This is an area in which we should exercise the most discernment, and yet, consistently for myself and others it seems to be the area where we practice discernment the least. We keep poor defenses against the enemy without and seemingly reserve no margin of safety from the supposed ally within.
An excellent Faithwalkers Seminar titled “All You Need is Love: The Simple Path to Marriage” planted some seeds that may only now four months later to be sprouting. They lured us in by promising us a methodology that counters the last 25 years of Christian dogma on dating and relationships. Something different, and something far less complex, onerous, and dictatorial. A breath of fresh air maybe, right?
Here’s the seminar description:
Thousands of books, seminars, and counseling sessions have been spent on trying to figure out exactly what you need to get married. I think the path to marriage is a lot simpler than it is often made out to be. Of course simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy, but let’s get together and talk through the Biblical principles of love that provide a simple path to marriage.
Pastor Paul Johnson opened the seminar [LISTEN] by handing us a 20 item list of all the great chestnuts of rules and advice that we’ve all been told by youth leaders, pastors, and our Christian mentors about seeking relationship. They asked us to classify each one as either 1) a command, 2) a principle, or 3) a preference. I’ll list them here; a whole list of externally imposed [musts/shoulds].
- You must get counsel before pursuing a relationship
- Physical attraction should not factor into your interest in another person
- Only marry a Christian
- Don’t date until you’re ready to get married
- Don’t kiss until your wedding day
- Husbands must bring home the bacon
- Wives must stay home and take care of the kids
- You must be out of debt to get married
- You must be convinced that this is the person you’re going to marry if you want to date them
- You must be content to be single and not looking for a mate
- You must be sexually pure before marriage
- You must be a mature Christian before you get married
- You must be able to make and keep a budget before getting married
- You must “like” and evaluate a potential spouse for at least a year before talking to them about your feelings
- Men must pursue and women must wait
- You must be completely objective in your evaluation of a potential spouse
- Your life vision and direction needs to be identical for a potential relationship to work
- Men must talk to a woman’s father before asking her out on a date
- You must guard your heart from any attachment
- You must have convictions on birth control before dating
S’wha? I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that last one. Perhaps they made it up to round out an even twenty items.
Two I think? Yes, two. Two of those are biblical commands. All of the rest fall into the categories of good principles (one may read Proverbs for that), and preferences. We have all experienced those who give advice and instruction (whether solicited or not) with the attitude of you [should/must]. They tend to be rather legalistic about it and they suffer no discussion or disagreement. Questions are shamed to silence by being called sinful. Unwillingness to let go of something is responded to with accusations that the something has become an idol. Principle becomes Command and well, Preference too in most cases.
An longstanding irritant to me has been the careless and thoughtless use of the admonition “Guard your heart?” or the challenge, “Are you guarding your heart?”. A helpful phrase turned mantra instead does harm. I sometimes have the hyperbolic image in my mind of a married youth pastor telling a young man on his first and ill-considered foray into love to “Guard your heart.” who, even though the young man has matured and has his eyes set on finding a Godly companion for the road of life, is thoughtlessly chastised each successive time to “Guard his heart.” Played out to the ridiculous end, the scenario changes venue to a nursing home where the no longer young man, bachelor his entire life, shows interest in a widow on the same ward, only to be told by sign language to up the volume on his hearing aid by his curmudgeon of a youth pastor so that he may hear his youth pastor’s admonishment to “Guard Your Heart.”
The seminar leader pointed out that the bible gives us a word for people like that who do those types of things: Pharisees. As bad as these outward Pharisees are, they often pale in comparison to the Pharisee many of us keep inside of ourselves.
I know that in my own life I impose ridiculous, sometimes impossible ‘shoulds’ on myself. My arrogant Pharisee also then decides for others that since I fail those standards others must be protected from me for their own good. They really must be allowed no say in the matter.
So how do we guard against the outward and inward Pharisee? I’m only the rudest novice in this new discipline, and as such, I only have a list of things I am testing out for possible inclusion in a personal how-to list.
- First determine if the source is external or internal.
- Question. Do not blindly accept.
- Respect leadership, but do not assume that they infallibly lead in all things.
- Pray. For guidance and wisdom. Pray for confirmation or invalidation.
- Test all against scripture.
- Avoid extremes. Seek to grow towards the ideals of paradigms, but never to achieve them entirely.
