Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mr. Copper

One of my favorite Doctor Who moments is in the episode with David Tennant where aliens made a replica of the Titanic in space.  It was a Christmas episode where viewers became afraid that angels would throw their halos at them and slice them.

In this episode is an "earthologist" named Mr. Copper.  He knows all kinds of facts about planet Earth, or thinks he does, and tells all the people.

"I shall be taking you to Old London town in the country of UK, ruled over by Good King Wenceslas. Now human beings worship the great god Santa, a creature with fearsome claws and his wife Mary. And every Christmas Eve, the people of UK go to war with the country of Turkey. They then eat the Turkey people for Christmas dinner, like savages!"

This famed earthologist got many things wrong when describing the UK and Christmas.  I always think of Mr. Copper when a well-meaning person writes information that exposes how much they don't really know about a subject.

I peruse a volume of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is written by many people.  Some are accurate when they describe philosophies.  When they bring up Christian topics, however, they seem lost like Mr. Copper.

In the article "American Philosophy" they say this about the Puritans:
"The Puritans agreed with many of the principles of Calvinism.  They believed that God is absolutely sovereign and that man, beset with original sin, is totally dependent upon him.  Salvation cannot be earned by virtuous works; God has foreordained who shall be elected to the "Society of Saints," although presumably the performance of good works predisposes man's soul to receive God's grace."

Up until the italicized part, I mostly agree.  Yes, the Puritans were Calvinists.  Yes, we Calvinists believe that man is completely dependent on God and contributes nothing to his salvation.  Yes, we believe God foreordained the elect.

What is this "Society of Saints"?  In seminary and in all my reading of the Gospel Coalition, Ligonier, and other blogs, that term is nowhere.  We do not have anything we call a Society of Saints.  I can see where they get the idea because we do believe in the communion of the saints that can never change throughout history.  But no, there is no Society of Saints.

"Good works predispose man's soul to receive God's grace."  No they don't.  We just established that nothing predisposes a soul to receive God's grace.  God gives people grace because he wants to based on no condition.  Romans 9 is explicit in this when Paul talks of Isaac and Ishmael and then Jacob and Esau.  God chose Jacob to have his special blessing when Jacob and Esau were still in the womb.  They were both scoundrels who did unforgivable things, but God went with Jacob because he wanted to bless Jacob with Jesus's lineage. 

Now, we do believe that a person who displays good works is saved, but good works do not predispose a person to be saved.  Without being arbitrary, salvation is completely free of conditions, but still based on God's plan.

Back to Mr. Copper:
"It has often been pointed out that the Puritans' rejection of the authority of the church and their stress on the privacy of man's relation to God manifested a certain individualism."

What?  Rejected the authority of the church?  Never.  Their theocracy proves that.  It's such a misunderstanding from the outside that Protestants reject church authority because of their split from the Roman Church.  But no, Christ established the Church and will always have the complete authority.  Protestants and puritans simply reject the leadership of the Pope and to a lesser extent, the Queen of England for the Anglican Church.

The things we reject rely on meaningless rituals, place a man or governor on Christ's throne as head of the church when Christ is the church's only head and husband.  Without saying that the Prots don't also rely on rituals, oh we do, the church we reject places salvation value only on following rituals of good works and penance rather than simply trusting Christ's permanent payment for sin alone.  But other than that, we wholeheartedly follow the church and say with the church fathers, "If the Church is not your mother, then God is not your father."

Ultimately, Mr. Copper will never quite understand unless the Holy Spirit illumines him.  At least for the episode in question, the Tenth Doctor did send him to live on earth and learn the true earthology.  It is always my hope that the Holy Spirit changes a person so that he or she can truly understand Christ's headship, exclusivity, and why the reformation is far from over until Christ returns.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

He says Yes

I still look back on my life in the past decade and still wonder at where God has led me.

2004 -- I was at Trevecca in Nashville
2007 -- I was at Erskine in Due West, SC
2008 -- Mom got diagnosed with rare adrenal cancer that was already stage 4
2009 -- Mom went home to be with the Lord.  Dad and Andrew lived at home and I had one year left at Erskine.
2010 -- I moved back to Conyers, began volunteering at Refuge Pregnancy Center, got involved with a young adult group out of Grace Community Fellowship in Snellville, and became children's minister at Trinity EPC in Loganville.
2011 -- A lady moved into our house to care for Andrew.  I started attending Clayton State University.  Dad moved five minutes away to live with his dad and brother.  I was not able to go to the GCF group anymore, but I did start attending BCM.
2012 -- I went to a BCM small group at the leader's house and sat on a couch next to Tim.
2013 -- I married the same Tim and we moved in with Dad, Pappy, and uncle Delmous.  Andrew and Mary still lived at the house I grew up in.  I worked at the LifeWay on Cleveland Avenue in Atlanta
2014 -- Mary moved to Florida, Tim and I moved into my old house with Andrew, and now I'm greatly involved at my church and my job which happen to be the same place.

