Tag Archives: Before Saved

I Don’t Exactly Surrender All

 

So this is another long one. It’s an exploration one of the most popular themes from my yesteryear, that which failed to sink Gospel teeth into me. It’s probably not perfectly formed, so I’m up for clarifying critique. On with the show.

The last two White Horse Inn episodes I’ve listened to, along with reading J.G. Machen have started me on another round of anti-navel-gazing ponderance. The questions posed in the gospel of pragmatism are whether our experience, or life story is the Gospel and whether making disciples can be a system similar to the process of a factory. Yep, back to the Finney Finish and Me-ism I go.

What should be amazingly easy, but we all seem to forget constantly, is that ever-present religion of Me-ism. It’s not just that we believe our personal testimony is the prime tool for bringing people to Christ, but that our very life is critical to everything in our Religion. I mean here that if I sin grievously, persistently, that my faith is in doubt. That I might not be saved. I also mean here that if I’m not living “as a Christian should”, that I have no witness to bear.

This is insane. If I sin grievously once or persistently over time, my faith could be in doubt. But that is missing the point. My salvation can not be in doubt, because God has promised me eternal life, salvation by Grace through faith, entirely being His gift. He has not promised me a cleaned-up, perfected life right now. If this was not the case, my baptism should’ve been a bit more dramatic in its results, I believe, and I should also be a very effective preacher, missionary or seminary prof by now. And a lot of other really awesome Bibley things. 

Salvation does not hinge on what I’m doing right now or late at night with my friends. It does not hinge on me falling off the wagon or getting on the wrong wagon. It hinges on me trusting in Jesus Christ. It hinges on me believing The Gospel and not, especially not, in the testimony of somebody else or the change in my life. And my believing the Gospel does not hinge on me! It hinges on God. Assurance is not me and is not subjective. It is God and His Word that assure me.

But we turn round again, at every turning, back to this doubt and sense of hopelessness that we are not saved, or that we have forsaken our right to the fellowship of the church. Garbage. Instead of us re- blanket training ourselves the Gospel has removed us from the sin blanket that makes us dependent on our own goodness to get in with God.

Getting all this Gospel-centeredness straightened out should lead to another amazing revelation. The Gospel is The Gospel. It’s not me and my long tale of conversion. The story I have put up in the About here at LAH is not the Gospel. Notice all the potential Me-ism in there. I put it up there not in hopes that somebody would come to faith by reading it but to show where I come from and where I’ve been, for relevance and sharing the joy of what’s happened. 

If I crash and burn tomorrow, falling into a pit of sinful misery at the bar in Thailand with two women, tequila, a doobie and a stolen car, my pretty story suddenly takes on  a new light. It begs the question, “What about now? All that awesome stuff really didn’t mean anything, did it?” And so my “witness” is shot. And in a majority of churches, I’d be suddenly out of grace, considered unsaved, reprobate, a false convert or maybe even just plain subject to losing my salvation. Garbage. In fact, based on what most Christian teaching implies, if I show up in church next Sunday after my vacation, reformed and confessing my sin, I’d better ask Christ into my life and forgive my sins, heck – even get baptized again, cause I wasn’t really saved last week. But that’s not it at all.

Now I hope and pray the Lord will forever protect me from such a demise. He’s definitely put in place a lot of safeguards that are very likely to limit the chances of me getting into such a situation. But that’s not it for the Gospel. The point here is that what I do is not critical to the Gospel. What Christ did is critical to the Gospel. It is the Gospel. And if I believe it, I’m saved. Not perfected. Romans 12:1-2 the whole New Testament is about believing the truth and then working it out, not hearing the truth and then meeting Joel Osteen.

Okay, so what can I look for, for indicators that I’m saved? If all the stuff above doesn’t clear any fog, maybe this might help a little: Here’s what changes, in varying degree and extent, for a Christian.

Before:  I loved to sin. I felt guilty because I knew I was doing wrong, sometimes, but mostly because of consequences. I constantly dug for reasons to legitimize my evil, self-centered desires and pursuits. I hated the idea of a judging God who set the rules and, regardless of my opinion, made them not-optional.

After: I hate being sinful. I hate that everything I do is tainted with Me-ism and weakness. I do as much wrong as I did before, only now it’s worse. Much of that obvious evil activity that characterized my life is now well hidden. Maybe some of it really is deleted from my programming, but most? Still here. I’m essentially the same dirty person. But I believe that God has promised me salvation. I believe that Christ did what is impossible for me and then paid the price for all that I have done (and will do). So I can rest in these things, thankful that everything I have that is good is provided, not by anything I’ve done, by God Himself.

I don’t exactly surrender all, rather I believe and increase in beliefs about what is true and what follows is a deeper love for God and His ways. That causes a deeper hatred of my ways and the world’s ways. But what everything returns to is the Message. Christ lived for my righteousness, died for my sins rose again for my life.

Sheesh

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Feeling? I can’t trust my feelings. Surrender? How can I give up this stuff of my own volition? Freely give? I think it’s better if He takes, so I’m gonna pray for that. Giving me to Christ? God gave me to Christ:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. — John 6:37

Here’s what is good. I fight all day against my sin. At the end of the day I look back and usually I can dump out a decent bucket of sin onto the table for sorting and examining. Sometimes there’s a piece of sin that is not there, often one that is pretty familiar and usually in the mix. But not often. It seems that my evil just won’t diminish, in fact it seems to become more detailed heavy. And I can, by the grace of God, look at it and then at my Savior and know that I’m forgiven and that someday this mess is really going to be cleaned up. And then I look ahead to Sunday, always looking ahead to Sunday, and the reunion with the rest of my people who are just like me, gathered to worship the One we are not: The Saving God Who Keeps His Promises.


Trophy Husband

There was a survey I checked out over on SharperIron. Couldn’t resist participating because I’m a Christian Survey Junkie and because there was an option to share “marriage axioms” in the commentary. Plenty of things keep reaching around to smack me about how I’m doing as a husband. So here is what I said along with some additional thinking.

I will have been married 15 years this Christmas Eve. I’ve learned far more of what not to do than what to do. Two verses come to mind that speak to my experience.

On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

- is not a fundamental mindset to maintain in your relationship to The Spouse. Two reasons:

  1. Sometimes we have to be firm about our convictions and the temptation to overcompensate conflict with sweetness and light can set us up for worse later on.
  2. And sometimes we tend to be more interested in heaping burning coals via our “good deeds” because we perceive The Spouse as Our Enemy. I’ve fallen for both of these repeatedly.
Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you,

- should be a fundamental mindset to maintain in your relationship to The Spouse. 3 Points:

    1. Don’t actively pursue or require hugely dynamic lifestyles in attempts to “devote the family to Christ” or whatever religious theme sounds awesome. The call to such a heavy burden shouldn’t be sought – just try to live as Paul says.
    2. MYOB- sometimes in Keeping Track of the Joneses and their religious or anti-religious activities the temptation to draw The Spouse into the equation is a temptation. Our “Christian Agenda” may well not be of value to The Spouse and may even be detrimental to a good marriage in general.
    3. Work with your hands – Do the things that hands were made for: fix and clean and maintain the framework of life together. Things like the house and the car and food and touching are built in – don’t find “other more important things to do” when you could be sprucing up the environment.

    I was just listening to the radio and caught the tail end of Focus On The Family’s regular broadcast. I don’t usually pay attention to FOTF but this one grabbed me. The speaker was describing himself. But he was really describing me. He said I was avoiding conflict or putting down conflict with words. With the sheer weight of words, I am able to defeat any opponent in my family.
    The stupid thing about this is that I knew this already. My beloved bride has told me herself. My oldest kid has said the same thing. You know what I did to them? I did just what they told me I do and shut ‘em up about me shutting them up. With a ton of running arguments that don’t really allow for even breathing, I can stomp out anything that could potentially cause conflict or bring up something distasteful to me or, worse, cause me to look honestly at something.

I’m not just putting up my confession. The point is that there is another man out there who is just like me. That should indicate there are probably a great deal more of us than just two. And so my evasion of conflict isn’t some fluke. Dudes need to shut their self-righteous pie-holes and treat their wives like humans. So that is the third thing I have learned from 15 years of marriage.

Notice the sin trend? I’m able to figure out what not to do very easily. That doesn’t mean I can turn that into either stopping the sinful activity or doing good.

Here is the contrast. It’s not solid gold, though I wish it was.

Things I’ve been blessed with, through no merit of my own, that are good in my marriage.

I love her. Despite every single thing that has come up between us, whether her fault or mine, I can’t stop loving her. That is entirely God’s grace in my life. He has preserved me. It’s a constant reminder of His own love toward me, a sinner who needs a Savior.

Perhaps you thought there was more? I can’t think of anything else. I’m not good at much, really. What good I have is not mine, really. If I go back to before I was saved, I can’t find any redeeming features of me. Now, all I have is this faith that is tiny and weak accompanied by these tiny little advances that we call sanctification. Mostly it’s just recognizing sin and resting on Christ’s work to preserve me whether I commit or omit anything that results in sin against Him (and my Wife).


Common Grace or Providence?

 

I took this down on the previous posting. Here it is again, minor revisions, but essentially un-changed. I couldn’t figure a way to revise for better coherence without losing my own train of thought. I do appreciate that I had a reader seriously take time to critique my work here.

Is divine judgement manifest in the good things God provides? Does goodness ultimately mean wrathful justice in the arena of the unregenerate? Paul tells us to return evil with good in Romans:

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:17-21

I was asked if I believe in common grace, and what it means. This has been mulling around in my head since I first heard of the term, which wasn’t too long ago, maybe three or so years. I think it’s kind of ambiguous – a term that’s used to blanket a lot of ideas about what’s good and beneficial. Maybe it’s just human nature to generalize terms as soon as possible just to avoid misapplying them.

Such generalization is a ridiculous practice, because eventually it leads to Rob Bellicosity and mysteriofication of everything important in theology. Better to have a specific term for specific ideas, even if it means technical, archaic, hard-to-say or lengthy and unwieldy. Get your labels clear and your package will be received intact and by the right person. This is why I’m a firm believer in confessions and creeds. Keeping straightforward, consistent interpretations of the Bible makes for safer navigation of theological waters.

In doing some definitions reading prior to this post, I came across the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) idea about the Gospel being a matter of common grace. This is not, in my opinion, the appropriate term for what is also called the “well intended offer” of the Gospel. Preaching Christ and Him crucified for our sins is an honest call for all sinners just doesn’t seem to be common grace. It seems more like common preaching. I think a better term should be in place of that idea. This, however, is probably above my knowledge level so I offer a couple of links for further reference:

I think I’d rather treat with what I think is the common version of common grace, a positive view of God’s providence.

