Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Search of Spiritual Contentment

It's a hard thing to be a simultaneously spiritually content Christian and a thinking Christian. The urge to constantly poke and prod ourselves and our concept of God is like trying not to pick at a scab.  We know that leaving it alone will help it heal faster, but it itches.  We scratch it, ripping off the protective barrier and start the whole bleeding process again.  It will eventually heal, but it's going to take much longer to do so.

Adult Sunday School has always been an exercise in frustration for me. I realized that this Sunday morning as I listened to a group venture way off-topic and express cliches and sentimentalities that have no real wisdom in them. It's a chronic complaint of mine.  

When I was younger and attended SBC churches, it was even more frustrating because combined with the off-the-mark interpretations and missing-the-point applications, I had to deal with the hovering idea of submission to authority, and the submission of women to male leadership.  I would bite my lip as leaders made nonsensical statements or took passages completely out of context.  Even when I didn't feel constrained by the general gender attitudes, I would ration how often I would speak up in an attempt to correct what was said, which I usually did in non-confrontational ways, phrasing things in terms of "I wonder if maybe so and so meant this."

Nobody likes to be corrected.  Nobody likes people who are always correcting other people.

Over the years, I've accepted that roughly 60% of what I hear from pulpits and Bible studies is generally chaff.  It's incorrect.  It's biased.  It's shallow.  It has no lasting impact on the speaker or the hearer.  It's noise.

You would think that having such a low opinion of Sunday School and sermons would make me run for the hills, and yet I still attend church. I haven't surrendered my hope for a spiritual home.

Considering how wrong I think my fellow believers can be--digressing into Young Earth Creation arguments, falling for Urban Legends as proof for faith, justifying terrible suffering as God's will--it may seem as if I foolishly cling to my personal faith. If the people by which I am surrounded have such low accuracy in these things, then why would I want to associate with them? Surely I can't expect to learn anything from these people.

To be honest, I have had moments in which I felt that way.....but those moments always pass.

My faith is my faith because of what it means to me.  I selfishly protect it from the errors I know of.  Yet, even now I must acknowledge that I probably possess errors of my own of which I am completely unaware.  It would be the height of arrogance to assume that my knowledge of God is complete and whole. If I am willing to allow for God's grace to cover over my own misunderstandings and gaffes, then it would be rank hypocrisy to not extend the same grace to others.

While trying to continue to poke and prod my faith and my understanding of it, there comes the recognition that all of the things I ponder and think about, all the pie-in-the-sky wanderings of my mind, have very little to do with the very basic tenets of Christianity--the reduction of all the Scriptures to loving God with all that I have, and to loving others as I wish to be loved.

I need a lot of loving...a lot of overlooking of my annoying qualities....a lot of grace for my many mistakes and imperfections...a lot of patience. 

I put up with the crazy ideas people spout, because I sense that sometimes I am the crazy person spouting ideas.

In searching for spiritual contentment, I find I have to release my urges to always have things just so. I have to let go of the professional critic that speaks inside my head and accept people for where they are in their particular journey with God. 

I find that when I set those things aside and focus on the actual people, and not the things that they say, it becomes much easier.

Huh?

Watch this...


Now please tell me that Dunkin Donuts isn't seriously trying to portray feeding your kids donuts as a wholesome way to pull the kids away from TV.

"C'mon kids don't let the TV turn your mind to goo...come eat some high-fat, sugary donuts instead, and let your body turn to goo!"

irony...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Field Trip Fun

This week I helped chaperone Intuitive Monkey's class field trip to the local Museum of Science and Industry.  Part of the fun of having your parent chaperone is having the ability to choose the members of your group.

Miss K-- slowly shook her head with a rueful grin when she gave me my group.  

"He's the one who chose his group members.  Good luck!"

The Three Amigos:


I spent a large portion of my time herding each of them as they would wander off, excitedly forgetting everything but the desire to check out the next greatest display.  

It wasn't that bad, really.  They were rambunctious but pleasant.

