Thursday, October 29, 2015

God's Nature according to Dallas Willard

From: The Divine Conspiracy Continued

Thursday, October 22, 2015

9 Steps to Holistic Living (satire)

1. When you're born, don't get vaccines. Er, well, maybe we should, but not all of them, just the really important ones, but maybe not those either. So you know, just do the right thing and you'll start life going the right direction. Wait, oops...if you're reading this, it may be too late, so uh, maybe get a time machine and go back and tell your parents what they should have done.

2. Next, make sure your parents swaddle you (A.KA. baby burrito) at bedtime, laying face up. Or, if you think the doctors were right in the early 80s, ask to be set down on your stomach. Well, to be honest a few studies are questioning the whole swaddle thing so consider letting all your limbs hang out, but beware of other hanging things in doorways because Consumer Reports have concerns there.

3. Get breastfed. Have your parents read you lots of books. Make sure they do "tummy time," regular bathing (but not too much for fear of dry skin), and start brushing the second teeth might be coming. Be sure to throw out all those Baby Einstein videos because I guess that was a load of cra-. Of course, you might be allergic to breast milk or your mom might have not been able to help in that regard. You might as well cross out all Ivy League schools as future possibilities, but besides that you should be ok.

4. Be home schooled, or private schooled, or find a quality public school (probably in that order). Better yet, hire your own personal tutor from some Western European nation so you can learn multiple languages and pick up some much needed culture. Speaking of culture, beware of television, NASCAR, and all things Boy Band during your growing up years. If you get stuck in one of those normal public schools, just pray you get that one teacher who hasn't been brainwashed by the liberal establishment, the one who is there to subvert the evil plans laid out by Jimmy Carter in the late 70s. Speaking of Carter, pray for him; I think he's still a Democrat.

5. Whatever you do, don't play football. So many head injuries and such a beastly, 1st century gladiatorial spectacle that dehumanizes all things sacred. Play something more humane like soccer (a.k.a. 'football' to every other country on the planet...I might add if you could live in any of these other countries you are probably better off since every U.S. politician seems to try and make sure the USA becomes less like the USA and more like them--which admittedly is kind of weird since most countries look to the U.S. to be like us, hmm, my head hurts which makes me think of football, sports, oh year...Back to soccer). Clearly, a game watched by billions, involving hardly any safety equipment, sometimes culminating in physical violence among players, referees, and fans, is a much more respectable and safe sport than football.

6. Beware of popular culture. No TV, no movies, drop Netflix, internet filters must be everywhere, no Harry Potter, and a thorough aversion to Disney will keep you on the straight and narrow. For a minimum, please avoid reality television (especially Donald Trump's The Apprentice)--it severely distorts your ability to understand reality. But while we are on the subject, pray for Donald Trump; I think he's still a Republican. Now, that I'm thinking about it, pray for the Republicans because Donald Trump is still Donald Trump.

7. Beginning around age 4, you should start preparing to apply for college. Buy all hard copy books at Barnes and Noble and online software related to improving your ACT score. Volunteer out of the goodness of your heart to all sorts of places, but make sure they are organizations scholarship committees look upon with favor. Be amazing at art, a 4-sport letter winner, sing like a lark, and speak 4 languages, and then when you get to high school, try and do better.

8. Avoid Monster energy drinks, but any energy drink from a pyramid scheme (cough), I mean a friend's small business, is ok. Avoid buying in bulk from evil places like Sam's Club, but Amway has the blessing of God so you should be fine there. You could exercise regularly to stay healthy, but it might be easier just to drink down the powders and pills, wrap the stomach, and wear the electrical shocking equipment to keep you looking fit.

9. Be religious, but avoid Christianity. It's popular to be a religious atheist or agnostic so feel free to go with the flow. Islam is a peaceful religion and a good option. Those Hindu and Buddhist countries known for military dictatorships, human trafficking and exploitation really have religion figured out so consider that too. All else fails, having multiple gods and goddess might pan out in a pinch. Christians, however, are all narrow-minded bigots who preach forgiveness, grace, truth, and beauty. It sounds too good to be true--keep a particularly close eye on any Baptist who reads their Bible and tries to talk to you about their beliefs.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Good Grief

Grief is good. It is the fitting response to a world of sorrow.

Still, however, I wonder how a person without a belief in God can deal with sorrow. Grief says, "This is wrong. This sucks." Grief says, "This is not how it's supposed to be."

But an atheist, believing in random evolutionary theory, cannot say, "This is not how it's supposed to be." What is, is, in a world of evolutionary absolutism. Evolution demands us to ignore emotional responses and instead accept the status quo. Evolution creates a way of relating to the world not all that different to Hinduism. In Hinduism what is, is your fault, your karma. This is why the caste system says, "You should stay in your class." The "untouchables" are there because of what they have done. Hindus are supposed to let karma have its day.

Christianity is a belief system that allows for and pleads for grief. For at the heart of the universe is a God who created a world to be good. Humans brought death and decay into this world. But God cared for the world, grieved over it, and then sent His Holy Son to be a beachhead of revolution. Jesus' death is D-Day in history, leading one day to V-Day when He will return to wipe away the tears of faces and the stains of sin.

