forgiven, because we simply commit them all over again...Not only must the acts of sin be forgiven, the disposition toward sin must be changed. If such a change is possible, then it is possible for God’s people to live the holy lives they are commanded to live.— Called to be Holy, pages 178-179

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A problem, indeed

One common view of atonement considers the cross a propitiatory sacrifice isolated from the resurrection and from human involvement. This model results from viewing the atonement primarily in legal terms, not in the context of the representative journey of Jesus into which the Spirit is inviting us to participate. I want to challenge this way of thinking and place more emphasis on death-with-Christ and life-with-Christ, on our death to sin through the cross and our life with God through resurrection and union. The popular view is distorted, picturing the Father as judge and the Son as victim. It gives the impression that God values his honor more than he values us, and it threatens the unity of Father and Son in the work of atonement.— Flame of Love, page 102

<idle musing>
That is indeed a problem with Penal Substitution—especially as popularly expounded on. Christus Victor seems to avoid those pitfalls—even though no single view of the atonement can do it justice!
</idle musing>

No condemnation

Many of us have tried to keep the biblical injunctions to holiness in our own strength and, having failed, as inevitably we must, have concluded that the Bible does not mean what it says. But others of us, having been taught correctly about the power of the Spirit have indeed allowed him to fill us, but then discovered that we have fallen far short of some absolute standard which we or others had set for ourselves. Again, there was despair and the conclusion that the Bible only meant that we should try to be like God, knowing we never could be. But if we will keep in mind the distinction between “sin with a high hand” and “unintentional sin,” much of this despair can be averted. We do not have to perform perfectly to have a heart that is wholly right with God. And because our heart is perfectly God’s does not mean that we cannot be honest about our failures and shortcomings. In fact, having a heart that belongs to God completely will mean that for the first time we can really begin to get at the roots of our failures. Now that we do not need to explain away our failures or rationalize our inadequacies in order to protect our pride (the “flesh”), God is truly free to begin to work on these and to help us find his ways of overcoming them and neutralizing them.— Called to be Holy, page 177

<idle musing>
That's a freeing thought, isn't it? But we still prefer checklists...why won't we learn? Oh yeah, pride.
</idle musing>

A glimpse of eternity

What would you do in heaven, if religion is such a painful thing here?—Suppose you were taken to heaven and obliged to grind out just so much religion every week, and month and year, to eternity. What sort of a heaven would it be to you? Would it be heaven, or would it be hell?—If you were required to have ten thousand times as much as you have here, and your whole life were to be filled up with this, and nothing else to do or enjoy but an eternal round of such duties, would not hell itself be a respite to you?—Charles Finney

Monday, May 05, 2014

Baptism in a nutshell

Christ’s representation is inclusive, not exclusive. It is not a transaction that affects us only in a legal way. Christ died and rose so that we might die and rise with him. What took place in him is meant to be repeated in each of us, as in baptism we die and rise with him. His dying and rising act as a magnet to draw us in. Old Adam dies in the death of Christ in order to be changed into new Adam (1 Cor 15:49). And it is the Spirit that works out this reconciliation in life.— Flame of Love, page 96

<idle musing>
I couldn't have said it better myself.
</idle musing>

It weren't no accident

Sin is a willful transgression of the known command of God. Adam and Eve did not sever their relationship with God by accidentally cutting down the wrong tree. Nor did they do so by eating the fruit in ignorance. They brought tragedy upon the whole race by doing something that God had explicitly commanded them not to do. Moreover, they knew what God had said; they could not plead forgetfulness. This is an extremely important point. In pagan religions sin against the gods is almost never a sin against the gods’ revealed will, for the simple reason that the will of the gods is hardly ever revealed in terms which are clear and understandable. But in the Bible, this is what sin at its root is all about: God’s will for the way we live our lives with Him and with one another has been clearly revealed.— Called to be Holy, page 170

Finney for the day

The legalist drags on a painful, irksome, moral, and perhaps, outwardly, religious life. The gospel believer has an affectionate confidence in God, which leads him to obey out of love. His obedience is prompted by his own feelings. Instead of being dragged to duty, he goes to it cheerfully, because he loves it, and doing it is a delight to his soul.—Charles Finney

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Sunday musings

I was thinking earlier today about the nature of my posts since moving to Grand Marais nearly two years ago (hard to believe, isn't it). There seems to be a shift in emphasis. I'm talking less against "seeker-friendly" theology and more against a "mad God" theology. Being a firm believer in Socrates/Plato's "know yourself" and "the unexamined life in not worth the living," I pondered on it for a while.

Has my theology changed? Have I suddenly become "seeker-friendly" or "soft on sin?" Has my view of God changed?

Well, I hope my view of God has changed in the sense of growing! But I'm still against a "seeker-friendly" gospel. And I'm still convinced that God wants holiness—witness one of the books I'm extracting from right now, Called to be Holy.

