Saturday, June 17, 2017

Still Praying and Considering

Good morning! It's Saturday! I'm up at my usual time, about 5AM, but I have the luxury of knowing I'll be able to go back to bed in a little bit.

This is a quick follow up on what I wrote in No Answer Yet.

Just what is it that Jesus accomplished (as God) in his death and resurrection?

I agree with the piece I quoted there that "Jesus did not come to change the mind of God about humanity. It didn’t need changing: God has organically, inherently loved what God created from the moment God created. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God."

But does that mean that NOTHING occurred from God's point of view at the Cross? Some, including the author of that piece, seem to say "yes," that Jesus actually did not need to die and rise again EXCEPT as a way of changing humans minds about God. I struggle with that idea. I'm trying to understand.

In No Answer Yet, I spoke of Oswald Chambers's point that the Cross (i.e. the "atonement") is "the way the Spirit of Jesus is put into me." I thought, at first, that O.C. was writing about something that occurred on the Divine side of the human-God relationship. But now, this morning, I'm wondering if O.C. could be using the word "cross" here as a symbol for our own self-surrender to the Lord (as O.C. has done in other places in My Utmost for His Highest).

Perhaps what O.C. is referring to my turning away from self-centered ways. Perhaps the Cross that "allows" (is that the right word?) the Holy Spirit to come into me is my own personal encounter with Jesus, as when the Apostle Paul encountered Him on the Road to Damascus. Maybe the Cross O.C. is referring to is the "tak[ing] up of [my own personal cross] and follow[ing]" Jesus (Matthew 16:24),  giving Him preeminence, acknowledging His Lordship, giving up my resistance to the Lord's ways. Perhaps that's the way that the Holy Spirit "is put into me."

If so, I'm no closer to an answer than I was.

Still praying and considering. Feel free to comment as you wish.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

No Answer Yet

In the day before yesterday's My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says:
The Spirit of Jesus is put into me by way of the atonement by the Cross of Christ.
It's the first full sentence of the devotional, and O.C. doesn't dwell on it but uses that line as a point to start from. Still, the day before yesterday, when I first read it, I've been wondering why O.C. says that.

What is it about the atonement specifically, or about "the Cross of Christ" that makes the Spirit of Jesus to be "put into me?" What does the atonement have to do with the Holy Spirit. How does the Cross bring God's Holy Spirit into "me" (and you)?

It's just one line in O.C.'s devotional reading for yesterday, but I want to understand just what the connection is between what Jesus did on the Cross and the action of Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. I want to know it partly because there's an idea that I've heard recently that some Christians view the incarnation, that is, the entering into human flesh of God Himself, when Jesus was "conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary," is more important than the atonement, that is, the bringing together of God and fallen humanity through what Jesus did on the Cross.

See below for the "email devotion" that I received (forwarded to me) that first introduced me to this "incarnation" over "atonement" idea.

This (above) is from a devotion by Richard Rohr;
as of June 16 it was available at this link
When I first heard read that, I did a little study. Like Rohr, I'm critical of the penal substitution theory of the atonement. But unlike Rohr, I do believe that something really happened through the death and resurrection of Jesus. I don't know just what it was that happened there, but without it, that is, without the death and resurrection of Jesus, there's no way we would have known there was an incarnation at all.

But that brings me back to the question with which I started this blog post. What is it about the atonement that has O.C. claiming that "the Cross," shorthand for all that occurred in the atonement (via the death and resurrection of Jesus), is the means by which the Holy Spirit comes into me. I know I'm reading way more into this one line of O.C.'s devotion than was intended, but I have a sense that it's important.

Maybe something did happen at the Cross that allows for the filling of "me" (and you) with the Holy Spirit. What is that something? I don't have an answer. Not yet. But it's time for me to go back to sleep.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Running Buddies

When I first got up on Saturday morning I had some thoughts that I wanted to get written down, but only an eternal optimist like me would even let it cross my mind that I could write even one intelligible sentence in the few minutes I had before I needed to head out the door. My twin nieces and their parents had invited me to be a "running buddy" for a 5K "Girls on the Run" event. It was an honor to be asked and I didn't want to be late.

