Saturday, January 30, 2021

Questions

 

Thankful? Yes, But to Whom? Chapter 38


1.  A time when I failed to express proper gratitude to God for his wonderful provision was…

 

2.  A time when my thanksgiving to God almost overwhelmed me was…

 

3.  A contemporary area in which I need to be more thankful to God is…

 

4.  A significant way in which I can thank God today is….


5.  What is God saying to me about this?   

Friday, January 29, 2021

Thursday, January 29, 1981...


It was cold, maybe 15-20 degrees.  There was a foot of snow on the ground.  I had just come in from jogging around the trailer park in which I found myself living. (You could still call it that back then.)

I was finally divorced, legally delivered from my drug-fueled, pleasure-seeking, godless marriage. I had been discharged (honorably) from the U.S. Navy and was serving in the active reserves. I had returned to college only to revisit the old ways from which I had sought escape. In fact, this was my third college in less than two years.

And here, in a singlewide trailer, with only heat and no running water, I found my first love – Jesus. 

Coming in from jogging and chugging down my three raw eggs with o.j. and a touch of powdered sugar, I sat back to roll a joint.  As I lifted the lighter to this perfectly rolled wonder that would relieve me of all my anxieties, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I had made a mess of my life.

Many of my classmates envied me, I was living independently. I was free. I was pursuing my goal of earning my first million dollars.  I had made enough money to stop working and to pay for college, support my drinking, pot smoking, and miscellaneous drug enhancing lifestyle.  My car was paid for. All was right with the world.  But nothing was right with me.

I can’t explain it but remorse, guilt, and terror filled my soul and burst forth in tears. “My God, what am I to do?  What do you want of me? I’ve tried and tried but I keep coming back to this same situation.”

Something in me snapped.  I flushed the pot down the toilet. I dumped all the beer and vodka down the kitchen sink. And I threw myself on my bed.  And there it was. The Bible that had been given to me from my pastor on His last Children’s Sunday with us at the Grosse Pointe Woods Presbyterian Church.  I hadn’t seen it in years.  Not when I moved to Mississippi, or when I moved to San Diego or Washington, or back to San Diego; not when I returned to college a year before, nor when I moved back home for a few months, nor did I remember packing it when I moved to Weidman, MI. But there it was. And as I picked it up it fell open, yes, it fell open to Zechariah – and the words leapt off the page:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan sanding at his right side to accuse him.  The Lord said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan" The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" Now, Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.  The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes.:  Then he said to Joshua, "See I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you."  They I said, "Put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.  The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: "If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among those standing here. [Zech 3:1-7]

In that moment I was born again.  I was washed clean. My sins were forever forgiven.  And I was called to ministry.

Now there is more to the story. There were, and continue to this day to be, challenges, temptations, and even accusations. (n.b. the Word Satan comes to us from the Hebrew Ha-Satan meaning the accuser.)

But I stand firm in my resolve to walk in obedience the to Lord and to keep His requirements.

Based on His grace, His faithfulness, and His Word, I have never doubted His love, His protection, His faithfulness to me.  I often question my ability to comprehend the mysteries of faith or just why he seems to trust me with such matters, but that is a struggle common to those who call themselves by His name “Christ-ian”.

Today, is my birthday.  40 years ago today, in a snowbound trailer in rural Weidman, Michigan, a life tattered and in ruins was saved, snatched from the fire. A soul was added to the ranks of glory. 

With David, I still ask, “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”

But so too, with every ounce of my being do I dare to declare, with the rest of that Psalm:

O Lord our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger…O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! [Psalm 8]



 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Grateful for...

Our world is filled with cute but meaningless phrases.  You can find these phrases on signs that hang in card shops, which line the shelves of gift shops, and or even decorate the fanciest of homes.  Things like:


Some even come attached to famous names attempting to give added credibility to an otherwise rather pithy psychological statement:

One I recently took note of was:

Psychology Today defines gratitude as follows: Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value independent of monetary worth. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness and warmth. This social emotion strengthens relationships, and its roots run deep in evolutionary history—emanating from the survival value of helping others and being helped in return. Studies show that specific areas of the brain are involved in experiencing and expressing gratitude. Brain scans of people assigned a task that stimulates expression of gratitude show lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex that heighten sensitivity to future experiences of gratitude.

It is as lame a definition as those which talk about "prayer" being healthy for us.  They both arise from a self-focused/me-centered mentality that is more arrogant and prideful than humble and meek.

The heart that is grateful to "the world" or to "destiny" or to "the forces of nature" or "mother earth" is, at best, the sign of a lost soul and at worst an abomination. People who often give thanks to no one and no thing aren't much different.  It is relationally helpful to publicly express gratitude in general to advance our reputation.  

