Sunday, July 17, 2016

Gold, Silver, Wood, Clay

I recently encountered a question about Noah.

People debate about many things from the Bible. How do we work together?

Second Timothy chapter 2 is helpful in this conversation. At least that's what I think.

God bless you all, in Jesus' name.

----------------------------

Here's an answer I gave to the person who asked the question.
I believe that once we can see the person of Jesus as unique, in an absolutely universal way, that all our other questions and answers in regard to God and the Bible move to a secondary plane. Truth is that we'll never get clarity on some of those questions or answers.

Faith isn't something that comes out of any reasoning or understanding. It comes as we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ and say "I can't do or believe anything to help myself." Jesus knew this so he came into our world to save every confused person (like me). Once we're clear that Jesus is the center and everything and everyone else can only be seen in His Light, then we can go ahead and have stress free conversations about Biblical history.

If we don't get clear on Jesus first, then 2 Timothy 2:14 applies. Handling the word of truth accurately (2 Tim. 2:15) means keeping Jesus in the center. That's it. Everything else is of lesser value, and, in a sense, of optional understanding. 2 Tim. 20-21 speaks of this. We need to keep clear of the second order questions (everything but Jesus) until we're clear on the absolute grace and total mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Then we can go ahead and use those "wood and clay" vessels.
What do you think?

equalsharing.com

Monday, July 11, 2016

1 down, 9 to go

posted in Heywood Garage driver room
Praise Jesus! He has shepherded me and others through a full year with no "responsible accidents." A responsible accident is hitting anything or anyone or having someone fall in your bus if it's determined that the driver could have avoided it. I got a pin and a certificate. No extra money. Ha!  ;)

Year #1 for me! I'm going for 5 years and then 10. I'm planning on staying with this job until I'm 70, one day at a time.

The safety manager asked me, this morning, as he does to all safe operators, "What's your secret?" The grace of God. Plus not letting myself be pushed to do anything unsafe. Plus amazingly heightened awareness. Once again, Praise Jesus! It means a lot to get through the first year. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunrise on Durphee

It's 5 AM on the last day of vacation.

Father God, I praise and thank you for the sweetness of this time away from the normal responsibilities of life. I praise you for the way you are leading us now to new adventures in trusting you and your ways. You, Jesus, are always our sunrise. Spirit, you always lead us forward. Thank you.

-----------------------

It's now just after 5:30 and I looked at the "My Utmost for His Highest" devotion for the day. It couldn't be more perfectly timed. http://utmost.org/the-spiritually-lazy-saint/



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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Vacation Joy (with Backstories)

Slightly revised from what was originally posted.

The Dahlin Cabin on Durphee Lake
I last wrote (on July 2) from my uncle Glen and aunt Betty's cabin on Big Sandy Lake in Minnesota. On Saturday I drove from there to another cabin, the one I've mentioned many times before on this blog over the years. It's about 10 miles south of Hayward, Wisconsin on Durphee Lake and been in my wife Toni's family for 50 years. Toni and I have been here for a week or more every year since the 1980s.

Grandkids & Grandparents
at the Durphee Lake cabin
Our kids love this place. So does Toni's whole extended family. This week we had up to 20 people here, but now all our kids and grandkids have gone home. It's very quiet, and the quiet has a charm of its own.

I'm very thankful for this time away: playing games, relaxing in the water and on the shore, enjoying the children and one another, and lots of good food. A couple of us got out on the sailboat a bit too -- that's one of my favorite things.

As this vacation time winds down I realize, once again, what a privilege it is for us to be able to be here. Many people don't have places to get away to, and many don't have families that they really want to be away with. Once again, I thank God for this time.

One thing I thought I'd be doing during this vacation was to continue study of some of the deeper things of God so I can do some writing. When I've been out for a couple short runs in the morning, I've have managed to listened to a couple more hours of the lectures I mentioned last Saturday. But when it came to reading, I got sidetracked by a book with an extremely provocative title. 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End.

I do like history, so that's something that would draw me to it, but it's not a book that I would have chosen on my own. I only have it because it was in a little backpack that was found on one of the buses I drove sometime in the last few weeks. [Note added July 17 - when I got home from the cabin I found the lost and found tag. It was dated May 18, my birthday.] I turned the backpack into lost and found, but, because no one claimed it, I had the option of taking it for myself. I did, and found the book inside.

