Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Magnificence of Ordinary--For My Dad

This is my first Father's Day since Dad died.

Dad died. It has been four weeks, and as I type that and see it in print, it is still surreal to me.
Anyway, I've never been much of a fan of Hallmark holidays. But I loved my Dad, and I am acutely aware that I am heading into this day missing the Key Ingredient.

Dad was the most compassionate person I have ever met. Bar none. He had a capacity to weep with those who weep unlike any I have seen.  I have memories of him weeping upon receiving bad news about people he never even met. He stewarded that gift well, as he carried other people's burdens, feeling what they felt, coming alongside them, or lifting them up in prayer.

He was also the most opinionated person I have ever met, generally sorting the world into the Right and the Stupid. If you knew him, you're laughing because you know it's true. And if you know me, you're laughing because you're realizing, "Oh, that's where she gets it." As Brett says in his worst redneck accent, "The apple don't fall far from the tree."

And since I am that unfortunate combination of all of his passion plus none of his compassion,
And since we often strongly disagreed on what was Right and what was Stupid...
Suffice it to say, we had a feisty relationship.

Dad is the reason I care about politics and theology. Oh, we usually had the same Ends in mind. It was the Means where it got...exciting. Eventually, we just stopped talking about politics. It wasn't worth it. As for theology, well, we both love the Lord, so to stop talking about that was like asking us both to stop breathing.

We both cared passionately about the Lord.
We both cared passionately that our children walk with Him.
We both cared passionately that the Church behave like the Church.
But our different understandings of Grace and God's sovereignty led us to conflicting conclusions about what a mature Christian or a healthy church look like.
What he considered of primary importance, I considered secondary. What I considered primary, he considered secondary.
Yep. It got exciting sometimes.

Yet I owe my Dad a great debt. He led me to the Cross. He preached the gospel to me. He prayed with me to receive Jesus. He took me to church. He put his foot down against youth group and public school. When Brett came along, Dad inspected him for me. And across thirty-plus-years-and-counting of my marriage and eleven children, he interceded for us. He was always asking how he could pray for us. And it recalls to mind growing up, how I would see him pacing in the family room early in the morning praying--more like conversing--with the Lord. He was enthusiastic about our parenting choices and probably more informed on threats to home education, both foreign and domestic, than I was.

In the days after Dad's death, the recurring theme was:
Your Dad was like a father to me.
It is not hyperbole to say that I have lost count of how many times that was said.

To me, he was just Dad. The guy who was just there. There every night after work. There at the dinner table. There, loving his wife and raising his kids like he genuinely enjoyed it. The guy who told really awful jokes, like The Pig with the Wooden Leg. The guy who would hug you goodbye--and then leave you his papal blessing. And the guy who loved us and told us so.

That was ordinary to me. I thought it was the ordinary experience. I am starting to see that, to lots of other people, it was not ordinary. It was magnificent. And so now I must concur.

It was.
It was magnificent.
It was magnificent to have a dad who was there; who was engaged and enthusiastic; who prayed for me and rooted for me; who loved me and told me so.

And today, I am missing that magnificence more than I can express.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Barnyard Funk

Brett took me to a wine tasting class a few years ago for date night.  We learned about Old World wines and New World wines and how to swirl and sniff and sip. Admittedly unschooled in the ways of wine, the oddest thing I learned was all the flavors you are supposed to be able to pick up in a glass of wine. You might get a hint of pepper. Or flowers. Or berries.

Or barnyard funk.

Come again? What, pray tell, is barnyard funk? Well, barnyard funk, as it turns out, has essence of exactly what you might expect to find in a barnyard. Oh.

I would never make it as a sommelier.

Not long ago, my Bible reading brought me here:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. 

I was not surprised by the content. This is emphatically biblical. I was surprised at the context. This is Leviticus 19:18. Leviticus. A book about laws and regulations and mildew and hair and parapets and birds. (Please, please don't get me wrong. I love Leviticus, and if you don't roll your eyes or yawn your way through it, you will discover it is truly magnificent. Give it some respect.)