However, we too often hesitate when we try to define that to which we are grateful. Can one be grateful in general without be grateful specifically?  Tozer suggest that a general spirit of gratitude is a safe space where no on can cond

And yet if I do not recognize that everything I have is a direct gift from the Lord, and that NONE of it is due to my own diligence or effort, I rob God of the glory due him, of the praise due him.  Whether it is catching a football and running for the touchdown, or getting the raise or promotion, or giving birth, avoiding an accident, or even just having money to pay for groceries, all that we have is a gift. 

God blesses abundantly many who will never recognize it as what it is.  That will be to their eternal damnation. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. [Luke 12:48]

So, to all those who are making great income, those who are blessed with many resources, those who work hard, and receive their due pay, is much expected.  It begins with a heart of gratitude to God from whom ALL BLESSINGS FLOW!  Are we truly thankful?  If we are how is it shown? Are we generous? Are we gracious? Are we grateful? Amidst all of the challenges we may be facing, can we give thanks in ALL circumstances? Can we look at the problems we face and be thankful that we serve a God who has provided us EVERYTHING we need to be more than conquerors?

I was surprised, yesterday, by the gratitude that filled my heart to overflowing.  Carol and I were able to have lunch with missionary friends that we hadn't seen since we returned from Ghana in 2008.  I was dancing (figuratively) on the clouds. The conversation was so motivating that I still haven't "come down" from that high. It so encouraged me, and it wasn't anything I had done, or anything in particular that Lee and Michelle Sonius had done, it was God's presence in our respective lives that shown forth in that conversation.

I know that there are likely many times in which I am less excited about being thankful.  There are likely many things along the way for which I have been less thankful than I should be.  But this I know, there is no one to whom I should express my thanks, if not first to my Lord and God who is far beyond anything I could ever ask or imagine.

Soli Deo Gloria!


Friday, January 22, 2021

Questions

 More About Superstition - Chapter 37


1.  What are the characteristics of God that are most obvious to me?

 

2.  What characteristics might he be trying to get me to more fully appreciate?

 

3.  In what ways have I feared Satan more than I trusted God?

 

4.  In what ways have I falsified or manipulated God’s characteristics in order to bring myself comfort?

 

5.  What is God saying to me about this?   

 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

All that glitters is not gold!

Somewhere along the way, I learned the dictum "God created man in His own image and ever since man has been trying to do the same to God."

The thought is sound.  It is echoed in Tozer’s reflection on superstition. He suggests that we confuse God’s character with our own. Fallen men believer that God is very much like themselves and expect Him to act accordingly (p. 141).

We then take it upon ourselves to judge God’s actions in accordance with what we believe to be right or wrong. We presume upon him according to what we, sometimes wrongly, believe scripture indicates He has promised.  We form a god who is on our side, tearing scripture from its context to make our point.

To be even more explicit, Tozer continues, men believe God to be whimsical, and consequently expect Him to be impulsive and unpredictable in His dealings with mankind. Too often I hear references to God which make Him appear to be capricious or erratic, downright undependable, because He doesn’t fit into our cute, little, manageable “god-box.” We prefer the plastic Jesus on the dashboard, or the hippy Jesus of the renaissance painters.

We recite magical prayers to change His mind. We wear charms, crosses, and medals that will have some special mystical power to move Him or to keep misfortune at bay. Like the Buddhist who burns incense or presents fruit and drinks to their spirit house, we hope to control and manage this god we have created in our own image.

Only knowing Him, the One True God, abiding in Him, who was, who is, and who is to come, only reflecting on and understanding Him as He is revealed in His Word will deliver us from this tendency to think God is somehow “manageable.

The cure for superstition is an increased appreciation of the being of God: not names only, but character and being…In the degree that we know God himself, we shall be free from superstitious fears…The human heart must have something to love and to fear. If it misses the true God it will make a god of its own.  A crowd of persons who pray to a false god is not a church in any sense of the word, even if the word “Christian” or “church” appears on the front of the building.

All that glitters is not gold.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

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Friday, January 15, 2021

Questions

 

A Word About Superstition - Chapter 36


1.  In what ways has my life (over the last year) been negatively impacted by superstition?

 

 2.  How is my faith informed by superstitious beliefs?

 

 3.  In what ways is my understanding of God correctly informed and free of superstition?

 

 4.  How is the Spirit working in me to increase my understanding of God and correct my misunderstandings?

 

 5.  What is God saying to me about this? 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Political Rant


My personal political rant:

I am no more embarrassed by any of our President’s words or actions than I am of the collective and individual actions and words of our elected members of the Senate and Congress, Governors, Mayors, and others.