The best part of the Museum was the special "kids" area.  It was all hands on and had some extremely cool exhibits--a wind tunnel whose winds reached 80 mph, a tug of war fulcrum, a bed of nails that the children could lay on. 

Neat stuff.



A Little Black Humor

*language and morbid humor alert*
Because I don't sleep well lately and have really weird dreams....going after those spicy food manufacturers.

Nancy actually reminds me of my mother.  She would fall asleep on the couch and start shouting out incomprehensible things. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Great Expectations

While chatting with a friend and her husband in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese, children racing by to the sounds of 100 video games bleeping and whirring, her husband asked if she had told me that her father had recently become an atheist. This not being the usual content of a Chuck E. Cheese conversation, it took me a minute to process that before they began their story.

Apparently, despite having attended church all his life and even avidly studying his Bible for many years....he has recently, and without much warning, decided that he no longer believes anything. Not a single speck of what he used to believe.  He has been writing e-mails to all of his friends and family members, desperate to convince them of their religious folly. He has become an atheist evangelist--his own self-description.

The only reason he gives for his sudden change of heart is the existence of so much suffering in the world.

There wasn't much for me to say to my friend.  I said I was sorry and hoped that, maybe after some time had passed, her father would become slightly less gung-ho in his approach.  What could I say to her?  As a Christian, it's a devastating and bewildering blow to her and to the image she had of her father.

One of the things her father told her was that he was happier than he had ever been.  He didn't worry about things anymore. I understood what he meant, and wondered if it might have something to do with his attraction to atheism in the first place.  If God is out of the equation, the world can still be an evil, awful place, but at least we wouldn't be pressed to find some noble, God-inspired reason for it.

When DH and I were first married, I had a certain narrative in my head about our relationship and how God had brought us together.  I truly believed that there were very specific reasons that we had found each other. These reasons were quite spiritualized and heady. They made me feel as if I was on the right track with my life and that I knew exactly what it meant to know God's will.

Fast forward a couple years.  I realized that I had been dead wrong.  The story in my head did not match up with reality. This is not an indictment of DH, or me, or our marriage.  We are quite happy and usually work through our marital issues in a relatively healthy way. However, when trouble hit us early in our marriage, it was a double blow to me.  Not only was I having to struggle with the normal marital strains of the newly married, but I also had to come to terms with how off I had been in assigning specific meanings to our relationship.

It shook me to the core to realize that I could be so wrong about ideas of which I had been so certain. I began to question every decision associated with any trace of certainty similar to what I had experienced. Unsettling emotions washed over me.

The intersection of arbitrary expectations and reality lay at the crux of my crisis. I had constructed an unsustainable scenario from my assumptions about God and what it meant to follow Him. 

As I continued talking with my friend, I wondered whether her father had experienced a similar disappointment. When we are told that there is always a "reason for everything" that happens in life, we're put in the position of finding a reason for the most awful things. Inevitably, all our reasons regress back to God: 

God has decided to cause or allow A, B, or C in our lives.  A, B, or C in our lives causes a lot of pain and doesn't seem to have any bright side or purpose to it. We declare that it has a purpose, we just don't know what it is. 

After several years of trying to console ourselves that there is a purpose to A, B, or C, we begin to suspect that it really is purposeless.

Our disillusionment isn't based on the terrible things that happen, it's based on the idea that terrible things shouldn't happen. When they do happen, we have to resolve the dissonance caused by our misplaced expectations.

I have changed the way I look at my life.  I try to never fall back into assuming that there is a specific reason for circumstances in my life.  Instead, I try and think about how God would want me to respond to the circumstances I encounter...whatever they might be.

It's a subtle difference, but it has an enormous effect on how I see God, the world and myself. Releasing the need to determine the cause and meaning of every misfortune in life is freeing.

I'm curious if my friend's father had considered altering his view of God, rather than rejecting Him outright. 