Before I’d heard of common grace, I think I operated in a sort of concept where God “just did stuff.” I always tried to apply meaning to whatever happened, looking for a root cause or purpose to every in life. I suspect that this is a holdover from my witchcraft days which is equivalent to a distilled, hopped-up kind of superstition which pervades most religious or “spiritual” parts of culture. I was raised in the light-weight version of it, as a baptistic evangelical type, anyway, looking for purpose in God’s dispensational dealings with His 2nd family (the church). This leads me on a bit of a diatribe here, off-track for a minute.

We Christians need to dispose of the mindset that everything happens to us or because of us. It’s a bloody pagan idea. Essentially, this preoccupation with God’s “meddling” with everything under the sun is a biblicized form of karma or fortune-telling. We have so meshed our minds with “simple-minded” culture that we’ll jump at black cats, rainy days and traffic jams, looking in the Bible as if it were a deck of tarot-cards for meaning to every little stitch of an accident in our lives that applies to us in some way.

This is not a Biblical approach to life. We are not the center of all things, and Christianity is not a purely personal experience. I’d rather say that the personal experience in belonging to Christ is the icing on the cake, like having a best friend, which includes the icing of good feelings and hugging. This general error of “it’s all about me” is making a tiki-god out of our One True God. I’m serious. I actually have prayed for a good parking spot before, and when failing to find one, it actually crossed my mind that perhaps I was being punished because I cut that guy off on the freeway on the way to said parking spot. I kid you not. Now this is an extreme example in my case, though true, and harkens back to my witchcraft days, which brings me back to the real train tracks.

Witches, in my sphere of experience – though I’m sure I don’t speak for all, just most – seek to influence or downright control what’s happening and what’s going to happen through magic. Everything from charms to crystals, ceremonial magic to chanting, all are designed to make something go right for the practitioner. This religious practice is applicable to the mundane (worldly, secular or common) as well as the holy (spiritual, sacred, theologically significant). And it comes from a need for personal meaning, significance and power. Like I said, this is a hyper-ized kind of superstition. I would liken it to the word-of-faith movement in the church world, which is sheer idolatry and mysticism just with a Christian-like context. I doubt I need to go into detail.

So all that superstitious mysticism  didn’t just disappear when I was made a child of God. It has taken some serious time and still causes me troubles with things like the Lord’s Table and Baptism. Means of grace in general are something I have to be careful with because it was such a part of my life, ritual and magic and ceremony that were almost analogous to some ideas in sacramental language, that I tend to want to “feel the energy” so to speak. I’ve also had to wrestle with the fact, common to most of us, that I’m not the center of every jot and tittle in the bubble that is my experience.

Anyway, all that is not common grace. Common grace, in my understanding, is God’s providential care for all of His creation. In Calvinism, we tend to think about the elect and non-elect, but as Spurgeon said (my paraphrase), there is no E on the back of every regenerate head in the church. I think this is how God operates as well. ALL thing belong to Him. He cares for His creation, regardless of the fact that some are raised up as vessels for His wrath. God has instilled in all people some measure of the capacity to know right from wrong.

And He has given even the vilest of us the capability to act with kindness and mercy. Even Hitler or some other fiend in history had to have done some kindness toward his wife or dog or some such at some point. The rain brings healing to a ravaged land, whether the people within are unregenerate pagans or not. The same sun shines on the garden of a hoary-headed Bible preacher destined for glory as well as that of a die-hard liberal nutjob destined for the great eternal ideologue pyre (had to put in my personal opine, there).

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7-11

I don’t like the idea that every act of God that is good for His Chosen People is also a proclamation of judgement on those who hate Him. I think it’s reaching too far into the pages to find such a belief. Does it work? Yeah, I guess so. But it’s probably more like Occam’s Razor (a favorite theme of mine, anyway). There is judgement implied in God’s favor. To An Extent! A sweet call to repentance instead of a condemnation of sin is still a call to repentance. God works in both ways. He can and does call the cops as well as the robbers.

Jonah was the speaker for Nineveh’s call to repentance. It was a threat of judgement. Jesus dealt sweet mercy to the sick and bereft during His ministry, a call that was hardly a threat of judgement (not at all to say that Jesus had any alternate theology from Jonah whatsoever). Goodness wins over the masses just as often as a good “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” sermon (though I’ll beg to wonder about what is beginning to look a lot to me like emotional manipulation and crowd psychology in that era of revivalism, but that is for another day).

Okay, so here’s the rub. I think this is a problem of terms. Common grace isn’t really the right term. In reading Berkhof, who needs much more attention from me (poor me, without a book fund – sniffle), I find that grace should be more like Grace. Grace really seems to be better suited to relating to God’s special intervention in our lives in either a soteriological or sanctifying manner.

For example, being hit over the head by the 2×4 of belief after reading Romans is grace. Also, being hit over the head by Covenant Theology is grace. Both are a seriously definitive event beyond the mundane. Perhaps a revision is in order, at least in my dictionary. Providence sounds like a better word. I’d like to redefine, however, or prefix a meaning to providence, making it to say “beneficial providence” and “detrimental providence” instead.

