Archive for April, 2010

The morning’s email brings this new work by Paul Coughlin to my attention. I acknowledge that I have not read this work yet, but I have high confidence in bringing it to your attention.

Understanding this “nice” vs. “good” paradigm is of high importance, whether you are a single man (the group, I think, that needs to hear this the most), a woman married or single, or a married man. If you have spent a great deal of time in the kinds of Evangelical and Charismatic-lite fellowships that I am most familiar with, then you need to dwell a bit in this man’s writing.

Listen to one counselor’s endorsement of this work:

As a Christian counselor, I see many women paying the high price of being too nice: depression, anxiety, stress-related physical ailments, as well as difficult and destructive relationship patterns. Finally there is a book I can recommend that gives women the reasons why nice isn’t always good and the tools to help them stop.

This may be a book that the single Christian man can given to those special ladies in his circle of acquaintances. You may help her forward towards a place most desireable for all concerned.

Once upon a time, influenced by the teachers of my youth, I was a pacifist; both at the level of my understanding of what was permitted in personal interactions as well as what might be allowed on behalf of or at the compulsion of a government.

With time and the influence of diverse meditations and experiences I realized that I had been wronged in this counsel, and moreover that my development as a man and a Christian had been stymied by this.

The same Man who taught us “turn the other cheek” also counseled His followers at another point to go and buy swords if they did not have them. While this is often regarded by some literal-minded as examples of a “contradiction” we can see on easy reflection that this is the not the case. The scriptures, as C. S. Lewis explained, must be understood in the same way that tea is steeped into water.

Many sayings of Jesus must be seen in context as Talmudic in their style and didactic method (see here for another such)

“Turning the other cheek” is about:

1) Not responding in anger*.
2) Choosing the time, place, manner, and “if” of responding.

All that being said, you are to be a lover of peace, as we are taught in the Epistles; which means seeking it out as well when it can be.

Why is this so important as to be elevated to a “Credo?” It is important for you to know that your Father has blessed your instinct to protect your own boundaries, and not only of the physical type. If it is not settled in your mind that your dignity of personhood is worth protecting, you will eventually wind up striving to be “nice” rather than “good” – and worse, you will be thinking that you are doing either yourself or God a favor in this.

It is a natural sequelae of this that we examine other kinds of purposeful violence — that done on behalf of others. Such commentary is beyond the scope of this small essay; but I bid you to contemplate these things. I also bid you to reflect on the effect of your own old nature and the influence of an often corrupted popular culture when considering these things. Most things are not worth fighting over; and a deep knowledge of your sonship is often sufficient to give you a clear view of a given situation.
*In what many scholars understand to be merely a slap of insult; not a physical attack upon one’s person.

Sounds ….not very biblical, does it? Or, on the other hand, a simple kind of duh-oh statement.

Yet so necessary.

I am sure you have seen some version of this: “Pray for Sister so-and-so….”

A week will go by and we will hear that God “healed” Sister so and so, who has recovered from her bout of …hay fever; say.

Wellll… it would be certainly attractive to a few of the the hyper-Calvinists among us, some of whom see God as micromanaging His creation down to the quantum level, to think this way. To others, who are secretly wondering whether God is able to live up to His majesty, they do not wish to let a moment pass in which we do not get to give Him a plug.

To others of us, we rest gently and safely in the knowledge of His creation in us of those aspects of our bodies that enable us to thrive and prosper, and (shhh….) are also secretly glad of things like Antihistamines, developed by (shssss) … men*).

Is this confusing to you?

I knew a Christian couple once who did not wish to believe the opinion of a Nephrologist — a Kidney doctor — about the condition of their loved one, because he — are you sitting down? He believed in a big bang . Somehow this disqualified him not only morally but technically to understand the science they themselves were ignorant of. I did point out to them that Chuck Colson was a big fan of the big bang.

… Some time ago I belabored to explain nuclear decay to an Assemblies of God pastor** who was in my Critical Care Unit visiting a patient. Using the decay of radioactive isotopes technicians are able to detect the location and existence of blood clots in the body — a very important diagnostic tool. He was willing to accept this; except insofar as this very technology is what also enables us to demonstrate that the world is much older than the 7-10,000 year old “young earth” viewpoint. His belief was that my “belief” was in the science rather than the scriptures; not that he understood a scriptural understanding of old earth creationism; nor for that matter even the science of nuclear decay.

Why does this matter? It matters to you, single Sister, because very many of you in the Anglosphere will be spinsters to your graves because of the lack of single men, who believe that they are being asked to do something else than walk in integrity if they accept the claims of Christ on them. Various organizations have fostered this impression; your local church may be one of them.

It matters further in that we muddy the water unnecessarily when we con-fuse (fuse-together) empirical claims with theological ones. There are times (the feeding of the multitude…actual healing miracle [both present and past]….the resurrection) when they are commingled and not con-fused. And there are times that we just confuse people, and ourselves. There is no need for a contest, any more than between husband and wife.

There are links on the blogroll to help you find your way forward in reading nature, His other book.
*Yes, with His help, I am most certain. I have a private theory that the Simians – the Apes, Chimps, and so forth — are close to us in physiology so that we may have them to better understand our own physiology with drug testing, and so forth.

** This man wasn’t buying it. But he was able to wonder aloud, to me, if I was homosexual (I am certainly not.) This pastor did not have a paradigm for a biblically and scientifically literate single man in one; and he had a pulpit. We do have a long way to go, don’t we?