Perhaps it was God's way of pointing me to a subject that I haven't thought about much. I made my way through the book this week, between times playing with the grandkids and helping with a few chores. And, as I read, I was reminded that vacation cabins like this have a backstory, a backstory from the time before any of them were built.

from native-languages.org/states
This cabin, and so many others, are build on land was opened up for "whites" (like me) during the late 1800s. Until around the time that is described in 38 Nooses, the land that is now the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin was the homeland of various Native American people groups (tribes).

Here's a map that shows where those tribes lived after the Europeans began to arrive, but before treaties pushed them onto reservations.

The treaties are old history, but they are really a key part of what allowed cabins like this to be built. The "1842 Treaty of La Pointe" (such a long time ago!) established many reservations in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota--including the "Lac Courte Oreilles" reservation, so close to this cabin. That same treaty established the "Sandy Lake Indian Reservation" on land that is now owned by my aunt and uncle and many other cabin owners. That Indian Reservation was erased by the federal government in 1889 and the land opened up for white settlement. 

It's sobering to consider how many of our beloved homes and cabins are sitting on land that was, at one time, the home of Ojibwe (a.k.a. Chippewa), Dakota (a.k.a. Sioux), and other Indian people. My ancestors, white settlers all, followed traders, missionaries and explorers onto land that was already occupied by other people.

Today we don't think about those people, or this history. Or, when we do think of them, we think of Casinos and treaty rights connected with fishing. It's good for us to know a little bit more.

The period of time described in 38 Nooses (the 1860s) is a part of the historical back-story for the peaceful and privileged week that we've had here at the cabin this week. It's not a pleasant story. It's actually a story of what we would probably call terrorism if it happened today. Terror came down on both settler and native.
Here's a quick summary of the story that's told in the book:

The United States government's neglect of treaty obligations in the early to middle 1860s brought many natives to the point of starvation and despair. Some Dakota Indian men, we don't know just how many, went out to get rid of the settlers who were occupying the lands that were now closed to them--perhaps thinking they could drive other whites out with fear. Several dozen Dakota plundered, raped and murdered. Several hundred white men, women and children were killed in the area near the Minnesota River. It was horrible.

The U.S. government's response was horrible too. 38 of the the Dakota men were hung in Mankato. Some were innocent. Meanwhile, almost all the Dakota men, women and children in Minnesota were forced into concentration camps, the largest being at Fort Snelling. And then soldiers went out to get violent revenge while plans were made to push all those "evil Sioux" out of the state. Most were eventually sent west to reservations on land no one else wanted. In the end most were forced to give up their way of life.
Some on each side did what they could to prevent violence. There were some heroes. But many more, for one reason or another, joined in the killing or at least applauded those who sought revenge. Fear and hatred reigned. Sadly, some of what was done to the natives, especially in taking away their way of life, was done in the name of the Christian church.

The truth is that much of what we descendants of settlers take for granted in the United States came to be out of a history of violence, racism and revenge. It's not what white Minnesotans prefer to think about during a vacation week, but this history, and the other incomparably painful racial histories that are still with us, do mark us profoundly. Though it was a loss for whoever left their backpack and book on my bus, I'm grateful I was invited, in that way, to read 38 Nooses. Maybe even especially when we're on vacation we should be remembering the backstory of our joy.

Fortunately, there is a bigger backstory, a story that brings redemption and forgiveness to the smaller stories of our individual and family histories. Here are three paragraphs abridged from a section of The Christian Frame of Mind, a book I've been studying in depth.
The redemption of the universe is the bearing of the Cross upon the way things actually are. It represents the refusal of God to remain aloof from the disintegration in what he has made, or merely to act upon it "at a distance."

Through the incarnation of His Word and love in Jesus Christ, in his life and passion, He who is the ultimate source and power of all order has penetrated into the untouchable core of our existence in such a way as to deal with the twisted force of evil entrenched in it, and to bring about an atoning reordering of creation.

In the life and passion of Jesus Christ the order of redemption has intersected the order of creation, judging, forgiving and healing it of malevolent disorder, and making it share in the wholly benign order of divine love.

