tohu va bohu Posts

5 of 5 stars to The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards

This was one of the books that God used in the last half of 2005 to convict me of my mostly head/truth-based Christian life. Rereading it in the last half of 2019 and beginning of 2020 edified me greatly, even as I noticed more of Edwards’ repetitiveness. He also borders on stimulating doubt more than faith, but still a good challenge to loving obedience. The book in one sentence: you always do what you most want to do.

Goodreads

Hebrews 10:25 urges Christians not to neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some. I’ve seen various arguments that churches who are not meeting in their usual locations in their usual ways are disobeying this exhortation. But not meeting together is not our habit. And, as a church we are still considering how to stir one another up to love and good works, encouraging one another albeit through different channels.

The word “church” refers to a collection, a group of gatherers. A church, like some Christmas toys, means that some assembly is required. But we are not reinventing church, we are not trying to replace anything, we are in a season that causes us to remember why being the church is so important.

When Solomon dedicated the temple he had built, he prayed that even those who couldn’t be at the temple could turn toward it, wherever they may be, from however far away they may be, and trust that the LORD would hear their prayers (1 Kings 8:30 ,35, 38, 44, 48).

As Christians we do not have a temple, we are the temple. You do not turn toward a particular direction, but you do turn toward the rest of your people. That is our habit.

So we celebrate our communion again in an imperfect way, but we celebrate because we believe that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. We celebrate because Christ will build His church; we are His body, and He is our head, wherever we may be.

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You are at home, but you are not home alone. We are at a distance, but we are not disconnected.

I am not trying to play loose with words, I’m trying to emphasize the spiritual, even if invisible, reality of our union in Christ.

You cannot do something that doesn’t affect the rest of us. You can do, and regularly do, a lot of things that we don’t know about. Perhaps most of the time we won’t notice any immediate consequences. But that doesn’t change what’s true.

The current “Stay home, save lives” context has changed how we contact each other, but it has not changed that we are connected.

This is true for our household units, but in reverse. Just because your kids can see you work from home now doesn’t mean that how you did your work at the office didn’t matter to them before, it just means that a lack of integrity takes more work to hide.

Some of you may be compromised; what would we see if you forgot to turn off your webcam? Rust on the bottom of the chair isn’t as obvious, but it is just as damaging.

So how are you helping the health of the church body? How are you making us stronger? You cannot use your spiritual gifts in all the same ways as before, but that doesn’t mean that we are any less dependent on you doing your part for our fellowship.

David’s “private” sin with Bathsheba didn’t stay private. He was Israel’s king, so he had a different level of responsibility as the governing head, and that’s why the Lord punished the nation not just the man. In a similar way, the body has many members, but it is still one body (1 Corinthians 12:20, 26).

We will be stronger or weaker the next time we come together in person, and it will be a result of how we killed sin or coddled sin while we’re not.

liturgy

To our City of Marysville officials,

I am writing this open letter to you, not to confront, or even to criticize you, but to offer thanks and an exhortation. These are unprecedented days not just for our city, but obviously for the world, and you have many decisions to make on our behalf. Thank you for all the hours you have already spent, and for the many more hours of labor to come.

Due in large measure to your leadership, Marysville is not only a great place to live and work and raise our families, it has become a place of fruitfulness and an example to our neighboring communities, even up and down the West Coast. I think in particular of your work regarding homelessness, and how that was newsworthy in Spokane, in Seattle, and even in Southern California. Your willingness to explain your decisions for city projects and budget spending is notable, and appreciated. The Mayor’s patience, and nerve, on display at Coffee Klatches and other public meetings, provokes confidence and trust.

So I am asking you to show that sort of leadership again, at least for the citizens of Marysville, and perhaps even as a voice of reason to our State.

For three weeks in a row our Governor has enacted new and tightening restrictions. After closing all public schools, he then announced that no groups larger than 250 could meet, then lowered that to 50, and then this past week said not to leave our houses except for essential business. But, and this is significant, these are the only specifics he’s providing. If there is data about an exponential increase of COVID-19 cases among us, where is it? If there is data about the decreasing availability of hospital beds, where is it? Why are the restrictions getting more specific, and the explanations for why getting more foggy?

Over the last few weeks new laws have been written based on data modeling, not on data reported. And even those models are now admitted, by the scientists themselves, to be drastically wrong. From the beginning certain “experts” have been inflaming panic with “point of no return” terminology, burying the “known limitations” of their estimates below the “flatten the curve” graphics. Your messages to the community have been calm, but if the message itself is incorrect, that introduces other risks.

Because we all live together, certainly you know, at least anecdotally, that our community had a serious flu season in the later part of 2019. A Seattle flu study was testing for, and finding, coronavirus in January. It matters when the coronavirus came to the US, because that changes, and lowers, the death rate percentage along with the percentage of how many cases require hospitalization.

Marysville is filled with hard working men and women. We do not want the government, Federal or State, to bail us out. We want to go to work, taking reasonable precautions, earn our paychecks, and then pay our own bills. Please do not help the Governor redistribute responsibilities, and then make us more dependent on him.

