Message Junkie

Byrd at Thinklings writes:

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only compulsive message checker on earth. I check my email probably dozens of times each day. I’m always scanning my cell phone to see if anyone left me a voice mail or a text message. I usually can’t wait to see if anything interesting came in the mail. I’m a message junkie.

My response was “Hey, look! I’m not so whacked after all!”
I have 3 different email accounts plus Gmail and work. Oh, and I set it up so that no matter what email address you use at, I get it. Go ahead, try it. I subscribe to too many email lists. Then there’s Twitter and Facebook. I just got text messaging on my phone too.
My emails sort into folders based on where they came from in Outlook. That message you sent to the nonsense address will end up in the ‘Catchall’ folder.
My good friend BEG was at my house and wondered what that occasional chiming sound was. It was my laptop, stored under the TV, fired up with Outlook running letting me know that there’s a new message.
He went home and fired off a succession of 4-5 emails message with one word: “BEEP”, knowing that my computer would chime each time they arrived. (I’ve since turned off the sound.)
I’m a message junkie, but it’s good to know I’m not alone.

Romans 9:30-10:21 – By Faith

I’m nearing that ‘Place Where I Can Stand’ mentioned in my last (non-FfF) post. More on that later, first, on with my study of Romans.
Romans 9:30-33 – See here, the Gentiles attained something they did not pursue. How? One answer is simply that God gave it to them, and that is true. They didn’t earn it. But, that’s not what this passage says. It says that they attained it by faith, and Israel didn’t because they didn’t pursue with faith. So, yes, it is God that grants righteousness, but our faith plays a role.
Romans 10:1-4 – This passage nicely merges the two seemingly divergent topics. It is God who offers up righteousness, on His terms and His terms alone. We can then choose to submit to it,in faith, or try to achieve our own. Israel chose the latter, a path that is doomed to fail as it has from the day Adam and Eve left the garden (actually, from the bite of the apple).
Romans 10:9 – In my experience, one of the most ill-used verses in the Bible. Many use it to justify a faith that is empty believe. Belief = salvation. This of course, ignores the rest of the new testament that expounds on the implications of this faith in the radical man, Jesus. True faith is transformative, true faith moves us off our course, true faith radically changes us, true faith has on going, life altering, dope-slap-like implications on what we do on a regular, never ending basis. Any faith that allows us to live just as we had been is faith in something other than Jesus.
The other side (and where I’ve been in recent years) tries to pretend that it doesn’t say what it says – faith in Jesus saves us. They point out that the context is a discussion on the differences between Jew and Gentile, which is true but beside the point. They want to say “Yes, but …” and add in all kinds of things. Faith and .. baptism, obedience, purity, holiness, zeal, conviction, righteousness, etc. All of those things are important, but they all – ALL – rise from the root of faith.

Five For Friday

An “Ocassional Series” here at Inspired by Daniel at Alien Soil, I fire up Media Player on random and post the first 5 songs here.

  1. Adiemus – Adiemus from Songs of Sanctuary
    Even on random, this song is always the first song played when I click ‘All Music’ in Media Player here at work (at home it’s different). I usually skip it, but thought I’d let it play today. I first heard this on WCBE and loved it. Airy vocals and full orchestration, it has an Enya feel about it but also some African vibes, although the composer is British. According to Wikipedia, there is no language, it’s just sounds and random syllables. Instead of an album art, enjoy the surreal music video above.
  2. Casting Crowns – Voice of Truth from Casting Crowns
    I love Casting Crowns, even though they’ve been played and over played. Their lyrics have a Kieth Green quality to them in that they speak to the church, often times in rebuke.
  3. The Fairfield Four – Lonesome Valley from the O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack
    Four guys doing a free flowing negro spiritual. If you like A Capella or Negro spirituals, you may enjoy this. If not, it’s hard to listen to. I like this it, but other folks usually say “What the heck is that?!?”.
  4. File – One Foot in the Bayou from WCBE Mixx on the Fly, Volume 6
    I’m not sure about the artist, but it seems right based on a web search. Great live blues tune recorded here in Columbus at WCBE.
  5. Bob Dylan – Rainy Day Women #12 And #35 from the Forest Gump soundtrack, disc 1
    Two from soundtracks, interesting since I think I only own three soundtracks. I never knew this was the song’s title. You may think of it as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”. The two disc Gump soundtrack is full of great old 60s adn 70s songs.

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put it on random and give me yours in the comments.