Great Quote

"Progress isn't made by early risers. It's made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something."
--Robert Heinlen

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Asleep, Not Dead

In the comments on one of my posts, Buz brings up a point I haven't addressed yet.  I am aware that in order to make the case for annihilation, I have to deal with some Scriptures which would seem to contradict it.  I hadn't gotten to that post yet, because I  was getting a little burned out and figured I would pace myself.

If we're dealing with the New Testament's ideas about death and resurrection, it's important to go back and re-read familiar Scriptures and evaluate them on the basis of what they actually say, rather than how we interpret them in the 21st century.

Buz brings up a reference to Jesus saying that God "is not the God of the dead but of the living." That's actually a great Scripture to look at in its context and think about the implications of what Jesus is talking about.  In Matthew 22, Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees who didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead.  They were early materialists without any belief in resurrection, angels or spirits. In order to try and trap Jesus, they pose a question about Levirate marriage:
Matthew 22:23-33
23That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.24"Teacher," they said, "Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother.26The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh.27Finally, the woman died. 28Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?"

 29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.33When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

Notice that the Sadducees don't ask what the relationship between the woman and her seven husbands will be in Heaven, after their death. No, they are clearly referring to a future, physical resurrection, not an intermediate state.  Though we know the Sadducees didn't really believe in the resurrection, the way they pose the question informs us about what those who did affirm resurrection believed.  It doesn't indicate any sense of conscious existence before the resurrection.

The most compelling point is made by Jesus.  When he says,"He is not the God of the dead, but of the living," it is a direct reference to resurrection.  He isn't saying, "Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive in some spiritual place, conscious of their surroundings...therefore they are 'alive'". Instead, the basis for declaring them "alive" is clearly their future status in the resurrection.

I've referred to Jairus' daughter and Lazarus in my post on Easter, but because the post was focusing on Christ's resurrection, I didn't plunge into the Annihilation/Conditional Immortality subject once again. However, we must consider how Jesus spoke about death and life.  In the gospels, besides raising himself, he only raises three other people; Jairus' daughter, Lazarus, and the son of a widow.  In the case of Jairus' daughter and Lazarus, he describes them as being asleep. Especially in the case of Jairus' daughter, Jesus is adamant over the use of the term, telling the mourners that she is not dead, simply asleep.  It's repeated in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in much the same way.

Matthew 9:23-25 

23When Jesus entered the ruler's house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, 24he said, "Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him. 25After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up.

and about Lazarus:

John 11:11

11After he had said this, he went on to tell them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."

In raising the dead man in Luke, he doesn't refer to him as being asleep, but he does raise him by directly addressing his body.

Luke 7:12-15

12As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.13When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."

 14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Very matter of fact, no?
The terminology continues on through Acts and through Paul's epistles.  In Acts as Stephen is being stoned:
Acts 7:59-60
59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
It does not escape my attention that Stephen refers to his "spirit" in this section. I'm going to address that in another section with other verses like it.

In Acts 13:35-37, referring to the death of King David:
36"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. 37But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.
Paul almost exclusively uses asleep to describe believers who have died.


1 Corinthians 15--all throughout this passage

1 Thessalonians 4 and 5-several uses throughout the chapters.

If we're looking at the cumulative weight of the way death and resurrection are discussed, the case for Conditional Immortality becomes very strong.  If Conditional Immortality is the correct way of viewing human life, then there is no such spiritual place as Hell...as we currently understand it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This story, which first came to my attention a week or two ago, makes me truly grateful to be a woman living in the United States.  To contemplate being an Afghani woman, subject to laws making it illegal to refuse a husband's advances, is truly mind-boggling.  I am happy to see women protesting this move, but can only imagine the price that they will have to pay before they acquire any small measure of dignity in that country.

They face an uphill battle in a society in which they can be refused an education and shuttered behind doors at the whim of the male head of their household. 

Perhaps, the most terrifying part of the article:

Afterward, when the demonstrators had left, one of the madrasa’s senior clerics came outside. Asked about the dispute, he said it was between professionals and nonprofessionals; that is, between the clerics, who understood the Koran and Islamic law, and the women calling for the law’s repeal who did not.

It’s like if you are sick, you go to a doctor, not some amateur,” said the cleric, Mohammed Hussein Jafaari. “This law was approved by the scholars. It was passed by both houses of Parliament. It was signed by the president."

The power of the appearance of authority is convincing to people who do not trust their own consciences.

The God of Love

Considering all of my recent posts about Annihilation and Hell, I'm left pondering what it all means to me, personally.

In some ways, looking at things from this new perspective is very freeing for me.  Things make more sense to me.  I actually feel as if God is a God of Love, rather than paying lip service to the concept while justifying a doctrine of hell which damns the large majority of people who have ever existed to eternal torment.

Besides the tactic of not thinking about it much, most conservative Christians harmonize the God of Love and the God of Wrath by explaining that we all deserve Hell, therefore God is loving towards us by providing Jesus as a way for some of us to be saved and avoid damnation. It's our own damn fault and we should be grateful for the meager scraps God throws our way...or so such an attitude appears to express.

My mind conjures an image of an exasperated Father, irritated with His children, not really liking them, wanting to simply show them the door, but then Child Protective Services might show up....so He guesses rather than hassle with all that, He might as well try to do something about them.

That picture of God, while definitely not consciously being drawn by Christians, is at the heart of many people's relationship with God. God is our Father, but it's not a trusting relationship. It's an uneasy one in which we're never quite sure where we stand.  Is He going to open His arms to draw us in, or raise his voice and shout at us, maybe even slap us if we get too far out of line?

My intention is not to downplay God's right to judgment, or to minimize evil. Surely evil is all around us.  We see it everyday in the news.  We experience it in our lives. 

However, the window with which I view God has changed angles.  Instead of looking through it and seeing a brick wall, I see an endless blue ocean and vast white sand.  Instead of a sterile lobby, I see a cultivated courtyard.

Specifically, I have found focusing on eternal life as being physical resurrection and perfection, and condemnation as being true death/annihilation, to be life-affirming. God loves His creation.  He is not interested in its destruction, but in its redemption.  He is not interested in making us less human, but more human--perfectly human.  He is not interested in making us austere, stoic people, unaffected and unimpressed by life.

No.

He has placed a value on us that we cannot fully appreciate or understand.  It's useless to try and understand. Love is the only word for it; caring for us because He chooses to, because we are important to Him.

When you know that you are truly loved by somebody, your relationship with that person matures and becomes secure.  You don't worry that they are constantly evaluating you, looking for your weaknesses, and mentally counting up your insufficiencies.  You become relaxed in their presence and are able to be open and share what you're thinking and feeling without fear of reprisal. 

It's what John expresses in 1 John 4:13-18
13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Fear of God's judgment never moves us forward in our spiritual lives.  We don't overcome temptation and evil through fear. In contrast, we mature by apprehending God's love and grace. 

There is a paradox in life that certain things can only be overcome by caring about them less, not more. We become more confident in ourselves when we stop caring about what other people think of us, not when we constantly try to make sure that we measure up.  We learn to dance by enjoying the music, rather than slavishly trying to follow dance steps.  We lose weight when we stop obsessing on food and simply eat when we're hungry. We overcome addictions when we realize they don't really give us what we want and have no real power over us anyway.

In the same way, we overcome our failings and the fear of judgment by seeing them as nothing in the face of God's love for us.  We can only truly share God's love and grace once we begin to comprehend and accept it. We give from what has been given to us.

Reflecting on God's love lifts mankind from the depths of a pit and sets him on solid ground. It realigns us with God's original intent for us.  It fights against the view of mankind as pitiful vermin, worthy of destruction.

You must, in some ways, have a high view of yourself to enter into relationship with God in such a way. Yet, it is not regarding yourself as perfect because you're better than others, but because you have found your purpose as a child of God, valued by Him, because He has declared you valuable....not only you...but all who choose to follow Him.

In Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas travel throughout Israel spreading the message about Jesus.  At one point they worship at a synagogue and are asked to share a message of encouragement. Paul relates the history of Israel and Jesus' role as Savior.  People flock to hear their message and many believe.  The Jewish leaders became jealous of the attention and following Paul and Barnabas obtain and begin to persecute them, stirring up trouble for them. What is interesting, is Paul and Barnabas' response to them.  Out of exasperation, acknowledging that they have shared the message with the Jewish community there, they say:
Acts 13:46-47a 
Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47For this is what the Lord has commanded us...
It's a compelling way to put things; they are rejecting the gospel because they do not consider themselves worthy of eternal life.  Granted, Paul may be responding sarcastically, yet even so, there's a nugget of truth in there.

It takes faith to trust in that love, to rely on it in the face of failure, to see it as steadfast, unconquerable by fear, to judge oneself worthy of the love of God and eternal life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Post 666

I just noticed my last post was post # 666.

Not sure what that says about the Math Bowl, though it did seem strange that the Math Bowl T-shirt's featured mascot was a seven headed dragon with ten horns

Math Bowl Mania

The Rationalist joined 4 other students from the third grade for the first stage of the county's Math Bowl.

The entire Bowl consists of 10 questions with 5 minutes allotted for each question.  The points for getting a correct answer are weighted; 10 points for the first minute, 8 points if answered in the 2nd minute, etc.  After each minute a timer beeps, informing the students of the disappearing window for answering the question.

Although I love to show my support for my son, I hate the Math Bowl.  The entire time I look on as his team huddles together, pencils scribbling, arguments erupting, time slipping by.  It's hard for me to watch.  The questions are quite tough for their grade, but are easy enough for me to figure out within a few moments of reading them on the projector screen.  Knowing the answer, I have to sit still and quietly hold my breath while I observe them working it out.

Completely. Nerve. Wracking.

It's even worse when, on occasion, I realize that they have misunderstood the complicated directions and are working on the problem from the entirely wrong angle.

Alas...they came in fifth place...just above the middle of the pack, but not one of the top three teams going to the finals.

Watching your children compete is so much worse than competing yourself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Even More Additions to the Blogroll

The blogroll was becoming too male-dominated.  It needed some thinking women for perspective.

With no further ado:

The Retriever--"Pictures and writing by a Christian mom about faith in everyday life, plain living and high thinking. Well, not that plain...too many tech toys. ."

maggidawn--a chaplain in the UK at the University of Cambridge

still looking for new additions...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pirates

I guess Somali pirates don't subscribe to the live by the sword, die by the sword philosophy of life.

They are apparently stunned that governments might react violently to having their ships stolen, and hostages taken, by AK-47 carrying pirates.

They have vowed revenge.  

They aren't the brightest pirates around.

Jack Sparrow would never be so whiny.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Resurrection Sunday

This weekend we made an impromptu trip up to visit DH's parents. We had a great time, but came back late last night in order to make it to church this morning.  Having recently made the decision to commit to this church, we wanted to spend Easter morning there.

The church sits on a tract of land adjacent to a lazy, brown river. Every Easter they have an early morning service under the canopy of palm fronds, oak leaves and Spanish moss dripping from the branches overhead, swaying in the breeze off the river.  It was beautiful.

As I sat listening to the pastor reading from John and delivering his Easter message, I pondered all the themes I've been thinking about and which have begun to solidify within me over the last few months. 

I thought of the sermon that I always want to hear preached each Easter, but never seem to get. Some speakers get closer than others, but few have managed to mark Easter as the joyful occasion it should be.

And what is this Missing sermon?

Life.  New Creation. Transformation.  Hope.

These are the legacies of The Resurrection.

Jesus was not only our savior and redeemer, but our life-giver, the new pattern for those who believe.  God was not content to leave the world as it was.  He was not content to let so many perish in their sins.  He was not satisfied to allow all that He had made crumble under the weight of evil that man has wrought upon the earth.

Mankind, as wretched as it can be and often is, was too valuable to Him.

During Jesus' ministry, many of the miracles he performed were directly tied to regeneration and to sustaining life. Blind eyes were made to see.  Deformed limbs were made whole. Leprosy was healed. The dead were raised. God's creative, life-giving power was being poured out through Jesus as a testimony to his authority.  

Ultimately,  The Resurrection is a reminder that all life comes from God.  Not only does all life come from God, but it pleases Him to create and sustain life. 
Death and destruction are the antithesis of God. The consequences of our sin, and the evil we perpetrate upon the world, are actions that lead to death.  Though God's judgment is a very real thing, his love and desire for life has overcome it, for he takes no pleasure in death, and has no satisfaction in condemnation:
As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.  Ezekiel 33:11
His promise is eternal life; life uninterrupted by sin, evil, sickness, and death. He is remaking us.  He is transforming us.  Jesus' death and Resurrection has reoriented us away from death and destruction and toward God making us part of the new creation He is bringing to pass.

One day the seed of our faith will reap the fruit of God's promise. We will "be like him[Jesus]".  

The God of all that is, the only eternal Spirit with no beginning and no end, draws us to Himself.

Just as Jairus' daughter and Lazarus lay "sleeping" in the clasp of death, waiting only for Jesus to reawaken them, so we will one day wait for that voice to call us up out of death and into eternal life. 

That's good news worth sharing.

1 Corinthians 15

1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

The Resurrection of the Dead
 12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

 20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

 29Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31I die every day—I mean that, brothers—just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, 
   "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character." 34Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.

The Resurrection Body
 35But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?"36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
      If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

 50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."  55"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Maundy Thursday/Good Friday

Last night we attended the Maundy Thursday service at our church.  While I have been to many Good Friday services, this was my first Maundy Thursday experience. It differs not in the tone of the service, but in the rituals played out by the congregation

After singing a hymn, praying Our Father and taking communion, we settled into a pew with our boys and listened as the pastor read through the entire Passion story. The lights slowly dimmed and candles were extinguished, one by one, after main parts of the story were completed. When it was over, the sanctuary was dark and silent.

We filed out of the church in hushed movements, black sky overhead, crickets chirping beneath the towering oak trees, large golden moon slung low on the horizon.

Remembrances of one garden's dramatic night 2,000 years ago.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas

DH borrowed The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas from the library.  

Excellent movie.  Disturbing, but excellent.  I won't say too much about it because it will ruin the point of view of the film, which is based on an 8 year-old boy's perspective of the events taking place around him.

It's set in Nazi Germany, so don't expect an uproarious, good time.

Solution for Annoyingly Happy People

HT: Marginal Revolution

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Annihilation and Judgment..updated

The frequent theme in the Old Testament of a person's sin having consequences to the 3rd and 4th generation has always been confusing to me.  Why are future descendants held responsible for their ancestor's actions? Other than having the bad luck of being related to someone who has really messed up, what part do they have in what happened?  None that is evident.

However, if the concept of immortal souls in hell is taken off the table, these curses take on a new perspective. For very serious sins, the consequences are extended. Punishment of the violator isn't adequate.  If man is mortal, he can only die once, and then nothing.  The gravity of the situation becomes more powerful if the violator knows that even after he has passed on, the ones closest to him will still be paying the price for his actions.  Instead of eternal punishment without end, there is extended punishment and collateral damage.  

A prime example of earthly punishment being worked out in an earthly realm, instead of an immaterial one, can be found in 1 Samuel, chapter 2, wherein Eli and his sons receive judgment; Eli's sons because of their sinful behavior and lack of integrity as priests, Eli because of his lack of action in restraining them.

1 Samuel 2:22-36 

22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 23 So he said to them, "Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours. 24 No, my sons; it is not a good report that I hear spreading among the LORD's people. 25 If a man sins against another man, God [a] may mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who will intercede for him?" His sons, however, did not listen to their father's rebuke, for it was the LORD's will to put them to death.