There are ways to fight COVID-19 that do not require “killing” our local economy and businesses. You have worked hard to invite more businesses into our area and have been promoting their companies (as with the Cascade Industrial Center). Sharing a map of Marysville-area restaurants providing takeout is great, and posting pictures of your lunches is fun, but the costs are much bigger. You can do more. Again, as you demonstrated in your approach to the homeless, you did not deny that it was a problem, but you did avoid multiplying the problem for others.

Here is one plan to get America back to work, with a pivot from “horizontal interdiction” where everyone is restricted, to a “surgical” or “vertical interdiction” where those most likely to be affected are cared for. This would protect those of us who are not as susceptible to coronavirus from other consequences, such as financial or social or emotional.

The “Stay home, save lives” motto is succinct, and who doesn’t want to save lives? But can you please provide more information along with the well-being sentiments? Acting fast in a genuine crisis is good, but not if it is running off a cliff.

So as a pastor who loves Marysville, as a private school board member and teacher who encourages students and their families to love Marysville, as a parent who wants my kids to love Marysville, and as a citizen who believes in his local officials, I am asking you to use your influence for our good, physical and financial and cultural. Continue to demonstrate that you do not need the Governor’s office to provide your talking points. Do not be pressured by silliness coming out of King County. Do not allow the goal posts of restrictions to continue to be narrowed. Do not keep us in the dark. If it is bad, tell us. If you see that it is not as bad as Olympia is trying to make it sound, tell them.

enculturation

4 of 5 stars to Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

Other than The Wealth of Nations this is the first economics book I’ve read, certainly the first one I’ve read for fun. And it was GREAT. At first I wondered how Hazlitt could possibly spend 26 chapters on ONE lesson, but all that proved was how naive I was in imagining ways that men could ruin themselves by only asking narrow questions about short-term consequences. The only ways this book could have been better are if Hazlitt used the Oxford comma, and if he had said somewhere, “This lesson works because this is how Jesus made the world to work.” This is a must read for anyone who earns, spends, or invests money. And in light of our wannabe socialist overlords (on both sides of the Congressional aisle) and their campaign to give everything away, it would be very valuable to get this lesson learned sooner rather than later.

Goodreads

I said last Lord’s Day that I have enjoyed thinking about how to lead and serve our flock in these days. I have continued to do a lot of different reading, the elders have continued to have a lot of different discussions and make a variety of decisions in uncharted waters. We don’t want to put any of the flock in unnecessary harm, though we don’t have complete data, both about the virus and about the government’s handling of the virus.

Last Sunday we fit under the WA State restriction of 250 people. The following day that number was lowered to 50, and the CDC’s recommendation is currently for no groups larger than 10. We have asked ourselves, as churches all over the world have asked, “What should we do?”

We are not unique as a local church, but we are in a unique context. Never have so many nations, through such ubiquitous (and unrelenting) media coverage, given so much focus to one thing. Likewise, no generation of believers has had such technology for sake of recording, and even livestreaming, their services.

As if the previous parts of today’s service haven’t been awkward, gathering around the Lord’s Table has been a specific question. If we thought this ordinance was better remembered once a quarter, during an evening service, well, it’d be easy to wait. Even some of the churches who celebrate weekly communion have chosen against including that part of the liturgy until the church can be together again (here’s one example, here’s another).

I get that. Perhaps some of you who are listening believe that a non-geographically gathered gathering isn’t an official gathering, and so a non-communing communion is false.

If we had a larger congregation, and if consequently the shepherds had less of an idea of the spiritual condition, or if we were a church that regularly had a lot of visitors, or if we had a church that seemed to take for granted gathering together, these would be arguments against.

But the elders have called the assembly to assemble, during exceptional circumstances in an exceptional way. This is not normal. If you are participating at this moment, then we are participating together in a less than ideal way, but it is not a fictional way either. I can’t see all of you, but I am thinking about you.

Apart from additional arguments, we believe that it is a better service to the flock to celebrate “distance” communion, but this is not the same as “private” communion. You are not doing it on your own, though you are doing it in your home. If you enjoy it better this way, then that would be bad.

Let us pray that this is a short season. Let us pray for Christ to unify His people. Let us pray for Him to bring us together in every way.

liturgy

I had no idea just a few weeks ago that the coronavirus would give me such a great angle on baby showers. But here we are.

What I have been trying to do is get us to consider some of the principles and priorities of living together and rejoicing with others who rejoice. Baby showers are a good case study, and they are an actual thing that many of the ladies at our church are working through, but the application is not limited to new-little-life parties, or even just to moms and future moms.

So far I have tried to point out that while every new life is special, the celebrations for special things do not have to be the same, and the guts of celebration are pulled out if we look at how someone else got celebrated with envy. “She had a three cake party, I only got one cake.”

I’ve also pointed out that trying to make something “perfect,” or worse, expecting to be made much of perfectly, is a set up for post-party depression; it’s like post-partum, but after all the labor all you have to cuddle with is your bundle of complaints.

Last in this series, for now, is a question that the coronavirus puts into relief: is there a bad time to have a baby? Jesus said yes. “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days” (Matthew 24:19). The Great Tribulation will be rough on motherhood.

