Character Is Destiny

~ I found a book with an interesting title at Amazon:

Character is Destiny: the Value of Personal Ethics in Everyday Life by Russell W. Gough.

I will have to take a look at it. However right now I am reading a book on discipline and something else has crossed my mind, namely the thought that “Discipline is Destiny.” The thought also comes in part from reflecting on the appalling events that took place at the United States Capitol recently. So I thought I’d make this:

 

“The undisciplined mind is always an easy prey for the demagogue and the charlatan.” Taylor, Richard S. . The Disciplined Life: The Mark of Christian Maturity . Ravenio Books. Kindle Edition.    

Thinking About Negative Thinking…

Negative thinking involves a lot of exaggeration. It often even involves a lot of self-deception and honestly . . . lies. It isn’t until the event causing negative thinking comes to pass, that we realize that what was going on was far more our imagination, than reality.  Yet – all that anxiety, all that grief, all that fear, all that groaning and all that labor – for what? For nothing.

It was all for nothing. 

That said, I think one way to think of negative thinking is thinking is the following:

~ Negative thinking is working overtime for no pay. 

Its all that extra grunt work for nothing. 

Now it seems to me that worry and negative thinking go hand in hand. Worry tends to be more chronic and more serious. If negative thinking is a condition, then worry is a disease. {Note: I am still processing this and my thoughts are still unpolished.}

I think we can think of worry in the following way:

~ Worry is you paying your employer to work overtime.

Whereas negative thinking involves no pay, worry involves “you pay.”  Its like walking into your workplace on a weekend and giving your boss a $100 to work there, for some extra hours.  And how do you pay? Well you pay years down the road with say cardiac disease. All that worry has an impact on you down the road. 

In fact in one sense, worry is like really bad retirement plan (think pension, 401K, etc.) where you keep making deposits overtime. Years down the road, it will retire you. 

Worry – WIP… Not done yet with this.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7

How Far Did Jacob Walk?

~ In the book of Genesis, when Jacob is on the run from Esau his brother, because Esau wants to kill him, how far did he go to escape from Esau? I decided to do a rough estimate of the distance from Beersheba to Haran on Google Maps. This would roughly correspond to the distance from Jerusalem to Manbij, Syria. Here is a map of it:

 

So how many miles did Jacob walk?

He walked about 740 km, give or take 50 km. This is roughly 460 miles give or take about 30 or so miles.

That is … CRAZY!

~ That is like walking from Washington D.C. to Cincinnati, Ohio. Or alternatively, its like walking from Nagpur to Lucknow!

*Note: I just looked up some bible maps and it seems like Jacob would not have walked as straight a path as shown above. So he would have walked an even larger route. Easily 500 miles! Nuts.

Jacob Rastling With God

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 
26 Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’

But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’
27 The man asked him, ‘What is your name?’
‘Deceiver,’ he answered.
– Genesis 32:22-27

~ There is a curious passage in the book of Genesis, where a guy by the name of Jacob gets into a really late night wrestling match with “the Man” (see above). During the course of the wrestling, the Man wrenches Jacob’s hip from his socket.  Now you would think that, at this point, Jacob would call it a day, and stop wrestling. Instead, he does not let go of the Man, and says to Him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

So it would seem that the person, Jacob was wrestling with was none other than God. 

All that said and aside, if you continue to read the passage, the Man does bless Jacob. However you are left wondering what exactly the blessing is. So… So I have taken to the commentaries to see what they have to say the blessing is.  Here I want to take notes from some commentaries on what they say about the blessing:

1. Genesis – Derek Kidner, Tyndale OT Commentary Series. 

“The blessing this time, was untarnished, both in the taking and in the giving: It was his own, uncontrived and unmediated.”

~ This is really all Derek Kidner says. It would seem that Kidner is referring back to an earlier incident where Jacob by way of deception, stole a blessing from his brother, Esau. Kidner is saying, that this time around, he did not steal it.

~ My question: Yeah, but what it it?

2. Genesis (TOTC) – Andrew E. Steinmann

“He had prevailed in this wrestling match to receive a blessing, just as he was blessed and overcame the machinations of his uncle Laban.   . . . Then we are told that he gave Jacob a blessing – presumably in addition to the blessing that came with the new name Israel.”

~ Thats pretty much all Steinmann says and I am still left scratching my head, wondering what the blessing is. 

3. Discovering Genesis – by Iain Provan

“Another battle is being fought – a spiritual battle, concerning identity and vocation – and Jacob will not yield. The injury does seemingly alert him, however, to the identity of his opponent, and he asks for a blessing.  He is, of course, a man obsessed with gaining blessings! However when he deceived Isaac and cheated Esau he was in control of the situation; here he is not. He gets the blessing – unsurprisingly, since in our GEnesis story, God is always more than willing to bless – but he is required to give something up in return . . .” 

~ Like the first two commentaries, Provan also does not tell us what the blessing is!  I am going to check one more. 

4. Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce K. Waltke

“blessed. Speiser, NJPS, Sarna, and Hamilton prefer the translation “and bade him farewell/took leave of him” (cf. 28:1) because the angel had already blessed Jacob in changing his name.”

~ John Gill from yester-century says the same thing:

“in the same place, as the Vulgate Latin version, where he had been wrestling with him, as he was taking his leave of him; for this was a farewell blessing, and a confirmation of that he had received, through the name of Israel being given him.”

~ I am not convinced. The Hebrew flatly says “He blessed him there.”

