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You are what you think about

31 Oct

Western 1st-world focus tends to highlight what we look like. So care of our bodies is emphasized.  Ever since French philosophe Brillat-Savarin wrote ‘Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es’, food industries and diet products and plans have promoted the truth that ‘we are what we eat’.  That probably is true when it comes to our physical bodies.

But God has created this version of our bodies to last a century or less.  A blink of an eye when considering eternity.

This morning I read an article written by Lee Webb for the September 2018 issue of Tabletalk magazine where he proposes a more important version of that aphorism:

  • You are what you think

Webb cited the godly man in Psalm 1 who thinks about and ENJOYS his meditation on God’s Word.  In fact, this man loves these reflections SO much, that he continues to think about the true accounts and promises of God all his waking hours.

As a logical gal, for sure I value thinking and reasoning.  And I spend a lot of time reading, journaling and discussing ideas with Mike. Maybe more than some of my friends who devote hours to crafts, gardening, taking care of and teaching small children, tending sick or aging family, working long hours or two jobs to make ends meet, or other activities.

Yet even as a self-professed THINKER…..I allow my musings to focus too much on the physical, the temporary.  I admit that I DAILY allot a portion of my mental resources:

  • to  ‘eating Keto’ and how my stomach feels
  • to fantasizing about other ministries than what God has assigned me this day
  • to judging others and their choices regarding time
  • and on some days….to wallowing in self-pity and discouragement

Being aware of this wasteful use of my thought life is not something new.  I’ve realized this poor stewardship for a while.

But God!

Here’s the good news, fellow logical thinkers.  God does not leave His children to battle sin alone.  He commands us in His Word to ask for divine help.

Paul models this kind of prayer in his second encouraging letter to believers in Thessalonica.  He writes in 2 Thess 3:5:

May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

I LOVE words.  As a logical Jane, I always start with understanding and parsing a term. Here’s what’s cool about the Greek word ‘heart’. It signifies:

  • thoughts and feelings of the MIND
  • affections
  • purposes
  • endeavors
  • ideas

So, Maria’s translation of 2 Thess 3:5 is:  May the Lord direct and guide your thoughts to the love that God has shown (in redeeming and forgiving you, in giving you Christ’s righteousness and in promising present provision and constant company topped off with future abundant forever joy) and to the persevering and guaranteed steadfastness by/of Christ at the cross and presently as your Intercessor and Advocate.

Those thoughts, my friend, ARE more than sufficient for every waking hour.

And if Paul is correct in communicating God’s truth to us, then 2 Cor 3:18 is also a fact, that is:  we become what we behold…in our thoughts.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

It really does matter, eternally, what we think about.

What do you talk most about?

27 Aug

I was thinking about my tendency to ‘evangelize’ or proclaim the merits of my latest interest, usually about nutrition. I’m growing aware of the possibility idolatry. My latest ‘passion’ is all things Keto.

While reading God’s word recently, He ‘pinged my conscious’ with this thought:

  • Maria, are you more interested in talking up a Keto way of life than in talking about me?

THAT got my attention.  “YES!”, I had to admit.  I do tend to follow a pattern of doing just that.  (Last winter and spring I was on a Vegan campaign!  Yes, go ahead and laugh!)

Joking aside, here’s the sober truth:

Our God speaks. He is alive.  He really exists. And his speech created something out of nothing and continues to create ALL things, just by the power of his word.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Genesis 1:1-4 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.

Hebrews 1:3 (Jesus) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

From just these 4 snapshots of God’s speech, the Bible confronts humanity with the FACT that words matter.  That words have power. How do we actually KNOW this?

We have God’s written words.  Our Creator has endowed mankind with the ability to speak, to write and to read.

Weighty implications follow. Consider this:

  • If God spoke the universe into existence,
  • If we are made in the image of the Creator God as written in Gen 1:26 (Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.)
  • Then our words contain creative power.

Of course, we are mere reflectors of some of the grandeur of our God.  But the Bible DOES say we share some attributes of God and one day will we be MORE like God.

So, my question to myself is this.  “Maria, do you speak most about……”:

  • Maria?  what you are doing, thinking, experiencing, suffering.
  • politics?
  • your latest passion?

“Or do you talk MOSTLY about God?”

If I take 5 seconds and think rationally, I have to conclude that most of what I talk about to others is what Solomon called, “meaningless.”

Why meaningless?  because my ‘stuff’ and circumstances as well as the world’s temporal circumstances are ephemeral.  Only God endures forever.  Only God matters.  And only God satisfies.

The people I talk to each day at school, at church, at the grocery store, even at home with my husband…they are all hungry for something to hold on to.  I AM, TOO!  My Keto experience will vanish like a vapor.  The world’s leaders as well.  And my suffering. And these momentary afflictions are only significant in that they are planned by God as his ‘Individual Holiness Plan’ FOR me, to make me more like Jesus.