If I were to sum up Leviticus in one sentence it would be this:
An inherently unclean and unholy people--which we forget to our peril--are drawn into covenantal relationship with an inherently clean and holy God--which we also forget to our peril.

Bearing grudges is our uncleanness and unholiness showing.
To put a New Testament spin on this, bearing grudges is withholding grace.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves is God's cleanness and holiness showing.
Loving your neighbor as yourself is bestowing grace.

Let's face it, fam. Sometimes we don't do reconciliation well. Sometimes we settle for truces. I agree never to discuss 'it' again if you agree never to discuss 'it' again. We extend a precise and peevish forgiveness and settle for an unstable peace. And suddenly our relationship looks like an exercise in geopolitics.

So basically we serve up barnyard funk. Yeah, technically it's wine. But it tastes like dirt and manure. No thanks, I'll just have a glass of vinegar. At least the vinegar has health benefits.

I was talking to a friend who is smarting from a relational hurt, and she mentioned needing to get past it. But I thought maybe she was settling for a truce when the aim is reconciliation. What she has now is a cease-fire. What she wants is fellowship.

I have taken a long journey in my growth in grace. I have withheld grace. I have been suspicious of grace. And I have extended grace. I have learned the power of grace, given. But I have also learned the power of the void where grace should be but is not.
It is septic. Putrefactive. Toxic.

Take forgiveness. You can extend all the technical forgiveness you want. But if there is not an accompanying grace, things in your presence will begin to die. Starting with yourself. Spreading to your marriage. Your family. Your friends. Your community. Because the people around you may not be sommeliers who can swirl and sip and identify barnyard funk. But they can sure smell the manure.

The good news is that while the absence of grace kills, the presence of grace makes things flourish! Starting with yourself. Spreading to your marriage. Your family. Your friends. Your community.

Technical, graceless forgiveness can, I suppose, get you to the Lord's Table. But don't for a moment think that barnyard funk is what we taste at the Lord's Table. We get the good stuff. Because He only serves the good stuff.

My friend texted me after our conversation. She said it was the push she needed to seek reconciliation. And she's moving forward. Stay tuned for fellowship and flourishing!

How about you?
Are you settling for barnyard funk?
Or are you ready for the good stuff?

Monday, March 25, 2019

It Was Always the Plan

We interrupt this Lenten season to bring you an important message about the Incarnation...

She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

The Incarnation is a mammoth topic. Wayne Grudem says this about it:
"It is by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible--far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe. The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe." (Grudem, 563)(emphasis mine)

So when I was asked to speak on it last December, I had a hard time keeping it manageable. My research overwhelmed me. It was a little like saying, "Boil the ocean. You have thirty minutes. Go!" But then I found that book-ending the Incarnation with Genesis and Revelation kept it simple and taught me some powerful things.

Genesis 3. Let me set you up. The snake has just slithered into Eden and succeeded at turning Eve's heart against the Creator. Satan knows it; Eve knows it; God knows it. Enter God, stage right:
So the Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly, and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.' Genesis 3:14-15
This is what the Big Picture Story Bible calls A Very Sad Day. (When I read this to my kids, I always mimic the mice from the movie Babe saying, "A very sad day...") My family would call this Trash Talk. This is what we do when we are making our NFL picks, and we're saying, When my team gets done with your team, your team isn't gonna know what hit them. And it's all done in jest and good humor.

But God doesn't talk trash. And what He said on this very sad day is not in good humor and most certainly not in jest. Picture this. God, who has just been defied by Eve--she knows it, and He knows it--has just walked into the garden, stepped in front of her, and faced off with the snake. She is ashamed but looking over God's shoulder. God is putting His finger in the snake's chest.

It's the heroic heart of a Father:
You messed with my girl.
It's the romantic heart of a Husband:
You messed with my Baby.
His Father/Husband heart comes roaring in to reveal the Plan:
You're going down, snake. And I'm going to use her to do it.