A Place Where I can Stand

If you haven’t read my prior post on Romans 9, you should do so for back ground on this.
To say that Romans 9 threw me for a loop is accurate, I’d guess, but not exactly fair to Romans. There was this pondering in the far back reaches of my consciousness, the dark corners of my mind, about election. It was brought on in no small part by discussions with and readings of Jared Wilson who I respect greatly and who is an unapologetic Calvinist. He hasn’t spend many electrons on the subject in recent years, but it was a more active topic at his former blog.
So, the idea that perhaps I’ve misjudged the idea of election or predestination has been rattling around in my head for some time now. Romans 9 simply reached into the shadows and yanked it forward where I had to deal with it.
The comments on my post and Codepoke’s writings on the subject (see this post about elephants. Really. Also, his series on the 5 points of Calvinism (read from the bottom up) which I’m not yet through). I’m not sure I’m on board with what he’s saying, but they’ve helped in two ways.
First, I really appreciate how he steps away from the obvious interpretation, takes all the facts, shuffles them like a deck of cards and rearranges them into a new way that wasn’t at all obvious going in. In other words, he makes it clear that from another perspective that I’m not able to see, things can make sense. Of course, God has a view that we cannot imagine and from where he sits, it makes perfect sense.
Second, He has illustrated plainly that God has in fact acted, with impunity, decisively and without concern for our sense of fairness to choose people at various points in time. Abraham, for example, was chosen to build God’s nation with no chance for anyone else or any other people to apply for the job. Isreal was built from his flesh when his flesh had been well past the time for tit to be making any new flesh. And God intervened in history and created a nation for himself. Hard to argue that as anything but divine intervention.
And yet, my flesh rebels against the idea that God is choosing without respect to man’s effort or desire. It feels disheartening. Makes me wonder, “Why bother?” If God is going to pick who He’s going to pick, what does it matter if I ppreach or share or teach or even seek? It’s up to God. Period.
Yet he also promises that he rewards those ho seek him and that those who seek will find. The world around us, which Romans also tells us teaches us about who God is, rewards men for their efforts. Hard work is rewarded and determination brings success. The Bible tells us that sin prevents us fom entering the kingdom. God looks at the heart, he said when choosing David, so clearly our efforts are not in vain.
So, there’s this mysterious ying yang going on where man’s effort and heart and God’s sovereign choice work hand in hand. He ultimately in control, yet we influence, somehow, and at some times. At others, He simply acts decisively.
Which is which? When does God do what? How do we make sense of it? How can I possibly understand it?
Well, the one thing I see from the diverse comments left here is that while none of you completely agree with each other, and none can claim to explain it all, you have each found for yourselves an interpretation of the scriptures that you can live with. Something that either explains it enough or you’ve made peace with the mystery.
As I prayed tonight, I was tempted to ask God to understand it, to know all what went into it, I realized what a foolish thought that was. If I had a few lifetimes to research it and ponder it, I’d never understand the mystery of God’s intervention in the world. I did not need the whole truth, although that would be nice. I simply needed to understand enough, to be able to imagine a possible resolution, to find a place where my faith and my understanding of the facts could co-exist.
What I needed is a place where I could stand with God.
A place where my limited understanding doesn’t clash with his perfection. A place where my rationalizations don’t negate his sovereignty. A place where I can believe something that I can live with but that doesn’t contradict his divinity.
So that’s my request of Him. Show me enough that I can make sense of it. Show me a way to look at it that I can accept. Give me just what I need so I can walk with you and know that you remain just and compassionate.
Is that a cop out? Maybe, but that’s all I can do right now. The alternative is giving up on God, and there are far too many reasons not to do that. His love for me in Jesus is enough to not ever consider that. So, a cop out, a compromise, a set of blinders placed at the proper angle, whatever.
I just need a place where I can stand with God.

Romans 9:1-29 – Election, Really?

Romans 9:6 – “… not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” For the largely Gentile audience at Rome, this was not likely controversial, but to the Jews who were reading, I imagine it was a radical, and offensive, statement. Some in Israel aren’t true Israelites?!? But what this points to is the larger context of the Kingdom of God. It’s a kingdom that has no regard for human borders or even familial or genetic ties. it is instead a Kingdom built on the hearts of men and defined by them. Men continue to this day to define it by lines drawn in human ways – church membership, doctrinal positions and human behaviors – but that is not the nature of the Kingdom. It defies human descriptions and boundaries.
Romans 9:10-13 – Here we are, back at election. Paul says that before the twins (Jacob and Esau) were born, she was told what would happen to them (see Genesis 25). This was, Paul says, to continue God’s purposes in election. I always took that as a prediction or prophesy of what was to happen, not as a determination or a decision on God’s behalf as to what they would do. In other words, God, seeing all of time, saw in advance what would become of these boys and what they would do, but he did not decide that that is what they would do. But Paul here, seems to imply that this was God’s doing, that he set it up this way to fulfill His purposes.
I have to admit, one of the reasons that election or pre-destination, as I understand it, rubs me the wrong way is that I don’t like the idea that God picks and chooses, aside from anything on my part, those who are His and those who are not. Frankly, there’s part of me that wants to give up on a God who would be so arbitrary. It flies in the face of all the teachings in the scriptures telling people that there is reward in following God. Election says to me that there’s reward in God’s choosing, that my actions or faith or obedience means nothing. Certainly, none of us are capable of enough good deeds to make a difference, bur God repeatedly calls us to obey and tells us that it is part of the faith that we proclaim. But I want to know that I’m understanding the theology behind it before I reject it. And frankly, if that’s the way God works, who am I to question it? My hunch is that I’m missing something that would turn this from a notion of arbitrary approval.
Romans 9:14-18 – OK, this passage isn’t helping my cause. 😀 Verse 15 says: “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”“. Still, does that mean that God is picking and choosing, or that He chooses to have mercy on those who put their faith in Jesus? Still, verse 18 is troubling to me: “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Romans 9:19-21 – Ouch:

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

Romans 9:22-29 – This last passage just muddies the waters for me. The earlier verses seem pretty plain that it is God who chooses. Some he chooses for salvation, others not. But this part talks of how he has called those who were not His to be His, but only a remnant of Isreal will be saved. It’s confusing to me and, frankly, depressing. I’m just not sure what to do with the idea that some that I meet may have been prepared by God as “vessels of wrath”. What value, then, is there is preaching the Gospel? Why bother if God has decided? What does it matter what I do or do not do?
This has been the most discouraging study I’ve had in a long time. I think this is something I need to dig into and figure out. I’d love any thought you have on election and how, if you do not believe in pre-destination, you explain these passages.
One thing is for certain, there is truth to be found and God is good. I may not get it, but that does not negate His goodness. Perhaps the next chapters of Romans will help me …

Five for Friday

REM Out Of TimeI’ve not been very consistent on my Five for Friday’s, so I’m going to call this an “Ocassional Series” here at Friday is almost done, so here we go.

  1. REM – Low from Out of Time
    Don’t remember if this was popular release from this album, but I like it. Slow and a bit mellow, as fitting the title.
  2. Phish – Grind from Undermind
    What do you know, a short (under a minute) little barbershop-esque song. I was disappointed in this disc. I heard Undermind and a couple other songs so I asked for it for Christmas. The rest of the disc is meh, but this is a fun A Capella number.
  3. Harry Connick Jr. – Music, Maestro, Please! from 25
    This is a jazzy piano solo. Big band-ish without the big band. Fun.
  4. Bill Miller – River of Time from WCBE Mixx on the Fly Volume 5
    Nice singer songwriter tune with acoustic guitar and harmonica. From Bill Miller’s album Raven in the Snow
  5. First Call – Legacy from God is Good
    From the frequency that First Call is coming up here, you’d think my library was filled with them. I’ve never been impressed with Media Player’s random function. Doesn’t seem all that random at times. As far as this song, pretty standard mellow Christan Music stuff. There are a couple of good songs on this CD.

Your turn, fire up your MP3 player, put it on random and give me yours in the comments.

Review: Your Jesus Is Too Safe

Your Jesus Is Too Safe
I’ve been reading Jared Wilson’s writings for some 5 years now. First at Thinklings, then at his first solo blog, Mysterium Tremendum, then at Shizuka Blog and now at the Gospel-Driven Church. His blogging, perhaps more than any other, has stretched and moved my thinking spiritually over the years. So when given the opportunity to review his book, I jumped at the chance.
The picture above should give some insight into how I liked the book. That’s my copy and each sticky note is for a quote that I wanted to come back to. There’s a lot of good, quotable stuff in here. Here’s a couple:

[Jesus] is a king who looks out at every single person in other kingdoms, sees them doing sinful things, and says to himself, I want that person.