Look at how Jesus viewed the words from His Father:

John 17:8 For I have given them (his disciples) the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

May we all watch over our words, by God’s grace, and speak what matters most and gives LIFE, the truth that Jesus came from the Father. For us!

 

No time for Bible study? One-verse Logic

24 Jun

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 (ESV)

Recently I spent a few days with one of our sons and his family.  Anne, my ‘daughter-in-love’, is a busy mom with 3 small children.  She takes care of the home, prepares good meals, daily maintains fitness, nurtures and is encouraged by girlfriends, listens to and loves her husband well.

In other words, her plate is full.  And it’s hard, very hard, to find a patch of time to study God’s Word and pray.  She is frustrated because she knows she NEEDS this food from God.

What I am offering here is a way to be sustained by God’s Word no matter how few or many minutes you can allot to meditating on God’s deeds, instructions and promises.

I love pondering ‘mere’ phrases of the Bible.  I have been well trained through years of listening to John Piper as he works through Bible passages one word, phrase, and passage at a time. The truth is (and Satan doesn’t want you to know this) that it can be enough to spend time with just one verse, pondering the individual words and then the verse as a whole.

I find it all-too-often tempting to read right through familiar texts like the line from Psalm 23 quoted above, without slowing down to digest any part of it.  That’s because we might be operating under a false presupposition:

  • More Bible read or covered produces more knowledge of God

Worded a bit differently:

  • Larger quantity = greater Knowledge

Not necessarily so.  God’s Word is to be tasted, chewed, swallowed and savored – slowly.  Over and over again. Let me show you what I mean:

Since any good logical Joe or Jane starts with terms, that is, the words that represent a concept, I’m going to narrow my focus and share some thoughts as I move slowly through the first half of this one verse, Psalm 23:5.

You prepare a table:

  • This is present tense. You ARE PREPARING.  Right now. In my current circumstances. Implications?  God cares for me this moment.  He is aware of what I need.  I can’t prepare my own table.  He has access to provisions that I don’t, for He creates ALL. The preparation is not yet complete, but He is working on it.
  • It’s a table, not a snack.  A table implies multiple dishes.  Time to savor a meal. Table fellowship.  No eating on the run.  Not fast food.  I’ll be able to sit down at a table and not have to stand up.  There’s the element of rest.

In the presence of my enemies:

  • I have enemies.  God knows what I am facing.  He is a realist.  And He is able and willing and committed to taking care of me, especially when besieged by enemies.  Not just one enemy, but multiple.
  • In their presence.  These enemies see the table prep going on.  They are aware of my God and His loving care for my physical and emotional needs.

And that’s just half the verse and my thoughts THIS day!  Because the Holy Spirit makes God’s Word alive to believers, by faith, I assume that He knows what I will need tomorrow. And what I see tomorrow might be different.  I find that exciting and motivating enough to want to feed on God’s Word every day.

When I ponder a verse like this, I like to do it out loud and narrate it back to God, measure by measure, as I go down into it.  Always in the context of thanksgiving and praise to Him.  I might say:

Oh, thank you, Father, that you are RIGHT NOW preparing what I need in the midst of this situation where I feel knocked about, threatened and scared.  You are going to feed me and strengthen me.  I don’t have to feed myself.  What a good Father you are!

So, if you don’t have much time to spend a quiet hour with your Bible because of the day or the season of life, don’t go extreme and settle for a starvation diet.  That just makes you vulnerable to Christians’ very powerful enemy, Satan.  He is on the prowl for busy Christians too distracted to nourish their souls with God’s Word.

Take ONE verse for the day and chew on it throughout the hours.  Better than a breath mint, a candy bar or a Starbucks coffee, it’ll keep your lips releasing a sweet odor, pleasing to the Lord and totally off-putting to that wicked roaring lion.

 

 

 

