Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Autumn

The deep amber of honey locust
The indigo scarlet of dogwood
Sugar maple 
with the colors of the sun burning into the green 
Silhouetted 
by dark wet branches 

The bright goldenrod of fall gingkos
The oak's brown clinging on
The red falling 
down, 
down, 
down
The leaves, 
to be crunched, 
to be claimed

Deciduousness 
is dying
The cold air 
brings warm colors
In death 
the palette comes alive

An Adoption Analogy

Recently some friends of mine have been in the process of adoption. It's opened my eyes to why Jesus commands us to care for orphans and widows - the marginalized. It's because it shows God's passionate love to those who don't deserve it, and who need it most. Just as Christ loved us while we were God's enemies. It is in adoption that God's love shown through Spirit-filled followers of Christ is fully, personally, and experientially demonstrated. I have seen this!

The above concept can be illustrated by a story of a king. He went out to several peasants in His kingdom, and adopted them. He invited them to be part of his life and to join the king in his palace. They could enjoy all good things, the food, the palace, all the benefits of being a child of the king. He just ravished them with his love. What should the response of the adopted peasant chlidren be? Should they fully accept his love and find themselves blown away by the king's love? Or should they suspect that this is too good to be true, and thus it is not true? Or perhaps they protest, "I just can't quite accept it, because this is who I am. I can't give up my life as a peasant."

Give up your life. Accept the ravishing love of God.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Theodicean Odyssey

'Theodicy is often presented as a logical contradiction of three foundational beliefs. 1. God is utterly omnipotent. 2. God is infinite love. 3. Enormous evil exists in this world. It is claimed by many that the first two statements are incompatible with the third, for an all-powerful, all-loving God would not allow so much evil.'

Ah, yes! The classic question on why God would allow such pain, suffering, and evil in the world. Honestly and pastorally, in times of actual suffering, there are no bromides that are adequate. So I pray for God the Holy Spirit to comfort. It oft seems that many are already looking for an excuse not to believe, as if the existence of evil and suffering is a vindication of unbelief. Yet the logical contradiction must be approached philosophically. That is, each of the three premises must be examined. I will do so in a way reminiscent of Aquinas.

1. God is utterly omnipotent. This cannot be absolutely true. Although God can do anything that he desires, he has chosen to limit himself according to his nature, the order of the created world, and especially through the person of His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. God is fully and truly all-powerful within the order of creation. To intervene and avert every disaster and wicked act would upset the balance of the world. That is, it thus becomes a matter of which crimes deserve God's omnipotent intervention? In shock and horror of the evil of humanity's heart we either blame ourselves, others, or God. This is where God's omnipotence gets put on trial.

2. God is infinite love. Yes, this is true. Yet many times we demand our definition of love. A loving God wouldn't do that! (Fill in the blanks with the latest suffering or evil incarnate.) How quick we forget the incarnation where Christ emphathized with humanity, taking the form of humanity, laying aside the Godhead, suffered pain and death on the cross in order to rise again, defeating evil, sin, and death. It is only through God's infinite love whereby the suffering caused by evil in the world is redeemed. Thus, a better definition of infinite love incorporates the incarnate Christ. Thus, I believe love is the self-sacrificial giving of one's self for the highest and best good of another.

3. Enormous evil exists in the world. Yes, this is absolutely true. In addition, natural disasters take place and disease is rampant. Ultimately, God has created this wonderful world with the potential for good, love, justice, and holiness. However, people wrested control from God's hand, insisting on doing things according to their selfish-desires (original sin). While the explanation of free will is sometimes inadequate for those in tears and heartache, it is the dearth of response to the grace of God that has caused such. Blaming God for the sin and evil man commits is thus akin to blaming the wrong person and is a wish for loveless automatons.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Is Creation Good or Evil?

Historically, the church fathers vigorously fought against the belief that creation is evil (both the world and humanity). Gnostics believed matter was evil and the spiritual was good. For the Manicheans, they also believed in a dualism where the material creation was debased. Augustine (a former Manichean) wrote against Manichaeans who said that we should spare God the embarassment of being connected to the created world. As Thomas Oden records in Classic Christianity, this Gnostic thought has implications today. For if creation is evil, it can be neglected (141).

Sadly, the church today has seemingly failed to learn the lesson of history in affirming the goodness of the created world and humanity, especially in regards to our sexuality. Eschatological views (specifically premillenialism) have hindered our current stewardship of the earth. 2 Peter 3:10 has been misinterpreted, and the term "dominion" from Genesis has been an excuse for abuse of the earth and its resources.

Furthermore, in a subtle way, believers have failed to fully affirm the goodness of the body. God created us as wonderful beings with intricate systems, senses, and experiences. Although, grace should never be an excuse for bodily sin. This idea has probably been so prevalent due to the exaltation of the spiritual. The incarnation should teach us that God has affirmed both the spirituality and physicality of humans. Thus, we should be active in helping the body of Christ to redeem the world (humanity & nature) through teaching that God's creation is good.

What in the World Is Christian Perfection?

One of the distinct emphases of Wesleyanism in general, and United Methodism in particular, is that of sanctifying grace. This is what we refer to as Christian holiness, or what Wesley termed 'Christian perfection.' As United Methodists we have several foundational documents for our beliefs and behaviors. These include our Articles of Religion, the General Rules, and Wesley's Sermons and Notes on the New Testament. To this end we hold core beliefs and values such as found in the Doctrinal Standards, Theological Task, and Social Principles. One of these distinct beliefs is the notion of Christian perfection. This is probably most clearly articulated in Wesley's sermon on the subject, and his work, "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection." 

Christian Perfection as Wesley expounded and Methodists believe is rooted in the idea of sanctification. That is, when we become children of God we are made right (justified) and made new (sanctified) simultaneously. Thus, for the believer, Christian perfection is a clarion call from God, found in scripture, to grow in holiness/sanctification. This is because sanctification is both a crisis and a process. Wesley taught that in an instant we are regenerated and are dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Yet there is a lifelong process whereby we become more and more like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). So, Christian perfection is the act and process of becoming perfect, in order that every part of us loves God, and loves others as ourself, and our desire to sin is cleansed by the Holy Spirit. 

Though many are upset by the term "Christian perfection" Wesley believed that he must preach the "whole counsel of God" (Sermon 40) especially on account that the doctrine was profusely found in scripture. "Indeed, [Christian perfection] is only another term for holiness." (Wesley) He also believed that those who are holy are perfect according to scripture (Sermon 40). Wesley, in his sermon on the topic, devotes his organization to understanding what Christian perfection is, and what it is not. Christians are not perfect in the sense of knowledge. We still remain ignorant in mysteries of the faith. Neither are Christians free from mistake. Christian perfection does not make us supernaturally competent. Neither does being perfect mean freedom from infirmities (morally neutral inward/outward imperfections, e.g. forgetfulness). In addition, Christian perfection is by no means a complete freedom from temptation or the ability to sin. The opportunity and possibility remain.

Yet Wesley is clear what constitutes Christian perfection. It is both inward and outward. It involves inner affections, motives, and desires (cf. Wesley's Notes on Gal. 2:20). This is what Wesley called freedom from "evil thoughts and tempers" (Sermon). It also involves specific actions, words, and behaviors. Wesley firmly believed that Christian perfection involved being made free from outward sin in the sense of not continuing in sin (habitually, continually, 1 John 3:8-9, 5:18; Rom. 6:1-2; However, if one does sin cf. 1 John 2:1). Christian perfection is both negatively and positively expressed (i.e. sinful nature destroyed and Christ's holy living presence in us). Wesley describes this beautiful perfection as a deliverance not only from outward sin, but also the inner sin of the heart. Wesley had an optimistic view of the human condition only because of God's sanctifying grace, and the abundance of evidence for Christian perfection found in scripture. He used language such as "being filled up to all the fullness of God" (Eph. 3:19) seeing Christian perfection as being full of God's "light, love, wisdom, holiness, power, and glory." (Wesley's Notes, Eph. 3:19). Furthermore, he noted the command in Matthew 5:48 "be perfect as your Father is perfect" as a wise and gracious promise of God to perfect the believer (Wesley's Notes, Matt. 5:48).