I see myself in 2004, and I see where God has led me.  I feel amazed, baffled, grateful, and fulfilled.

This past Sunday at CBC, the sermon was about "ask, and it shall be given to you."
Recently, I was floored by Paul's statement in 2 Corinthians 1, "Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."

Every promise in God is yes.  If you ask God for something, he will give it to you.  But I agree with Brooks when he said that God has not always answered my prayers with a yes.  He said no to many boys that I liked up until I met Tim.  He said no to healing my mother from cancer in this life.  He said no to many jobs and situations that I wanted.

But he did answer my prayer and he did give me what I needed.  I wanted a husband in 2004.  I finally married him in 2013.  After breaking my heart, with guys named Chris, guys named Michael, and one really close friend at Erskine who was the last one I liked before I met Tim, he answered yes to my question by letting me meet Tim at the BCM leader's house.

He answered my prayer by taking my mother home to live with him.  But he still said yes.  We wanted her healing.  He gave her the perfect healing with no sin or any troubles.  I look forward to the new heaven and new earth that He will build when he comes again.

And I certainly have not become a famous singer in Nashville, a long-term missionary in Ukraine, or traveled the country on a book-signing tour.  But I spent one year as a missionary in South Atlanta at LifeWay, I am now in a band at church, I now teach at that church's school, and I am more involved with children's ministry.

So I look back and times when I went out of my mind wondering where God would lead me.  I still have those times.  But if God made a promise and made a will, then it will end in a yes.  It certainly will not be yessed today or possibly even in this life.  If it does, that will be great, but I look forward to the ultimate yes when Jesus comes to rule his universe.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pure lips, hot coals, and first grade

I think it's been more than a month since I blogged.  First, I ran out of hours to work at LifeWay and had plenty of time to blog and write.  Then I got a job at my church's school in the afterschool program.  Then I got busy with that.  Then I hosted all my in-laws for Thanksgiving.

And now I finally find time to blog.

The first thing I learned on my second week of subbing for the afterschool program is that children love to tattle on each other.  There is no greater display of man's total depravity than a 1st grade class.  They pout when you say no.  They touch each other.  Sometimes, they get violent.  And they always tell the teacher when somebody said a bad word or won't share.

I just have to smile.  What else can I do?  But if I could teach them that they are all sinners and need to go to Jesus for forgiveness and also to forgive their friends, how would I do that?

I take the example of telling on somebody because he said the "S-word."  Is this the actual S-word, "stupid," or "shut-up"?

I don't know.  Either way, we all are aware that our mouths are not the cleanest.  I thought of one time where a man in the bible had unclean lips and then he met God.

In Isaiah 6, the king Uzziah, the king who had been king for 50 years, had just died.  This same king, who loved the Lord, made a mistake of burning incense when only the priests could do that, and then he talked back to the priests, and then God gave him leprosy for the rest of his life while his son ruled. 

Now he is gone, and Isaiah wakes up and finds himself in heaven's throne room.  A reminder, despite his flaws, Uzziah loved the Lord, and Isaiah was probably one of the more faithful people in that era.  He saw "the Lord sitting on his throne, the train of his robe filling the temple," and all his angels covering their faces from his perfect glory.  Isaiah then has a breakdown and fears his immediate doom.

He is face to face with our perfect God and creator who has every right to dispose of him for even one sin.

"And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”"

But the good thing is that although Isaiah has uttered blasphemies and profanities with his lips, Jesus shows him mercy.  He sends and angel to him with a coal from the altar to burn all the eww off of his lips.  It burns, but it feels so good.  And we know it's Jesus because his cleansing came from the altar where he was sacrificed before the world began.

Immediately, God called him to be prophet to the idolatrous nation of Judah through the reigns of king Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh.  History says that Isaiah lost his life for the gospel during Manasseh's reign.

So, what do you do when your friend says the S-word or any other crude word?  You pray for him.  When a kid tells me that her friend said such-and-such, I tell her to pray for that child.  I can't clean her lips.  Her friend can't clean her lips.  She can't clean her own lips.  But Jesus can do all that.  And once they really know Jesus, they will be frightened by their own unworthiness and relieved by his mercy that they will be able to speak with purity because he's saved them. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Palliative Caring

On the day that I write this, it is one more week until the infamous Brittany Maynard ends her life with the help of a physician unless she comes to her senses.  This story makes me rage with anger.  She is a beautiful young woman, age 29, newly married, and now she wants to end her life because of her stage 4 cancer diagnosis.