- Be on the lookout for statements made in the absolute.
- Be on guard against generalizations too vast in scope.
- Be highly self-skeptical of anything motivated and crafted internally; most especially if much internal thought and debate over a long period of time has led to unorthodox conclusions.
- Be wary of emotional states that lead to self-imposed ‘shoulds’.
- The more I am certain, the more uncertain I should probably be.
- Does a conclusion eliminate hope, condemn holy desire, or affirm helplessnes? If so, it’s doubtful it’s from God.
- Be alert to the reactions of others when I share my thinking and conclusions… if they start looking at me funny, I should weigh carefully all responses and not assume I’m right.
- If it’s a personal ‘should’ that I’d never suggest others adopt, Be afwaid. Be vewy afwaid! Is my double-standard born of arrogant pride and contempt for another’s ‘low standard’? Am I holding myself to an unreasonable impossible standard that greatly differs from the one I measure against others.
- Be willing to learn from someone less knowledgeable than myself.
- If I’m reluctant to solicit the opinions of others or to seek guidance then it’s an especially good time to take Elmer Fudd’s advice to heart. The greater the reluctance, the greater the likelihood that I NEED an external gut-check.
- Stop unilaterally deciding things for others. Stop stealing from them the right to make up their own mind, to take their own risks, to explore a possibility that excites or intrigues them! Acknowledge and respect their wisdom and honor their right to test and weigh and decide for themselves. Do not hold contempt if they reach conclusions dissimilar to mine. They may well be the wiser and have a better understanding. Be willing to let them make mistakes.
- If I am self-denying myself some potential blessing due to some self-imposed rule or standard I can never achieve, and if it’s a standard or denial God might not be willing to back me up on and hasn’t been explicit about in scripture, I must remind myself that God is a loving non-dictatorial parent who loves our free-will, who gave us the bible not as a rulebook, but as a fence around a lush green pasture, keeping us in the good, and away from the bad.
- Do not take the bit in my mouth and run. Do not wear blinders. Do not stick fingers in my ears and yell out obscuring noise like a bratty child.
- Sunscreen good. No sunscreen bad. Rest of advice based on years of Jedi teaching experience, yes.
- I did mention ‘pray’, yes?
Over several years, and under the guidance of Chaplain and beloved friend Bart Larson, with some reinforcement from my pastor at church, I have tried in my communication to replace “you statements” with “I statements” and most importantly the “you should statements.” Likewise I have been trying not to use hyperbole like “always” and “never”. I’ve tried to put in check a tendency when excited to carelessly use superlatives, sweeping generalizations, and exaggeration. Needlessly to say, despite trying a million times, I always always fail and never ever succeed in efforts not to use the very most egregious exaggerations and worst hyperbole. Actually, it’s a process and I’ve made so much wonderful progress down that road. I still slip from time to time, or forget and grow careless. Success has been very rewarding as it has allowed friendships to go deeper and prevented much offence that leads to argument. I’m grateful to both of these men
Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s a small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”
2008 was the year I desperately clung to Christmas while sobbing. This was the year I did all of our traditions alone, miserable but not knowing what else to do. Sobbing and holding the pups and telling them that their mommy would be back knowing I was trying to convince myself and failing to convince any of us. Feeling like a child who had something done to them, something they had no capacity to understand, unable to see anything other than the hurt and unable to believe such hurt was possible. Wondering if it would get worse, or easier, if it would ever stop, or if there had ever been a reality without the pain… All before, even the massive pain of Christmases in childhood seemed like a self-deluding fantasy made up to try to distract from the only thing I could ever, would ever, had ever known.
God was there. Through God, Bart Larson was there. Greg Cranston was there or soon would be.
It is 2016 and I have chosen for the first time to put up a Christmas tree. A gifted tree and many essential bits given by friends who love me, whom God had put there to make Christmas 2008 look like a dreadful long-ago nightmare, the David and Sarah Cranstons, the Colin and Barbara Smialeks, the Dwights, the Cindys, the Boltons, all the people of Valley View, The Berrys, the Elder Cranstons and me mum Kay who has been growing in wisdom and inner strength and become able to counsel back.
I will put up trees each year and will hang, like delicate heirloom glass ornaments, more names on each bough.