Now, we wait. We groan for a better day. We grieve. But we grieve as those with hope. It's good grief.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

The Time Traveller's Wife (and how it might help your marriage)

This was written up by a gifted pastor and personal friend, Dan Leman (it would be worth your time to download a sermon or two from this servant of God

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger taught me the secret to loving someone who consistently falls short of the person you want them to be. 
It is a complicated book that presents a love story from two perspectives: Clare is a normal girl and her story progresses along a normal timeline, but her love interest, Henry, has a genetic disorder that causes him to jump around in time.  Because of this disorder, Clare first meets Henry when he is a middle aged man and she is a little girl, and as she grows up she keeps meeting different versions of him as he time travels back to her from different years in the future.  
Eventually Clare meets Henry in real-time when they are both roughly the same age. This is the first time Henry has meet Clare, but by this time Clare knows older Henry, the Henry he will become, very well, and she is thoroughly in love with him.
This is where it gets really interesting - because the young Henry that Clare meets is totally unlovable.  He is selfish, immature, and very, very rough around the edges.  All of Clare’s friends wonder how she could love him.  To any normal person, Henry is too damaged and too dangerous to love.  What could she possibly see in him? 
What does she see?  The secret to Clare’s love is that she sees what no one else can see.  She sees beyond the person Henry is now to the person that he is going to become, and she loves that version of him.  She knows that this immaturity and violence and self-destructive behavior are just a phase. He will not always be like this. He will get through it, grow out of it, and become the man who is worthy of her love.  And so she loves the Henry that is now because she has a clear vision of the Henry who will be. And she knows that part of the means by which he becomes that Henry is through her unconditional, faithful love.
I think this is also the secret of God’s unfailing love toward us as we consistently fall short of who he wants us to be. Romans 8:29-30 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Like Henry and Clare, God is not constrained by the normal rules of time. When he looks at us, he sees the whole picture. Before we existed he knew us and loved us. And he made a plan for us to be transformed from what we are now to be just like Jesus.  In fact, our glorification is so certain, he uses the past tense – “those whom he justified he also glorified.”  He can see the future us.
And He loves the future us.  The future me is awesome – faithful, kind, generous, honest, loving, joyful, patient – perfectly conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.  And God loves that version of me!  Of course he does! And because he sees so clearly the glorious version of me that I am becoming, he doesn’t waver in his commitment to me when I fail in the here and now to be just like Jesus.  In fact, it makes him double down on his love for me, because he knows that his unconditional love for me is the means by which I will become the glorious, future, conformed-to-the-image-of-Jesus version of me.
This is the secret I have found to loving fellow Christians who consistently disappoint us.  If we only look at the present we may give up and walk away. We may harden our hearts towards them because of the constant disappointment.  We may withhold love until they prove worthy of it because we just don’t see anything there for us to love.  But when that is the case, we need to time-travel.  We need to step outside of our limited chronological view and see them the way God sees them.  We need to see the future version of them.  If they are believers in Jesus, then we know that they are guaranteed to become a perfect, glorious, supremely lovable version of themselves!
When we can’t love the person who is, we must look into the future and love the person who will be.  And then we pull that love back into the present and apply it to the person in front of us, knowing that as we love the present version of them in spite of their failings, God uses our unconditional love as the means by which he makes them who they are destined to be.
It is the same logic of Ephesians 5:25-27. Jesus doesn’t marry a beautiful bride. He marries a bride and makes her beautiful.  As we love those who don’t deserve it, that very love changes them into people who deserve it more.
Seeing people this way has revolutionized the way I interact with everyone. It has obvious implications for parenting and marriage, but also for very challenging situations like people trapped in poverty or fighting mental illness. If you can’t find it in yourself to love the person in front of you, do a little time travelling and love the person God has promised they will become. Love the bride and watch her become beautiful.

Monday, October 05, 2015

My Tribute to Dad (funeral eulogy)

Thank you for coming. Thanks for your love, support, and shared memories. My guess is that many of you are here because of what I believe was my dad’s greatest quality. It was this: In the over 1000 rounds of golf I played with my father, I never saw him treat another human person without a measure of respect. Whether we were golfing with a person of means or a vulgar drunk, my dad would offer them a handshake and dignity.
Each of my siblings has been raised to work hard and do it with integrity. It was my Dad’s dad who said that if you lose your integrity you lose everything.
                My dad was born the 4th of 4 children, 10 years younger than his next oldest sibling. My Grandma Lucille would make him cake and cookies for breakfast. (This is the same grandma who would later let me eat a whole pound of bacon by myself.)
Dad grew up in a home of a Veterinarian father who gave his life to his work. In high school, dad stayed out late and did his own thing, often spending late night hours working on cars. He was gifted at sports and in music, succeeding in high school football and basketball and singing in high school and into adulthood. After a less than stellar year at the University of Iowa, Dad regained footing when he took a year off to work, met my mom through his sister Donis, and soon was back in school at Upper Iowa University.
                After marriage and college graduation, he began to work with his father-in-law’s farming operation and other businesses in Sumner, Iowa. For over 10 plus years, my dad honed his skills as a farmer. He gave his life to his work, but life as he knew it came to a crashing halt in the farming crisis of the early 80s. He told me a few years ago, it was one of the hardest experiences in his life. He felt like a failure as a man, and didn’t know how he was going to take care of his family.
                To restart life, Dad began selling property and casualty insurance with Farm Bureau. Soon, the entire family moved down to central Iowa, eventually landing in Indianola in 1990.
Over the past 25 years this has been his home. He’s raised a family. He’s worked. He’s golfed. Along the way, he found ways to serve family, friends, neighbors, and clients. My dad was who he was. He never offered a limp fish handshake, nor changed his personality and opinions to fit in with the crowd.
                He was Jon Proctor. My dad. Your friend.
                But he wasn’t perfect. He made poor lifestyle choices, possibly the very choices that ended his life so early. Dealing with complex emotions and relationships was never his thing. I heard from one of his Farm Bureau employees from the early 90s at the visitation that Dad wasn’t the easiest guy to work for…my Dad could be demanding at times. And since he was a fix-it guy, I think he often found emotions and relationships to be a bit too messy.
I remember a few different times growing up when my dad would come and get me late at night and tell me I was driving to retrieve a sibling from some nefarious adventure. His line was always, “Matt, you’re driving; I’m too angry to drive.”
                My dad was aware of his sins and shortcomings…he knew of his need for forgiveness. In fact, it was during the middle of the farming crisis that he put his faith in Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior.  
Here are his own words from a letter he wrote me in 2012: “Before coming to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, life was a ‘roller-caster’ of emotional and spiritual ‘ups  and downs,’ and it was difficult for me to understand what God’s mission for me was to be. Only after He challenged me with trials which I never thought I could ever have to encounter, did I come to discover that I truly had to place my faith in Him, because there was no way I could ever deal with what this life has in store without having Him guide me and to be the sole source of trust.”
                My dad was aware of this truth found in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
                This is one of the greatest truths in the Bible. It means that God offered His Son Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for sinful people. Jesus takes the penalty for our sins. He becomes sin for us. Though Jesus never sinned, was holy, and good, Jesus dies for sinners to make them righteous…justified. Those who believe in Jesus can be right before God. But it’s not our good deeds that make us right with God, it’s Jesus’ deeds. The only thing a Christian brings to the table with regard to their salvation is their sin. We bring nothing…we’re just beggars asking for the bread of forgiveness, and God grants it.
                Today, we honor my dad. He had a fun personality, worked hard, and served many people. But let us not deceive ourselves. My dad did bad things. He sinned. He needed forgiveness. He needed grace. Just read the lyrics of the songs we’re hearing today. They are songs about a God who saves sinners. They are not songs about how impressive we are. Dad sang those songs because he knew truths like the one found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13
NIV  2 Timothy 2:11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
                Those who die in Christ live forever with Christ. Even though we are faithless at times, God remains faithful. We must put our hope in God, for alone we are hopeless. The best way you could honor my dad today is to place your trust in the Savior and Lord He professed.
                Today, my dad is gone. This is a tragic thing. There’s a special place in the human soul that longs to be close to their Dad. We want their blessing. We want their affection. We want to make them proud. I already miss my dad’s strong hands, gentle hugs, and insightful advice.
                But a number of years ago, I was properly taught that only the heavenly Father can satisfy the longing of the human heart for a strong and loving father. Even at my dad’s best, he couldn’t satisfy the ache in my soul. My dad was flawed, weak, and broken. Only God is loving enough, powerful enough, and good enough to meet this need. God is the protector of widows and a father to the fatherless.
                I turn to my heavenly Father for these longings, but I also hang on to my memories to not forget my earthly father.
I’ll never forget the special weeks a number of years ago when Dad helped me finish the basement in my current home so that his 3 grandsons could move in to a nicely remodeled bedroom (he did a similar project for my sister Heather). Dad took my oldest son golfing on a few occasions and found different ways to connect with each grandchild. As an adult, I’ve learned to frame walls, dry-walling, and an assortment of skills from my dad. More than anything, he’s given me the courage to tackle life and projects with great confidence.
                One of the interesting things about my dad is though he helped his kids and friends in many ways, he always grumbled his way through the project. I would’ve swore that he hated every second of working on my basement. He groaned, whined, and complained, claiming he’d never do big projects again. Lo and behold, he continued to help others with projects.
Similarly, a number of years ago, we were moving my sister and we had all sorts of problems, claiming then, he wouldn’t help someone move ever again…only to help many others move beyond that claim. This was my Dad…a little rough at times…but a willing servant. I’ll miss him.
                I’m thankful for my dad. I’m thankful for this person who taught me so much. I’m thankful my father was a professing Christian. For our hope lies not in our golf game, investment portfolio, or deeds accomplished. Our hope lies in promises like these from the lips of Jesus Christ: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”