Thus begins the history of the only two lines of humanity there have ever been: those in Adams vs. those in Christ. God covenants. And the people, in gratefulness for this covenant, return the favor by making lousy covenanters, lousy judges, lousy priests, lousy kings.

God sends prophets. God sends enemies. Then God sends nothing. Silence. For four hundred years. The United States isn't even four hundred years old. That's a long silence.

Suddenly...
And the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

I love how the Big Picture Story Bible puts it:
So Caesar, the Roman ruler, the king of the whole Roman world, began counting all his people to show everyone how great he was. What Caesar did not know was that...[sic] God, the world's true ruler, the king of the universe, was getting ready to show everyone how great He was...
And do you know how God was going to do this? Not like Caesar...[sic] not proudly, by counting all his people, but humbly, by becoming one of his people. (Helm, 237-40)

While Caesar was showing how great he was by counting his people, God was showing how great He was by becoming one of His people. 
Sweet.
God promised to crush the snake in Genesis.
Jesus fulfilled that promise as God Man at the cross.

And now let's fast forward to the future to see what Revelation tells us about the Incarnation.
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to blaspheme God and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given power to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast--all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Rev.13:5-8
Here we are in the future, and the beast--I mean, the snake--I mean, the devil--is still running his mouth. He's still inciting people against God, and he's still succeeding. Adam's line, the serpentine line, is alive and well among every nation, tribe, and tongue.
Except...
Those whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.

And there you have it. God waits until the last book of the Scripture to reveal His hand. The Lamb was slain from the creation of the world.  The Incarnation was not God's plan B. The Incarnation was not God wringing His hands at The Fall and going back to the drawing board.
The Incarnation was always the Plan, because Atonement and Redemption were always the Plan.

So let's go back to Matthew 1:21. If you're like me, you probably read it with this emphasis:
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will SAVE His people from their SINS.

Might I suggest that when we read it that way, we miss the point entirely?
Might I suggest that the point is more properly rendered with this emphasis?
She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He WILL save HIS people from their sins.

The Cross has a 100% success rate. ALL the people Jesus died for will be saved. Kevin DeYoung puts it this way: "He did not die to make you merely saveable; He died to make you saved."

If your name is written in the Lamb's book of life, you have been loved, definitely, particularly loved, from the creation of the world. And Jesus was incarnated to come and get you
That was always The Plan. 

One more thing.
It would be a shame if we confined the Incarnation to a manger. And December. And Luke 2.

Because our hearts need this:
Come, Desire of Nations, Come, Offspring of the virgin's womb.
Rise the woman's conquering seed; bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface; stamp Thine image in its place.
Final Adam from above, reinstate us in Thy love. *
in every month and every scripture.

---------
Sources:
With much gratitude to RC Sproul, Ligon Duncan, and Kevin DeYoung, whose sermons/blogs I leaned on heavily in my Incarnation study. If there was anything amazing in this post, it was most likely because of their work.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Intervarsity Press, 1994. p. 563.

Helm, David. Big Picture Story Bible. Crossway, 2004.
Ladies, if you don't own a Big Picture Story Bible, you need to get one. No serious sheologian would be caught without it. And then you need to read it in one sitting. And then you need to read it to your kids. Rinse and repeat. 

*Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Mendelssohn, Felix, 1739.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Of Tuna Fish and Sunlight

Last night we saw a lunar eclipse, a celestial show put on by the Lord to display His glory. Every fifteen minutes or so, we would walk outside and watch the earth gradually overshadow the bright moon until its white had turned pink. The greater light and the lesser light dancing in the sky. And my daughter three hours away was watching the same things. Admission: free.

Lunar eclipses are science. So is entropy. And inertia and nuclear fission and the laws of planetary motion and brain surgery. Science is good.

In the other corner, we have 'science': macroevolution and global warming and psychotherapy (emphasis on psycho) and time travel. Call it 'quantum mechanics' if that makes you feel smart and legitimate, but tuna fish in an easy-to-swallow gel cap is still fishy. And you find the Virgin Birth troublesome? Pardon my mirth.