Otherwise, are there bad times? It depends on how much honor you require, right? It’s tougher to party when an unanticipated global pandemic causes governments to shut down meetings of more than 10 people. It is also tougher when 10 (or more) women are due within a month of each other. Is less party-blessing per mother better or worse for the blessing of the church and community?

These questions remind us to be careful in what we pray for. I pray that Marysville will become a destination, and I have to remember that while I’m sitting in traffic that didn’t used to be. Will I regret having my #blessed bumper sticker not yelling at the other drivers, or will I realize that what I really want doesn’t always look like how I thought I wanted it, and it’s even better?

liturgy

Note: this post was for our church’s communion mediation two Sunday’s ago when we were still able to meet.

I cannot say that this last week has been fun. That would be the wrong word, for sure. But I would say that I have enjoyed the opportunity to consider how to best serve you all and proclaim that Jesus is Lord through our conduct.

As elders, when we get together, we spend the majority of our time talking about shepherding work as opposed to administrative things. Admittedly, much of those reports are due to sin among the sheep and, while the conversations are good, they are not a delight. This past week has been somewhat hectic, but it has been a pleasure to give ourselves toward you in a unique situation.

You all have demonstrated that, as a church, we have communion. I mean that we have communion relationally, not just liturgically. We will be modifying our corporate practice around the Lord’s Table in a couple ways, but our coming together in communion has been successful in preventing the spread of bitterness and division between one another.

You all have made it a joy for us as overseers to make decisions. The Hebrews 13:17 passage is often used to require submission. Let me use it to give affirmation. By the grace of God, not one person has complained or criticized. Every question asked has been constructive, and many prayers and explicit encouragements given.

I am thankful to the Lord that I have no symptoms of sickness, not because I am nervous about contracting COVID-19, but because I’d be disappointed to miss today’s communion with the body.

As you may have read, we’re going to have Dave and Jim handle the elements, and they will hand you what you prefer, with or without gluten and alcohol, hopefully all without germs. Let them put it into your hand, and then less touching of their gloves will take place. Perhaps it will take a bit longer, but shepherds serving the flock will be worth it.

Whether or not this becomes standard practice, or “winter season” rules, remains to be decided. But for now, we enjoy our fellowship with each other in Christ.

liturgy

There is a surprising amount to say about baby showers. Today I’m going to connect them with the coronavirus, and baptism. Just watch.

Previously I illustrated the principle that special things do not necessarily require a certain amount of time or expense to celebrate. Think of our celebration of the Lord’s Supper; it’s meaningfulness isn’t measured in minutes. Likewise, special celebrations do not need to be the same in every way. Think of family traditions for holidays and birthdays. Such diversity in the world created by our Triune God is glorious, not injustice.

It is also true that seeking a “perfect” celebration is almost certain to spoil it as a “joyful” celebration. God expects us to obey perfectly, but we don’t, which is why we need His grace. He also sets us up to be not perfect in a thousand non-sinful ways. We all must learn, grow, mature, physically and mentally.

Take a believer’s testimony in baptism as an example. Being baptizied is commanded by God through Christ and His Spirit. An obedient disciple is a baptized disciple. But baptism is one and (most of the time) done. You get one shot. And based on the commands to believe and be baptized, infering that a long duration between the two is not expected, one’s profession will never be as perfect as it could have been. You will not give God the most knowledgable, most theological, most mature expression of glory. If you wait for those things, you’ve not been perfect because you’ve delayed in disobedience. God is pleased with humble faith, publicly professed, in various circumstances.

Is your baby shower, or that of your closest friend, or that of the lady on the fringe that you care about, required to be more “perfect” than the ordinance of baptism?

This does not argue for carelessness. It argues for not freaking out. If 20 people wanted to be baptized, we would, for practicality, encourage them not to give 20 minute testimonies each. And if there comes a time when we have 20 pregnant moms due in a short window, let’s say, around nine months from our current in-home quarantine, each mom may not get two exclusive hours in the spotlight. Is it because we have too many baptism candidates? Ha, no! Is it a problem pressing a standard of “perfection” that makes it easier to judge than rejoice? That is a different infectious disease.

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Though understandable that men want to hide from the face of Him who is seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, it is ultimately impossible to get away from His face. Let us also not forget that apart from His sovereign grace, we would all be in that position.

There is a veil that covers men from being able to know the good news that a way has been made both to fear and love God. This is “the gospel of the glory of Christ” as Paul put it. He also wrote that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers.” So the good news is obscured to them. They are perishing and so they can’t see, and they can’t see that they are perishing. When it comes time for the end, they will understand who they’ve hated, but too late.

How did we get out of our blindness? Why do we pray for the end to come and for the wrath of the Lamb to come without fear that His wrath will fall on us? It is not because we weren’t blind, it is because God chose to show us His glory.

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

The Father, the Son, and the Spirit elected to reveal God’s glory to us. It is a comfort to us, it is good news, it is a message of life and freedom. Those who cannot commune with God because they are outside of Christ still have a veil, and will wish they could keep that veil when the Lamb comes to judge. For us, we know He took our judgment, and so we do not lose heart.

liturgy