One last one from the internet: 

5. Wrestling at the Jabbok by Rev. Kirsten out in Kiwiland, i.e. New Zealand.

“The questions of identity, revealing of names, and blessing, recall the crucial episode where Jacob seizes Esau’s rightful place, by deceiving Isaac and claiming his brother’s name and blessing (Gen 27). The wrestling scene replays motifs from the earlier scene of deception, but this time Jacob has revealed his true identity (Turner, 142).”

~ She definitely ties in the wrestling match to the prior episode where Jacob deceives his father, Isaac and steals Esau’s blessing. However it is still not clear what the blessing is… 

So all that said and aside – My turn!

Photo is Courtesy Wiki. The artistic manipulation of the photo is by me.

~ I would like to propose the following and call me on this if you think its wrong.

I say that Jacob wanted his birthright to be given to him again. The birthright was a blessing involving positional status and an inheritance. Previously he got it by way of deceiving his father, Isaac and thus in effect “stole” it from Esau, the firstborn. So he had a guilty conscience on account of it. In Gen. 32, when Jacob heads back home to Canaan, and Esau with a 400 people entourage come to meet him, Jacob’s conscience had to be even more pricked. 

Consider:

Suppose you are planning on giving your son some gift for his birthday and so you buy that thing and keep it hidden in your bedroom.  Your son knows about it however and pilfers it and uses it ahead of the birthday.  When you find out about it, you tell him how disappointed you are but now that he has the gift in hand, you let him continue to use it.  You son however is grieved over his misconduct and says “No. Dad. Forgive me. Please take it back and give it to me again on my birthday. I want to receive the gift rightly.”

I think Jacob wanted to be given the birthright properly. He wanted to clear his conscience. He also probably did not want it on his record, people saying of him, that the birthright was not really his, because it was stolen.  He wanted to receive it cleanly, not take it. 

This is my current thought…  I think something like this is going on.  Otherwise – does anyone know what the blessing might be? 

The Sword & the Hilt

File:Emc2.svg - Wikimedia Commons

~ Thought on the side:

I think maturity and knowledge go hand in hand. That is to say that, it is not enough to have knowledge, but you also need to have the maturity to handle that knowledge.

Now this may not be so true for say E = mc2 because that equation does not impact our lives on a daily basis, however it is certainly true of things like politics, theology, personal finance, philosophy and so on.  If your head runs ahead of your heart, then that can be a problem.

~ I see a lot of really smart people on the internet debating this or that issue, quite furiously, however, their curt comments and such demonstrate zero maturity. Sometimes I just want to say to people, “Put that book down. You don’t need to read one more book and enter into one more debate. Put it down and take your eyes off the screen – any screen, step outside and get some fresh air. Just breathe.”

Maturity is the hilt that handles the blade.

Imago Dei i.e. Image of God

~ Made this yest.  I feel like I need to say something about the concept, but… I need to do some reading first. 

So God created humankind in His own image,
in the image of God He created them;
male and female He created them.
~ Genesis 1:27

He Got A Look! Faith is Getting a Look!

“… for we walk by faith, not by sight.” ~2 Cor. 5:7

Dion Waiters – Courtesy Wiki. – Go Orange!

If anyone follows the NBA or NCAA college basketball or really any basketball, they know of an expression often used in the sport:

“He got a look!”

When you hear a commentator yell, “He got a look!”, then the next thing that follows is a “Swish!!!”

What does this expression refer to?

It refers to the fact that if say LeBron James gets the ball and dribbles it past half-court, then at some point, if he gets a good look at the basket and yet turns both head and body away so that he no longer is actually facing the net, then . . . even if he is no longer directly looking at the hoop, he can still shoot the ball and in it goes. All in a split second.

Why?

This is because he got a look. Mentally he know where the hoop is … he knows where it is because he caught a glimpse of it before with his eyes but now, though turned away, he sees it with the eyes inside his head and so “Jump! Throw! Swish!”

He got a look!

It could be a hook, a reverse lay up, a reverse up and under, but its all a swish! The hoop is oriented in his 3D head-space and so he shoots by faith, not by sight.

Faith is like that … Faith is getting a look.

“Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. ~ John 4:50

Its not easy, but it can happen. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17).  We get our look by reading the Scriptures and then stepping out into our world. Then the dribbling begins.

So get that look. Live by faith!

Aside: Quite often faith is contrasted with fear, doubt or lack of evidence. Looking at that last one, I must say that I think also that the tension with faith comes not simply with a lack of evidence, but a lack of desired evidence. If we live before His Word and besides His people, we always have a look. However what we want is for God to speak to us through say sky-writing with the clouds or something dramatic. That is the evidence we want. But quite often He says “No. Go read the Word. It is sufficient. Get that look and…”

“… and shoot!”

So get that look ~~> Live before His Word. Live besides His people. Live in Him, Himself (Psalm 90:1). ~~> And shoot!

Faith, Hope and …

~ I have just been dabbling with some free photos that I found online… I am trying to set some verses to them… 

~ The above is by someone named Zeeshaan Shabbir and I got it for free on Pexels. It takes a lot of skill to create a photo like that. Wow!  I added the verse to it.

~ The above I got from Pixabay. It is by a person named Free-Photos. There is no name in particular that is given. I added the verse and the lighter rectangles.

Faith comes by Vinyl!!!

~ All that said and aside, question: Got faith?

It is not always easy having faith.

What the above tells us is that faith and hope both come from the Word of God. If you are finding it a struggle to have faith, go there. If after you go there, and you find that it is still a struggle to have faith, then try exercising hope. Hope is a stepping stone to faith.

Hope is much easier to have than faith. Hope is like our default condition. We can help but hope about things, even in the most dire of situations. We just always can hope.