(Abridged from a section entitled "The Atonement and the 'Re-ordering' of Creation" in The Christian Frame of Mind: Reason, Order, and Openness in Theology and Natural Science, by Thomas F. Torrance. Helmers & Howard, Publishers, Colorado Springs, 1989, pages 103, 104.)
That's what we need. We need deep dive, in every way, into the "wholly benign order of divine love." Knowing Jesus and letting others know about Him is part of that--knowing Him and telling in a way that is truthful and not full of our own small opinions. We need to be studying carefully so we can speak about Jesus as clearly and completely as we can. But we also need to tell the truth about the pain of life, so we don't stay "aloof from the disintegration," but instead stand with our Lord in dealing with the "twisted force of evil."

Let's pray that God will lead us in that, bringing blessing instead of cursing to everyone, guilty and innocent alike. I hope to be a part of that in the next 40 years of my life.

God bless you all.

----------------------

P.S. - This afternoon, after the grandkids left, I saw that our daughter Naomi had posted news of a modern day racial horror. According to the Minnesota Public Radio website that posted a picture and a video taken by a dead man's girlfriend, "Philando Castile, 32, was shot Wednesday night by a police officer in suburban St. Paul, Minn." The shooting happened within 3 miles of our home in Roseville. The website says this was "the second fatal encounter between police and a black man to gain national attention this week."

O Lord, have mercy. Have mercy on all of us who need to remember the love of Jesus before we remember our own pain and fear. Overwhelm us with your Holy Spirit so we react in a way that honors You.

equalsharing.com

Vacation Joy (with Backstories)

A slightly revised form of this post can be found at this link.

The Dahlin Cabin on Durphee Lake
I last wrote (on July 2) from my uncle Glen and aunt Betty's cabin on Big Sandy Lake in Minnesota. On Saturday I drove from there to another cabin, the one I've mentioned many times before on this blog over the years. It's about 10 miles south of Hayward, Wisconsin on Durphee Lake and been in my wife Toni's family for 50 years. Toni and I have been here for a week or more every year since the 1980s.

Grandkids & Grandparents
at the Durphee Lake cabin
Our kids love this place. So does Toni's whole extended family. This week we had up to 20 people here, but now all our kids and grandkids have gone home. It's very quiet, and the quiet has a charm of its own.

I'm very thankful for this time away: playing games, relaxing in the water and on the shore, enjoying the children and one another, and lots of good food. A couple of us got out on the sailboat a bit too -- that's one of my favorite things.

As this vacation time winds down I realize, once again, what a privilege it is for us to be able to be here. Many people don't have places to get away to, and many don't have families that they really want to be away with. Once again, I thank God for this time.

One thing I thought I'd be doing during this vacation was to continue study of some of the deeper things of God so I can do some writing. When I've been out for a couple short runs in the morning, I've have managed to listened to a couple more hours of the lectures I mentioned last Saturday. But when it came to reading, I got sidetracked by a book with an extremely provocative title. 38 Nooses: Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End.

I do like history, so that's something that would draw me to it, but it's not a book that I would have chosen on my own. I only have it because it was in a little backpack that was found on one of the buses I drove sometime in the last few weeks. I turned the backpack into lost and found, but, because no one claimed it, I had the option of taking it for myself. I did, and found the book inside.

Perhaps it was God's way of pointing me to a subject that I haven't thought about much. I made my way through the book this week, between times playing with the grandkids and helping with a few chores. And, as I read, I was reminded that vacation cabins like this have a backstory, a backstory from the time before any of them were built.

from native-languages.org/states
This cabin, and so many others, are build on land was opened up for "whites" (like me) during the late 1800s. Until around the time that is described in 38 Nooses, the land that is now the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin was the homeland of various Native American people groups (tribes).

Here's a map that shows where those tribes lived after the Europeans began to arrive, but before treaties pushed them onto reservations.

The treaties are old history, but they are really a key part of what allowed cabins like this to be built. The "1842 Treaty of La Pointe" (such a long time ago!) established many reservations in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota--including the "Lac Courte Oreilles" reservation, so close to this cabin. That same treaty established the "Sandy Lake Indian Reservation" on land that is now owned by my aunt and uncle and many other cabin owners. That Indian Reservation was erased by the federal government in 1889 and the land opened up for white settlement. 

It's sobering to consider how many of our beloved homes and cabins are sitting on land that was, at one time, the home of Ojibwe (a.k.a. Chippewa), Dakota (a.k.a. Sioux), and other Indian people. My ancestors, white settlers all, followed traders, missionaries and explorers onto land that was already occupied by other people.

Today we don't think about those people, or this history. Or, when we do think of them, we think of Casinos and treaty rights connected with fishing. It's good for us to know a little bit more.