I’m not talking about any kind of effect or dealing from God here that is salvific or leading to salvation, though certainly either of these providence types can be instrumental in conversion. The subject is really just the daily ordering of an ordered creation. God is organized, holds things together, and with His hand deals both trial and blessing upon all His creation. So it is a fundamental of our routine existence we’re dealing here, not a soteriological issue.

Beneficial providence is that event which is to be considered good by the common judgement of common people everywhere, from cleansing rain to hearty food and good company. Detrimental providence is everything from lost keys to a miserable flu that just won’t stop making the rounds. I don’t think we can assign degrees to these, per say, defining when providence crosses over into grace, for that is relative to the individual. It’s just that we can’t say that everything is a catalyst for the end-times. I hope that isn’t too extreme an analogy to make the point.

In summary, the issue is really whether God is kind to just Christians or also to those who are not and never will be. Which introduces another question, does God reserve His wrath for the reprobate only or do Christians have to face it in their lives as well? I would hazard a rough guess (not too rough, actually), that there’s a lot going for God dealing both sweet and sour to both saved and damned. The problem, if we come to the conclusion that God is just and loving, should end up at the cross. As our pastor said so well, Justice and Love kissed at the cross. God poured out His full measure of wrath upon the innocent Jesus and simultaneously poured out the full extent of His love on His fully guilty creation.

Here’s a section from Berkhof (from http://www.theologue.org/CommonGrace-Berkhof.html)

3. Another objection to the doctrine of common grace is that it presupposes a certain favorable disposition in God even to reprobate sinners, while we have no right to assume such a disposition in God. This stricture takes its starting point in the eternal counsel of God, in His election and reprobation. Along the line of His election God reveals His love, grace, mercy, and long-suffering, leading to salvation; and in the historical realization of His reprobation He gives expression only to His aversion, disfavor, hatred, and wrath, leading to destruction. But this looks like a rationalistic over-simplification of the inner life of God, which does not take sufficient account of His self-revelation. In speaking on this subject we ought to be very careful and allow ourselves to be guided by the explicit statements of Scripture rather than by our bold inferences from the secret counsel of God. There is far more in God than we can reduce to our logical categories. Are the elect in this life the objects of God´s love only, and never in any sense the objects of His wrath? Is Moses thinking of the reprobate when he says: “For we are consumed in thine anger, and in thy wrath are we troubled”? Ps. 90:7. Does not the statement of Jesus that the wrath of God abideth on them that obey not the Son imply that it is removed from the others when, and not until, they submit to the beneficent rule of Christ? John 3:36. And does not Paul say to the Ephesians that they “were by nature children of wrath even as the rest”? Eph. 2:3. Evidently the elect can not be regarded as always and exclusively the objects of God´s love. And if they who are the objects of God´s redeeming love can also in some sense of the word be regarded as the objects of His wrath, why should it be impossible that they who are the objects of His wrath should also in some sense share His divine favor? A father who is also a judge may loathe the son that is brought before him as a criminal, and feel constrained to visit his judicial wrath upon him, but may yet pity him and show him acts of kindness while he is under condemnation. Why should this be impossible in God? General Washington hated the traitor that was brought before him and condemned him to death, but at the same time showed him compassion by serving him with the dainties from his own table. Cannot God have compassion even on the condemned sinner, and bestow favors upon him? The answer need not be uncertain, since the Bible clearly teaches that He showers untold blessings upon all men and also clearly indicates that these are the expression of a favorable disposition in God, which falls short, however, of the positive volition to pardon their sin, to lift their sentence, and to grant them salvation. The following passages clearly point to such a favorable disposition: Prov. 1:24; Isa. 1:18; Ezek. 18:23,32; 33:11; Matt. 5:43-45; 23:37; Mark 10:21; Luke 6:35: ROM 2:4; I Tim. 2:4. If such passages do not testify to a favorable disposition in God, it would seem that language has lost its meaning, and that God´s revelation is not dependable on this subject.


It's All Messed Up

Everything seems to fail at some point or another. Our successes even seem to rot before our eyes. Our kids not only drive us to distraction but present insanely impossible problems that we as kids experienced (That we somehow have lost the ability to deal with or comprehend somewhere along the way). Our drive and dedication rarely pay out dividends that fairly correlate and when they do, the fanfare and sunshine fade all too quickly. We do the wrong things, hurt people, damage ourselves incessantly no matter how high-and-lofty our motivations. Our motivations, though we believe with all our might to be right, consistently boil down to flawed and self-centered things of frustrating fiats.

Sometimes we have genuine cares for others, trying our bestest to lift them up out of the mire of the world, protect them or feed them the tools to succeed, especially where we are conscious of our own failure. But we fail at that, too. Isn’t it all just a big cycle of failure?

Can you identify, in your life, one persistent quality or action of your own that has a timeline that evades the rot process entirely? I propose that it cannot be done.

IF we start from a fundamentally flawed foundation, we will always always end up with a failed result. Things will not turn out right. The end state will still be flawed, just as the beginning was flawed.

Truth Claim Here: Everything that is wrong is wrong because of sin. Everything that is wrong is wrong because we are sinful people living in a sin-cursed world.

Stupid religious freak. Quit waving it around in public. What you think is right doesn’t have to apply to me because it’s only true for you.