I am no scientist. I am, however, a born skeptic, and my battle cry has always been, "Prove it." Majorities mean nothing to me. When four out of five dentists agree, it's that other one who has my attention. One day, there will be a grand reshuffling, and all the 'science' masquerading as science will be shouted from the rooftops and summarily kicked out. Oh Glorious Day.

There is much in God's creation that is worthy of our respect. Great white sharks and grizzly bears and icebergs and Kilimanjaro. But 'harmful'? As in, with intent to harm me? Um, no. And you would all agree, yes?

How about sunlight? Worthy of our respect? Sure. Harmful? Um, no. But scientists agree! Sunlight is harmful! Slather yourself with sunscreen! Wear your large-brimmed hats and sunglasses! Better yet, just don't go outside!

Um, no.
And I say that even as I keep an eye on a couple dermatological spots of my own.

Well, well, well. Enter dermatologist Richard Weller of the University of Edinburgh. Turns out, kids, that sunlight gives us vitamin D.
Yawn. Yeah, tell us something we didn't know. I take a million grams a day in a gel cap.
Um, no.
Turns out again, kids, that your gel cap does next to nothing. You actually have to absorb vitamin D through your skin from the sunlight.
And turns out yet again, that absorbing said D via sunlight does a few good things for you:
1. reduces risk of cancers like prostate, breast, colorectal, and pancreatic
2. improves circadian rhythm
3. reduces inflammation
4. dampens autoimmune responses
5. 'reduces virtually every mental condition you can think of'
6. lowers blood pressure
7. improves moods

But four out of five dermatologists....
Melanoma, you know?
So get this. People out in the sun can get melanoma--AND THEY ARE EIGHT TIMES LESS LIKELY TO DIE FROM IT.
'Dermatologists'...

And I quote: "Avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor of similar magnitude as smoking, in terms of life expectancy."* In other words, you can give up sunshine, or you can take up smoking. And the days ordained for you will protest, Big diff.

I knew it! I knew it, I knew it , I knew it!!! I've always watched in horror as people slather on sunscreen at the rate of a bottle per outing. But I couldn't say anything. Four out of five dentists, blah, blah, blah....

Truth be told, I don't care about the science--or even the 'science.' What really yanks my chain is when people call something God made 'harmful' Yank, yank, yank. What matters most to me is that a good Creator gave us a great big ball in the sky not just for His glory but for our good. I would expect nothing less.

And who are you, o dermatologist, to call good evil and evil good?
Enjoy your tuna fish; as for me and my house, we're going outside to play.

God made two great lights, the great light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:16-18
-------
*Data and quotes in this post taken from:
Jacobsen, Rowan. Is Sunscreen the New Margarine? Outsideonline.com. January 10, 2019.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Books! 2018 Reading List

My year in books:

A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. More wonderful Inspector Gamache.
Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder at God's Spoken World by ND Wilson. I loved this book, lovedlovedloved. This was the best book I read all year, and I already have it on my stack to begin tomorrow as my second annual read. Beautiful.
This Changes Everything by Jacquelle Crow. Really good challenge to teens to live like gospel-informed believers now, not 'when they grow up.'
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I did my duty. They heard one Ingalls read-aloud. Can I quit now?
Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Beautiful book.
The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny. Dragged a little.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson. Fantastic book about the sinking of the Lusitania.
Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. It was only February, and I was certain this would be the second best book I will have read all year.
Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Bloom where you're planted. Even if you're planted in the Gulag. Wow.
David Livingstone by John Hudson Tiner. I am puzzled and saddened by a man who would sacrifice his family for evangelism and exploration. Not impressed.
Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. Tough but good autobiography of a young girl in the Cultural Revolution
Mary Slessor: Queen of Calabar by Sam Wellman
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt. A boy comes of age during the Vietnam War with the help of an English teacher and a little Shakespeare. Loved this book and want to read more by Schmidt.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Three Hostages by John Buchan. Buchan! Yes!
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung. Ung recounts her own story of living through Khmer Rouge. One of those necessary reads but excruciatingly sad.
That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis. Really enjoyed the first in the trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet. Pressed through Perelandra; did not really get it. Then on to enjoyable That Hideous Strength. A few words, I think, are necessary on Lewis. His stories are mostly interesting, but read him theologically with a bucket of salt. Great writer, not a great theologian. He was also an evolutionist, and no one who doubts God right off the blocks can be taken seriously as a theologian.
Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson. Well, just rip my heart out and stomp that sucker flat.
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.
Read-Aloud Family by Sarah McKenzie. Good how-to's on developing a family read-aloud culture. A little mystified by some of her book titles. I recommend The Hand That Rocks the Cradle by Laurie Bluedorn for that. Laurie has never steered me wrong.
Dragon Tooth by ND Wilson. Second time through; this time I 'got it'; much better!
How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman. When American Christians write guides to politics, I always get the impression that they started with their presuppositions and then prooftexted them resulting in insufferable, moralistic tripe. Then along came Leeman. He starts with how God covenantally relates to both the believer and the nonbeliever, and we get this gem. If you are looking for a guide on how Americans should engage in politics, this is the best out there.
Conscience by Andrew Naselli. Great exploration of weak and strong consciences, training the conscience, and how all these consciences live together in community called the Church. I had a serious learning curve on this one.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.
Lord Tony's Wife by Baroness Orczy. More Scarlet Pimpernel!
The Drowned Vault by ND Wilson.
Confidence by Stephen Nichols
The Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson. This was THE paradigm shift of the year for me. Left me sitting in my Snake Garden, just smiling and amazed at Who Jesus is and what He did for me.
Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle. Weird book written by a weirder chick. By the time I was halfway through, it was the author, not the plot, that was on trial. Would she be faithful to the Biblical text? Meh.
The Prayer That Turned the World Upside Down by Al Mohler
Empire of Bones by ND Wilson. Finale of the Ashtown Burials trilogy. Really odd sci-fi but really profound spiritual truths as only Wilson can write. I'm a big fan.
City of God by Augustine. Started as an Augustine skeptic but ended an Augustine fan. Helpful to remember that Augustine didn't have a Luther to build upon, but as my daughter-in-law Linda reminds me, he was a pioneer.
Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. What if you could get inside the heads of the major players at Gettysburg? Couldn't put it down.
Getting the Gospel Right by RC Sproul. ECT was an gospel catastrophe, and the ensuing Gift of Salvation didn't clarify anything. Sproul takes both to task for their sloppiness, and points us to scripture for clarity, truth, and precision.
Indianapolis by Lynn Vincent. True story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the tragic legal events that followed. Maybe not the best book for the mother of a naval officer to read, but I couldn't put it down.
Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges
Birth of a New Physics by Bernard Cohen. Read everything but the last chapter. Just couldn't slog through anymore.
Wingfeather Tales edited by Andrew Peterson. Members of the Rabbit Room take a crack at the world of the Igibys. Good but should read the Saga first so you have context. That last tale. Wow.
Sir Percy Hits Back by Baroness Orczy
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Love. But this time, I bought my own copy and struck through the offensive language with a dark pen, of which there is quite a bit, so stay on your toes if you do it as a read-aloud.
Prodigal God by Tim Keller.
The Green Ember by SD Smith. Had the privilege of seeing Smith, a funny and gentle soul, speak in the spring. This first in a series is a sweet eschatological treatment of good v. evil for the littler ones.
Long Way Gone by Charles Martin
Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken. Liked this book more than I thought I would. The Puritans have gotten a bad wrap forever. But Ryken uses oodles of primary sources to demonstrate who they really were, for better or worse. Recommend!
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards. Easily the best sermon ever preached, this was assigned to me in high school, and it profoundly impacted me then. It aligned with the God of the Bible far more than any sermon I had heard in any of my churches. I think I probably became reformed in that moment. Read it again this year since my high school sophomore had to read it, and I regret not assigning it to all of my previous students. Love, love, love.
The Scandal of Father Brown by GK Chesterton. Read the Father Brown books; do NOT waste your time on the horrid Netflix series.
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.
Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
This is Our Time by Trevin Wax. Good book on millennial issues.
Island of Sheep by John Buchan. Great!
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Fourth time. Brilliant story that follows its worldview to its logical end
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor. Growing up black in the Great Depression south. Heart-warming and heart-wrenching.
Deadliest Monster by Jeff Baldwin. There is Christianity and there is everything else. Coexis.
Pattern of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand. Continuing the story of Back on Murder.
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Betty Bao Lord. Cute.
Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney.
Fiddler's Gun by AS Peterson. Man, those Brothers Peterson can write, though this is nothing like Wingfeather Saga. Similarly thoughtful, however. Really, really liked it though I need to read the conclusion in Fiddler's Green, so stay tuned for my 2019 reading list. ;)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Let Us Press On to Know the Lord