Theology of the Vote – An Initial Sketch

~ Image courtesy of Pixabay

(1) People give different weights to different issues (e.g. abortion, ACA, the pandemic, etc.) and quite often what the presenting issue in a person’s life is will be what predominates.

(2) There are two problems attending to people: sin and error.
(2.1) Sin (e.g. jealousy, theft) is a moral issue.
(2.2) Errors (e.g. mistakes, accidents) are not. Error are unintentional and nonmoral.

(3) Romans 5:20 says “where sin abounded (πλεονάζω), grace superabounded (ὑπερπερισσεύω) so much more”.

(4) Given (3) we can also say: If grace superabounds, when sin abounds, then grace super-superabounds (ὑπερ-ὑπερπερισσεύω) when errors abound, bec. errors are a failing of some sort but are unintentional and nonmoral.

ASIDE – An Application: Given that God pours out grace when we fail in one way or another, how are we in our dealings with others? How are we when our kids accidentally break something? How are we with the elderly who are forgetful and we have to repeat things to them? Grace ∝ Graciousness. I.e. Gracious behavior is proportional to our understanding of Grace.

(5) A vote is based on a mixture (M) of good & bad motives, errors of judgment & reasoning, information, misinformation, disinformation, lack of information, a sense of our conscience and prayer.
(5.1) It is possible that in the past, one might NOT have voted for Ronald Wilson Reagan because they thought he was the Antichrist, as there are 6 letters in his first name, middle name, last name.

(6) Given M:
(6.1) Given M, it is possible for a person, Gopal to vote for a candidate you do not like and NOT sin. Gopal may be in error or perhaps voting based upon misinformation.
(6.2) Given M, it is possible for Gopal to vote for a candidate you love, and yet still sin gallantly. Gopal may have impure motives.
(6.3) Given M, it may be possible to vote for a saint and sin in the process OR vote for a sinner and NOT sin in the process.

(7) Given M & Grace:
(7.1) If may be possible for Gopal to vote for a candidate you do not like and for grace to superabound and even supersuperabound depending on what went into Gopal’s vote, esp. prayer.
(7.2) Romans 8:28 – All things work together, including our votes.

(8) The Conscience
(8.1) It may be possible for Gopal to vote for the candidate you do NOT like and be clear in his conscience and not sin.
(8.2) It may be possible for Gopal to vote for the candidate you like and to sin against his conscience.
(8.3) It may be possible for Gopal to vote for either candidate and sin against his conscience.
(8.4) It may be possible for Gopal to not vote for any candidate and be clear in his conscience.

(9) Questions:
(9.1) Is voting a scriptural command?
(9.1.1) One answer: Why Christians Are Not Morally Obligated to Vote by Joe Carter @ TGC (I am still reading this btw.)
(9.2) Is there a policy vs. peace dilemma? Must I get all the right policies at the expense of peace OR peace at the expense of policy?
(9.3) If there a dilemma such that to vote for A is to commit a sin against the conscience, WHILE to vote for B is to sin against the unborn? If so then how can voting be moral duty? How can sinning be a moral duty?
(9.4) James 4:17 – Is there a dilemma such that to vote is to commit a sin of commission (SoC) (per 9.3)WHILE to NOT vote is to commit a sin of omission (SoO)? BTW – My Short answer: No.
(9.4.1) While a SoC and a SoO might regard the same matter, they do not necessarily carry the same moral weighting.
(9.4.2) I am of the opinion that SoC’s and SoO’s cannot carry the same weightings because God is not in the business of making Buridan’s asses out of us!
(9.5) Could it be possible that to vote is to commit a SoC whereas to not vote is to avoid sin? 
(9.6) How does one vote if they have to decide between a pro-choice Gandhi and pro-life Hitler? or a Stalin and a Hitler?
(9.7) If voting is a command then does it mean that to not vote is to sin?
(9.8) How does one vote if there are two candidates, both of whom are pro-choice?
(9.9) Could it be possible that you urge someone to vote for a certain person, and they do so but they also sin against their conscience? 

The Long Hard Wait & Filled Waiting

~ At various junctures in the Bible, we find that there are certain people who are put in a position where they have to wait long and hard for something. It is interesting to consider some of these folks and what they experienced:

~ Abraham was told that he would have a son. It would be years… YEARS before Isaac arrives on the scene.

~ Rebecca is barren. Isaac then prays for 20 years until Jacob & Esau are born.

~ Joseph has dreams that he would one day be some kind of ruler and that his family would even bow before him. Little did he realize that he would even do years in a dungeon before he literally would see the light of day.

~ David is anointed as a youth by Samuel and told that he would be king. Yet it would take years before any of this would happen. In fact ~8-10 of those years would be spent in the wilderness on the run from Saul.

Ivan Meštrović -Moses – 1952 at Syracuse University (my alma btw)

~ Moses seems to have had a sense of destiny, while growing up in Egypt. This was that God was raising him up to free his people.

He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.” ~Acts 7:24-25

Yet, little did he realize that all this would begin when he was 80 years old!

~ Naomi while in Moab, struggled to wait on something, yea anything, good happening and basically lost all hope… I mean over the course of 10 years, her two sons and husband died. And what do you do next if you are Naomi? 

~ OT/NT: Between end of the Old Testament and the start of New Testament, i.e. Matthew – there is 400 years of silence. Yes, for 400 years, things are uneventful. Nothing is happening. If you are waiting for God-happenings… Well? Not much was happening until Immanuel is finally born.

When Jesus is born, He is taken to the temple. There you find Simeon and Anna waiting for the “Consolation of Israel” to be born.

Simeon and Anna in the Temple by Rembrandt (circa 1627)

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. . . .