Um. Ima letcha finish, but first: Re-read everything before the IF paragraph again. Is that true or not true for everybody?  For those who are not NPCs, who think and live, do we not see this everywhere? Regarding those we perceive to cruise along, oblivious bastions of success or happiness, do not the observers see the truth that NPCs are walking fail-factories as well?

Yeah, whatever. Just because I don’t have all the answers, and nobody else does, so we mess up. A lot. Nobody is perfect. Nobody is “all that” so there’s nothing we can do about it but keep trying.

This wickedness and evil hasn’t gone away. It’s only got worse. Worse by driving deeper and deeper into our culture and personalities and spirits. In this era, it has so permeated us that we cannot even stop to listen to reason, to the thundering whisper that something isn’t right, much less come to grips with the undeniable fact that I, you, them, we’re all so messed up, so dead wrong, so just plain dead that there is no hope of attaining a recovery.
Yep. Just like a treadmill, it keeps rolling but you don’t get anywhere. And if you fall, it keeps rolling, doesn’t it? There’s no hope. None. All you get to look forward to is another round of going nowhere with no horizon of completion or really living in view.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5

There you go again. You quoted some of that Bible garbage. Why in the world should I listen to that drivel. It’s all a mess of rules and made-up stories and garbage. It has some sick idea of a deity that kills entire races of people, tells people what to do and makes them bow down and submit. There’s nothing worthwhile there and it certainly doesn’t apply to modern day.

Sure thing. Take a second look. Just look at it from the position of what it says about everything being messed up. Look at the incredible descriptions of people who lie, cheat, steal, subvert, corrupt, fail, underachieve, chicken out and pretty much screw up everything they touch. Tell me again that it’s just made up junk. Tell me it doesn’t apply to modern day. Tell me there isn’t a touch of truth in there.

The only document that clearly depicts the condition we’re in is….. Guess!

That’s it for today. I’ll do some more soonly. Maybe this will start reaching out to someone.


Separated At Re-Birth

Here’s how the progression goes:

Justification, Sanctification, Glorification
The World may call it a bit differently. If they don’t believe, here’s one way I might have appeared.
Turned to the dark side. Obsessed. Tolerable. Increasingly troubling. Intolerant.

In other words, I guess it would be best to say that those who were friendly with me prior to my conversion felt let down by, abandoned by or suddenly distanced from me. Most of my closest intimates enjoyed a sort of anti-religious and definitely anti-Christian camaraderie with me. We enjoyed avoiding, deriding or contending against God and His followers. And then I changed.

And when I changed, not only was there suddenly a sort of gulf between us (sad for me too, not just those still “back there”), but my life focused on just what we’d spent years contending against. In the newness of the Faith, I became obsessed with this new life.

Over time, I have grown slowly, some particulars in my life stripped away quickly, others delayed or even miserably slow in their changing. So for a time I was sort of normal. Different but tolerable. I wasn’t entirely gone from the picture in the lives of those friends of mine. What we’d shared together was still a bond and savory at that.

In the last year or two, the bonds have fuzzed. In a particular, I think there was a literal break. In there, I think there was some sort of offense. It’s not the same anymore, between us all. And now I guess the next phase is intolerance.

I’m saddened about how things turned out. Maybe it’s my perception, but I don’t know if I have those friends anymore. At least, I don’t think they’re the close ones from before.

“Yeah, but you have bigger and better things to do, right? Go on then, see ya!” snarks the little voice in my head that speaks for those who aren’t really saying anything.

Of course, really, what I want most about all this is to see the relationships reconciled. That involves one external thing. Justification for them. And that’s my prayer. I know that I have love for my old life, but that is by the grace of God fading fast. I miss very little of it any more. I do hold a love and great interest in the lives of those I knew in the old life. But that love is entirely in hopes that Christ will call them as He called me. And that’s offensive.

The bottom line in relationships is, as a Christian grows in Christ, he grows apart from the world and more offensive to the world. That means friends and family too. It’s a fact that is well proclaimed as “gonna happen” in the Bible.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household”. – Matthew 10:34-36

The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. – John 7:7

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. – John 15:18

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:19

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. – John 17:14

But it’s not a fun fact. There’s no great set of blinders that we put on to make this separation easier. In fact, it’s quite arguable that there’s a bit of this that gets harder. As I grow in Christ, I am more inclined to want to share this increasing joy with everyone around me. And those most important to me get a greater attention, of course. So, outside my family, I’m reaching for my friends. Which is hard for a number of reasons.

First, I’ve sinned against them. In some cases, at least, and gravely. Perhaps some of them know this too. But I’m not really in a position to seek restitution because of the vast disparity between us. Forgive me for putting it bluntly, but you can’t make up with the dead. There’s no way to communicate remorse, Biblical repentance or anything with the right understanding and spirit unless there is a common framework for understanding. I can live with joy because this isn’t a crushing blow. I know that my wrongdoing is forgiven because it is and was in essence a sin against God first. I got that straight and it’s straight. It’s not a lack that I am trying to fill in by reconciliation, it’s a fuller completion of something that’s already done. Sort of like the decorative icing on the cake. Just doesn’t feel done until the finish is applied.