Language Clarity or Confusion? The Protestant Reformation

10 Oct
October 2017 has arrived and along with it another century’s culminating celebration of the birth of the Protestant Reformation.  Books, articles, conferences, and tours have focused on educating and further reforming our generation of believers who are 500 years closer to Jesus’ return.
My favorite British podcast, ‘Unbelievable’ hosted by Justin Brierley recently featured a polite conversation between a nominal Protestant-turned-believing Catholic and a religiously-raised Catholic who embraced historical and Biblical Protestantism.  Speaking with restraint, both sincerely believe their church’s doctrine and did indeed explain their beliefs with clarity.
My curiosity mounted as I waited to learn what compelled the current Catholic to hold to what appears to me as false teaching.  At first, he ticked off what my reformed denomination holds is true:
  • We are saved by grace alone, through Christ alone
  • Jesus alone saves; our works don’t earn us salvation
  • Salvation is a gift of God, even the faith to believe God is a gift
So far…..so good. But then came the ‘hic’, the point of diversion:
  •     We must ‘cooperate’ with God’s grace.
Voilà!  Here is one place where historic, Biblical Protestantism parts company with Rome and her teachings.  What in the heck does ‘cooperate’ mean and how is that a gift or good news?
I imagine a spectrum, a continuing line of required effort.  On one end the energy to be expended is minimal:  “Don’t hinder,  interfere with or try to block God’s work”
Moving along the COOPERATION line I picture the next bit of advice: “Actively work with God!”
Passing that polite but not yet desperate midpoint, the pleas for greater exertion and more good works grow insistent: “If you don’t join in, God won’t be able to succeed in placing you in His eternal presence!”
Really?  Does the Catholic Church actually think we dependent, derivative, created beings have the power to thwart Almighty God’s purpose?
Cooperating with God’s grace sounds nice, non-threatening and civilized.  But as a concept that Catholic leaders use to teach and encourage their followers, it misleads millions about God.
Words matter.  Especially about eternal issues.  Either God saves us and our forever destination depends solely on Him as the Bible teaches OR we have a key role to play in the outcome. This is how the issue must be framed.  By the way, this hypothetical proposition is called a Disjunctive Proposition.  In the way I believe this argument must be framed, either the first disjunct is true or the 2nd one.  They both cannot be true.
Whatever degree of human effort the Catholic Church teaches is necessary for salvation, this idea that one must ‘cooperate with God’s grace’ continues to mislead generations toward eternal separation from God.  Words can be cruel albeit comforting in their confusion.  And the Bible teaches that God will judge teachers harshly who have twisted His word.
Since words matter and can have eternal consequences, let us as logic lovers be careful in how we use God’s gift of language.

A Sabbath Summer

14 Jun

The good is the enemy of the best,” as the adage goes.  Some attribute it to Voltaire or Ben Franklin or even Shakespeare.

Seeking the best for me, I am taking a summer break from writing and reading on line.

I have NOT abandoned reading or thinking or journaling.  I’m choosing to give myself a gift. A most excellent gift.  A Sabbath rest or fast.

Risky, it feels, and sudden. But then again, maybe it is not so abrupt.  I turn 60 soon. For this entire past school year (I teach and my life is marked and bounded by a school calendar) I have pondered and traveled along deep and sometimes melancholy paths. Bouncing between two worlds:  the one beautiful, sad and fallen that I share with all of humanity, the other true, eternal and rich with promise that I enjoy with Christian brothers and sisters as a privileged child of God.

So I am going to read BOOKS and JOURNALS whose paper I can FEEL.  And walk, savoring this world that our good Father has created, tasting that the Lord is good.  And investing time talking with and listening to flesh and blood people.  I will cease rushing from God’s crowning creation to that slave master – my computer screen or iPhone.

Would you call that an addiction, to feel driven to get to the bottom of what feels like a perpetual To Do list?  Some of you know what I’m talking about – those self-curated email feeds, written by people to whom we are connected.  They and new posts on Facebook clamor to be read.  What if there is something I’ve never thought of before?  Or some news that changes my life?

And then there is that weekly goal I have assigned myself, to write posts for 2 different blogs, this one and Reflections on God’s Word .  Out of pride?  Probably. I know from Jeremiah 17:9 that my heart deceives me, daily.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

So this summer, I will journal, but for ME, not because I want to remember a nugget or way of thinking that YOU might appreciate.

However, fellow logical friend, please don’t stop thinking and reading and giving thanks to God.  May we be like the Bereans:

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11

May God bless you this summer as you ponder whatever is True, Noble, Right, Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Excellent and Praiseworthy. Phil 4:8

Maria

 

Can you be a Christian and not believe the Bible?

22 Feb

Did that question get your attention?  I hope so, because it is one I ponder often.

Why?  Run your eyes over some of these responses I’ve encountered when talking about God with friends and family:

  • I worship the God of the New Testament
  • The Bible was written by men
  • How can we trust what the Bible says?  It got corrupted through all the oral retellings passed down from one generation to another
  • The Bible represents primitive man’s best explanation at the time
  • Because of science, the Bible is obsolete
  • What applied then doesn’t fit society today
  • I don’t think Jesus really said that
  • That’s just Paul’s opinion
  • I attended divinity school and my professors taught us how the Bible actually came to be.  We are to take it metaphorically

Do you see why I am drawn to sort out what one must accept/adhere to in order to be a Christian?

How do we even begin to answer the question?

All adept Logical Joes and Janes start with clarifying terms.  So which terms need parsing and comparing to reality?

  • Christian
  • Believe
  • (the Bible is concrete and unequivocal)

The terms ‘Christian’ and ‘believe’ could potentially require a long time to arrive at a truth-reflecting definition.  (It’s not consensus we aim for, but accuracy and clarity of terms.)