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” ~Luke 2:25-26,36-27

My 2 cents worth:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ~ Ephesians 2:10

All waiting for the Lord is a filled waiting. This is to say that waiting on the Lord may seem long and hard, but when we are waiting on Him for something, then our waiting will be a filled waiting. It will not be like the waiting at the DMV or in a hospital waiting area where all you can do is scratch your head, stare at the faces of everyone else there and wonder what to do next. No rather, waiting on God is a productive waiting because He fills it with “good works” for you to do.  Anna is a prime example of this. She basically lived her life in the temple, praying and fasting day and night.

Like so with our lives. We will often find ourselves waiting a long time for something. Perhaps it will be for a job promotion or a college acceptance letter or the Covid-19 vaccine, etc. Yet all those times of waiting, if submitted to God, will be filled with good works. God will tee up good works up in Heaven above and then send them down to you in Earth below. Your wait will be filled. Your wait will be productive.

And yes it may still be long, yet it may not be so hard. There is always something to do.

Forms of Faith ~ jot this for now

~ This is some stuff I put together on paper. I need to keep thinking about it.  Its sort of a taxonomy of faith.

(1) Non-Religious (i.e. secular) faith & Religious faith: At a most basic level, both non-religious people (atheists included) and religious people have faith

Non-Religious faith consists of things such as 
(1.1) a scientist’s belief that atoms exists, even though s/he has never seen one or belief that the sun will rise again tomorrow (i.e. induction)
(1.2) having trust in a person (e.g. friend, spouse, co-worker) or even a pet that they will not fail you somehow (e.g. Jane is solid worker. I think she can finish on time.)

(2) Faith That God Exists: Then at another most basic level, you have faith at least that God exists. 

(2.1) Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

(2.2) Christian faith and non-Christian faith (e.g. Islam, Jainism, etc.) involve this (2) on some level.*

(3) Faith as a Body of Knowledge:  In considering (2.2), we can see that quite often a worldview or religion is spoken of as faith. So a Buddhist might say to a Muslim, “What is your faith? Mine is Buddhism.”

(3.1) Jude 3 – Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

(4) Saving Faith: This is when you repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross, and accept Him as your Lord and Savior.

(5) (Modes of) Living Faith: This is the faith that you exercise in daily life in order to get through life’s ups and downs

(5.1) Active & Passive Faith: You exercise active faith exercised when you have to actively do something. When God told Abraham to go “to the land that I will show you”, Abraham up and went. He trusted that God knew what He was talking about and that God would help him get there.  Passive faith is exercised is when the only thing that you can do really is wait. You are passive. So when God told Abraham that he would have a child of Promise, then all Abraham could do was wait – for years! 

(5.2) General & Specific Faith:  You exercise general faith when during a trial, you do not know what the specific outcome of the trial will be and so you fall back on things like God character, His goodness, His Promises and so on. You may not know if Rohit will get healed or not, but you can trust that God will do what is best. We see specific faith exercised in the story of the woman with bleeding – one of my favorite stories btw.

Matthew 9:21-22 – “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’   Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment.” 

~ This woman specifically knew what she wanted and specifically knew what the outcome would be. She did not reason to herself, by saying “If it be Jesus’s will, then I will be healed. If not, then not.” 

(5.3) Instantaneous & Continuous Faith:  Sometimes you exercise faith in one and only one instant in time and then get on with life. I call this instantaneous faith. 

John 5:49-53 – The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.”  The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.”  Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” 

On the flip side, sometimes you have to exercise faith continuously. 

Matthew 14:25-31 – Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. … Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

~ Peter had to keep his eyes on Jesus continuously.  Like so with the following incident:

Exodus 17:11 “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.”

~ There is also a parallel with prayer, which at a very basic level is an expression of faith. Some prayers you only need to pray once or maybe twice. Other prayers, you may pray for years or decades.  Note:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” Exodus 14:15

I.e. The Egyptians were closing in on the Israelites and Red Sea lay before them. Moses seems to have started to pray and the Lord was like, “Hello? Stop praying and get going.”

(5.4) Simple (i.e. childlike) & Complex Faith: The story, up above of the woman with bleeding, illustrates a childlike faith. My life … sheesh … on the other hand has been a tangle of complicated, complex faith. Both see results, its just that in the latter, you may stress out a lot more. (I need to think about this more.)

(5.5) Gift of Faith & the Grace of Faith (*): Some people have a special gift of faith. The rest of us have the grace of faith. I think that the gift of faith is super rare. This is one verse that describes the gift of faith:

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” ~ Mark 11:24

~ I like to call it proleptic faith, but this is a bit of a cumbersome term to some people. Alternatively prophetic faith describes it as well.

(*)Note: I picked up this particular distinction from George Müller (1805-1898) who claimed only to have the grace of faith. I think if you have the gift of faith, then you can exercise both the gift as well as the grace. However if you have the grace of faith, you can only exercise the gift on occasion. 

(5.6) Communal/Social Faith vs. Individual Faith … still thinking about this

Grace & Graciousness

“To whom much is given, much will be required.” ~ Luke 12:48 

There is a certain irony that I have observed on the internet. On blogs, forums, social media posts, etc., where I see grace discussed, I see people getting into some pretty heated arguments. The irony consists in this ~~~> these folks cannot seem to be able to prove their points concerning grace in a manner that is gracious.

Oddly enough they don’t seem to understand how grace relates to graciousness. If one truly understands grace, with both head and heart, then they will be gracious. Why? Because graciousness is an outflow of grace.

What is graciousness? It has to do with being patient, longsuffering, kind, persevering, gentle, and so on.

To the folks who argue one view of grace over another, my question is the following: Which one of you thinks that he or she has a better understanding of grace? Because if you have a greater understanding of grace, then you demonstrate that understanding primarily by way of graciousness and secondarily by way of fine argumentation.