The period of time described in 38 Nooses (the 1860s) is a part of the historical back-story for the peaceful and privileged week that we've had here at the cabin this week. It's not a pleasant story. It's actually a story of what we would probably call terrorism if it happened today. Terror came down on both settler and native.
Here's a quick summary of the story that's told in the book:

The United States government's neglect of treaty obligations in the early to middle 1860s brought many natives to the point of starvation and despair. Some Dakota Indian men, we don't know just how many, went out to get rid of the settlers who were occupying the lands that were now closed to them--perhaps thinking they could drive other whites out with fear. Several dozen Dakota plundered, raped and murdered. Several hundred white men, women and children were killed in the area near the Minnesota River. It was horrible.

The U.S. government's response was horrible too. 38 of the the Dakota men were hung in Mankato. Some were innocent. Then, almost all the Dakota men, women and children in Minnesota were forced into concentration camps, the largest being at Fort Snelling. And then soldiers went out to get violent revenge while plans were made to push all those "evil Sioux" out of the state. Most were eventually sent west to reservations on land no one else wanted. In the end most were forced to give up their way of life.
Some on each side did what they could to prevent violence. There were some heroes. But many more, for one reason or another, joined in the killing or at least applauded those who sought revenge. Fear and hatred reigned. Sadly, some of what was done to the natives, especially in taking away their way of life, was done in the name of the Christian church.

The truth is that much of what we descendants of settlers take for granted in the United States came to be out of a history of violence, racism and revenge. It's not what white Minnesotans prefer to think about during a vacation week, but this history, and the other incomparably painful racial histories that are still with us, do mark us profoundly. Though it was a loss for whoever left their backpack and book on my bus, I'm grateful I was invited, in that way, to read 38 Nooses. Maybe even especially when we're on vacation we should be remembering the backstory of our joy.

Fortunately, there is a bigger backstory, a story that brings redemption and forgiveness to the smaller stories of our individual and family histories. In The Christian Frame of Mind, the book I've been studying in depth, Thomas F. Torrance writes this:
The redemption of the universe is... the bearing of the Cross upon the way things actually are. It represents the refusal of God to remain aloof from the disintegration... in what he has made, or merely to act upon it "at a distance."

Through the incarnation of His Word and love in Jesus Christ, in his life and passion, He who is the ultimate source and power of all order has penetrated into the untouchable core of our existence in such a way as to with the twisted force of evil entrenched in it, and to bring about an atoning reordering of creation.

In the life and passion of Jesus Christ the order of redemption has intersected the order of creation, judging, forgiving and healing it of malevolent disorder, and making it share in the wholly benign order of divine love.
That's what we need. We need deep dive, in every way, into the "wholly benign order of divine love." That's what I hope I can contribute to in the next 40 years of my life.

God bless you all.

----------------------

P.S. - This afternoon, after the grandkids left, I saw that our daughter Naomi had posted news of a modern day racial horror. According to the Minnesota Public Radio website that posted a picture and a video taken by a dead man's girlfriend, "Philando Castile, 32, was shot Wednesday night by a police officer in suburban St. Paul, Minn." The shooting happened within 3 miles of our home in Roseville. The website says this was "the second fatal encounter between police and a black man to gain national attention this week."

O Lord, have mercy. Have mercy on all of us who need to remember the love of Jesus before we remember our own pain and fear. Give us your Holy Spirit so we react in a way that honors You.

equalsharing.com

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Father (God) Knows Best

Good morning! I'm writing this from a cabin that was built many years ago on Indian Point on Big Sandy Lake. The builder was (and is) my dad's sister's husband. He, and my dad too, will be turning 90 this month!

My uncle isn't doing very well these days, he's up and around with a walker, but he doesn't say much anymore. His hearing went a long time ago and now he seems to have a rather contented form of dementia. Aunt Betty does a great job of watching over him, even bringing him up to the cabin on weekends like this.

Right now it's before 9 AM on Saturday, but I don't know when this will be published online. It's a beautiful cabin, but there isn't any internet connection. I'll throw this up online later.

I spoke with the Lord on Thursday and told Him that this vacation time was His to do with what He chose. I told him I'd trust Him to lead me in what I do, because He knows best. So far it's been really good.

Yesterday, on my first day of vacation, I went to see my mom and dad. When I was there I picked up a box of my dad's mementos -- mostly pictures from his childhood. We're hoping to put some pictures up on a big screen TV when we get together for dad's birthday on the 17th.