There will be a time when it’s not only my hands doing the hanging, but those with slender more delicate fingers than mine, and more delicate slender hands to join in years following. We will hang names until the boughs creak under the weight and I will feel only gratitude for the Christmas Tree of 2008 for making me know what else is possible so that I might never take for granted that which is.
At the top we will illuminate one name, bright, above all, encompassing all, making all possible. Like a brilliant star will sit the name of Jesus Christ.
I realized that while I have many Quotational Ponderings entries, the Personal Ponderings category has regrettably not seen much use. I attribute this to my internal conflict with the belief that other people have things of significance to relate and I have not. To remedy, here’s a ponder that I have been considering lately:
“In seeing the goofy things I share and like on social media, I begin to wonder if a sensible woman could love such a man. Yes, I’m certain that it is possible, but is it improbable?”
I think the answer is a solid “it may be so”.
So, is that goofiness “who one is as a person”, or is it “how one chooses to be as a person”, and if the latter, should not one make the choice to be otherwise at some point? Is there some mysterious balance one needs must strike, and how can one possibly know that there is and what that balance looks like? Can one mature from being a man-child yet somehow remain a unabashed fan of animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon and Monsters Inc., Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, and goofy goofy Doctor Who?
Further, when does eccentric cross the line into oddity; say, if one has possibly knitted a 16′ long scarf in emulation of Tom Brown’s fourth iteration of The Doctor, has a barrier been irretrievably breached?
C.S. Lewis warns against filling to our lives with habits, hobbies, interests, and luxuries as a way to guard one’s life and heart against risking love and so to try to fill the void. Are we choosing those things over the possible joy and fulfillment of sharing one’s life, heart, and being with another? Are we men choosing to be a child and in so choosing to forgo the dream of ever raising a child (children)?
Moreover, are we making the same awful mistake in our relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ; with our loving Heavenly Father? What awesome and important thing is it that we are choosing to give up if such is so?
I have married friends who appear to have found and struck that balance and I look up to them as exemplars. They however, figured out that balance much earlier in life. Is there an age at which it becomes too late and one must live with the consequences of one’s ill-considered choices.
Ponder, ponder ponder.
Zen Pencils has crafted a wonderful comic to illustrate what C.S. Lewis says on this subject of hearts, hobbies and luxuries. [Original here]
If you want someone to know the truth, you tell them. If you want someone to love the truth, tell them a story.
why the horror of the Crucifixion had to happen.
“He Gave Us Stories”, Reformation Bible College,
2013 Fall Conference, Creation & Re-Creation.
Go back to timecode 34:45 to hear his guiding idea behind writing The Wingfeather Saga. He had a vision of who the main character Janner Igiby was and who he was to become and that it could only be accomplished through conflict. “The only way for Janner Igiby to become that person was for me to ruin his life. To send him on an adventure that would cause him pain. To strip him of everything that was familiar. To bring him to a point where he could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. And now, at the end of my story I keep thinking about how my whole point, my whole goal at the end of this epic tale I’m trying to tell is to make the darkness seem so great that it’s insurmountable. To make it so that the main characters in my story are on the brink of giving up hope, so that at the very last moment, I can lift the veil, and blow their minds and they can see that there was something stronger than all the darkness.”
I think that if God forgives us we must forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it is almost like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him.
— Clive Staples Lewis – Letters of C.S. Lewis (1951)
This morning, as I prayed asking God to bless Raina, fulfill her, give her happiness, heal if healing is needed, and seek her if seeking is needed, I realized that I referred to to her as my Lost Beloved. It got me thinking and I realized that I have been using this epithet for a couple of months now as God has granted much healing of heart.
I realized that I haven’t given up on God’s ability to restore my marriage, I’ve just turned the whole thing over to Him, and whatever He decides to do will be the best and most fulfilling outcome, whether that means a restored marriage, a new marriage, or living out a remaining lifetime of singleness.
I believe I’ve finally decided to stop being crippled and broken. I’ve come to the point of casting off the crushing burden I’ve carried for so long.
Three years ago, nearly to the day, I composed a poem as part of the healing and dealing process:
That was a necessary step then to cope and function because I -was- crippled and broken and I was tripping and falling and injuring myself over and over.
I’ve had the box open once since then and I think that too was necessary to bring me to the point where I am now, at Peace. The re-opening was recent and I didn’t beat myself up because I gave myself the grace to grieve again as part of the healing process. Now I realize that I wasn’t grieving as I had in the past, and I wasn’t tripping; I was saying farewell.
Farewell not just to my Lost Beloved, but to all of my hopes, broken promises (the ones I broke as well), lost happiness and broken dreams, all tied to her in connection, and around my neck as a millstone.
I’ve said farewell and I’ve found desperately sought after peace which I had never hoped to find. I didn’t believe it possible. I think I’m ready to close that box and this time, seal it shut with tape. I may one day throw the box away, but I don’t by any means wish to forget what had been up until 7+ years ago the best and most rewarding portion of my life.
I’m open now to new best and most rewarding portions.
My finger is now unadorned.
She is lost, to me. I have found myself, and only by God’s loving grace. I don’t know what’s next, if anything, and for now, I’m not fussed. I like it here. It’s so much better than where I have been previously.
Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon, sermon, “David Dancing before the Ark because of His Election” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 35.
My own journey has been a little different and Nice has been a necessary step, but only because my starting place was Mean. My father*, manipulative, mean-hearted, controlling, and critical, raised me to be a carbon copy of himself in my thinking and attitudes. Until I was rescued from his control, my basic operating system was Mean, Condescending, and Hurtful.
Rescued at something like 10 years old, it took many years away from his influence before I began to have an inkling that things were wrong. I was Mean, even towards my rescuers. My inkling was no stronger than knowing that there were some people in my life that I really liked and admired who were different from all I knew and I knew that they were different somehow in ways I could not comprehend.
It was not until I was in residential treatment at Charter Hospital my freshman year in high school that a group-therapy leader named Darrel finally got through to me. He was one of those different people and I think it took my first admiring him, for the crisis event that soon followed to have an impact on my arrogant, legalistic, selfish, condescending, and mean heart. Indeed it took that admiration for there to be a Crisis Event at all.
In a group therapy session, I was being my usual charming argumentative combative condescending-self when Darrel braked hard and brought the conversation to a screeching halt and said, “You know something Christian? I just realized. You really ARE an A**hole.” When I got back to my room after the expected tantrum of “You can’t say that to me!” had run its course, the crisis began and it left me broken and floored.
I thank God for putting Darrel, and another person who’s kind heart and love for God has saved my life over and over the past couple of decades, Bart Larson, Chaplain, Photographer and Artist and at the time Chaplain for the adolescent unit at Charter Hospital. (This next to the author of the blog post I reblogged) [You’ve likely seen his name on the pictures that used to line the walls at Life Spring and still do at Valley View.] He counseled me then. He rescued me from demonic spiritual attack. He counselled me after. He did our premarital counseling. He tag-teamed our wedding with Pastor John Drage of The Rock. He helped us through miscarriage and pain and 6+ years of failing to re-conceive and my lost beloved’s health issues with PCOS, autoimmune nightmares and celiac disease. He helped us as our marriage fell apart and helped me after she left and kept me from ending my life many times as I grieved and grieved. He even helped me fix things and professionally paint our marriage home to get it ready for forced sale from the divorce. All quietly and kindly and unassuming. He has never stopped helping me and pouring out to me God’s kindness (modeling it to me).
Along the long road from Mean to where I am now, which on good days, is leagues and leagues down the path towards Kindness, there was a necessary intermediary step, or rather whole long section of the path. Niceness. It started clumsily and ineptly and most especially, deliberately. I didn’t understand Kindness, I only knew the effects of kindness, upon me, from others. I had to make very conscious deliberate decisions to ‘Be Nice’ where all my life my BIOS, my Firmware, my autopilot had been ‘Be Mean’.
Good days. Bad days. Good encounters. Bad encounters. Starting with far more bad than good until finally the bad became ‘the old man’ who stayed buried most of the time. He’s still not dead, but he’s not enjoying the sunshine and fresh air any longer and the guard I’ve set on his prison is usually very diligent.
Being Nice opened me up to being able to learn and come to a deep and intuitive understanding of the kindness of these people in my life, and through them, the kindness of Christ who ruled their lives. It gave me feelings of success (and self-forgiveness/grace/acceptance) instead of self-loathing, and encouraged me to keep fighting to move from Nice to Kind. It taught me to move my lifelong relationship with Christ from seeing Him from a legalistic and truth perspective to a relationship of recognizing His kindness and loving Him for it and learning to temper Truth with Grace (as is best exemplified in Randy Alcorn’s “The Grace & Truth Paradox”).
I’m not Kind yet. I am kind-of Kind. I am Kind-er. I have times where kindness is my auto-pilot and love is the lift that keeps my plane aloft. Much of my ROM BIOS/Firmware has been flashed with new base instructions.
Going from Mean, through Nice, to Kind, has been every bit a “Fake it ’till you make It.” journey.
Much of the difference between Kind and Nice has been the journey from deliberate and forced to natural, heartfelt, and sincere.
* none of this can be separated from the lessons of Total Forgiveness as taught by R.T. Kendall. Total Forgiveness parallels this idea ‘nice until kind’ in a strong way in that the process of Total Forgiveness is a daily decision to forgive. That practice will continue daily for a lifetime unless God eventually heals you to the point where you no longer need to decide each day because you have totally forgiven them.
One of the steps towards Total Forgiveness has been to realize that he would probably be completely bewildered and possibly very hurt that I see things this way. Realizing that has been one of the first steps towards extending him true grace. He’s no more and no less a sinful fallen lump than I am. We’re both ragamuffins, but only I’ve been given the blessing of realizing it.
I’ve been working hard since before Faithwalkers, during and after, to turn my desire for a beloved (specifically my lost beloved) over to God and be able to know I’m not just speaking empty words when I pray, “Lord, please build in me a desire to sincerely say, It’s yours. Do with it what you will. Do with me what you will.” I’ve been feeling at peace now for a couple of weeks but as an article I’ve yet to publish will show, I have great faith in God on behalf of others, but a great problem with having demonstrably little faith when it comes to myself. I’ve been having difficulty trusting in the peace to be what I asked for and to be real and lasting. I think that unconscious attitude may be changing as this seems twice on this issue God has answered my prayers with mercy and grace.
I was tested in this all too soon when a shared-friend shared with me a photo my lost beloved posted to her social media. A photo of her holding a sweet precious little baby. She speculated that it might be my lost beloved’s own child. She knew I would like to know as I’ve been denied pretty much all knowledge for five years, but thought it might be unfortunate if true, especially if conceived out of wedlock.
I was entirely surprised to be able to honestly respond that if the little one is my lost beloved’s, then it’s reason for joy. My lost beloved looked so much happier, healthier, and more at peace than I’ve seen her in 7 years. From the earliest days of our marriage, she wanted desperately to have children and to be a mother, but it seemed that PCOS and some autoimmune difficulties would deny her the deepest wishes of her heart. If she’s remarried; If she has a family; yes, there is an ache, but I cannot help but be grateful to God. I prayed for this for 7 years while she was my wife. After a period of learning to see past my own broken heart and what I thought unendurable pain, I’ve prayed nearly every day since that wherever she is, that God blesses her, brings her peace, happiness, fulfillment, and most of all close relationship with Him in all things. I wanted, and still want, truth be told, these things to be with me, but I want even more for her not to be denied the deepest desires of her heart. Gone is a portion of the selfishness that ruled my heart, selah.
So, yes. Right now I am feeling at peace and feeling as though prayers have been answered and requests fulfilled. There’s nothing on the horizon, but, for now, that’s OK. My want for my lost beloved to return and reconcile is in no way diminished. My want to have a beloved and be a beloved and to raise a family in love is in no way diminished. These deeply held desires have not been diminished, they’ve been surrendered to a new keeper… one who is far better than I with such things. There is peace. Unless I once again try to wrest back control, there will be peace, and possibly through peace, fulfillment, or fulfillment of a sort not yet known or longed for.
— C. S. Lewis, Christian Apologetics, God in the Dock and other Essays, page 102, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Sep 15, 2014
I ran across this excellent article, and while there is much to take away, it’s clear that it was written to the Rebeution youth. For those of us who have once been married, the temptation is to seize on it all, most especially the optimism and hope Paul gives for those who are single, and while some of that is there to be seized, I do not think all, and care and consideration should be taken.
“Singleness is not a form of embarrassed earthly purgatory. It is not a sign of God’s displeasure. It does not make you a different kind of Christian or require you to start your own separate Bible study with the other spiritual lepers.”
Perhaps Keeley, but that’s exactly what divorced singleness is. You’ve bet the farm on what you knew was not a gamble and you’ve lost. You’ve given away your best; innocence, youth, energy, optimism, all your ‘firsts’, hopes and dreams, and your entire heart and you come away with a pitiful remnant.
I keep returning to the nightmare at the beginning of Josh Harris’ I Kissed Dating Goodbye; “I thought I had your heart.” “You do. All that’s left is yours.” Marriage is the first marriage. Remarriage, while it can be wonderful and can be many of the things the marriage was supposed to be but wasn’t is still something different.
Once you understand that you’re almost forced by good conscious to limit your remarriage yearning to only those who are also the remnant that you are. You become convinced that you have no right to take from another what you yourself lost, even if freely given. You recognize and defend in that other person the potential and the ethereal “right” to have a marriage, not a remarriage, with a fully intact compliment of God’s gifts; innocence, youth, energy, lifespan, etc.
It therefore becomes difficult to see post-martial singleness as a gift, because 1 Cor 7 singleness is a completely different animal. Your gift of singleness has been spent. Your gift of marriedness has been spent. “Yes God, I’m ready to serve……….All that’s left, is Yours.”
For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.
David, Sarah, Dwight, Tony, Bill… To name a few. Thanking God.
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
I wonder if Lewis was not considering this passage when he wrote Book 3: Chapter 8 of A Pilgrim’s Regress, “Parrot Disease”. ‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’
Every day a jailor brought the prisoners their food, and as he laid down the dishes he would say a word to them. If their meal was flesh he would remind them that they were eating corpses, or give them some account of the slaughtering: or, if it was the inwards of some beast, he would read them a lecture in anatomy and show the likeness of the mess to the same parts in themselves—which was the more easily done because the giant’s eyes were always staring into the dungeon at dinner time. Or if the meal were eggs he would recall to them that they were eating the enstruum of a verminous fowl, and crack a few jokes with the female prisoners. So he went on day by day. Then I dreamed that one day there was nothing but milk for them, and the jailor said as he put down the pipkin:
‘Our relations with the cow are not delicate—as you can easily see if you imagine eating any of her other secretions.’ Now John had been in the pit a shorter time than any of the others: and at these words something seemed to snap in his head and he gave a great sigh and suddenly spoke out in a loud, clear voice:
‘Thank heaven! Now at last I know that you are talking nonsense.’
‘What do you mean?’ said the jailor, wheeling round upon him.
‘You are trying to pretend that unlike things are like. You are trying to make us think that milk is the same sort of thing as sweat or dung.’
‘And pray, what difference is there except by custom?’
‘Are you a liar or only a fool, that you see no difference between that which Nature casts out as refuse and that which she stores up as food?’
‘So Nature is a person, then, with purposes and consciousness,’ said the jailor with a sneer. ‘In fact, a Landlady. No doubt it comforts you to imagine you can believe that sort of thing;’ and he turned to leave the prison with his nose in the air.
‘I know nothing about that,’ shouted John after him. ‘I am talking of what happens. Milk does feed calves and dung does not.’
‘Look here,’ cried the jailor, coming back, ‘we have had enough of this. It is high treason and I shall bring you before the Master.’ Then he jerked John up by his chain and began to drag him towards the door; but John as he was being dragged, cried out to the others, ‘Can’t you see it’s all a cheat?’ Then the jailor struck him in the teeth so hard that his mouth was filled with blood and he became unable to speak: and while he was silent the jailor addressed the prisoners and said:
‘You see he is trying to argue. Now tell me, someone, what is argument?’
There was a confused murmur.
‘Come, come,’ said the jailor. ‘You must know your catechisms by now. You, there’ (and he pointed to a prisoner little older than a boy whose name was Master Parrot), ‘what is argument?’
‘Argument,’ said Master Parrot, ‘is the attempted rationalization of the arguer’s desires.’
‘Very good,’ replied the jailor, ‘but you should turn out your toes and put your hands behind your back. That is better. Now: what is the proper answer to an argument proving the existence of the Landlord?’
‘The proper answer is, “You say that because you are a Steward.”’
‘Good boy. But hold your head up. That’s right. And what is the answer to an argument proving that Mr. Phally’s songs are just as brown as Mr. Halfways’?’
‘There are two only generally necessary to damnation,’ said Master Parrot. ‘The first is, “You say that because you are a Puritanian,” and the second is, “You say that because you are a
‘Good. Now just one more. What is the answer to an argument turning on the belief that two and two make four?’
‘The answer is, “You say that because you are a mathematician.”’
‘You are a very good boy,’ said the jailor. ‘And when I come back I shall bring you something nice. And now for you,’ he added, giving John a kick and opening the grating.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Frost said, “…but I have promises to keep; and miles to go before I sleep; and miles to go before I sleep.”
Miles and miles seem little difficulty in light of the promise we know awaits.
This marvelous little book by Randy Alcorn fell into my metaphoric hands just at the right time when I and my roommate were asked to start a small-group bible study and the topic asked for was “How to debate with love.”
Below are quotes that I found especially meaningful. (More to follow as I continue my exploration.)
What Gives Us Away?
A friend sat down in a small London restaurant and picked up a menu.
“What will it be?” the waiter asked.
Studying the puzzling selections, my friend said, “Uhh…”
The waiter smiled. “Oh, a Yank. What part of the States are you from?”
He hadn’t said a word. But he’d already given himself away.
In the first century, Christ’s followers were also recognized immediately. What gave them away?
It wasn’t their buildings. They had none.
It wasn’t their programs. They had none.
It wasn’t their political power. They had none.
It wasn’t their slick publications, TV networks, bumperstickers, or celebrities. They had none. What was it?
With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. ~ Acts 4:33
They testified to the truth about Christ and lived by His grace. Truth was the food they ate and the message they spoke. Grace was the air they breathed and the life they lived.
The world around them had never seen anything like it. It still hasn’t.— Randy Alcorn, The Grace & Truth Paradox, Ch 1
“We should never approach truth except in a spirit of grace, or grace except in the spirit of truth. Jesus wasn’t 50 percent grace, 50 percent truth, but 100 percent grace and 100 percent truth.
Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth, weak on grace.
Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as “legalism.” They’re strong on grace, weak on truth.
Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.”
“A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.”
“Some church services are permeated with Christian clichés that mystify unbelievers. Nobody’s drawn to what’s incomprehensible. Grace compels us to put the cookies on the lower shelf where the uninitiated can reach them. Jesus warmly welcomed the nonreligious and spoke words they understood. So should we.
Other churches try to make sinners feel comfortable. How? They never talk about sin. Never offend anyone. They replace truth with tolerance, lowering the bar so everyone can jump over it and we can all feel good about ourselves.
But Jesus said, ‘ ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:20).
Something’s wrong if all unbelievers hate us.
Something’s wrong if all unbelievers like us.
If we accurately demonstrate grace -and- truth, some will be drawn to us and other will be offended by us—just as they were by Jesus.
When we offend everybody, it’s because we’ve taken on the truth mantle without the grace. When we offend nobody, it’s because we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace.”— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 2.
“Grace never ignores the awful truth of our depravity. In fact, it emphasizes it. The worse we realize we are, the greater we realize God’s grace is.”— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 3.
“God has written His truth on human hearts (Romans 2:15). Shame and twinges of conscience come from recognizing that truth has been violated. When people hear truth spoken graciously, many are drawn to it because of the moral vacuum they feel. Hearts long for truth—even hearts that reject it.”— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.
This next one is very similar to Ray Comfort’s analogy in his talk Hell’s Best Kept Secret in which he talks of Jesus being offered not as salvation from the transgressions of the law, but as “Life Enhancement”. People are enticed to ‘try on Christ’ with promises that their difficulties in life will be resolved (using a parachute as metaphor for Christ), but without any true understanding of the jump out of the airplane that is to come. They put it on. It is uncomfortable and bulky and gives no benefit and so they tear it off, are angry at the parachute (and the stewardess who gave it to them), and resolves never to be fooled by that nonsense again. This as opposed to the one who is told at the outset that there will be a jump to come and the only thing that will save them is wearing the parachute. Then when the difficulties of life befall him, say for instance, a new stewardess who trips and spills boiling hot coffee on him, he doesn’t cast off the parachute and say “You stupid parachute!” No, holds it all the tighter, and may ever Look Forward to the jump to come.
If a teacher is guilty of preaching life enhancement instead of the truth, then there is nothing at all redemptive in his ministry. Indeed, it is less than redemptive. It is damning.
The opposite is nearly as bad. That is, preaching truth in absence of all grace. Ray Comfort clarifies, “I’m not talking about Hellfire Preaching. Hellfire Preaching will produce Fear-Filled converts. Using God’s law will produce Tear-Filled converts.”
The world’s low standards, its disregard for truth, are not grace. The illusory freedom, however, -feels- like grace to someone who’s been pounded by graceless truth—beaten over the head with a piece of the guardrail. In fact, people who grow up in joyless religion learn that there’s no hope of living up to such daunting standards. “Why even try? It’s -impossible!-.”
But properly understood, biblical truths are guardrails that protect us from plunging off the cliff. A smart traveler doesn’t curse the guardrails. He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, and sees demolished autos below, and is -grateful- for guardrails.
The guardrails of truth are there not to punish, but to protect us.— Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4.
Godly living centers not on what we avoid, but on whom we embrace. Anytime we talk more about dos and don’ts than about Jesus, something’s wrong.—Randy Alcorn, The Grace and Truth Paradox, Chapter 4
I’m hearing the word religion being used as though it’s a bad thing and it’s started bothering me greatly. I understand why people have turned it into a negative word, but I think it’s very important that we fight the urge to go along with talking about religion as though it’s something bad… or even something good… because “religion” is not inherently bad or good, and any goodness or badness is added by what I myself make it.
No matter how we might strive to emphasize the difference between our orthopraxy and the orthopraxy of someone else… i.e., stressing that our Christianity is about “relationship” while distancing yourself from, say, the strict liturgical practice of one denomination or church or other, we are still committing religion and always will be.
It’s ok to self-identify as a Christian of a particular mindset/practice, but I’m thinking we’re doing everyone and the English language a great disservice if we aid in the demonization of a functional decent word that is free from the burden of the additional baggage people are trying to incorrectly (foolishly) hang on it.
Herein I find irony… I myself have been doing this and doing it for years. My profile settings on Facebook have read: “Religious Views: Christian – Relationship not Religion” since I created my account lo these many eons past. That changes today.
My religion is Christianity, and by that I mean what was meant the two times the word appeared in scripture, “One who is following Christ.” I’m going to strive to fight the compulsion to hang more baggage on my answer.
Six years and a bit ago, my beloved, beautiful, sweet, and precious Raina Janel left.
Six years ago I read an article written by a couple, who, against all reason and overcoming insurmountable barriers, had their marriage miraculously restored from scattered ashes after six years.
Six years seemed impossible, but even so, it always was a fixed quantity in my mind.
As it loomed ever closer, I realized that I had unconsciously begun to view six years as a cut-off… a limit on God’s sovereign power to enact any miracle He might desire to perform. A countdown clock ticked ever nearer towards that day when all hope would be gone.
This I realized a year and a half ago…. four and a half years into my great and all-encompassing sorrow… and I realized I had been a fool.
God is not limited by the calendar. He may, by His own rules be limited only by the death of one or the other of us, but I don’t know His rules and so it would be foolish to expect that even death is any barrier or hobble.
I press onward, with no hope in the restoration of our marriage but infinitely increased hope and trust in Him. What a testimony He may give us. Six paltry years… pshaw. Childsplay! Imagine the testimony to His Awesomeness of a marriage restored after 20 or 30 years; if only a couple places their hope and their hearts in Him, and if not us, I pray others.†
God is Great! He patiently and gracefully continues to work on me… my heart, my all. I hope I’m an improved man for 6 years; more humble, less certain that I’ve got anything figured out, less full of false pride, and a more loving heart. I remain an abominably slow and stubborn, but still dedicated student.
† This paragraph sounds contradictory. I really have absolutely no hope in this any more and a over a year and a half ago I put all things Raina away in a box on a shelf, both metaphorically and literally, and for the most part, there she has stayed for the sake of my sanity and so that my mind was clear to focus upward instead of backward. I speak of the gift of a testimony not in the sense that I harbor hope for one, but in the sense that I know that nothing is beyond Him and so I don’t rule it out. For all I know, He has either nothing, or something different in store for me. Whatever it is, or isn’t, I trust in Him that it will be best.