                 Graciousness is proportional to Grace!

Another ∠ um… angle. Previously I blogged about how God is gracious to us when we make mistakes, errors, flubs, goofs, gaffes, solecisms (huh?) and so on.  If grace super-super-abounds when we err, then ought we not also to be gracious to others when they err? That is if their theology is filled with erroneous ideas?

Grace En Route to Tarshish

~ The Word of the Lord came to Jonah, telling him to go to the great city of Nineveh and to preach there. Jonah instead decided to flee from his charge and boarded a ship heading for Tarshish (likely southwest Spain). En Route to Tarshish, a violent storm breaks out on the sea, and the sailors cast lots to determine if anyone has been responsible for bringing this trouble upon them. The lot falls upon Jonah who then relays to the crew, that he is running from God and that were they to throw him overboard, the storm would subside and the sea would calm down. 

The Prophet Jonah Before the Walls of Nineveh – by Rembrandt

Here goes the story, in part:

Then the sailors said to each other, ‘Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.’ They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, ‘Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?’

He answered, ‘I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.’ 10 This terrified them and they asked, ‘What have you done?’ (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?’ 12 ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea,’ he replied, ‘and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.’

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, ‘Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.’ 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

~ Sooooeee…

In my last post, I had written about the role of grace when sin and error abounded. What I basically said was that if grace super-abounded, when sin abounded, then how much more would grace super-super-abound when error abounded.  By error, I meant things like mistakes, accidents, goof-ups, and so on.  All of these are the sorts of things that do not have the same moral status as sin and yet something has wrong and this something could spell trouble.

And so – in the above story, what we see from the point of view of the sailors is a glaring error in the making. The sailors are told by Jonah that if they want the storm to calm down, then they ought to throw him overboard. However how can they do this? They could be throwing him out into his own death.

What if they throw him overboard and instead God gets even angrier and strikes them down with a bolt of lightning? No. They could not do this so they try to row to land even harder. The tempest however only rages more and gets worse. 

So finally and most reluctantly the sailors throw Jonah overboard. They realize that this could be the biggest mistake of their lifetimes and that they could pay for this with their lives, but… but they say a prayer and throw the guy overboard. And, And, And?

And? Grace abounds. The sea calms down. 

~ Sometimes in life, we reach certain junctures where we just do not know what to do. In spite of doing everything we can do to come to a decision, we still do not know what to do. And it seems like if we just go ahead and make a decision one way or the other, then things just might go south on us. So what do we do? We pray and bite the bullet. Our salvation (lower case ‘s’, btw) in such a situation is that we have handed it over to God in prayer. We have put our situation, our decision and ourselves into His hands and if we have made a mistake, then we are asking for grace in return.  We pray and we act and then wait for grace. 

When Grace Goes Supernova!

~ The following is a rewrite of something that I have written before, however with many changes.

“But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” ~ Romans 5:20

The apostle Paul uses the word abounded twice in the above. However in the Greek, the words are different. He is actually trying to say something like,

“where sin abounded (πλεονάζω), grace superabounded (ὑπερπερισσεύω) so much more”.

Now the thought is:  There are sins and there are errors. We commit both. Yet both are not the same thing. Sins are generally intentional. Errors are not. Sins also are generally against God and others, whereas errors – well, these just happen. Finally, there can be dire consequences to sin even if we are forgiven. Errors however? Maybe. Maybe not. Errors just happen. They just are.

Now I would like to suggest something. If grace super-abounds when sin abounds, then what of it, when errors, mistakes, screw-ups, blunders, miscalculations, etc. abound? The latter are after all not sin and yet sometimes they can be quite alarming.  The answer I submit is the following:

—> Where errors (goof-ups, mistakes, accidents, etc) abound, grace super-super-abounds – two supers!

Knowing myself, before the end of the week, I will screw up somewhere. I will makes some unintentional mistake somewhere. We all will. To err is human after all. If we submit our errors to God, then grace will be poured out. Everything will work out just fine. This has proven to be true to me with a car accident, other traffic blunders, accidentally saying foolish things to people, financial miscalculations, taking the wrong turn on a road, workplace snafus, and so on. Upon prayer, things have worked out for me just fine 100% of the time. Seriously.  Grace did not simply abound, but it super-super abounded. It went supernova on my life. Amen! Thanks  be to God who gives us the victory in Christ Jesus!

Those Who Trust in the Lord – Devotion

Mount Horeb aka Sinai - Courtesy Wiki

Mount Horeb aka Sinai – Courtesy Wiki

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion
which cannot be shaken but endures forever.
~ Psalm 125:1

Psalm 125 mentions an interesting mountain.  It is interesting to note that this mountain is not one of the many familiar mountains mentioned so often in the Bible in various places. Its not Mount Sinai. Its not Mount Hermon, Gerizim, Carmel, etc. No. This is a very different and unique mountain compared to all those. In fact, it is not even like many of the this-worldy mountains that we are familiar with. Its not like Mount Everest. Its not like Mount Fuji, Olympus, Pikes Peak, Mount McKinley, Ranier, or even that daunting mocker, El Capitan.

No. This mountain is Mount Zion and there none like it. It is a mountain that cannot be shaken! You look at the Himalayas – those ancient warriors standing shoulder to shoulder – majestic, rugged, wise, fearless. What fortitude! What strength! Yet they cannot compare to Mount Zion, for given enough time the Himalayas can be shaken and will crumble.

So?