On the way up to Big Sandy Lake from Minneapolis, I got stuck in traffic. It took nearly an hour to drive from a few miles south of Mora through to open roads north of there. It was okay though because I've been listening with such fascination to some lectures given by Thomas F. Torrance on "The Ground and Grammar of Theology. I'll say more about that I'm sure in the days to come. (Click here for the webpage where the lectures are posted. I've got links for downloading. Let me know if you want them and I'll send them your way.)

I'm sitting here in an easy chair but I'll get up soon to help my aunt with a little project. I'll stay here at Betty and Glen's cabin at least until lunchtime. Then I'll head over to Durphee Lake where Toni, our kids and grandkids, her parents and others in her family will be for the next few days.

I had thought I'd scan a bunch of my dad's old pictures up here but I didn't bring a certain connecting cord. So, instead, I'll be out among my aunt's hostas. That's fine.

------------------

So now it's noontime. My Father did know what was best. It was much better to spend time out in the little garden. It's such a beautiful day.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

First Love, Love First

First Lutheran Church, Taylors Falls, this morning
Today Toni, Naomi and I went up to visit the church we served in Taylors Falls from 1992-2005. I so much enjoyed seeing and talking with many friends and former neighbors, people who had invited me (and us) into their lives in a relatively intimate way for many years.

I am so thankful to have had the chance today to go back up there, and for the invitation that was extended to us and to other "former pastors" (we were the only pastor's family able to make it). There was no special event (other than a mid-summer outdoor potluck), no introduction of "the Thorsons" as anyone special, and, thank God, I wasn't asked to take any leadership role. The only time I was up front was when I walked up during the last song to snap this picture on my old phone.

I want to write more about this day and some of the thoughts and feelings surrounding it, but right now my heart is just filled with love for the people in the picture above, and for many others who were not there today. My feelings for the dear ones in that community are matched by those I have in my heart for those in Ladysmith, Glen Flora and Cokato. The love that God pours into our hearts surpasses understanding, and overcomes doctrinal squabbles, and leaps us over any uncomfortable past hurts that any of us may have suffered (or inflicted upon one another). We're all incomplete, we all fail, and none of us has a full picture of God's truth. So we stand, together, in the love of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

The current president of the TF church, Don Hansen, had been on a mission trip with the youth recently. The youth and their leaders shared some things that they remembered from the week, and then Don spoke of the temporary tattoo that he had on his arm with the theme of the Youth Works camp on it. That theme was "First Love," but Don said, that when he looked at it on his arm, it said "Love First." I like that. When in doubt, just love. A good lesson for all.

There are a lot more things to say about the morning and about what is going on in my head and heart, but at the moment it's time to take care of some other things.

God's peace to you all.

equalsharing.com

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Everything Depends on Jesus

Everything and everyone depends on Jesus every day.
I tweeted that line at about 7 last Saturday morning. Those few words came to me as a very quick summary of some things I've been studying and praying over for quite awhile.

Now, right away I should say the first thing that comes to mind about those words is that I need Jesus, personally, every day. I need His mercy and forgiveness and grace -- mercy and forgiveness and grace that come to me in spite of my often judgmental "holier than thou" "better than others" ("better than you"?!) attitude. I need Jesus' mercy because every day I complain (usually just to myself, in my heart) about circumstances and situations that God has brought into my life.

Yes, I, and everyone else, needs Jesus' loving mercy. Jesus is God, and there is no God apart from Jesus. He is the only one who can give us the forgiveness and grace that we need. If it were not for Jesus, none of us could ever live honestly free from guilt and shame. With Jesus' grace we can live with great joy, with joy that comes from knowing that our sin has been taken from us once and for all.

But that's not what was on my mind when I wrote the eight words at the top of this post.

It's not just me and other people who need Jesus. It's not just because we need his grace and mercy and forgiveness. It's because the entire universe depends on Jesus, because He is God.

In Matthew Henry's classic Commentary on the Whole Bible, in a section where the author is reflecting on Colossians 1:17, we read this about all things that exist:
He not only created them all at first, but it is by the word of his power that they are still upheld, Hebrews 1:3. The whole creation is kept together by the power of the Son of God, and made to consist in its proper frame. It is preserved from disbanding and running into confusion.
Everything depends on Jesus Christ--whether they know it or not--even if they don't have a brain. "Rocks and trees... skies and seas," "the morning light, the lily white," "the rustling grass" and birds raising "their carols," all of these rely on Jesus every day. If he were to turn away, nothing would exist at all.

Sometimes Christians think of God the Father ("This Is My Father's World") as being "creator," but it's clear from the Bible that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are involved in creating and keeping everything going. The Triune God, Father, Son, Spirit, together, do that creative work and the ongoing work of "sustaining" everything. Every molecule, every quark, every chemical compound, all the laws of physics and biology... everything depends on Jesus (and Holy Spirit) just as much as on "God the Father." It's true. If Jesus were to turn his back for a moment, all things would be gone.*

The universe depends upon Jesus -- because Jesus is God.

That's what I meant when I tweeted the line last week.

----------------------------------------
Blogposts from early June 2016 - "Scientific Theology,"
"The Whole World," and "Big Ideas, Big Words."

*The Christian Frame of Mind provoked three blogposts early this month, and that was just after studying the the introduction! Since then I've read the rest, and have found the ideas put forth in it to be really important and, as far as I can discern so far, pretty much true.

The first main point the author makes after the introduction has to do with the "contingent" nature of the universe. The universe (or "universes," if, as some suspect, there is more than one) does not have an independent existence. "Contingent" is a fancy word that means something depends on something or someone else.

The book's author, a Christian theologian and scientific scholar by the name of Thomas F. Torrance, says that a truly Christian understanding of the universe would include an emphasis, not only on the creation of the everything "in the beginning" by God (Father, Son, Spirit) but also the work the Triune God continues to do at every moment so that the universe continues to exist. Christians sometimes have the (wrong) idea that the world or universe has it's own independent existence, apart from God. The truth is, as T. F. Torrance explains, that through Jesus we come to know that He is absolutely essential to the world's continued existence! By Him everything is "unceasingly sustained in their order and being."

Jesus is way more than a savior. Everything depends upon Him.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Day for Whatever

I don't work on Saturdays! It's part of the beauty of being a "part time operator" for Metro Transit. I especially enjoy days when I can do "whatever," days when there are no plans. Here's what's gone on so far:

I got up at 5:30 and was out the door on my bike an hour later. I biked to Rosedale, then bused and biked to Lake Como where the "Roots Marathon Runners" have been training on Saturday mornings. I didn't start jogging until 7:30, about the time the Roots group was finishing up, but I did manage to jog the 1.6+ mile lake loop 3 times, with a stop for water and stretching on each lap. Then I biked and bused home -- getting home by about 9:30.

I could have biked each way. It's only a little more than 8 miles round trip from where we live down to Lake Como. But I do like to use my bus pass, and, usually, when I'm on the bus, I can have interesting conversations, either with my co-worker drivers or with "customers." Today I talked with an East Metro driver on the 65 and, after my jog, I met a customer waiting for a 61 on Larpenteur.

The 61 was late so the "whatever" it seems God planned was my little talk with the customer, a woman who, I think, lives at the Roseville Senior House. As we chatted, and as I helped her find out when the bus was due, since it was about 10 minutes late, she mentioned that her brother had retired from driving at the beginning of this year. He had worked out of the Heywood Garage, the same as me, and had driven express routes like the ones I'll be driving starting on Monday.

As she was talking, I realized I had probably met her brother. I asked her how her brother was doing in retirement, she said he was keeping busy talking with people about the "beautiful new world" that is coming... then she gave me a tract. Turns out that is a Jehovah's Witness, and so is her brother.

One reason I love riding the bus, besides the way I don't add to pollution when i ride it, is that it's a great way to meet people of all kinds. I've met hundreds if not thousands of people driving, and dozens while riding. (Many ethnic and religious groups ride, including hundreds of Muslims.) The person I met today wasn't visibly different than anyone else, but when she pulled out her tract she readily admitted she was a "Jehovah's Witness." Since I know JWs have a particular understanding of Jesus, and consider themselves to be the only ones who are saved, I told her that I know Jesus! And I shared a bit about God's love. I didn't say a lot, but since she said she was JW, I did mention that I know that Jesus is God, an idea which is rejected by the JW organization.

That brings me back to what I've planned to spend some time doing this weekend: Continuing study related to "The Trinity." Toni went up north to her parents' cabin and she brought the dog with her, so I've got time. But I do find it helpful to journal like this, so I end up getting delayed and distracted from that work. On the other hand, the most relaxing times for me are those when I don't have a particular agenda or plan in mind, so I truly appreciate having this time to do "whatever."

"Whatever" for me also included a talking with with one of the young men that's staying with us here at 1490 Lydia. His brother is renting one of the small basement rooms and "C" is there too. He came up shortly after noon and wanted to borrow my phone to call for pizza delivery and we ended up talking a bit. I was thankful that my lack of plans today allowed that to happen.

That's enough for now.

What are you doing today? How is the Lord blessing your time? Let me know if you can!

equalsharing.com

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Just Adrenaline?

I got home from my first shift a little more than an hour ago. Today, as has happened 3 times now, I volunteered to drive routes that were completely new to me. The dispatchers gave me, and others, the option to do it or not, but I like adventure, so, after a bit of consideration, I said yes. All went reasonably well, and when I got back I felt very positive. I had been yawning when I got into work today, but now I'm energized. It's been a good day so far.*

In yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest devotional, Oswald Chambers wrote about putting "everything in your life upon God, going out to sea on the great swelling of His purpose." He warned us about spiritual sluggishness, and called us to examine points in our lives where we have started to "lose interest spiritually."

If we see we lack energy in some areas of our lives, O.C. says there may be some moment or "point" in our spiritual walk where we "did not do something" we knew we should do. He also says that when we obey, we learn more about the ways of our Lord, and when we refuse we end up losing insight and discernment.

O.C. writes this in harmony with what Jesus teaches in John 13 where Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, does something he did not need to do: He washed his disciples' feet--and then says "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." There is joy in this going above and beyond what others expect! Once we've experienced it we want more.

There is a danger, however, in getting to addicted to the positive feelings we get when we serve, or when we leap out to do new things. We can, out of zeal, do things we're not called to do.

O.C. writes:
The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself, and your zeal and enthusiasm are mistaken for discernment. It is easier to sacrifice yourself than to fulfill your spiritual destiny, which is stated in Romans 12:1-2. It is much better to fulfill the purpose of God in your life by discerning His will than it is to perform great acts of self-sacrifice. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice…” (1 Samuel 15:22).
Today, as I leapt out to do a good deed, I think it went okay, but because there were some things that could have gone better** I'm pausing to consider if, in the future, instead of just doing what someone (like the dispatchers) give me the option to do, just because I like adventure, it might be better to pause a bit and check: Is it just adrenaline that's pushing me out? That's not a good reason to leap.

This is a small example. There are much more serious decisions we can make just because we think we "should" or because we think it would be fun. It's best when we pause and ask the Lord: Is this truly what you desire in my life, now.

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* Yesterday, June 8, marked one year since I began training with Metro Transit.

** It went okay this morning on this completely new route, but I can see how it might have been otherwise. I rushed out without carefully examining the route details, so I didn't know about where a park and ride was, and didn't know about a construction detour. Thank God for passengers who let me know which way to go!

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Big Ideas, Big Words

I've managed to read a little more of The Christian Frame of Mind, moving on from W. Jim Neidhardt's introduction, but there's a point from the intro that was eye-opening for me, and I wanted to take a moment to share it before its newness fades.

As I've been re-entering the world of theologically deep study, I recognize that many of my Christian friends, and even I myself at times, have had some prejudice against any Christian teaching or "doctrines" that can't be taken directly from the words of the Bible. We have preferred to open our Bibles and prayerfully read the words that are there on the page, relying on a prayer-filled "common-sense," or "Holy Spirit led" insights to bring us to common and practical applications of what God is saying to us, either as individuals or as groups.

Most of the men and women I have studied and prayed with over the past 30 years or so would only rarely use words like "incarnation," or "trinity" or even "theology," preferring instead to just use words that are there in our English translations of the Bible -- and those words simply aren't there, except, perhaps, in the footnotes. And now as I speak things like of "Incarnational Trinitarian Theology," I'm sure I will sound, to some, like I'm slipping away from Biblical teachings and moving, instead, to some sort of un-Biblical sophistication. Or maybe I'm just wanting to show off. Or maybe I'm just a nerd.

There's a prejudice, out there in the land of Christian spirituality--a prejudice against the hard "theological" work that I'm doing these days--and I can almost hear the silent objections to what I'm thinking and writing about even now.