I understand.  Treating cancer is a nightmare.  The cures are worse than the disease.  It is agony to see someone you love wasting away through cancer, and when they do pass away we feel relieved that they do not have any more pain.

However, if the death panel follows through with their plans to erase Brittany from existence, this will only lead to more killing.  We already have children aborted over issues that are not life threatening such as Down’s syndrome or a kidney disease diagnosis that turns out negative.  Now we will have clever magicians who take advantage of the bad news of a positive cancer diagnosis and misdirect these young, impressionable people that assisted suicide is the most compassionate choice.

If Brittany does follow through with her plan, she will still be beautiful, and her family will not have to spend so much money looking for a treatment.  Who are her husband, friends, and family anyway?  Why do they not make more effort to keep this young woman alive until God decides to take her?  Is money really that much more important than the life that is still vibrant?  Are they calling this compassion so that they can sleep at night?

I know a woman who found stage 4 cancer on her adrenal gland.  Stephanie, my mother, made the decision to keep living.  Dad, Andrew, and I kept her alive until the following January.  It was March when we got the news.  It was mom who determined that she would live and exhaust all resources to find a cure for this disease.  She braved chemo, her body weakened, her hair fell out, and she did this so that she could still be here to care for her aging mother, my dad, Andrew, and me.

When January came around, we felt so much pain to see Mom on Hospice.  One day she could drive and eat at the Mexican restaurant.  The next day, she went to the hospital.  After all exhausted resources, Mom and Dad opted out of any treatments when the cancer only spread in December.  When Hospice started, we slowly saw Mom go through pain and eventually delirium.  When she finally did pass away on January 21, 2009, we were relieved because we knew she was perfectly healed and living with her heavenly Father.

I am so glad that nobody ever suggested that my mother take her life that March or April when she received the diagnosis.  We would have missed out on the months of praying for her, believing for a miracle, helping the medical community research for a cure, and generally reaching out to the world with God’s love and our hope in Jesus.

We also got to grow closer to members of our church who would drive Mom to surgeries and chemo sessions.  That is how I got close to my friend Erin that summer whose mother would take care of my mother.

The good news is that I know my mother is alive with the Lord.  The bad news is that I feel that Brittany does not even know Jesus.  If she succeeds in committing suicide, then that will only commence her eternity of enduring God’s wrath.

No, I do not believe that suicide is unforgiveable.  However, Brittany does not act in the heat of the moment.  She has had a whole month to ponder over this and still insists on taking matters into her own hands instead of trusting God to do amazing works with her and her “loved” ones the way he did in the life of my mother.  She trusts in herself and not in Jesus, and that will land her in hell for eternity, an ending much worse than stage 4 brain cancer and chemo deterioration.  How much more will the physicians suffer who influenced her to make this rash decision?

I end with a quotation from Joni Eareckson Tada.  If anyone has wanted to die throughout her decades of wheelchair confinement, Joni would have as much excuse to end it as anybody else.  However, she just turned 65 years old and has accomplished so much for the name of the Lord.

“Like many, my heart broke when I recently watched Brittany Maynard's video in which she outlined her plans to die through physician-assisted suicide. No one – absolutely no one – welcomes the pain that dealing with a terminal disease invariably brings, and it's clear that this young woman is firm in her convictions. But if I could park my wheelchair beside her, I would tell her how the love of Jesus has sustained me through my chronic pain, quadriplegia and cancer.”

Joni has lived from age 17 to 65 in a wheel chair influencing the world because her focus was on people other than herself.  While Brittany throws a tantrum about “my decision,” Joni has saved the lives of disabled people all over the world, provided retreats for them, provided wheelchairs, written songs, painted paintings with a paint brush in her mouth, and has even been nominated for an Academy award.  And she has not stopped.  Her care for other people was more important than her decision.

Brittany, please, I implore you, refuse to choose.  Your final days are worth every second of the pain if only you would think about how you can help your family and the world to live and not shrug an apathetic shoulder to death which is already defeated by Jesus.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Question: Leviticus; the Answer: Hebrews

This is one of those days where I read an amazing article on Tabletalk Magazine, and without trying to I read it again on the website.

It is the article where Benjamin Shaw explores the biblical dichotomy of clean versus unclean.

While studying the book of Hebrews this semester, I read about the book of Leviticus and realize: Leviticus is the question, Hebrews is the answer.

Our God is so holy and we are so not.  Without cleansing we cannot approach this perfect God or we will burn.