And that leaves a sore spot. It leaves plenty of room for prayer, that’s for sure. Then there’s the framework again, manifesting itself in how I come across. Much that was interesting and good to me, shared in the old relationships, has dissipated. There’s not much in me to relate anymore. I don’t read the old books so much. I don’t write the same things, draw or paint the same things or enjoy consuming the same things. What was something to share 7 years ago has become something I don’t want to deal with any more. There are far more things that offend my conscience now. It may appear I’ve become some sort of monk to some extent or that I’ve crossed over into the holier-than-thou category, but the honest truth is that there are things that hold far more value than what I once held to be important.

Which makes me look different, doesn’t it? The more I abide in Christ, the more I’m going to look like Him. The more I resemble Christ, the more like him I will appear to the world. The world hates Christ. Those who don’t know Him, including my dear friends, are no longer sympathetic to me. I’m no longer their own. I belong to Christ.

And there’s no way for me to explain it clearly to them. This article would not register if I were to send it off to anyone from the past that I knew. There are a couple of friends of mine who have come to Christ since then and we have a rapport. They would get this message, but that is because we’re on the same page. For the remainder, a larger number by far, the most response I could expect would be a negative one. More likely, about half-way through, the readers’ eyes would glaze over and I’d get a shrug.

But what I’d dearly like to communicate is here, at the end.

All that disparity between us? It’s because I’m justified. I don’t belong to me or the world anymore. I belong to Christ. Christ took me out of what I was and re-made me. I saw the cross where He assumed the debt I owed for my crooked, God-offending existence. I was wrong the whole time and He finally tapped me on the shoulder and showed it to me. I thought I was right, but I was wrong. And every day of every year since then He’s been showing me more of how He is right and it’s been making me more right. I’m in Christ’s family now and I so dearly want my friends to see how incredible it is.

All that stuff that we couldn’t bear back then and everything that’s gone on since then is suddenly bearable. So many of the curses from the first 33 years of my life remain, but they’re not weights that hold me down. I’m forgiven all that I’ve done wrong and the joy I sought so intensely has been replaced with the real version. There’s no more seeking joy, it’s being delivered right to my feet.

It is so good, despite how hard life gets all too often, to know that everything has been made right, that everything that doesn’t look right will be made precisely right one day soon. I want the souls of my old life to come to Christ. I want that very much. I pray for them, asking the Lord to call them like He called me.

Then we can converse once again about what is good and wonderful, about our sadness and our joy, this time in the truly loving and uplifting relationship that only sons of God can have.

P.S. If you wondered at the title change, I had to change it. It was over the top and dumb too. If you didn’t notice, no worries. I’m saving it for something more appropriate later on.


Why I’m a Sovereignty Freak

am totally wrapped up in the business of holiness and sovereignty. I have been since forever. In my past life, my whole being was devoted to me and the pursuit of those things that are un-holy. In my new life, I am irresistibly drawn to the exact opposites of the old.

Why talk about this? Being a hugely under-appreciated and rarely considered aspect of God in our culture makes it mandatory IMO. Being a tough subject when it is considered in Christian circles makes it essential. Being called a legalistic and holier-than-thou viewpoint makes it critical.

I offer this reference to further clarify: The Times, They Are Changing

By no means do I claim here that I am even close to being a good example of submission to the sovereignty of God nor that I am a holy person. Far from it. I am positionally declared righteous (holy) by God because of the work of Christ on the cross and will be holy for real in the future when Christ returns. All of which is an act of his sovereignty, not of my own ability or decision.

How I relate in my dead view (before saved):

Devotion to my self and the pursuit of what was delicious to me was a continually increasing spiral of depravity. On the one side were my religious practices which were entirely centered on me and ensuring my liberty to go where and as I wished. On the other side were the things which resided in the reaches of that liberty: irresponsibility, manipulation and control, perversion, pride. All of these things proceeded to expand and fill out into a life-controlling system that was destroying me bit by bit.

The basics of my past are denial of the sovereignty, even existence of God (The God, not A god) and therefore the possibility of holiness.

How I relate in my living view (being saved):

Salvation depended on one thing for me. Everything else was a declension from the peak of recognizing the sovereignty of the Creator of the Universe. God stepped down and with a tiny flick cleared the fog from the eye in my mind to reveal his existence as the One and Only Master of everything. From there, having to make a conscious choice to submit to him, my anguish at the corruption of me, my despicable weakness, my repentance were all in quick order recognized, resolved and reinvented.

I did not immediately clean house. This is partially because my understanding of the variations of my sin was not entirely clear to me. God’s holiness, the understanding thereof, was not as instantaneous as my submission. I think where Sovereignty is capable of conception in the mind, holiness, as a completely foreign concept to mankind, is not easily grasped and much harder to embrace.

This problem explains two things in me. It explains the miserable things that I have done since August of 2003, many of which I regret on a daily basis and have not entirely been resolved. It also explains, or makes apparent, the idea of progressive sanctification wherein the sovereignty (therefore holiness) of God takes more and more prominence in my life.

Realization of the preeminence of God’s sovereignty in my life and the impact it has had over the last 6.5 years means a lot to me. I can’t seem to entirely describe it – and maybe that’s because it’s an experiential thing, for individual apprehension. The fact that I am, by design, a subject of the sovereign God, drawn into him by Himself, does not escape me. This fact drives me to a commitment to Sovereignty (and thereby holiness) in all aspects of my life. This commitment makes me intolerant to things that defy the righteousness of God and the righteousness he has declared for his people. It makes me intolerant to things that defy God’s commandments and covenants.