That's where what I read in the introduction to The Christian Frame of Mind comes in. W. James Neidhardt, following T. F. Torrance and others, say, and I agree, that you can't get God's truth simply by reading a few sentences or paragraphs in the Bible. You need to have some pretty big ideas already firmly fixed in your mind. I think those ideas actually come when we're born again by the grace of God, and by what Jesus has done for us, but that's another story.

Here's an example from the book's introduction:
"... God's grace may be thought of as an invisible conceptual reality defined as 'God giving himself to humankind, so that they can know him an love him, so entering into a relationship with him which... is totally undeserved...' God's grace is not "visible" in the Old and New Testaments accounts of God's activity toward humankind -- at least not in the sense that it is continuously acknowledged. Rather, the concept of grace brings 'invisible' meaning to these accounts." (page xxiii in The Christian Frame of Mind)

The word "grace," of course, is there in the Bibles we read. But the fact is that neither the word, nor the idea of "undeserved favor" is there in every verse. Proper Christian Bible study, though, will hold that "invisible" idea in mind as we read all the Bible's books and chapters and verses. Christians do mostly understand that there's danger in taking things "out of context," that is, without a big picture view of what the Bible is all about. Some Christians, however, don't understand this, and they get into trouble. An extreme version of this was seen when Donald Trump says that his favorite Bible verse is "an eye for an eye."

Some big ideas, however, that we can see in the whole story of the Bible can't simply be summarized by one or two words that we can actually find in a word found in Bible itself. I already mentioned two of them. "Incarnation" is one. "Incarnation" is a summary of what happened when God came into human flesh, being born of a woman, but the word "incarnate" is not there. "Trinity" is another. You can find the words "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit" in the Bible, but not the word "Trinity." The big idea is there, and you can't understand Jesus without the idea, but you can't find the word in the Bible.

That's what Neidhardt and Torrance mean by saying some things are "invisible."

Does that mean we should avoid those ideas or those words? I don't think so. If we do, we'll miss the Bible's big story, and forget what the Bible is all about.

Now, most of the men and women I've studied and prayed with over the years actually do have big ideas like "incarnation" and "trinity" in their heads, but they (and often we) haven't wanted to use those words, at least not too much. For some reason, we like the idea of being simple-minded and unsophisticated. But, as I've already said, the danger is that we can take verses, and even chapters and books of the Bible "out of context," that is, without a big picture view of what the Bible is really about. (It's late and I'm rambling here.)

As I've been studying, I'm learning the importance of how important big ideas are. Perhaps these are examples of what Jesus meant when he said, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear." Perhaps ideas like "incarnation" and "trinity" and even "theology" are a part of what Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would bring to us. Here's a fuller quote from Jesus speaking in the Gospel of John chapter 16:
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you..." 
I've spent a lot more time thinking and writing about this tonight than I planned. I need to be up and out of bed in an hour and a half, on my way to work. Fortunately I've got really light duty in the mornings these days. I'll hope to say more about that later.

Peace to you in Jesus' name.

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Important, and the Ordinary

"If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life." (June 4 utmost.org)

The assurance O.C. mentions comes from the Lord who says: "I will never leave you nor forsake you," and we respond: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear..." (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest devotion speaks to me because I am one of those who has heard God's assurance and I have believed His Word, but I still am somehow wanting more. Not more wealth or material security, but more "significance," or,perhaps better said, a more consistent and constant feeling that what I am doing with my time (when I spend it well) is good and important. I'm continuing deep study of God's ways and other things but then I find I need to buckle down and take care of the little things, like what I did yesterday, going through things we have stored in the garage.

I confess that I "fear" that I'm not going to be able to show a lot of good through what I do. I believe that the study I'm doing is significant and needed in today's world, but the process of bringing these truths into the light is so time consuming. If there is any fear in me of "what people can do to me," (as the Hebrews passage continues) it's the fear that, in the end, the work that I and others are doing in theology will be set aside and the Christian world will just go on speaking and believing things that just aren't true.

But when I'm reminded, once again, of God's promise to never leave or forsake me, I don't need to be afraid that my work will be lost or unfinished. If the God we know in Jesus will always be with me, there will be reward, and significance, in some way, whether I see it or know it myself right now. And He has me in His care. I will say, in faith, that I will not be afraid, and I will press on with both the important and the ordinary things of life.
Have you heard God's assurance that He will always be with you? And will you respond, with your own heart, and your own words, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear"? Take some time to do that as you reflect on the ways in which you're tempted to be afraid. Do that now.