So what's caused the change in emphasis? As I pondered it prayerfully, I realized it is (to use a good German phrase) my Sitz im Leben—my cultural surroundings. While we lived in Indiana, we were surrounded by a cultural christianity that was comfortable flying a flag instead of a cross on their church buildings. Patriotism and Christianity were in bed together; "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven" was the slogan and God was on our side because we are the good-guys—no matter what we did!

That's not true here. Grand Marais is a different world. Christianity is marginalized; the arts and touristy stuff rule—along with a good dash of New Age and American Self-Help Religion. There are five churches (all small) in town: Congregational (UCC), Lutheran (this is Minnesota, after all!), Roman Catholic, Baptist, and Evangelical Free. Most of our interaction with Christians here is from the latter two. And the prevailing theology among them is that penal substitution is the be-all and end-all of atonement.

Please don't misunderstand what I am about to say! They are wonderful people and truly love Jesus and we love them dearly. They want to see God glorified and see people come to know him. But, because of the heavy emphasis on penal substitution—and not in a carefully defined way, but in a "mad God" way—they are struggling to get through life. Their hope is to hang on until they die—to survive until glory brings them home. To keep God from zapping them all the time, looking over their shoulder to make sure the whip isn't about to fall. OK, I'm exaggerating (what, me? exaggerate?!) But, seriously, if that isn't a formula for defeat, I've never seen one! So, that's why my emphasis has changed. I'm talking more against an "atonement-only" gospel, or as Scot McKnight calls it, "soterian Gospel," and less against other things. Those are still important to me, but not as relevant right now. Just an
</idle musing>

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Musings on a windy Saturday

I'm trying to get myself motivated to go work on some drywall in one of the cabins. It's windy, but warm (about 50°F) and I have to get this bathroom done before Monday...So, I'm procrastinating by reading a bit of Finney! Here's nice little snippet for you to ponder.
You see why it is that anxious sinners do not find peace. They are looking at their own guilt and danger. They are regarding God as an avenger, and shrinking from His terrors. This will render it impossible they should ever come at peace. While looking at the wrath of God, making them wither and tremble, they cannot love Him, they hide from Him. Anxious sinners, let me tell you a secret. If you keep looking at that feature of God's character, it will drive you to despair, and that is inconsistent with true submission.—Charles Finney
<idle musing>
Oooh, that's good. And that's the focus of too much "evangelism" today. Personally, I think it is the direct result of an emphasis on penal substitution and a misunderstanding of law as retributive in nature—thanks to Augustine and an overly heavy reliance on Roman law in the western church.

We need to start with the presupposition, taken from the biblical text, that God is love. From there we create our theology. Far too often we come to the text with presuppositions that aren't taken from the biblical text and formulate our theology accordingly. No wonder we end up with bad theology and a mad god! As one of my seminary professors was fond of saying, "we reason from the given to the divine." In other words, we start with observations of what we feel, think, and see and import them into our vision of God. Rather, we should start with the biblical text and let itdictate our presuppositions about God. What we find is a loving Father who takes the initiative in chasing his wayward creation—Augustine's hound of heaven as it were (see, I'm not against Augustine!).

Now I need to go do some drywall—and maybe lay some vinyl flooring in another bathroom. We open on Friday and although we don't have any reservations, it would be nice to be ready. After all, it might warm up enough for people to want to come north : )
</idle musing>

Friday, May 02, 2014

How did he do it?

It is important to recognize that Jesus was dependent on the Spirit. He had to rely on the Spirit’s resources to overcome temptation. He was weak and human and did not know the life of undiminished deity. He suffered real attack in the temptations and was not play-acting. It was not through confidence in his own power that he put himself at risk. Victory over temptation was not achieved in his own strength. He overcame sin by the power of God and in so doing modeled the lifestyle of faith for us all. Jesus surrendered himself in trust and conquered the powers of evil by the Spirit, as we all must.— Flame of Love, page 88

<idle musing>
And it is because of that very reason that we can overcome today. Only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead! Seems pretty powerful to me.
</idle musing>

Hermeneutics, anyone?

We do not interpret the book [of 1 John] by three verses [1 John 1:8-10]. Rather, we interpret the verses by the plain sense of the book.— Called to be Holy, page 167

<idle musing>
I believe they call that trump verse hermeneutics. Fancy words for taking a concordance and finding a proof-text to say the opposite of what you don't want to see but is staring you squarely in the face. Also known as avoiding conviction or justifying your sin...

OK, I'm being cynical in that last statement, but you understand what I mean. The entire book of 1 John is saying you don't have to sin. In fact, if you are born of God, you can't sin. But that's too scary to face. It means I have to give up my favorite hobby—playing god! We can't let that happen, so we take one verse out of context and use that to countermand the clear trajectory of the rest of the book.