I guess that makes me intolerant. It does not make me self-righteous, which is a regular pejorative adjective applied to one who is openly and actively committed to God’s holiness and sovereignty. If anything, it sort of makes me God-righteous (and I mean that with reverence).

Caveat time. The fact that I’m driven to this commitment to God’s absolute mastery of my world does not mean that I, like some enlightened Buddhist, have achieved perfection. Driven doesn’t mean completed. I derail myself on a regular basis, taking the controls in my own hands, especially when I think I know the road on my own. I don’t got it right and it only gets right when God is doing the work. He works through me to produce holiness, not with my cooperation or assistance. This part is incredibly hard to describe, mostly because it is a process and state that God has declined to explain fully to our insufficient minds in the first place.

Back to Paul’s sufficient work on the issue: Romans 7:15-25

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

This right here serves as my reasoning for being militant for holiness and God’s sovereignty. I hate that I act as if I was still dominated by sin. I love that I am delivered from its dominion. I want to be surrounded entirely and only by God’s rule and holiness.

So I increasingly abhor those unclean and uncouth things in and around my life. That, to the dismay of the world, includes the garbage of the media and the grabbism of our culture. I wish to speak out against inclusivism and passive acceptance. I don’t want to bear the burden of our pornographic, sex-crazed, appearance-obsessed culture in my mind.

That stuff is burned into my frontal lobe enough as it is from so many years of immersion in it – enough so that I can’t seem to escape it for even a moment’s peace. That’s why I can’t tolerate its presence around me and why I’ve shut off so much interaction with the idiot box and intertubes and other infobabble out there. Video games are an interactive glut-fest of sex, violence, vanity and obsession. TV is the same thing only fully spoon-fed. Most every movie in recent years is also nothing more than a different angled thrust of the same force.

Conversely, and this is how I see it best, if I permit these forces in my life to have a reserved place of worth, I line myself up to compromise that which has been imparted to me. There is no valid reason for me to “enjoy” a display of corruption, however inane or mundane its packaging. Lust, murder, profanity, homosexuality, witchcraft, idolatry, marital infidelity, rape, cheating, mutilation, extortion and the whole gambit are no less an offense to God in the media than they are if I myself enact any of them.

2 Timothy 2:21

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

– I want to be useful, I am set apart, I have had enough of being dishonorable.

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

– If I cannot, in good conscience, ingest or perform something to the extent that it glorifies God, then I cannot ingest or perform it.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

– nowhere does it say think about (ponder, meditate upon) those other things.

The ensuing argument that “well, this is the world in which we live… Do you say that we should shut everything off and become ascetics?” Yes and no. I do believe that we are in this world and not of it.

We, as children of God, must understand the fundamental problems of this sinful world and the impact upon the lives and minds of men. Therefore, shutting out all the world (if it were even possible) is incorrect and does a disservice to our calling to proclaim the Gospel. But that involvement is never to come into an authoritative relationship with our true nature.

I absolutely deny that we should permit the putrid offspring of the lives and minds of men to fill our own lives. The glorious outpouring of the mind and deeds of God through the Holy Spirit and his Word are what should be filling our lives. And that goodness is the standard by which we must gauge our thoughts and actions

John 18:36

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Furthermore, I believe that holiness and sovereignty are co-dependent or, perhaps better, two sides of the same coin. Basically, what God is (holy) determines what is holy and since what God says and does is sovereign (since he is and makes the rules), then holiness, that which is holy, is the framework for everything upon which a Christian must build his life.

Romans 5:19

For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 12:23

and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,

1st Peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

Framed above the water fountain at Anchor Baptist Church in Maryland are the words of a Bible teacher: “It is never right to do wrong to do right.” (that’s the gist of it). This message has implications that reach far beyond its simplicity of statement. Intimate knowledge of sin does not impart any goodness. Intimate knowledge of goodness imparts great goodness. How bout that?


You and Your Way

Religion

This was written just before my conversion. I’d say maybe a few days, perhaps a week. The date of this post is that which reflects its last editing on the computer. I’m not sure of the exact date of creation. What follows is my argument with my Wife over the Faith:

My opinions on Christianity are not intended to show my judgment of you. I have conflicts with Christianity on many levels.  Control is most likely one of them.  I don’t know how to explain all of it clearly either.
In some ways I often wish I could drop everything and choose Christ. There are innumerable reasons to do so.

There are too many things in my life that have argued against this, also.  Free will is still one of them (most Christian opinions would say this is my control issue).  I don’t understand how there is only one act of free will in following God, which is freely making the choice to follow.  That reduces the entire free will of an entire lifetime to literally one choice.  From then on, there is nothing but God’s plan, and prior to the choice there is nothing but Satan’s plan.  This does not make sense to me.

On a different note, all the rules and guidelines of Christianity, which you strive to accept, follow and face, are not things for me to judge or disapprove.  You are, regardless of my problems with God, trying to get your life together, improve your spirit and mind, and generally fix as much as possible.  I neither have the right nor the desire to come between you and your way.

The only problem that can occur between us is when our differences come between us.  This happens most when we try to impose our personal choices upon each other.  If I have done this so far, I wish to repent, for I have wronged you.  I do not want to impose my moral and spiritual beliefs on you, for it is not yours.  In kind, I would like you to consider me in the same light and determine if you are trying to impose your own morality and spirituality upon me.