So look at what the Psalmist says about Mount Zion as compared to God’s people. The Psalmist says that “those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever!” When you trust in God, you have a strength that is stronger, mightier, more powerful, more far reaching and higher than any of the world’s mountains. Mount Everest is nothing. McKinley is stubble. Olympus is rubble. Your faith in God however – it mocks El Capitan.

When we see all these mountains we marvel. Yet the Psalmist sees God’s people and marvels. Why? Because for all of the grandeur, majesty, power and strength that these towering peaks have been endowed with, they are nothing when compared to who we are when our trust is the Lord God Almighty! So trust in the Lord! Move the mountains in your life.

Mount Everest amidst the Himalayas – Courtesy Wiki

“I tell you the truth,
if you have faith
as small as a mustard seed,
you can say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there’
and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you”
(Matthew 17:20).

~ Revised on Sept 2/20

Astro-Ecclesiology

Kepler’s Supernova Remnant

~ Some whiles back, I was reading the the last book in the Bible, book of Revelation. The book is filled with all sorts of symbolism. Take for example, the following verse, in Revelation, chapter 1:16

“In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  . . . “

Stars in Revelation are symbolic of angels, angels who represent churches.

~ This got me thinking about Astronomy, about stuff that I read years ago about how stars form and die.  This is generally speaking how stars form:

~ A star forms when nebula and all sorts of stellar stuff collects. This stuff which comes together then starts to go through cycles of expansion and collapse. We call the process of expansion, fusion and when this happens, all the starry dust, clouds and elements starts expanding outward. Now after a certain amount of expansion, the reverse, i.e. collapse starts to take place. This is the result of gravity pulling everything back inward. These cycles of expansion and collapse go on and on for ages.

And as this expansion and collapse takes place, the star overall increases in size. Its like a baseball growing in size, then collapsing inward and when it expands out again, its becomes a basketball, and then when the cycle repeats itself, it becomes a beach ball and so on.

Star Death: Two Ways to Die

Question: Now what happens when a star stops expanding and only keeps collapsing?

~ It becomes a white dwarf and then a black dwarf and then dies out… Obsolescence. Death.

Second Question:  What happens when a star stops collapsing and only keeps expanding?

~ It goes supernova. It explodes and debris gets scattered all over the Universe. I.e. Death.

Now here is my oddball thought:

~ Churches are like stars. They go through cycles of expansion, i.e. outreach and “collapse”, i.e. discipleship. Outreach can be various things that get the people out of the doors of the church, where they tell others about God or pass out blankets to the poor and so on. Discipleship involves various things like coming together for Bible study or prayer or a Sunday morning service and so on.

Outreach done well involves putting into practice what you learn in Discipleship. Discipleship done well involves the end goal of outreach.

Dark Matter

That said… Some dark matter …

Too much discipleship can result in an ingrown church. It can become a holy huddle. On the flip side, too much outreach, can result in a church that is shallow. The church can even become a supernova sized church that too eventually dies out.

~ Disclaimer: This is just an general illustration that can only be pressed so far.

Also… The Good News about Jesus Christ:  Two Ways to Live

Newtonian Mechanics~ John Newton quote

Philippians 4:8 says…

~ So here is a 4:8 thought to meditate upon:

“Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee
   bring;
For His grace and pow’r are
   such,
None can ever ask for too
   much.”
– John Newton

~ Because what kind of a person enters into the presence of the King of Kings & Lord of Lords and only asks for a bag of peanuts?

Ichthys Unbound

~ Just made this, this weekend. I originally tried to make this with a man – Jonah in the middle of the theta, but that did not work out… So this is it.

Oh and of course …

Ichthys is that fish thingy that we often see on the back of car bumpers.

It basically is a Greek acronym dating from the first century that stands for the following:

Iesous Christos Theou Yios Soter,

i.e. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

 

Identity Again –

~ Work on this later… 

Identity is tangibly visible or intangibly invisible depending on the context.

An Amish person may feel at a sense of loss as to who he or she is in the Amish Community, however when out on the streets of New York City, they sure know who they are. In the former case, the Amish person’s identity cannot be felt and therefore feels invisible. In the latter, it is their identity is quite tangible and visible.

Identity is born of a sense of sameness and difference.

Identity born of sameness is strongly tied into a sense of belonging. I belong here. I am like these people. This is where I come from. I and we have much in common.

Identity born of difference cannot be felt unless you are removed from your hailing group and put in quite a different group. 

So in some sense everyone has identity. What they want is to be able to feel it. Additionally, what they also want is to experience a difference within themselves among the community of sameness.

 

Jean Cauvin on Genesis

The following is an excerpt from Jean Calvin’s Commentary on Genesis – Chap. 15. I need to think about it later.

8.Lord God, whereby shall I know. It may appear absurd, first, that Abram, who before had placed confidence in the simple word of God, without moving any question concerning the promises given to him, should now dispute whether what he hears from the mouth of God be true or not.

Secondly, that he ascribes but little honor to God, not merely by murmuring against him, when he speaks, but by requiring some additional pledge to be given him.

Further, whence arises the knowledge which belongs to faith, but from the word?

Therefore Abram in vain desires to be assured of the future possession of the land, while he ceases to depend upon the word of God.

I answer, the Lord sometimes concedes to his children, that they may freely express any objection which comes into their mind. For he does not act so strictly with them, as not to suffer himself to be questioned.

Yea, the more certainly Abram was persuaded that God was true, and the more he was attached to His word, so much the more familiarly did he disburden his cares into God’s bosom.

To this may be added, that the protracted delay was no small obstacle to Abram’s faith. For after God had held him in suspense through a great part of his life, now when he was worn down with age, and had nothing before his eyes but death and the grave, God anew declares that he shall be lord of the land. He does not, however, reject, on account of its difficulty, what might have appeared to him incredible, but brings before God the anxiety by which he is inwardly oppressed.