 26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men.

Prophecy Against the House of Eli
 27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, "This is what the LORD says: 'Did I not clearly reveal myself to your father's house when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh? 28 I chose your father out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your father's house all the offerings made with fire by the Israelites. 29 Why do you [b] scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?'

 30 "Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: 'I promised that your house and your father's house would minister before me forever.' But now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line 32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, in your family line there will never be an old man. 33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

 34 " 'And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day. 35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his house, and he will minister before my anointed one always. 36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a crust of bread and plead, "Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat." ' "


No message of fiery torment. The message is sobering in and of itself.  Earthly punishment. Earthly judgment. Who needs the concept of hell to be terrified?  This passage is pretty breath-taking without any mention of it.

When God gets mad, people die....physically die. 

These parts of the Old Testament are hard for Christians to read and explain.  Our faith is firmly grounded in Christ's redemptive work; grace, mercy, forgiveness.  Reconciling those attributes with a large portion of the Old Testament is sometimes sketchy, even more so if hell is on the table.  It's bad enough for someone to die and simply cease to exist as a result of God's judgment, but then possibly to be in hell forever?  That's hard to explain.

Hardwired into the 10 commandments, the 2nd commandment specifically, is God's earthly judgment:
Exodus 20:5-6
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.
There is no mention of hell or description of anything remotely close to it in this, the first formal manifestation of God's "rules".  Over and over throughout the Old Testament, God's judgment equals death and consequences in the material world. 

continued the next morning....

Not too long ago I discussed some of the things I'd been thinking about in the comments section of a particular blog.  One of the commenters wrote:
I could never understand the atheist point of view, but then recently, I was able to see it as they see it, and it made me weep. The idea of my loved ones just ceasing to exist after death? ugh!

this may sound weird, but I think I’d rather that they go to Hell than that they be annihilated. (Of course, I myself would rather be annihilated :D) Annihilation makes everything meaningless.
I thought that was an interesting point of view, though I'm not so sure his departed love ones would agree with it!

Yet, intuitively it does make some sense and may explain the development of the idea of  life after death.  We don't like the idea of non-existence. At least in hell there is the sense that we are still "us".  We're miserable, but we're there

In a strange way it's an egotistical concept.  The possibility that we won't continue on forever in some form is so inconceivable to us and our sense of self, that we say silly things about preferring hell over non-existence. Someone with better qualifications than me needs to unpack the philosophical/psychological implications of such a declaration. 

as an interesting foil....It's important to note that when God first puts forth an explanation of his nature, it's one of eternal existence:

Exodus 3:13-15

13. Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

14. God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'

15. God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD,  the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

Who is this God who speaks to Moses?  The God who is.  Wonderfully vague and yet apt. He is defined simply by his existence and his eternal nature. There is nothing to compare him to, nothing with which to define him, other than his very being

It stands in stark contrast not only to the many "gods" that were worshipped in the Middle/Near East, but also to the nature of human beings.

          *********
My next few posts on this subject will hopefully bring some relief from the looming prospect of God's judgment.  This Sunday is Easter and I hope to finish off my thoughts in light of The Resurrection.

Monday, April 06, 2009

He Always Knows Just What To Say

"ugh...I hate my hair right now!"



"I look like Weird Al Yankovick!"



DH to me: "No you don't. Weird Al has more hair than you."

The Sound of Imagination

...is silence.

You know life has changed when prolonged silence from your children isn't an indicator that they have either died, or are up to no good.



Watching them become avid readers has been fun.  During the week they read books for the Accelerated Reader program for school...usually at least 2 books per week.

On the weekends we go to the library and they pick out more books for school and books they think look like fun.

Their latest addiction:  AstroBoy comics/graphic novels....an early manga series from Japan. They read each one at least 3 times.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sheep Performance Art

HT: aaron from the BHT

What do shepherds do to pass the time?