Jesus the King, p. 192

He didn’t perforate the veil. He didn’t put a dotted line on the veil so we’d know where to use our scissors. He didn’t put a “tear here” label on the veil and add a ziplock enclosure so we could seal it back up if we wanted. He absolutely ripped the thing in half. One act. Fully complete.

Jesus the Sacrifice, p. 208

Reconciliation presents salvation as it really is – as Jesus the Savior taking dead strangers to God and transforming them into living friends.

Jesus the Savior, p. 274

Going in, because I had such high expectations, I wondered if I would be disappointed. Mostly, I was not (we’ll get to the ‘mostly’ later). The book delivered the excellent writing, the meaty content and the snark that I’ve come to expect from Jared.
Jared’s style is such that you might think this is a light weight, casual read. It is, but it’s chock full of meat and peppered with references to other books that I bet aren’t near as easy to digest. Jared puts deep theological concepts within your grasp, partly by skimming their surface, but mostly by putting them in deceptively plain language. He has a knack for putting powerful things in simple terms. As a result, while it’s an easy read, you never loose sight that this is a man who’s done his homework and knows of what the speaks. He writes with both ease and authority.
The casual, sometimes sarcastic, tone may be off-putting to some. In fact, Michael Spencer said in his review that older folks (past their 40’s) might not get some of the cultural references and may not appreciate the “Driscoll-esque rhetorical style” of Jared’s writing. I’m 42, so I’m on the bubble and I did find it tiring in a couple of spots, but mostly it adds to the topic rather than taking away. I mean you’ve gotta love stuff like this:

This man Jesus, who as a kid pooped in his diapers and wet his bed like the rest of us; who sweated and bled, and got morning breath, and had BO, and was sort of a mama’s boy, says to the religious leaders of his day, “Hey, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus the Lord, p. 257

A couple spots of too much snark and a couple of chapters that seemed to go a little long were the minor things in the ‘mostly’ from above. Minor quibbles, frankly, that shouldn’t stop anyone from reading this book. But, if a little sarcasm and snark rub you the wrong way, maybe this isn’t the book for you.
Which would be a shame, because the one thing that stands out, above all else, in this book is Jared’s unashamed passion and enthusiasm for Jesus. This is something that isn’t heard much in Christian circles, unfortunately. Frankly, I hadn’t noticed it was missing until I saw Jared relentlessly preaching Jesus and the gospel. Oh, we hear a lot of Bible things that we can do to improve our marriages, our kids, our finances or be better or happier people, but not enough just plain Jesus (who is the answer to all that stuff anyway). There are several spots in the book where you can feel his excitement over what aspect of Jesus he’s describing. Like this:

This is what a prophet does. This is what Jesus the prophet does. He inserts himself into our workaday lives, he invades our space and exposes our hearts. He tells us the ugly truth about ourselves, but not to shame or punish us, but to open us up, to provoke is and prompt us, to disarm our defenses and turn us – all of us, our whole selves – toward him. He dismantles our bland religion and hypothetical spirituality, he tears down our heartless theology and our faithless works. He infiltrates the very core of our existence and proclaims not our betterment or our improvement or our worthiness, but his own glory and power.

Jesus the Prophet, p. 55

This is a man passionate about his Savior, amazed by him and, frankly, shocked that you aren’t floored by Jesus too. And if you read this book and aren’t more passionate about Jesus, I wonder if you were paying attention. His enthusiasm is contagious and ought to move you when you’re done.
Jared’s done a lot for my faith over the years, and I think this book will do a lot for the faith of those who chose to read it. It will stick with you and make you think. I highly recommend it.
This post is part of the blog tour for Jared C. Wilson’s new book, Your Jesus Is Too Safe, Outgrowing a Drive-Through, Feel-Good Savior. In return for writing this review, I was given a free copy of the book. No expectation or promise of a favorable review was given. It just happened ’cause the book is darn good.

The Reality of the Kingdom

Notice, though, what Jesus says to do: leave the weeds – don’t try to pull them. For now, leave the weeds. Because in the reality of the kingdom, the dead come back to life. Goats become sheep, weeds become wheat. When we see with kingdom eyes, we don’t write anyone off or leave anyone for dead. Instead, we do the radical, revolutionary, counter cultural thing – bear with the unbearable and minister with grace to those who don’t have what we have. We coexist with the weeds – peacefully, humbly, lovingly – in the hopes that more and more stalks will come into the light and be transformed into wheat.

I’m reading Jared’s book and participating in the blog tour that starts next week, but I couldn’t resist sharing this quote. There are are lot of sharable quotes in this book. Look for my review on Thursday.

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