Leviticus 11-15 showed all the ways the Israelites had to cleanse themselves before they could approach God.  They had to stay away from any "unclean" food.  They had to abandon their houses if mildew showed up.  They had to sacrifice a lamb to the priest at the temple only to sin right away and have to be cleansed again.

This was God's way of showing them that they cannot ever come clean before our holy God by this treadmill of rituals.  This is where Hebrews steps in:

9:13-14, "For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God."

God let these people labor until Christ came simply to show them that they cannot be clean and stay clean on their own time.  A perfect man had to live the perfect life and then take the punishment for us.  It's by his blood we are clean and we don't have to keep renewing the contract.  His blood was for one time.

I sang "Ancient Words" yesterday in church.  It has a lyric that says: 

Holy words of our Faith
Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ

I meant to sing "faithful" during the practice before the service.  It wasn't even 9:00 and I was tired.  I mindlessly sang "faithless."  Ugh.

Mistake or not, that is no small error.  That borders on blasphemy.  If I lived in the Old Testament, I would have to bring a lamb to be slaughtered by a priest.  Afterward, I'd end up sinning again.  I would lose the salvation status that I have just earned by that lamb.

Now that I live in the New Testament, Christ was slaughtered for me.  He offered the perfect sacrifice of himself.  And he never sins, so he doesn't have to do it again.  And when I approach God for forgiveness, he now sees Christ's sacrifice and not my crappy version.

There are people who live under the name of Christ that still believe you have to keep your salvation status up because you lose it every time a peccadillo comes along, which is many times a day.  They are shocked when you think that they have to work for their salvation, but their system says otherwise.  If I was in that church, I'm sure I would have to go talk to a priest.  Then I'd have to say a prayer five times a day and do some community service.

"By these means, the people maintained, rather, regularly restored their cleanness before God through the ordinary course of life."
These folks still live in the Old Testament.  They do not live with the hope that Jesus paid their sin only one time and that's it.  They can't even approach him directly.  While the New Testament says that he is our priest and intercessor before God, they still like to approach a human priest or even someone deceased.  This is an absolute insult to God and what Christ has done for us.

And this logic leaks into all denominations.  (Not to step on any friends' toes, but here goes) Some have to say "Hail Mary"s, some have to speak in tongues, some need to be rebaptized, some need to end global warming.  We are always tempted to try to add to what Christ has done which shows we still do not trust him.  Just ourselves.  After my lyrical slip yesterday I seriously wanted to just do the song again.  Or bang my head against the pulpit.  Thank God that in the next two services I got it right because I looked to Jesus and not to my own memory.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the prowling lion versus the Lion of Judah

I never quite know how to react when people say that Satan is preventing them from doing something.

This Sunday, there was an excellent sermon about not incurring debt.  Without the video, sound, power point, etc., we would still have a sermon based on the Word of God and pointing people to Jesus and not to materials.  Souls would be enlightened, and church would happen.

But life happens.  The power point presentation would not load up.  The video would only play the sound and not the picture.  The mics would give feedback, which never happens.  My husband Tim, who works with all that was like, it was like a gremlin got into the system.  The pastor said, it was like Satan didn't want me to preach this sermon but God overcame it.

It was a good conclusion but one I still ponder.  We know that since Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, Satan has no control over us.  He is defeated and cannot hurt his church.  God's grace comes through and his Holy Spirit works miracles in the otherwise dead congregation who can do nothing apart from God's grace.

But then, evil still happens and will happen until the Lord comes back.  1 Peter 5:8 gives a sober reminder that our enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion waiting for someone to devour.

But the more dominant Lion of Judah is the one in control.  The little lion does nothing unless the big Lion allows it.

So the glitches happened in the technology in the service because God is still in control.  Why would he let this happen?  Maybe it underlines the fact that this was an important sermon.  Debt accrues because people think things and prestige will make them happy and save them from low-quality lives.  But this doesn't happen because they spend money on useless things and have nothing with which to feed their kids.

It is really important that we place our value on Jesus and follow his direction for our lives and not go out and buy the next iPhone.  It's not wrong to have an iPhone, but it is wrong when it becomes more important that Jesus and the people that he loves.  It becomes wrong when you can't feed yourself and have to get welfare, but you still were able to afford an iPhone.  I could see Satan wanting to stop this sermon from happening because he wants to distract us all from the true riches of Christ and his life that never fades or grows old, and he wants to get us trapped by having to pay for the newest technology that will already be obsolete next year.  Then we have a pile of debt and cannot go on missions or get our kids to college because we spent all our money on the next temporary fad.