Related Credo: #88

Do you really want to go back to Egypt? Think about it long and hard.  Think about it twice.   Do you really want to go back to Egypt? Really?

I recall for you (if you are going through a desert place on your way to your Promised Land) …after passing through the Red Sea, that the first place the People of Israel stopped was Mara, which means “bitterness.

Still, I must ask: Do you want to go back to Egypt?

Read these lyrics:

I come into this place
Burning to receive your peace
I come with my own chains
From wars I’ve fought for my own selfish gain
You’re my God and my Father
I’ve accepted your Son
But my soul feels so empty now
What have I become?

Lord, come with your fire,
Burn my desires; refine me
Lord, my will has deceived me
Please come and free me
Refine me

My heart can’t see
When I only look at me
My soul can’t hear
When I only think of my own fears
They are gone in a moment
You’re forever the same
Why did I look away from You
How can I speak Your name?

Lord, come with Your fire,
burn my desires; refine me
Lord, my will has deceived me
Please come and free me
Come rescue this child
For I long to be reconciled to You

Go and read now Christ’s admonition to the Church at Ephesus, who had left their first love.

Our dear sister Jennifer Knapp, who penned this heartfelt cry, has fallen into a snare. My point: Even at Ephesus their “lampstand” — perhaps representative of the Light of the Holy Spirit — was removed.

We think: What a hardass Jesus is being! Yet there seems to be something in the Divine system of justice that when we know to stand, that we are, like adults (not like children) allowed to find the fruit of not standing. I contemplate this with a queasy sense of knowing that I do not always stand when I know to stand; it makes one want to hide away from His face.

Music: This song performed by another sister, and also this one, First Love, by Petra.

Do you know? Do you have any business giving much time or money to random things if you don’t know?

You ought to call out every day for Wisdom to know what your destination is, in both the “big picture” and “daily picture” sense of this.

Consider why the Pharisees, the object of Christ’s scorn, had all the rules and regulations they did. Were they just self-smug individuals trying to lord it over people’s lives who thought too highly of their self-imputed righteousness? Well, that’s part of it. Some of it was well intentioned, a means of erecting a “fence” around behaviors that were forbidden by Levitical law. I will draw on a modern example to help illustrate this. If you should be familiar with the kitchen of a kosher-observant Jewish family, you would know that dishes that are used with milk products are separately handled than dishes that are not used for milk products. The reasoning behind this is an ancient prohibition against cooking a calf in it’s mother’s milk, which apparently was a culinary practice of some of the peoples surrounding ancient Israel. It is not clear why this was a moral issue than perhaps a way to distinguish between the cultures; but I leave that aside. By erecting rules — such as handling the dishes separately — one erects a “fence” that surrounds the “law” such that by obeying the fence of rules one will not be capable of breaking the “law”.

Now, we have “laws” that are there for our own good – the speed limit, for example; one I personally struggle with betimes from the driver’s side of my two-seater. Other examples would be building codes that keep the structure we are living in upright, or the internet protocols that allow you read this essay; regardless of the type of computer you are using or your choice of browser.

My point? If you read this blog, and these Credos, you know that I have a very, very low opinion of pastoral ding-dongs who do such things as try to scare you with hellfire to get you to tithe, or use the King James version only, say; or who actually think and teach, as this man does, that the bible requires you to go through a lady’s father or a church elder to take her out; which I gather includes such things as adult ladies who are CEOs or Doctors.

My point: It takes an honest man to live outside the “law.”

The Map

Posted: April 12, 2010 in For brothers, Other people's writing

The Map, by author David Murrow, is well worth your time. Not just another lame book full of finger-wagging; or cheesy dialogue from yet another wanna-be author in the Christian book circuit full of masculine bromides.

The Map is an examination of God’s way of bringing you on your journey, and how the different places you find on the way speak to different parts of your masculine soul. Along the way you also find a neat understanding of why the Gospel of Matthew seems chronologically incongruous with the other accounts – it was written that way because it was written topically rather than chronologically. I’ll let you discover how for yourself.

The three places: Submission – Strength – Sacrifice. Four stars.

If you come out of Evangelical Protestantism, do not be so quick to dismiss your brothers who look to Rome or Constantinople.

I do not mean in any way to dismiss significant differences in theology; or to brush these aside with talk about “different emphases.” Nor to express a “sloppy agape” sentiment that minimizes our common and collective need world-wide for renewal of the mind and heart.

I only mean to remind you that you see in part, as well.

Edit: I went through a couple of versions of this, because I was a) Wrestling with how to include my Anglican friends (one of the most honest single Christian ladies I know, one who “got away” because I had a profound sense from God not to pursue that relationship, is an Anglican) and b) I knew there there was something wrong with the spelling of “Wittenburg.”

All of which is to say that a) I recognize there are ernest seekers after Him in the ranks of fans of the Book of Common Prayer; even if the organization seems to be spiritually imploding faster than one can keep up with it; and b) That I wish to point you towards these folk. Betimes with humor they have ministered to my sense of happiness. In honor of their contribution I will leave “Wittenburg” mis-spelled; the real castle is here, in Wittenberg.

Paul Coughlin’s insight continues to warm the heart and mind. Read this latest essay of his over at Crosswalk.