And therefore his questioning with God is rather a proof of faith, than a sign of incredulity. The wicked, because their minds are entangled with various conflicting thoughts, do not in any way receive the promises, but the pious, who feel the impediments in their flesh, endeavor to remove them, lest they should obstruct the way to God’s word; and they seek a remedy for those evils of which they are conscious.

It is, nevertheless, to be observed, that there were some special impulses in the saints of old, which it would not now be lawful to draw into a precedent. For though Hezekiah and Gideon required certain miracles, this is not a reason why the same thing should be attempted by us in the present day; let it suffice us to seek for such confirmation only as the Lord himself according to his own pleasure, shall judge most eligible.

Francois Stuerhelf’s Portrait of Jean Calvin (1600)

I am interested in what Calvin says about God’s concession. This is important bec we are to “reason with God” in our prayers. It seems that sometimes prayer involves making a case before God. This seems to be the case often in the Scriptures as we see the Psalmist or Abraham or Amos or Isaiah, often doing this.

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” ~ Isaiah 1:18

However if you think about it – what argument can we feeble humans produce before God that is surely a “winner”!?!

Zip.

However God is gracious and in spite of our bad arguments, He sometimes actually obliges. This may be because our very act of turning to God in prayer and with our minds is an act of faith that pleases Him.

“Wisdom is Associated With Action.”

“Wisdom is associated with action.” ~ K. Lawson Younger

~ I heard the above Prof say this somewhere years ago and I want to now process it.

My thoughts: Turn where you want in the Bible, especially the Wisdom literature (Psalms, Proverbs, Eccles. etc.) and you will find that wisdom is associated with action and laziness with inaction. 

Through laziness, the rafters sag;    because of idle hands, the house leaks. ~ Eccles. 10:18

    or 

The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;       he will seek at harvest and have nothing. ~ Proverbs 20:4

Wisdom is not associated with the remote control.  It is not associated with the gaming console. It is not associated with sleeping in or procrastinating or binging on this or that.  Wisdom from Genesis to Revelation – from the OT to the NT is associated with action.

There is nothing wrong with watching a good movie or the latest Giants game and or simply getting some much needed R&R. However if you are doing this 24×7, you are not wise. 

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13

Wisdom is associated with action. 

~ Next Steps:

What are the actions that you need to take in life? Etc… What are your priorities… What do you need to get done THIS particular day? List it out. 

Etc.

Yitron is . . .

… is a word that that I have had on my mind quite a bit, of late. It is a word that is used about 6 times in the book of Ecclesiastes. It means something like “profit”, “benefit”, “advantage” or “gain”. Its like asking one self, “What do I gain by all this labor that I am involved in?” or “What have I really gained by doing all this work?” or “Of what value … ” etc. And we are not simply talking in terms of $$$.

~ I am still processing it a good bit. So in the mean whiles I made this . . .

Identity is Golden

I have done a bunch of writing on Identity. These have been born out of my own struggles with the issue. During these times, I have never really liked it when well-meaning people have said stuff to me like “You are a child of God.” or “Your identity is in Christ.”

Like I get all of that, but what do I do with that? I mean just who am I?

I think that I have hit upon something that helps me illustrate my issue here ~~~> gold.

Gold Bars – photo courtesy Wikipedia

A gold bar is beautiful. It is shines. It gleams. It sparkles. It is pure value. It is something to behold.

However a gold bar can just sit still in a dark vault in a bank and gather dust. It can just simply sit in a person’s safe and be forgotten through most of the day.

Yes. It has value. Yes. Its is lovely. Indeed, it is something to behold. Yet – it can also just sit quietly in a dark and cold room, doing nothing. Its identity is in being golden.

If you talk to the gold bar however, it would probably tell you that it does not simply want to be golden. It does not simply want to sit in a bank vault. No, rather it wants to take on shape. It was to be molded. It want to be something more than a yellow rectangular solid, though with a sparkle.

A gold bar want to be a necklace. It want to become a pair of ear-rings. It wants to be shaped into a vase perhaps. Or perhaps even some sort of implement like a fork or spoon or knife.

It wants to do more than just be a sitting beauty.

Other stuff I’ve written on this: Identity in Christ and a Possible Illustration – Tilapias!

Mucha Hullabaloo About Nearly Nothing (CB2L8R)

“But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” ~ Romans 5:20

~ There are sins and there are errors. We commit both. Yet both are not the same thing. Sins are generally intentional. Errors are not. Additionally, they are different in that former are generally against God whereas the latter – well, these just happen.

What is an error anyway?

If I am not mistaken, an error refers to such things as accidents, flubs, glubs, goofs, gaffs, gaffes, glitches, oversights, snafus, blunders, missteps and so on. It comprises of all kinds of stuff from jejune booboos to sophisticated solecisms.

So these errors… flubs, glubs, goofs… These are not deliberate. They just happen sometimes. Sin on the other hand, does not just happen. And futhermore, they are not against God or anyone or anybody. They are … they just are.

Yet the verse above tells us that where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more. It does not talk about errors. If you go behind the scenes and look at the greek, you will notice something curious. The two words for abounded are not the same. The second word translated as abounded is much stronger than the first. So really a better translation would be “where sin abounded, grace superabounded.”

What the apostle is getting at is that there is no sin that grace cannot triumph over. If Original Sin was the first word, then grace had the last and decisive word. If Flo, Joe and Moe commit some dastardly sins, a dastardly number of times, then grace can take care of it all, all of the times. What sins have you committed? There is grace for that no matter how bad and how many. You need only repent and turn to God. However… I digress.