Tim brought up something that had happened at Big Picture Con the week before.  He had a film in the short film festival that didn't win but still did really good in the voting poll by the audience.  The film that did win the voting poll but not the contest was a film called Checkmate, except Checkmate was in German and I can't pronounce that at the moment.

This film was the first to be shown, but when it started getting into the story, it stopped playing and would not continue.  We had to wait until the end of the festival to watch the whole thing after they found another file on the internet.

When I first saw the first half of Checkmate, I thought it was another lame video about a young kid or a woman groaning about life and its ennui.  When I saw the whole thing, I thought it was the best video and had a wonderful message.

This young boy is trying to ask this girl out who already dates the popular guy.  This boy is a quiet boy who plays the Chess that you find on Star Trek.  Life is like Chess.  You have to make hard decisions.  They may be good or bad, and you still may lose, but you have to keep playing.

In the long run, we see a hilarious exchange where he tries to woo the girl but to no avail.  This time around, he lost the game.  But you keep playing.

Satan doesn't want messages like that to circulate.  Even if the other team scores once, he wants us to stop the game completely and give up.

I cannot get over the fact that this young woman named Brittany, who is my age and newly wed, wants to go ahead and end her life with the help of a physician on November 1 because she got diagnosed with terminal cancer.  No consideration for her husband or her joyous bridesmaids in her wedding picture.  She says it would be more dignified to take her own life than to go through the long painful process of chemo.

She's wrong.  Every day is worth living.  Even the days ruined by a weakened chemo body are worth living.  God wants Brittany to live and continue playing until he decides to take her life as he only has the right to do so as he gave it to her.  Satan wants her to just throw in the towel and abandon her new husband and her loved ones because of her vanity.  This is not dignity.  This is mutiny.

Yes, the devil prowls about like a lion, but the verse before says to cast your cares on Christ, the dominant Lion, because he cares for you.  I suppose he still lets Satan prowl to call our attention to these things.  And if this is the case, please Lord, do not let Brittany and her doctors follow through with their anti-life plan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Mortifying Sin: the Wrong and the Right Way

I've been reading "The Mortification of Sin" by John Owen along with Reading Classics Together on Tim Challies' blog.  John Owen's words flow with such depth and passion.  At the same time, I can't pay attention really well so sometimes I get lost.  That was not the case last night.

The whole theme of his book has been an exposition of Romans 8:13.  In the ESV it says, "For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."  Owen's tagline is "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

For the rest of the book, Owen shows how people try to kill sin the wrong way, using their own penances and rituals.  Instead, he wants them to leave human effort and come to Jesus to be changed.

There is only so many ways you can say this concept, but nothing is more important in reaching salvation and being sanctified in the Holy Spirit.

Basically, Owen says that people try to mortify sin, but they do it the wrong way.

He reached a point in his treatise where he gives the example of Peter's speech in Acts 2.  In verses 29-36, Peter explains how David died but looked forward to the resurrection.

God loved David, but without his help, David was a wicked man indeed.  In himself, there was nothing good.  But because of his faith in God's promise to send an eternal king on his throne, David died with the hope of living again and with the hope of freedom from sin.

"This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."  God raised his eternal Son from the dead.  Why did Jesus die?  Because we are so hopelessly lost in our sins.  On our own, we will not come to God for salvation but always look to whatever we can do.  Jesus loved us so much that he lived the only perfect human life and then died under God's wrath that humans deserve.  Since he was perfect, he could not stay dead, and since he was the perfect sacrifice, we are not enamored with our sins anymore.

"Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

The penitent ones heard what Peter said and were "cut to the heart."  If I was among the crowd, I would think, "The only good man on the planet died so that I could be free from sin.  What must I do to repay him?"

This is what the folks asked.  Did Peter say to go wash seven times in the Jordan?  Did he say complete five years of a discipleship course?  Did he tell them to pray five times a day to some heavenly sponsor?

No, he simply said, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

All they needed to come to Jesus.  The Holy Spirit would baptize them, and they could finally be fit to enter God's presence.  And if a man of the household came to the Lord, his children and wife and servants could also be baptized and be considered holy because of him.  Simply coming to Jesus makes no only myself clean, but also makes my whole family clean by association (though not necessarily individually saved.  They are still considered holy along with me and we must pray for Jesus to truly lead their hearts.) 

The bottom line: quit trying to find holiness apart from simply resting in Jesus.  He will make you holy.  The people you love are also holy because of you in their lives, so treat them as inside the faith and let Jesus change them.   Remember to forgive them as the Lord forgave you.  What you did to Jesus is way worse than what they've done to you or anyone else.  Trust the Lord to change their hearts and simply love them in the process. 

I close with this 2nd Chapter of Acts song: