Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Simple and plain truths

Formerly while reading the Word, I had liquified all distinguishment between the faith that makes me spared from hell and the faith I can choose to operate with as His child. I rarely read any passages in scripture speaking to my faith post-reception of Christ, because I had absorbed the "irresistible grace" thought. And that was a huge loss.

I want to share with you my former presuppositions. I want to share with you what I think I know, without bothering to research it till after it's out there in the open.

What I thought I knew about the New International Version (NIV) of the bible, I had heard in my own church and also from many churches at various points; that it translated the original documents comprising the bible by phrase-units, not by words, as units. For that reason I had been taught that the NIV was a good version for gaining comprehension but not for fomulating doctrines.

Now: what I heard in the last two weeks of class, about the NIV is that the council of Christians who did the translating were Calvinists, more specifically "Lordship Theologists," who obfuscate the righteousness that comes by the faith that saves and the righteousness that comes by the faith of walking with the Spirit.

If these new insights into free will from Romans 8 are correct, it'd blow the roof off of some traditionally difficult passages. For me one of the worst books in scripture to make cohesive with the gospel is 1 John. 1 John reminds me a lot of my own personality... at least the kinds of mistakes I try not to make. It thinks of reality as black and white, right and wrong, without any room for gray, without any grace or practicality.

Now as I pop the top what will I find? Let's read a characteristic black/white passage from 1 John (3:4-6 ) in the NIV and then again in the NKJV (which I was recently told, distinguishes the faiths of justification/sanctification):


Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.


Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

I see a huge difference... do you? The first makes it sound, and, this is the only way I could understand it, as if those who are saved by Christ do not sin. It makes me have to assume, therefore, that he means this as a generality, in comparison to those without God, because it can't be absolutely true... obviously.

I see this now, and can you too? The NIV reads scripture as if we're distinguishing the saved from the unsaved, and the NKJV reads it as a matter of who, among the saved, is growing to be like Christ. What a difference.

I now suspect that the "study notes" accompanying my NIV bible are also written by the same group of Christians, those who by the power of a Calvinist mindset, meld justification with sanctification as if by the power of irresistible grace, the Holy Spirit is ever intervening in us to make us obey despite our choice to resist.

Let me read to you the "study notes" footed in the two versions:


John is not asserting sinless perfection, but explaining that the believer's life is characterized not by sin but by doing what is right.


If Christ is sinless and the purpose of His coming was to remove sin, then whoever abides in Him does not sin. Habitually sinful conduct indicates an absence of fellowship with Christ.

Wow, pretty dead-on.

Well, which one is it?

Is it possible to be a carnal-Christian, or is it not? Is it possible to be sin-free at times, or is it not? Which concept of Christian rules do you believe John meant to communicate?

And if I think that's an important question (for perhaps both study notes make true interpretations), here's one that is even more important: which filter of the Word does the least gymnastics? I praise God that His Word can be read in a superiorly simple manner.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Irresistible Grace: Irresistible Doctrine

Walking through the whole Romans text has brought me invaluable benefit.

Somewhere in former years I learned the points of Calvinism and Arminianism and decided that in the grand sense, it really didn't matter. They are doctrines made by men and while I found many ideas of both sides well said, they were inferior to the Word itself. I would be better off without: I believe in God to lead me when I read, and, scripture is everything that I should need to form concepts. So I went on my way and set aside the controversy.

But what really happened was this: my mind had been formed thus-forward. Once I had read and understand the points of Calvinism, I absorbed it without even realizing it.

I didn't even see how jaded I was to God's Word till these last two weeks, while reading Romans in the context of its entirety. I was amazed that scripture so resolutely answered my need for understanding and yet I was blind for so long. Let me give an example. Chapter eight gives direct opposition to the Calvinic principle called "irresistible grace[1]:"

In addition to the outward general call to salvation which is made to everyone who hears the gospel, the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. The internal call (which is made only to the elect) cannot be rejected; it always results in conversion. By means of this special call the Spirit irresistibly draws sinners to Christ. He is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended.

Here is what Romans 8 says:

Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live....

I have never read this passage as if it were speaking on the matter of pleasing God after salvation, only for justification! Once I read it as a teaching subsequent to salvation, it became evident that I had a choice! That I must choose, in every decision! Either life and peace by focusing on the Spirit's thoughts, or to continue on living dead in sin by listening to the flesh.

Well, duh!

I mean, I knew that, but somehow, I never grasped on to it. I knew that my life needed me to choose to obey. Can I tell you that I have been laboring for most of the conscious years of being a Christian, as expecting God to intervene and make me want to? I think God pulled out after a long time of putting up with my ignorance, knowing that eventually choices needed to have some sense of competition in me in order for Him to really be loved by me, instead of me acting like I think I'm some automation. The most wretched thought borne of this irresistible grace is that sin, my sin, is God's fault.

Yeah, I've been feeling guilty wanting to say that all these years. How sad, but very very real.

How I listen to the bible is so, so important. I should be diligent to open my mind to the way it plainly is expressing truth.

1. Comparison of Calvinism and Arminianism

Of Mice and a Little Man

Okay, so yeah, I felt like a bad mommy for choosing the word "evil" to describe Elijah, but guess what he's done today? The house is clean, and he's ignoring his toys. The first place he went was toward the bathroom. I came around and found him standing against the toilet, reaching his arm down in it to make fun splashes. Yuck! Then I went about my business, came into the kitchen where he had two chemical bottles from underneath the sink--but the cabinets weren't even open (how did he figure out how to open those ones; it's a mystery). Ahh! Gave him some shampoo bottles in exchange, crisis averted. An hour later I did some laundry upstairs, came down and discovered the mouse and keyboard off the desk and lying on the floor. No! Lizzy came over to me and shared a drawing and when she talked about Lijah she said he was pinching her back. Bad boy.
Then I went back into the laundry room and he followed me, stopped at the garbage can (a stand-alone aluminum canister with a lid), stood up against it, opened the lid and started tugging at a dirty diaper hanging out at the surface. Eeew!

The day's not even half-over!

He's not walking yet, just crawling. I can only imagine what things could be like once he does, or when he starts running, or... climbing?!?

As I write this he's stretched his height to grab up onto the camcorder cord, and it started sliding slowly toward the edge of the desk. Hands off, baby!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

No longer alone?

In the last two weeks I'd been attending a class on Romans and Galatians here in Salem, at a theological seminary that was just founded in the 07-08 school year. I took the class because, as you may know about me if you have known me for long, I have never known a church, religious organization or creed that expressed how I read the scriptures.

At the last day of class, Dr. Radmacher turned my way expecting me to speak. Note, now, that I was in a room with 15 others, mostly pastors of local churches, and if it weren't for the wife and children of my own church's pastor attending as well, I would be the only woman and the youngest in the room. I didn't know my pastor was going to be in the class. I know I definitely got a lot of interested looks because no one else knew me, perhaps also because I furiously scribbled notes on pink-hued legal pads. ;)

"Dr. R." is in his 70s and gave an impassioned speech on the importance of taking the gospel we just studied and sounding it in the world we live in. In the last hour and just prior to the closing prayer he said, "Before we go I have been watching my friend down here at the end of this table, dutifully taking notes, as if she is going to take this material and do something with it."

"I do definitely plan on using it, yes," I said. "After taking this class... I guess I could say that I am someone who believes in Free Grace."

The room laughed. I smiled.

"You fit with me and I fit with you. I have been discussing truth in various Christian groups for over five years, and with several I have a repoire; among them are an Evangelical Lutheran, Jehovah's Witnesses, LDS and Church of Christ. This concept of salvation is what I have roughly been trying to share during that time; though, I see I have a few serious holes of misunderstanding now, that this class is helping to correct, and I am grateful."

"Are you a former Catholic?" he asked.

"No; well..." I paused a little embarrassed, realizing I don't have any sect from which I hail. "I was saved when I watched the movie Jesus of Nazareth, but, I didn't understand that I was a Christian until three years later. Then a few years later I was told I wasn't saved. That caused me to read my bible exclusively for two years. When I came out the other side, it was hard to find anyone who saw things in this way. After a few more years, a few christians with whom I exchange ideas are beginning to see scripture along these lines, so, that's an improvement."

He then recommended a woman whom I would greatly benefit in knowing and the conversation moved.

Is this the end of the loner Sanctification? I'm not done making up my mind. I am investigating the ministry connections and history of the doctrines and teachers to discover the evangelistic applications of these things.

I not yet satisfied understanding the theology of this seminary but I will share a few highlights:

--They are "no-point Calvinists"
--They have potential to think revolutionarily of groups such as the LDS and others
--They absolutely throw out gospel techniques such as those of Ray Comfort
--They treat the scriptures clearly with the least gymnastics I've seen


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My son turned evil

Up till eight months old, Lijah did nothing, literally. He laid on his back, didn't roll over, didn't scoot, nothing. He only laughed and smiled. Everybody said he was a good natured baby, and... he was.