• I am no more concerned about what happened at the Capital than I am about what happened in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Chicago or Dallas.

• I believe the vitriol and heated, frenzied conversations have been given wings to fly, have been approved of and advanced most completely by the media who bears the brunt of responsibility for the current nature of our public rhetoric.

• Unless or until the petulant, self-righteous, underworked and overpaid, lazy, arrogant, self-serving and faithless realize their privileged position as people blessed by the Lord Jesus Christ, we will continue to have these issues.

• The only answer is an individual brokenness before the Lord God Almighty, who may, maybe, just maybe, chose to move yet in a mighty way to save us from ourselves. (Isaiah 41:14)

• But I can’t honestly say He has any reason, motivation, or interest in saving those who turn their backs on Him...short of His love in Christ our Savior.

And so, with the sages of old, I declare:

Our only hope in life and death is that we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7–8)




Your Sister May Not Be in Heaven...

 

Now that I have your attention, let's talk about truth versus fantasy. Our minds often utilize fantasy to protect us from our fears. A classic case of this is our continuing certainty as to whether or not someone resides in heaven.  Leaving aside, for the time being, theological discourse on resurrection, souls, pergatory and other such matters, Tozer deals with superstition's presence in the Christian faith in both this week's and next week's readings. 

Two things stood out for me in this week's reading. The first is the role of superstition in the Christian's life. Serving as a Pastor, I've pretty much heard it all - from the assumption that because we love our parents we know they are in heaven are reunited andare dancing with one another as husband and wife, or that our sister, our baby, our friend, whomever, in death has now received her wings, or even in more earthy matters where we assert "what goes around comes around."  Our faith, our conversations, our assumptions are all peppered with superstitions unsupported by scripture, sometimes even taught in our churches, our Sunday School classes, and even in our Seminaries. Scripture needs to speak clearly to that if we are to grow in our faith.  We MUST be willing to face the hard cold facts of what scripture teaches clearly, and what it leaves unanswered.

The other thing that stands out is Tozer's comment concerning our denial of superstition's role in our faith, that is, that the denial of its role leads to bigotry and anger. When our assumptions are attacked by others we tend to lean on our superstitions. We rely on those spurious assumptions about God's character or His intentions, those things about which we feel absolutely confident but which are misunderstood or which are speculative. We react angrily, judgmentally, self-righteously. We react this way, in part because we are unable to exposit the scripture sufficiently to make our case calmly. Our lack of confidence in our ability to do so erupts in anger and even violence. 

(I find this to be abundantly true in many of our contemporary American assumptions regarding God's role in the political scene.  Whether it is a Democratic "we need to provide for the weak and needy", a Republican "God helps those who help themselves", or a Libertarian "everyone should do what is right in their own eyes", we get caught up in the self-imposed confidence that God is on "our side." We wave the flag as if it represents or maybe used to represent, God's standard. We burn it to demonstrate God's displeasure. We ignore it as irrelevant.  And we tend to take scripture out of context to defend our particular position. Christian bigotry holds as full sway in radical right, radical left, and in-between movements.  

I have no idea where the superstitious type theologies involved in Touched by an Angel, or All Dogs Go to Heaven" or Promised Land" came from but I do know that they perfectly model the presence of superstition in our world today.  (Don't even get me started on Angels, Charlie's Angels, No Angels, Little Angels, Dominion, Vicar of Dibly, or any of the other godless, whore-mongering, winks at faith or the outright attacks on it.) They are used as examples in our pulpits by preachers who want to be relevant. They are a source of comfort for those who have significant questions but who don't want to take the time to carefully search scripture. And they help us feel good about our addiction to the television. Superstition is comingled with our faith whether we admit it or not.

Of course just as bad, as Tozer suggests, is the other end of the spectrum where faith is completely denied by some scientists and philosophers. Their arrogance is in their own self perceived abilities to understand that which is ultimately beyond our human capability. And trust is eroded in anything which can't be proven (for scientists) or reasoned (by philosophers).

This chapter is going to take some more work for me to process.  It's easy to see the problems in others and  in the broader culture, but I need to ask

  • What do I need to work on? 
  • What are the superstitions I need to address? 
  • What are the assumptions I tend to lean on? 

Tozer makes it clear, as we all know so well, scripture is the absolute final answer, not someone's assertion about scripture, not someone's interpretation of scripture, but the very Word of God.  Scripture interprets scripture. And this means spending more time in scripture than we spend talking about scripture, or hearing it preached, or assuming that our memory about it is sufficient. May God have mercy on us all.



Thursday, January 7, 2021

Questions

 Christian – Or Only a Student Christian     Chapter 35


1.  Is the Sunday School system in your local congregation focused more on memorization rather than learning? If so, to what extent and what could you do to enhance that system?


2.  What does understanding the difference between memorizing and learning teach me about my spiritual life (i.e. in what ways have I been memorizing rather than learning)?


3.  How does my moral life model the lessons I have learned from Scripture?


4.  How is my life obedient to the Word of God?  What areas do I still need to bring in to submission?


5.  What is God saying to me about this?   

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Catholic, Reformed, Anabaptist?

 

At the intersection of Catholic, Reformed, and Anabaptist thought is not just the issue of works righteousness, but of how faith and obedience intersect.

Tozer's thoughts in chapter 35 of  "The Size of the Soul: Principles of Revival and Spiritual Growth" address this very issue.  While Tozer has some clear and unfortunate anti-catholic prejudices, so too he discounts the nonsense of reformed thought which, based on "faith alone," has led to a casting aside of the works of faith which are a direct implication of faith.  And he seems to avoid the anabaptist tendency toward legalism in behavior. (While Tozer does not mention the issue of legalism in this week's chapter, we will do well to keep Christian legalism in mind as we reflect on the next two week's writings on superstition.)

Tozer focuses on the quintessential question - for anyone bold enough and honest enough to take that proverbial good, hard look in the mirror.  "Are we students of Christianity or are we Christians?" The student may know scripture well.  The student may be theologically conversant. The student may have occupied a pew their entire lives, have taught Sunday School, served on the church board, and may even know well the history of their particular "brand" of Christian faith. But they are related to the dog in Proverbs 26:11 which returns to its vomit, the fool who repeats his folly?" 2 Peter 2 describes these "springs without water and mists driven by a storm":  

Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, 
“A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”
 

These are difficult words to hear, much less to apply to ourselves. Yet if we do not see a turning from sin, if we cannot observe a growth in our obedience we dare not assume we love the One who said:

If you love me, keep my commands. [John 14:15]
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. [John 14:21]
and
Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.  [John 14:23]
or
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do. [Ephesians 2:10]
 

We are saved through the faith which declares that Christ died to atone for our sins. Faith is the means of appropriating our salvation. And this faith is evidenced in the works of righteousness which we are thereby empowered to do. 

In Hebrews 11:6 we are told that "without faith it is impossible to please God". And what then follows is a list of actions taken by the saints which demonstrated their faith - Abel's provision of a better offering than Cain's, Noah's building of the Ark, Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, Rahab's helping the spies... and so many more to which Scripture testifies, that it was this faith that allowed them to suffer the torture, the martyrdom, the accusations, and the persecution. Hebrews 11 is the Hall of Fame of those who faithfully executed the office of believer.  You can't be a person of faith who doesn't perform faithful acts. Period.

Works of faith, endurance in times of trial, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow are all an indication of our faith.  Christians aren't woe is me, doom and gloom, passive little creatures that experience all the ravages of the world and sit around commiserating with other pessimists. They are go getters. They are the embodiment of meekness (inner strength), the truth tellers, the do-gooders of the Word. They are eternally optimistic, giving thanks in all circumstances,  risk taking, praise giving, good works producing, God serving people.

So, as we near the end of this book, we must ask ourselves, how has Christ so been at work in me that I have been able to do all things?  How is He who is in me greater than he who is in the world? Are we merely hearers of the word or are we doers of the word?  Time for a serious spiritual check up! 

https://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Spiritual_Check_Up

https://churchanswers.com/blog/10-questions-six-month-spiritual-checkup/ 

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2013/06/28/jeremiah-121-17-giving-myself-a-spiritual-check-up/

Friday, January 1, 2021

Visits to ThePopSalad

Feel free to leave a "hello" when you stop by.

A look at blog statistics (for those who like numbers):
December, 2020

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Other-19

Country listed may be skewed by use of a VPN 

Numbers are "as reported" by Google Analytics

Questions

The New Birth Is a Mystery Chapter 34


1. My experience of salvation (coming to faith) was…

 

2. People who pointed the way to a personal relationship with Christ for me included:

 

3. How might I point the way for others to come to this saving understanding of God’s grace?

 

4. What are the barriers before me to point the way? How might I overcome them?

 

5.  What is God saying to me about this? 



Hallead Day Inn, Abacos

Today, we had a wonderful visit with former missionary colleagues, Ron and Denise Hamme, from Thailand whom we hadn't seen since 2006!...