Lord deliver us from ourselves!
</idle musing>

Finney for a Friday

The sinner braves the wrath of Almighty God, and hardens himself to receive the heaviest bolt of Jehovah's thunder; but when he sees the LOVE of his Heavenly Father's heart, if there is anything that will make him abhor and execrate himself, that will do it, when he sees God manifested in the flesh, stooping to take human nature, hanging on the cross, and pouring out His soul in tears and bloody sweat and death. Is this calculated to make hypocrites? No, the sinner's heart melts, and he cries out, "O, do any thing else, and I can bear it; but the love of the blessed Jesus overwhelms me." This is the very nature of the mind, to be thus influenced. Instead, therefore, of being afraid of exhibiting the love of God to sinners, it is the only way to make them truly submissive and truly benevolent. The law may make hypocrites; but nothing but the gospel can draw out the soul in true love to God.—Charles Finney

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Read this!

No, not my post, but this post. Here's a teaser:
In 2007, the McCain-Kennedy proposed legislation for comprehensive immigration reform was submitted to a CBS national survey. Over 70% of the respondents supported the proposed legislation. However, the legislation failed because the calls to legislators were 50-1 against. The average American never calls their legislator unless it affects them directly; the suffering of immigrants just doesn't affect the majority of Americans directly enough to move them to call. The only reason why we have come this far towards reforming our broken immigration system is that the only group in our society who is mandated to care passionately about the wellbeing of people who are not us has stepped up to the plate. The national Evangelical Immigration Table has powerfully demonstrated the love of Jesus to the nation. When immigrant and non-immigrant Christians come together to respond to the suffering of immigrant families, we have an Ephesians 2:14-18 experience. The wall of hostility that we see in the secular world is torn down. There is an exchange of hope and passion—non-immigrants awaken to the need and immigrants feel hope because they learn that they are not alone. The result is John 17:21—the world knows that Jesus has come because of the unity of his followers.
<idle musing>
Did you get that? 70% in favor, but 50:1 phone calls against! A small, but very motivated, minority prolonged injustice. God cares deeply about the sojourner among us, we should too.

Pray for the Evangelical Immigration Table and see how you can help. It's dear to the heart of God—after all, we are sojourners here, too. Our true citizenship is in heaven.
</idle musing>

Be imitators

Considering how central the Spirit was in his experience, Jesus spoke about it rather seldom. In other ways however, he bore witness to it. He demonstrated the reality of the Spirit, if he did not develop a doctrine. He did not minister in word only but with power. Jesus preferred to act out of the power of the Spirit rather than to speak about it. Even today, the way to teach about the Spirit is to live in dependence on the Spirit.— Flame of Love, page 86

<idle musing>
Or, as Paul says, "to keep in step with the Spirit."
</idle musing>

It only follows

The sad picture of so many Christians struggling to be like Christ in their own strength, and always falling short of the standard, or of others who have given up and are living lives of pride, greed, and self-indulgence, claiming Christ’s forgiveness, is not only sad; it is tragic. It is tragic because it does not need to be the case. If the full gospel were understood and preached with clarity there could be a new day of righteousness dawning about us instead of a deepening twilight of unbelief and cynicism.— Called to be Holy, page 164

<idle musing>
What more can we expect? It is the logical conclusion of self-effort. And it is the sad state of most Christians that I talk to. Struggle, fail, rededicate, try harder, fail, struggle, fail, rededicate, ad infinitum. Or, give up and say "Christians are perfect, just forgiven"—a heresy if ever there was one! As if God hates sin in unbelievers but ignores it in believers—which is a misnomer. What are they believing, anyway? If Jesus came to save us from sin—not just sins, but the concept of sin, i.e., sinning—and they don't really believe it, then what are they saved from? Hell?

That's a pretty pathetic gospel. And a pretty small god. As if sin is bigger than God! Ah well, time to go back to repairing floors in the cabins—and praying for God's deliverance from unbelief for myself and others.

By the way, it's National Day of Prayer. May we truly pray and not just have rah-rah rallies that pump us up and reassure us we are right and everybody else is wrong, so let's bomb them all to pieces...
</idle musing>

Thought for the day

If each one pursues his own happiness, as his supreme end, the interests of different individuals will clash, and destroy the happiness of all. This is the very thing we see in the world. This is the reason of all the fraud, and violence, and oppression, and wickedness in earth and hell. It is because each one is pursuing his own interest, and their interests clash. The true way to secure our own happiness is, not to pursue that as an end, but to pursue another object, which, when obtained, will afford complete gratification—the glory of God and the good of the universe. The question is not, whether it is right to desire and pursue our own happiness at all, but whether it is right to make our own happiness our supreme end.—Charles Finney