At eleven months, that baby all knew and loved, is gone. In its place is a little adventurer who won't sit still. In his repertoire:

The skull smack: Don't lay down near him, because he'll put a big grin on and crawl over like he's in love, then, lift his head high up and smack it down into yours. ?!?
The wall smack: Newly discovered by accident, smacking skull into the wall has resulted in a circular motion at the neck to reproduce said discovery of wall.
The flying squirrel: Prerequisite: happy but unsatisfied (I'm a good mommy, so, this happens to be 95% of day). On his knees, he lifts his hands toward the ceiling and then brings them down to mightily smack whatever is in his radius.
The dog bowl dingies: Bored with toys on the carpet? Can't see mom in your peripheral vision? Head to the bathroom with screams of anger and stop short at the dog's water bowl; lift, pour over chest, repeat.
Baking glassware wear: Feeling no fear for the pain he has felt in the past, he continually visits his favorite cupboard and pulls on top of him the pyrex, then finds a stray spoon and drags them into the middle of the living room to make music, where mommy finds the otherwise see-through items by stubbing her toe when the doorbell rings trying to stop the dog from charging the front door.
Skin amusement park: Wants to roll up against any exposed skin, then, after having a sensual fill, pinches over and over and over wherever it is exposed.
"That scream": When grocery shopping, he no longer receives praises; he constantly screams at eardrum-breaking decibels whenever he gets bored, which is pretty much constantly. I get down in his face and scream back at him (when we're at home). Then he pauses deep in thought, squints his eyes in a glare, gives a toothy grin and whines at me for the travesty I have committed.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


On Friday the children and I were driving home from ballet and Grace interrupts, "Mommy, mommy mommy!"

"What Grace?" I ask.

"What's 'dalmnation'?"


"What's... 'dalmnation' mean?"

[pause] "I'm sorry Grace, what word is that?"

"Dalm-na-tion!" she says with a loud voice.

"Grace, are you trying to say, 'dalmation,' or 'damnation'?" I say utterly confused.

"I want to know what dalmnation means, mom!"

"Grace! 'Dalmation' is a kind of dog that's white and has black spots or circles all over it. If you're saying 'damnation,' that means, when someone is going to the place where everyone does wrong and they can't get out."


"Aww!" she whines with deep concern, "I have to go collect damnations so that I can win a jump rope and a water bottle!!"

Ohh!! :)

Thursday, February 14, 2008


I've been thinking a lot about that spiritual gift called "mercy." It takes all forms of servanthood, but is universally characterized by immediate response: someone needs help, and who will go?

It's enough to say that my life was touched by tragedy, but that wasn't the end of the story. Things return to normal but there is a part that will never be calm again. Vestigal hypervigilance. The foundational need for human fellowship, shifts. It evolves. The need to rise to action is advancing a sizeable element of the soul. It ultimately will confine a typical desire for community.

I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.

That's what YHWH writes in the Old Testament. Jesus stood in the gap, for me. And that makes me want to stand in the gap too.

A few nights ago I watched a new movie starring Jodie Foster called "The Brave One". She said "I never knew how people lived with fear. Then it touched me." In the movie she works through tying the shock of the unreal with the real, to regain her senses. The lens of life shifts for her from the things the self needs, to the restitution needed for others. I thought it was amazing to watch her wrestling with conscience down the road of individuality. In the movie the main character finds solution by handling a gun. I would be different here since I was consecrated by grace and truth. I perhaps choose the non-hypocritical tools of forgiveness and peace, and my weapon is the sword of the Spirit.

This post is nearing that something I've been trying to write about for a couple of years now.

I love to walk and drive the streets of my town, and listen to the leading of the LORD for whom it is that needs to be heard. It is just like a dancer who listens to the music, though I am not trained, not completely talented and flexible. But when the music is on, I make my on-the-spot choreography, advocating the sounds that can't be seen. I retreat to the sanctuary of my family and recharge, and refocus, and I am ready once again. I well love the life God has given to me.

Thank you, Jesus, for the cross.

Listening to: "Sanctuary," Rachel Lampa

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Hold Fast

See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. ... As you know, we consider blessed those who perservered.

james 5:7, 11

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Pictures are a thousand titles

Over Christmas Ben's whole family got together at Portrait Innovations in Gresham.

I don't know what took me so long to get these up, but they are absolute killers! My favorites are the outtakes, which I included with the serious ones...

Little Maddie flanked by cousins...

Poor Uncle Joe...

Little Miss No-Teeth (four on the top and four on the bottom, gone)



How can Lizzy be happy when her hair is being pulled--Honestly!--

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