I've been doing moderate exercise for years, but I've never gone running. I started a bit last year when my son in law and his church were in pre-training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I stuck with them for a month or so but then stopped. Marathon training is too time consuming. But when my nieces invited me for this 5K, there was no question that I'd do it.

Having partners, or buddies, is a really good thing. Having others who walk or run or study or pray together is a great incentive to start and keep going at whatever. I wrote about this last weekend in "Standing Apart Together," but it's not just the relatively small individual disciplines that benefit as we do them together. Praying, and working, with others, and challenging one another to stick with major goals -- I think overcoming big deal challenges requires some sort of buddy system, some sort of partnership, and some agreements to keep moving instead of giving up.

Toward the end of Saturday morning's race, as I was running up a long but very gradual incline on France Avenue, heading toward West 98th St., I could have stopped running and started walking at any moment. But my 4th grade nieces, and their dad (my fit brother in law) were ahead of me. They were going to make it. And because they did, I could too.

What I was thinking about Saturday morning, and what I wanted to write down before the run, a few words from a conversation that I'd had online about President Trump's decision to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that aims to limit human caused climate change (a.k.a. global warming). I was actually thinking about the conversation, not about the choice to withdrawal from this particular agreement. I was thinking about the conversation because in it someone had said that there's really no way to stop the process of warming because, among other things, "no one is going to eliminate the comforts they have."

Here's the comment that I quoted from above. That "friend of a friend" wrote:
"...If you want to reduce human caused climate change, you have two choices. Reduce the human population, or eliminate the industries that support the biomass. Unless people are willing to turn off the lights, return to little house on the prairie AND eliminate roughly half the population of the earth the argument and discussion is nothing other than mental masturbation. No one is going to eliminate the comforts they have, and no one is going to suggest exterminating 3 billion people." (underline not in original)
[I'd never heard anyone refer to humans as "biomass," though I have, at times, wondered how many human beings this earth can support. I remember reading about the so-called Population Bomb back when I was in junior high, but I've heard, through I haven't studied, that population growth has not been as great as was feared back then, and that advances in technology are allowing the earth to support more people. I was shocked by what this "friend of a friend" said, and I asked the person who wrote that if he knew of "a scholarly publication or someone with credentials who has done research or has an analysis to support your point that there's no way to reverse it," that is global warming, short of such draconian measures. I told him "I'd like to see that for my own study and prayer." He said there were "papers he could reference," but I haven't heard from him about what they are. I messaged him on Sunday. Hopefully I'll hear.]

So what I was thinking of, Saturday morning before my race, was that line "...no one is going to eliminate the comforts they have." I know that's not literally true, since some people do choose to go without comforts in order to be good stewards of God's creation and the resources that come from it. But it is true that it's not very likely that people voluntarily giving up comforts for the common good, in order to be more frugal with energy consumption, or to change what we eat (I've heard beef and dairy are major sources of greenhouse gases), in the numbers it would take to really make a difference in global warming. We -- "all" (or almost all) of us -- are wedded to those comforts. It would take a lot to get us to change.

And that's where running buddies comes in. We need "running buddies" if we're going to make any sort of positive changes in our lives, especially changes that make life more difficult. Running is hard, and without my nieces invitation, and without their inspiration -- they are doing so well - on Saturday I barely matched their pre-training pace -- they finished at least a minute ahead. As I was going out to train, in the weeks before the race, the thought that they were doing this gave me enough inspiration to not stop and walk, as I almost always wanted to do. The fact that we were "buddies" got me going, even through we never trained side-by-side.

Can we be "running buddies" for one another as we make the changes that will be needed to deal with climate change? Can we who claim to be Christians get out front and set the pace, being willing to give up some (or even many!) of our comforts in order to reduce human caused climate change? Will we change the habits of our lives first and then invite others to come along?

Christians need to repent, that is, to change their way of life, so that others will learn it's possible.

That's what I was thinking about early Saturday morning as I got ready to run. I ran again today even though I don't have the upcoming race as an inspiration. It's still not easy, but now I know I can do it.

Maybe we can stick to new challenging patterns of life that will help the environment too.

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