For does it matter what the world calls a Christian?  Would any one disagree that many who self-identify as Christians are not in the least?  I don’t know if Hitler considered himself to be a follower of Christ, but atheists often trot him out as poster-boy of a supposed Christian who perpetrated untold evil.

More difficult to discern are those people who attend church, who do kind things, who serve humanity and choose to self-identify as Christian.  Here is the rub.  Can we tell from one’s outward behavior whether one is a Christian or not?

Turning to what it means ‘to believe‘, how is this concept often taken?

It can mean to agree, to follow, to espouse.  But isn’t our church replete with people who say they ‘believe’ the Bible?  Yet upon a fair assessment of their actions, temperaments and words, one wonders.  I do acknowledge that true Christians are always growing, with fits and starts, so we should be careful about judging.

Why am I even bothering with this analysis?  Because many people dear to me are on this spectrum of:

  • a sort of Christian
  • a sort of belief in the Bible

My husband and I were once members of that ‘sort of category’.  Although had you asked us to explain ourselves, we would have avowed without reservation that we were Christian. I do think we would have equivocated with the second question – Do you believe the Bible? For we had not READ the Bible.  We had read/heard bits and pieces of the Bible, for sure. But read it?  No, not in our Episcopal Church experiences growing up.

Now, having been given light to SEE and having acquired Biblical truth through Bible studies, evangelical pastors’ sermons, books, podcasts, church community, small groups and friendships with Christians, we can easily ‘catch’ the aroma of a true Christian.  They can be as distinct from me as you could imagine, yet we recognize each other as blood -bought brothers and sisters in Christ.  We talk the same language, cherish the same Jesus, marvel over God’s goodness, and enjoy boasting about His magnificence.

I’m curious to know what and how you define these two terms.  Please post a comment. And in a few weeks, I’ll summarize your responses as well as clarify and delimit those terms.  In the meantime, let us not stop praying for ‘heart-transplants’ in those whom we love, about whom we are not sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Explore what the question even means and how we would go about setting up a discussion and then at the end invite readers to respond to the question I don’t have to answer it myself

Better not to shotgun a response

1 Feb

When you flush out a covey of quail, don’t shoot into the covey. Instead, pick out and select one bird to bring down!

flock-of-birds

Good advice from a quail-hunter.  And appropriate for addressing opposing views we encounter these days.

I absorbed this advice just recently and already it is making a difference.  One afternoon not too long ago, we indulged in our favorite after church past time, sharing lunch while reading the Sunday paper.  An op-ed piece about ‘women’s health issues’ had caught my eye and raised my dander.  The authors wrote, decrying the new administration’s goal of decreasing federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The way they framed their argument seemed to have one goal:  to arouse the ire of women by describing a presumed danger of losing access to existing health care.

The team of two local professors raised several points worthy of questioning and I wanted to tackle them all.  Fortunately for my intended audience, I took a walk and listened to radio host Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason explain a principle learned from his days as a boy hunting quail with his friends.

He explained that if you shoot directly into the covey, you’d waste your shot.  But if you aim for one bird, you have a better chance of actually bagging one.

His advice applied to our current contentious climate in America and shaped how I focused my letter to the editor later that afternoon.  Listening to Greg, I also saw in a flash why previous letters I had penned most likely exercised zero effect on readers.  Past letters have probably tanked due to a jumble of points, all poorly developed.

So what did I focus on in this most current letter?  A statistic mentioned in the paper’s essay. In a strategic move to minimize the arguments of the pro-life position, the authors stated that abortions account for only 3 % of all of Planned Parenthood’s services.

I smelled a fake statistic.

Sure enough when I went to factcheck.org I read how PP counts services.  Say a woman goes into a PP facility thinking she might be pregnant and wanting to discuss options.  In one visit, she might receive:

  • an initial screening consult
  • a blood test
  • a pee test
  • a pap smear
  • a referral to another provider for a different issue the consult uncovered

And if this woman does indeed choose to schedule an abortion, that second visit might include:

  • a information/procedural consult
  • an ultrasound
  • a further consult
  • an abortion
  • a post-procedure consult
  • 1 or 2 prescriptions for pain/possible infection
  • a prescription for contraception

So this hypothetical one gal might receive 12 different services and only 1 is an abortion.

Do you see how the quantity of abortions performed could be minimized when compared with the accompanying services?

Thanks to Greg Koukl’s advice preceding my letter attempt, I selected this one issue and worked to write as clearly and persuasively as possible pointing out the misleading accounting.  I don’t know if anyone will be persuaded, but clarifying my purpose and aiming at just one ‘quail’ focused me and guided my thoughts and word choice.

 

Narrowing my efforts also helped me articulate for myself what my ‘bone of contention’ is!  Whatever our views, it’s always worth the time to know what we believe and why!