Sin is not what I want to discuss here. Err is. Snafus and the like are more the topic at hand right now. And so, my thought is of the following sort:

If grace abounds where sin is found, then then how much more can we say that grace will abound when error is found. Grace covers us, not just when we sin, but so also when we misjudge, miscalculate. It steps right in when we commit slip-ups, botchups, and screwups. It leaps to the fore when we stumble and tumble, fumble and bungle and of course it does not stay silent when we utter everything from shushed away faux pas to riotous/glaring howlers.

I mean if grace superabounds when sin is around, then surely grace super-superabounds when err is around.


The next time you make some kind of mistake, goof-up, screw-up, error etc., just pray and leave it in God’s hands. Then watch what happens. You will find that grace will abound. Its always proven true for me again and again and again. So keep faith and wait for grace.

Application:

~ And also – be patient when others make mistakes, errors and such. Remember how gracious God is. Don’t forget.

_ . ~ Strong Hearts ~ . _

~ The following is something scrappy that I tacked on to a mass email that I sent out to a bunch of friends. I think it comes from making one too many visits to the hospital, both for myself and others. 

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). 

The new heart that our Lord gives us is unlike anything else that we have.  Consider – This is a heart that . . . 

This is a heart that pumps out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…  

This is a heart that causes – not simply blood and oxygen to course up and down our arteries – but better yet, it causes all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise to course up and down our entire selves.  

This is a heart that causes faith, hope and love to circulate within our body and within the Body.  

This is a heart that pumps out both blood and water – blood to justify, water to sanctify. (HT: Puritan Thomas Watson)  

This is a heart that is forever new because it is given to us by the Spirit who makes all things new. Forever new. Forever young. 

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things” (1 Tim: 4:8). 

Though the rest of our body – our joints, muscles, bones, arms, legs – will eventually age and fail, this heart will never age nor fail. When we are physically at our oldest, this heart will be at its youngest. When we are at our weakest, it will be at its strongest. This heart that we have will keep running even after we have fallen asleep in the Lord. 

Ever see the movie Chariots of Fire, where the missionary Eric Liddell runs that one race so hard that at the end of it he just collapses and falls? Though the race is over and his body stopped, what is still running? His heart.  

This heart will keep running all also – all the way to Heaven.  

So tend to it now for it will tend to you tomorrow. Take care of it today and it will take care of all your tomorrows. 

 “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Eudora Welty is interesting… Reading in Exile w/ Russell Moore

Eudora Welty

~ When the pandemic ends, I will have to look into this.  The thought provoker is at about [6:20] and concerns  a book on writing, On Writing by the American novelist and short story writer, Eudora Welty (1909-2001).

My notes for [6:20+ish] are down below… What is being said is interesting… but when the libraries open up, then I hope to check out the book to see exactly what is being said…  In the meantime…

 

 On Eudora Welty:
… I would recc … the section must the Novelist Crusade ... because she makes a really good point in there where she says:

That a plot is more unsettling than any argument and that immersion in a plot is more transformative than syllogisms competing.

RM: “That’s exactly right and that’s why the Bible is inspired that way as a plotline.”

Even when you get to the more syllogistic sounding more logical sounding expositions say in the letters of Paul those are all pointing you to the plotline and making arguments that show you how to fit into the plotline that God has, that God has revealed in Jesus Christ and that is Jesus Christ.

He is the plot line.

I found that there are a lot of people who have a sort of Stalinist view of art which is the idea that art ought to simply be a container for whatever the argument is that one wants to make which is why there are people who will say “Oh well I won’t read Wendell Berry because I disagree with his views on ______fill-in-the-blank______” or “Oh I really don’t want to read Faulkner because of the defective views that he had on race” or so forth

What she’s arguing here is that writing is not meant to make an argument so much as writing is to reveal feeling both good and bad.

A Surreal Pandemic

~ I just made this grim picture… Decided not to finish it.  Ehhh… I was going to comment elsewhere on a blog, but I could not get my thoughts together so… thought I would drop them there. So anyway…

Its so hard to believe that all this is really happening and has happened. The pandemic that is. When I watch the news, when I read about New York City on a blog, when I think about the fact that I am at church virtually, when I … when I …  it is all so strange.  A sense of the surreal permeates everything.  I guess I still have not come to terms with this.

Should I go throw out the garbage or not. If I go, then I better not forget to put on my gloves, because I have to open that bin and throw it in. And what if I run into someone as I walk there? I better remember to keep 6 feet distance… Its all so unreal. I am not sure how to absorb all this as yet.

Then there are those other thoughts.  Better ones.. Interesting ones

As I read about NYC or strangely enough even caught an episode of Seinfeld yesterday, I felt a longing of sorts. I grew up in Central NY (CNY). Much of NY state apart from NYC is very rural and its is gold. NY state is just beautiful. If anyone has ever heard the hymn, “This is my Father’s world” by Maltbie Babcock (1858-1901), then they have read a description of CNY. The song came to him while hiking around CNY. He was just so taken by the grandeur and beauty of all that he saw that he wrote the song.

~ What I am trying to say…

A little bit of the country and the city lives inside of us. We live our lives as Eden Interrupted and Old Jerusalem corrupted. The world is fallen. It is kaput kaput broken. The longings we have in this broken world really speak to another world. A better world… A world of rest and relief. The garden and the city will one day come together in Zion, the New Jerusalem.  

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is now with people, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

~ Revelation 21

Until then…

Don That Mask

~ If you have one . . .

Like everyone under the sun above the age of say 5, I have been pretty jolted by the pandemic.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” ~ Phil. 4:6