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud
And like the dew which goes away early.
Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And the judgments on you are like light that goes forth.
For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
But like Adam, they have transgressed the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously against Me. Hosea 6:4-7

Most of my book loving friends will be familiar with Anne Lamott, the dreadlock-wearing, uber-progressive author who made headlines with her conversion story many years ago. I know I was surprised. And although she credits a friend of hers, she's also famous for saying:
You can safely assume you have made God in your own image when it turns out that He hates all the same people you hate.
Amen, sister.
But let's take the whole coin and look also at the other side:
You can safely assume you have made God in your own image when it turns out He loves all the same things the world loves. (I John 2:15)

CCM artist Lauren Daigle made headlines of her own this week with her admission that she "doesn't know" if homosexuality is a sin. The quick backstory is that Ellen DeGeneres invited Daigle to sing on her show. And the two women are friends. Who wouldn't want to be friends with Ellen? She's cute as a button and funny as all get out.

She's also gay. So scriptural teaching on homosexuality is causing Daigle some real angst, as it should, once you realize that there are real flesh and blood people you love and that the implications here are horrific. If you can't picture a person you know when you read Leviticus 18 or 1 Corinthians 6, you might not get out enough.

Here's the problem, though, with Daigle's reticence to commit (unless she is truly unschooled in the Word, which I have a hard time believing, considering her lyrics, which are basically sound): Deconversion.

Deconversion is essentially shorthand for: I have weighed Truth in the balance and found it wanting.

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
For your loyalty is like a morning cloud
And like the dew which goes away early.

Deconversion starts with questions.
Last spring, I printed off the above link on Deconversions and crawled through it with my high schoolers. I asked them if they ever had questions about scripture, if they ever had a hard time with anything they ever read in the Word. They were reluctant to say, so I shared that I did have questions. There are things in the Bible that have offended me, that I have had to wrestle with.

But my starting point is that the Word is holy, inspired, and inerrant. So if I am offended or confused or unconvinced, the error always lies with me, not with the scripture. The only other starting point is that error lies in the Word, and it must be made to submit to Truth as I understand it. One person questions the Word from beneath it; one questions from above.

Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets;
I have slain them by the words of My mouth;
And the judgments on you are like light that goes forth.

Questioning the Word from underneath makes a woman humble.
Questioning the Word from above make a woman a heretic.

Two things I have learned as a parent. Maybe they will help you, too.

First, it is extremely important to let our kids struggle with the Word of God. You do not want your kid to believe It--whatever It is--just because you believe It. Trust me on that. Wrestling over the Word builds spiritual muscle, and spiritual muscle is a good thing. But it is also extremely important that they wrestle from underneath the Word rather than above it. We want them to love and trust the Word because they love and trust the Author.

Second, teach your kids to press on to know the Lord.
Let me qualify that. Theologian Cornelius Van Til correctly says, exegeting Romans 1, that there are only two types of people:
1. Those who know God and love Him because they have been delivered out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
2. Those who know God and hate Him.
So there is no question that, at bottom, all of our kids know God. The question is whether they love Him or hate Him. But assuming they love Him...