Dang

I was mistaken.  Truce broken, no treaty.  I think it was my fault.  I allowed myself to engage in an argument.  I was defensive and even a bit angry by the end of it.  She won by calling an end to it.

Here are the questions of the day.

1.  My philosophy is to avoid the oncoming Mack truck.  The law of gross tonnage translates quite clearly to get out of the way of anything bigger than you are.  Question not whether it will dodge you.  I did this the other day with the BBSUV and was attacked for it.  I will quote Heinlein on this:  “It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion.  I say it is better still to be a live lion, and maybe easier.”  A lion knows when not to get in a fight.  Why is that wrong enough to hurt our relationship?

2.  My ideals are a combined result of several years of living an unusual life and encountering unusual people, all of whom are exceptionally intelligent.  Counted high among these people and experiences are my wife and our life together.  Suddenly, it seems I am faced with compulsory revision or deletion of some of my core ideals.  Is it necessary to do so in order to preserve our relationship?

3.  RELIGION.  I do not approve of many of the teachings of organized religion.  I do not believe that church, faith, ritual or any other religious concept is integral to my existence.  I feel that, all my life, the church has taught me more falsehoods than truths.  HOWEVER, I usually keep my trap shut about this.  I do not condemn others’ religious choices in deed or word.  I do not attend church.  I will not be coerced into attending church for any reason.  To participate in this farce is a breach of my integrity.  Why is this an issue in preserving our relationship?

4.  Forgive my objectivist tendencies, but if someone wants help, is anyone obliged to jump up from their own personal war with their own demons to help their neighbor battle it out with something completely unrelated?  I am willing to help, within my abilities, with any issue.  Does this mean I have to put my life or my vital dealings on hold?

5.  If something is bad for you…  I’m not talking about smoking or beer or talking too loud…  But really bad, such as a dangerous, untrustworthy, criminal existing in your house, what do you do?  My personal approach to the situation would be either rid my house of the threat or rid myself of the house.  I am receiving unfounded attacks upon my character.  This is not just some aspect of my character, but ALL of me.  I am starting to have a split personality of which my other half is a drunk, abusive, criminal, crazed sort of “trailer-trash” bum/male.  I swore not to take this personally, but C’MON!

I’ll stop now.  That was the Saturday 5.  I’m on the couch again, so you know where to reach me.  Just a stone’s throw from this here monitor, yall hear?  UstaCould I’d be up in at der bedroom makin’ whoopie.  Now I just sit round chear drinkin’, spittin’ and cussin’ at stuff.  I need ta git me a dawg.


Test Run

Gave up the couch last night.  Tried having much missed company in bed.  Pleasant, but I really started getting attached to the couch.  It’s really comfortable.

I finished the Star-Trek leadership book.  Don’t read it.  BLEK!  The theories are great, but the illustrations, which are pulled directly from TNG episodes are junk.  Somebody came up with a list of leadership values and then tried to fit what appears to be randomly chosen episodes to those values.

GARBAGE.

And the lingo was that of a wannabe trekkie (Wheaton-lovers)  (throw toast).  I am not a trekkie, but have sufficient experience with such people that I can recognize dumb when I see it.  These authors are just what I would expect to show up at the Ren wearing Klingon garb.

I like this url-link stuff.  It’s really fun.

I got up with the kiddies this morning, and we watched HPATSS for the umpteenth time.  Pancakes and ham and such followed, then construction of a lego castle.  What a fun morning.  Mama got to sleep in and we had ourselves Daddytime.

Things seem to be cooling down, and life is more pleasant for now.  Still awaiting the Jericho syndrome to come full circle.


Truce

Everyone who has been in my place before me has heard of or used this word.  I think we have reached truce, but where does it lead us?  Truce is nothing more than cease-fire.  No resolution has been made, no reward but the alleviation of total conflict.

I will continue to push for answers to our relationship’s problems.  This, I hear, is called the “Seven Year Itch.”  Whatever it is called, I am determined not to take this lightly nor be smoothed over like the crunchy peanut butter on the sandwich bread.

Maybe we can begin discussions again without open argument.  If that happens, great, but it isn’t the solve.  I still believe we need to take this outside our little arena and get a translator.  I think the counselor might be the way to go.  My other half needs to be willing to work on this idea also, though.

In other news, my military situation appears to have ramped up.  Some things I have been waiting on since arriving here in the “best little secret in the Navy” are finally getting up to speed.  I might be working for real soon.

I’m hearing also from my potential second job some tunes that I might be starting up soon.  That’ll bring in a good bit more cash and will begin to set me up for success in my long-term career after the Federal Yacht Club dues are up.

Relations at work are okay.  I’m not feeling quite as tired as earlier this week.

Took the kiddies to Chuck E Rat’s pizza joint today.  I haven’t had fun like that in quite awhile.  Quite worth the offensively squandrous amount of cash we spent there.  Note to inexperienced patrons:  DO NOT accompany your kid in the “ball-crawl-tunnel-slide-thingy.”  Based on my tactile and olfactory receptions in there, they don’t clean it enough.  YUCK!  If I were to go there regularly, boiling water and bleach deluge once a week would not keep that joint free of the greasysweatycheesydirtydroolybarfyleakyfootfunkysneezy demon that infests the Chuck E Rat’s playground.

I must be getting back to normal.  My run-on sarcasm and non-humor has returned.


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