Saturday, July 30, 2016

Talk amongst yourselves.....If God knew, then why?

In the last couple of months, both of my kids have asked me variations on this question at completely different times and completely independent of the other knowing about it.  Basically, the question goes something like this. 

"Dad, if God knew that Adam and Eve/humans were going to choose sin and all this evil was going to happen in the world, why did he still choose to make them?" or "Why didn't he stop it from happening the way it did in the garden?" 

I gave responses and part of my responses included that we have to acknowledge that some of these questions are not things that we have answers to right now.  However, I did try to give some thoughts to them.  I am curious what your thoughts are....I will probably throw my answers in toward the end, but you know the drill.  Please participate on facebook in the comments section of the link and I will transfer all answers back to the blog when we are done talking about it.  Hoping for some good interaction. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Romans 1-4 Intro to God and Salvation Stuff

First, some external things to consider about Romans.  It is the one place that we know for certain, Paul had not visited yet at the time he wrote the letter(Colossians may also be an example.  We are not sure.).  This may be one of the reason for one of the defining characteristics of Romans.  Unlike the other letters, it does not really spend much time on specific issues going on within the church, but it is known instead to be a very thorough explanation of many of the foundational truths regarding our Christian faith.  Because of this, it also serves as a great introduction to the later material in the New Testament.

Paul seems to lay out well what he perceives to be his mission in verses 4,5, and 6 of chapter 1.

and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ

We will return to that at the end of these posts.  Romans 1 proceeds to point out the sad story of humanity and how it refuses to acknowledge God as the one true God.  There is, of course, the well known statements regarding homosexuality in chapter 1.  I'm not going to camp out here except to point out an interesting thing that I noticed.  In verse 24, notice the word therefore, and in verse 26 the phrase for this reason, and in verse 28 and since they did not.  These words and phrases tell us that it was because they refused to acknowledge God as God that these things came upon them.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

My point in pointing this out is not to single out these individual people, but it is rather to point out that it seems to me that when we uncouple from the most basic linchpin of reality, other extremely fundamental linchpins will inevitably follow such as who we are designed by God to be attracted to and, as is increasingly seen in our culture, the very idea of there being self evident identity attached to gender. It is as though a tether has snapped and we are adrift. Certainly, the ongoing reality that we are all too familiar with deserves a post of its own, but today is not that day.

In chapter 2, Paul goes on to zig when you thought he might zag.  Just as he points out the tragedy of unrepentant, fallen humanity, he points to self-righteous judges.  The key I believe in understanding this and many of Paul's switches back and forth is to anticipate what people are thinking as they read his letter.  For instance, you can hear religious leaders cheering him on as his reaches his crescendo in chapter 1 and then he silences them (and everyone) in chapter 2.  The crucial point here to me is that it is incredibly easy to be deluded into thinking that just because you have some profound insights into morality, spirituality, and God that you are officially in some "other" category from the masses.  Knowing and living it out are two very different things.  Paul makes it clear that we are ALL in the category of chapter 1. This is the first distinction Paul makes. Those who know compared with those who do, even in some cases when they have limited knowledge.  So what good is it to "know"?  Oh, says Paul, it makes a big difference, BUT, at the end of the day...

10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14     “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 As Paul progresses in chapter 3, he makes it clear that even people who are genuinely trying to do good and right will never be good enough or right enough in and of themselves because we are all at our core fallen, corrupted, and rebels.  However, there is a way to be made right with God.........Paul just needs to take some time here, and it WILL get revisited again later, that the way is NOT BY WORKS OF THE LAW  (works of the law simply refers to earning salvation by being a good enough follower of the law).

Once again in chapter 4, Paul anticipates an objection of someone asking, "Well what about all that stuff with God interacting with Abraham and setting the stage for the whole covenant thing??  Are you just blowing that off?"

It is at this point that Paul masterfully USES the very accounts in scripture to point out that the Old Testament or Hebrew scriptures actually is the very thing that points to the righteousness that God provides.  He and other New Testament writers use this technique many times to make it clear that, not only are we not to "blow off" the Old Testament, but it is the very place we can often find the greatest clarity and be awe struck by the genius nature of the God of the universe's plan to save whosoever will.

More to come...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Revisiting the Why

I feel the need to express what the main reasons are that I write this blog.

First, allow me to voice what I believe can be some understandably wrong ideas about what I am trying to do or why I am writing it. 

I do not want to give people the impression that I am not struggling with my own issues.  There are many things that I discuss on this blog specifically because writing about them helps me to think more carefully and clearly about stuff that I am struggling with.  When I state what I am in the process of learning from Scriptures or life in general, it is not intended to give an impression of great scholarly study (have you read my blog), but it is to show that even a truck driver can access deep and powerful truths within the Bible and by the help of the Holy Spirit throughout every day life.  Therefore, if I, the truck driver, can access these insights, anyone can.  Or...more specifically, you can. 

Also, understand this, I struggle with sin. I have shared some personal info about this, and I have been working through how to share a bit more of my personal story, but I just want to make it clear that another conclusion that should not be reached because of my uber willingness to focus almost exclusively on spiritual and Scriptural topics is that I am therefore implying that I do not struggle with sin.  This entire post makes me uncomfortable because of the degree to which the word "I" has been used.  It is not my intention to craft this blog as a voice for only my insights but I also want to spotlight others including the thoughts of any who frequent the blog. I have, however, felt a push to give my thoughts some context.  That context will be a few posts that are forthcoming regarding the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful about my life up until this point.  In these posts, I will spend some time exploring my past, important people in my life, and my present.  I bring this up now to say that if you are under the impression that I am seeking to point to myself as someone who is "holier than thou" and a faker, you are free to hold to that opinion but please know that I know who I am, and a crucial part of who I am is who I was.  God is unbelievably gracious in dealing with my failings now, but what really blows me away is how gracious He is at not bringing up my past nose dives.  That being said, one of the biggest things that sobers me up when I am feeling a bit "holier than whomever" is a short remembrance of who I am when I am not even trying to follow Christ.  I promise you it ain't pretty.  Just know that I know how profoundly screwed up I was, and I also know that I am still struggling with sin.  Just because I don't make this blog into a full on national enquirer expose on "Dennis--What Crap did he do and What Crap is he doing even now!",  doesn't mean I am not aware of that.  This is not Jerry Springer; I ain't Catholic, and you are not my priest. 

OK, enough of that. 

Why am I writing this?

1. It helps me to sort through my thoughts more carefully and clearly when I sit down and actually write about it.  Writing about it officially puts it "out there" for all to see and therefore, writing about it is a way to push my self to think more carefully and express my thoughts more concisely.  This helps me when I am later talking about some things because I already have my mental ducks in a least, on a few things.  :)

2.  I want to give some of these posts as a gift to my kids.  It will be sort of like a snap shot of how I saw the world at the time when I was writing the given post, and by the time they are old enough to care, it will be a snap shot from quite some time ago.  (I did my first blog post two months before Ella was born.)  I am hoping it will give them something concrete to consider as they themselves are sorting through some of these same issues.

3.  I want those closest to me to have a way to know my thoughts.  Myndall is the primary person in this category, but I/we have also been blessed with an incredibly large number of family that we are close to and an amazing array of friends who I cannot and would not want to imagine living life without.  However, life is insanity and slow, meaningful chats over a cup of coffee happens far too infrequently for any of us(including Myndall and I).  Therefore, this is a way to have a more continuous meaningful conversation in spite of the insanity.  I will still probably be drinking coffee.  You may imbibe the beverage of your choice.  :)

That's pretty much it. 

Smooches and sunshine