Teach them that God's Word is the final arbiter of Truth. We don't weigh It in the balance; It weighs us.  Teach them that when they encounter things in scripture that are counter-intuitive--and they will; boy howdy, they will--that's their flesh speaking. Teach them to bang their head on that passage until God makes it real and true to them.*

To be sure, there are secret things that belong to the Lord. There will always be some things that God holds close to the breast. He is God. That is His prerogative. But there are other things that have been revealed to us, and they are for us and for our children to know.

For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
But like Adam, they have transgressed the covenant;
There they have dealt treacherously against Me.

What is the antidote to transgression and treachery? Loyalty (I stand with You) and the knowledge of God (I think like You). Knowing the Lord will help us be nuanced where God is nuanced and straightforward where God is straightforward. Not knowing the Lord puts us at risk of making God in our own image, an image that hates what He loves AND loves what He hates.

Lauren Daigle needs to press on to know the Lord, but she is just representative of the rest of us.
We need to press on to know the Lord, too.
And so do our children.

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*I believe it was John Piper who said this, but I can't find the link, so I want to be both careful and cautious in giving credit.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Resting Like a Tax Collector

"All God asks is that we lay down our insistence on contributing to God's estimation of our merits and embrace Christ's record as our own. Nothing is to be added to or subtracted from this message of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord."*
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Question: Is it possible that a shape can both be a triangle and not a triangle?
Answer: No. In logic, we call this the Law of Noncontradiction. The rest of us just call it Common Sense.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to Heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other. (Luke 18: 9-14)

The Pharisee: He rocks merit, and he knows it and wants God to know it, too.
The tax collector: He's got no merit and no hope of ever accruing any, and he knows it. His only hope is a merit from outside himself, an alien merit. One of them went away justified; we know that. 

But don't miss, on this Reformation Day, what else the Lord is saying: Both of them did not go away justified; one of them went away not justified.

A shape cannot be both a triangle and not a triangle.
Salvation cannot be by faith alone and not by faith alone. These two paths cannot be the same gospel.
The Savior cannot save completely by His own merit and not save completely by His own merit. These two persons cannot be the same Jesus.

There will not be in heaven a set of people who rested in Christ's merit alone and a set of people who did not rest in Christ's merit alone.  No matter what your faith community is, at least be intellectually honest and admit they cannot both be true.

So, mamas, what are we teaching our children? Are we being as precise as Jesus in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? Or are we teaching them that there's no fundamental difference between Grace and Grace-Alone?

"The only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that made it necessary." Jonathan Edwards**

Have we said that to our kids lately? Do they feel, like the tax collector, a hopelessness and a helplessness to fix their own predicament? Do we throw ourselves entirely upon the mercy of God and teach our children to do the same?
Or are we teaching them to think like a Pharisee, that as long as they are baptized and taking the Lord's Supper and going to church and reading the Bible then they are safe?

Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Alone.
It always has.

Salvation belongs to the Lord. (Psalm 3:8)

But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; 
He is their strength in times of trouble. (Psalm 37:39)

After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God; (Revelation 19:1)

The opening quote bears repeating:
All God asks is that we lay down our insistence on contributing to God's estimation of our own merits and embrace Christ's record as our own. Nothing is to be added to or subtracted from this message of salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If I really believe that salvation belongs to the Lord, then I need to check my gimbals. How is salvation presented in my home? Either I am living like a Pharisee and raising little Pharisees, as we go through life accruing our own merit, or I am resting like the tax collector and raising children to rest like little tax collectors, embracing Christ's record as our only hope and salvation.

Glory and power to the Lord, who owns our salvation.
On this Reformation Day, may you and yours, like the tax collector, find Rest in the record of Jesus and go to your homes justified.

*Gospel Transformation Bible, 2008, study notes on Revelation 22:18-19 
**I've already commissioned my daughter to hand-letter this, and I'm going to hang it in a prominent place in my house. Thanks, Babylon Bee, for the reminder!