In summary, Christian perfection (holiness, maturity) is attained by faith through the work of the Holy Spirit in one's heart and life. It is received by the grace of God whereby the believer desires less and less to do wrong. It is lived by daily surrender to God, in covenant to live wholly for Him, and to use the means of grace to increase in love for God and others, renouncing the works of sin and death. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ideas Have Consequences

I love Christmas. Really, I do. I was born 10 days before it at 9:37AM on a Thursday. I love it. I've been enjoying my break from 18 hours of school and stuff. I've been reading C.S. Lewis' space trilogy and an apologetic book: I don't have enough faith to be an atheist. Here's an adapted outline:

Problems with Christianity

Emotional obstacles to Christianity: Christian exclusivism, the doctrine of hell, and the hypocrisy of Christians are emotional roadblocks to just about everyone.
Volitional obstacles: Morality, which seems [my emphasis] to restrict our choices in life. We don't want to answer to anyone, especially an omniscient being: the God of the universe - especially one who spoke billions of galaxies into existence. Scary? The issue is not refusing the evidence. It's not wanting to accept the evidence. It's a choice, based on a desire. And since there is more evidence for God and Creation, it takes more faith to be an atheist. (Premise of the book)

Geisler and Turk also have a great section on agnosticism. It's like being empty minded they say - a refusal to do anything with the evidence. They'd rather say, "I don't know" about the question of God, then "Yes" or "No."

Just read the book. I am. :-)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Palindrome Days 1-9, 11, 22

11/3/11

These days I spend most of my time running in the rain to train for a 5K, killing demonic trespassing centipedes for my wife, studying my brains out for my second to last semester at school, going on dates with my wife for seafood and ice cream, hanging out with a young guy from my youth group (you could call it discipleship), studying lessons for AP bible study for senior high students at my church (HUMC), studying for Wednesday night lessons at church, preparing sermons for my professor, getting excited about spending the holidays with my families, going to a costume party at a friend's house, reading lots, watching lots of episodes of NCIS and Monk, eating food whenever I can sneak any and not endure pain as a result, take lots of medicine, commute to work and school with Switchfoot (music), go to the doctor for a 2nd opinion (after 2 years of Crohn's), practice 300+ minutes a week of piano, play guitar, drink cider and coffee galore. And I apologize not for the run-on, or the bad grammar.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I Love About Fall

1) How the moon looks when it wanes in the black sky.

2) The smell of spiced apple cider as it wafts into my olfactories.

3) The light of the sun through yellow maple leaves in my neighborhood.

4) The coolness in the morning and the warm sunshine in the afternoon.

5) Chili. Enough said.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How To Perpetuate the Rumors that Christianity is Boring

Someone once said, "It is a sin to bore people with the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Following is a true story:

How To Be Ineffective

There's a man standing in a suit when you first come into the building. If you're lucky he may open the door for you. You're supposed to shake his hand and ask him how he's doing. He'll tell you things like "I'm doing." or, "I'm hanging in there." He sounds like he's divorcing his wife or she has cancer or something. I want to tell him how much Jesus makes me better than just being able to hold on.

At this place they have key phrases like "minding the Lord," "praying through," "looking to the Lord in prayer." If you're above 50 and meet certain qualifications you can stand up and tell about how horrible your life is, but how much Jesus is helping you with stuff. The tears are socially awkward, but I think you get extra points for it.

Earlier I followed people into a room in the basement. If it weren't for the attitude of my fellow students I would have though they were going to come tell us to strip off our clothes and "take a shower." Then this man who forgot about us, but said he didn't, came into the room. It got worse.

"My name is Paul. To your dismay, I'm the teacher."* Paul talked about many things. In particular there was a book named Ruth that he taught from. "Dedication" was his topical theme. How he got that from Ruth I am still not sure. "Babcock and Wilcox. I worked there for 15 years until an outside corporation took over. No dedication for the worker from the corporation." he lamented. "This is the way it is today in our society. No dedication. No effort. No pride. It is not seen in our world today. We should show the world a life that hasn't been seen."

People told Paul, "I can tell the difference in the way you work, act, and talk."
"It's nothing I've done." he said. "It's what Christ has done for me."
After relaying this conversation Paul told us, "I did the right thing. Yes, there is problems in the church. The devil's fighting us. Sometimes we have to square our shoulders and go to God and tell him our failures. We have decisions. If we didn't, we'd be a robot."

Then he told us more about Ruth and that affection toward the opposite sex is not wrong. "The lady is a weaker vessel. The Bible says so. You don't want a wife that's lazy. You want a companion. I don't ever have to remind my wife to pack my lunch. I PACK MY OWN! This is part of growing up and adulthood. Ruth had shown that she would be a good wife - clever, industrious, dedicated. Christ is saying that we can get to heaven if we overcome our perfections."

He ended with a little advice. "Be dedicated to yourself."
"My wife wants me to wear a tie." he said, wearing a tie. "I'm in a position: Sunday School teacher, usher. There will be rewards."

A bell rang later. We escaped.

Upstairs, the bass player practices his octaves and runs, during a set order of songs. I'm not sure if they're pre-set or not. Maybe they're so good the leader can pick any song at random and voila, everyone knows it. If so, I'm not sure how many is in their repetoire. The song leader looks like a Mormon convert. I'm afraid if I shook his hand it'd fall off. For a man wearing a suit he was very effeminate.

They also have unpaid actors. They're young stars - toddlers. They perform great stuff for you. Unfortunately, you can tell they are flagrantly upstaging the pastor, but we don't care, right?

*(Not his real name)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

PS. I'm married





Samuel & Melissa McConkey
June 11, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why I Hate Introductions

I confess: I hate introductions - hate, not dislike - really hate them. I also hate prologues, prefaces, and epilogues - pretty much anything that comes between the first and last chapter. Maybe it's because I was raised on reading books like the Bible or Little Golden Books that needed no preface! Maybe it's because sometimes it informs you of unnecessary information! Maybe it's because some books have an introduction, introduction to the second edition, author's preface, preface to the second edition, and prologue, complete with epilogue, end notes, bibliography, index, and guide to astrology! I don't know.

Recently, I found an introduction that was actually useful, and this is one redeeming introduction that I can hold up as beneficial. So here is what I would list as a good introduction: 1) Five pages or less. 2) Gives a brief summary of the book. 3) Does not bore me out of my mind. Thankfully, the introduction to D. Michael Henderson's book on discipleship "One Conversation at a Time." meets these qualifications, and it's three pages in length!

Also, what is with these people that list nouns as chapter titles? Are you that unintelligent? Here are two examples from actual books: Robert Coleman's "Master Plan of Evangelism," lists its table of contents as: 1) Selection 2) Assocation 3) Consecration 4) Impartation 5) Demonstration 6) Delegation 7) Supervision 8) Reproduction. But wait, there's more! Jesse Rice's "The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected Are Redefining Community" lists its table of contents as: 1) Connection 2) Revolution 3) Dispensation 4) Illumination 5) Adaptation 6) Regeneration. Are you kidding me? Could you get any more vague and unhelpful?

I recently read a 618 page version of Count of Monte Cristo, (Not Crisco) and flagrantly did not read the 19 page introduction. No thanks. I don't need that much historical background to understand what is going on in the book's plot. Frankly, the prologue in Sheldon Vanauken's "A Severe Mercy" was labeled - "I. Prologue: Glenmerle Revisited" - that horrible little Roman numeral! Chapter 2 is actually chapter 1! Oh, the humanities! And after reading the fourteen page prologue where he reminisces at the bridge, I realized that I could have really skipped it. But, no, I was deceived into thinking it was actually a part of the book!

Frankly, if the introduction was labeled "Chapter 1" I might read it. Otherwise, my hatred continues...

"And well you see, I die...in the prologue." -Jane Powell in Two Weeks with Love

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Essence of a Easy Essay

I sleep warmly - on my side, with one pillow, one sheet, one blanket, one comforter, and my feet poking out from the bottom of said laundry. Within the last week I've dreamed every time I've slept - some pleasant, and some fearful. I always sleep with a fan or some sort of white noise. It circulates the air and keeps the room cool. In fact, as a warm sleeper, I'd rather have a chill in the building - 0ne that makes the tile in the bathroom feel like walking on ice at 3:18 am, but makes your bed feel oh so warm at 3:24. I've rested on a pillow named Carlisa for 5 or more years. I bought her at a hotel in the Virginia's while on the road for work. Alas, she is growing old and slowly dying. Recently, a clearanced pillow came into my usage which was so oddly named "The Hunk" which conjures up cartoon characters or cheesy macho masculinity. It's a striped case of fluffiness. Frankly, I don't know why 100% polyester microfiber overfill should be thus termed. Also, while I'm in this department, am I the only one who believes that there is no difference between grades of pillows? Superfirm feels the same as every other pillow to me, unless there are duck, duck, geese and gander involved. And it's been entirely too long since I've whammed someone in the midriff with a pillow. I hope Mr. Profitt's proud of me.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Transport

I work as a patient transporter at a hospital. Here's a list of things that I have been asked or things told to me while at my job.

"Do you have a driver's license?" (To which I quickly reply, "Yes, do you want to see it?")
"How long have you worked here?"
"Do you ever get lost?" (No)
"How long did it take to learn the hospital?" (2 weeks)
"Do you ever race in the wheelchairs?" (No.)
"This hallway looks like Holiday Inn."
"You're a good driver." (Thank you)
"Can I just walk from here?"
"Have you ever thought about just letting go of the chair?"
"You have nice shoulders."
"Those people in green shirts are good drivers."
"Do you work here?" (Yes)
"You smell good."
"How old are you?" (No, not 18. I'm a senior in college)
"Are you using that wheelchair?"
"Doctor! Doctor!" (Um, that's not me...)
"Can you tell me where ______ is?"
"What floor are we going to?" (C level)
"We aren't taking any more admissions."
"You can't take that bed!" (Yes, I will)
"No, you're not!" (When told I was going to transport them)
"Something smells good." (Coffee Shop)
"I can't remember where we parked." (I hope you remember soon)
"Which entrance?"
"Where are you taking them?"
"I don't have that room." (Then please connect me to the nurse that does!)
"Did you have to receive training?" (Yes)
"Wow, I would get lost in here."
"Are you a volunteer?" (No, I get paid)
"Which floor? What number?"
"Have you ever gotten stuck in the elevator?" (Sadly, no)
"Oh! You're here already." (Did you want later?)
"You should get paid by the mile!" (I wish)
"You can just let go of the chair now." (While wheeling people down the front ramp)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Incantation.

As a Christian, I seek to entertain myself with good entertainment. Animated movies just happen to be about the only thing I can watch as far as movies go. And I only mentioned them as part of a finale to my Voicemail post. But you said...

"Animated children's movies are for children? What are you talking about?"

"I will watch animated children's movies as long as there is breath in my body!"

"You may want to print a retraction on the children's movies...you could shatter countless lives with such a revelation."

So...
Please forgive me. I recant. I am hereby responding to your flabbergastedness.

Animated movies are NOT for children. I hope that I have not deeply offended the amazing adults who read my blog.

Please do not ever get the idea that Pixar makes movies for children, or produces such films to sell stuffed versions of animated characters. These animated movies are rated G and PG and therefore are only suited for the ears and eyes of adults.

Let's see here...
Toy Story? Not for kids.
Finding Nemo? Not for kids.
Cars? Not for kids.
The Incredibles? Not for kids.
Up? Not for kids.
Monsters Inc? Not for kids.
Ratatouille? Not for kids.
Despicable Me? Not for kids.

You get the idea.