Grace Notes

From my notes from church this morning:

Justification is very misunderstood. It is complete and part of identification with Christ unto new life. If we don’t understand it as complete we feel compelled to works. If we don’t understand it as part of identification we fail to grasp the fullness of the work of Christ on the cross.

Don’t Bat an Eye at 40 Lashes

So in the Old Testament Law of Moses, given to the Jews while they were in the “Promised Land” God says in Deuteronomy 25:3 that you may give a man up to 40 stripes [lashes].  Just to be safe the Jews made it a tradition to only lash someone 39 times in case someone counted wrong.  This sort of thing amuses me greatly.  Let’s obey the Law for righteousness, unless we can make a new, and improved Law.

I prefer the New Testament doctrine of grace, but often this gets screwed up to create new and improved grace, too.  If you’re adding or subtracting from the Bible to help it where God needed some clarification that you happen to have the perfection to offer, you’re probably a bit over-confident.

Grace, it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch & dinner.

Abby Was Baptized Today

Abby was baptized today, so that was cool.  Except last night I told her that Grandpa Peterman (an elder at our church) would officiate and I would accompany him in case I cried.  I told Abby I was emotional sometimes.  The baptistm went well and Abby and her aunt Kelsey, and the children of another family (Go, Doans!) all publicly testified to their faith.  This was all good and I’m excited for them.

As it turns out Abby’s Sunday school teacher asked if I was going to do the baptism myself.  She replied in the negative.  When Mike, her teacher, asked why I was not going to do the baptism she said, “My dad has emotional problems.”

So there’s that.

If There is Fear of Failure

If there is fear of failure, it isn’t grace.  Grace doesn’t bring about fear, but relationship.  If your testimony with those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ doesn’t involve a reflection of liberty then you’re not showing them the glory of grace, but instead the legalism of what the flesh can do.  I won’t do various things if it will be a stumbling block for a brother, but I will walk in liberty otherwise.  I don’t fear failure, I embrace grace.

Thanks for the Fish

When I used to work at the Christian book store in college I was a new hire and the owner was showing another new hire how he expected a display rack cleaned. He called it the “auto center.” I laughed because I thought it was a clever name. It was a name that sounded more grand than the plastic display actually was.

I got called into the owner’s office and was scolded for making fun of the name by laughing. I would like to take this time to point out that you’re welcome to laugh at all my posts – whether they’re intended to be funny or not – and I will not call you into my disorganized office (which I will be cleaning this week). I will, however, show you my guitar center.

What Matters Most?

Think before you act
That weird thing by my ear is a pop stopper on a mic stand

In a continuation on the series about things I’m learning about maturity (as I originally posted here) I’d like to talk about what matters the most.  You see I hadn’t figure this out in application until recently.  What matters most hasn’t changed, but the application of that has become much, much more important to me.  What matters most to me is my relationship with my Lord and Savior and that relationship being reflected in my day-to-day life.  My friend Craig told me recently in a conversation that he could tell a difference between Randy 2 years ago and present day Randy.

I used to run my mouth a lot (OK, I probably still do).  Maybe it was pride, maybe it was because I’m an extroverted influencer, but I’ve started listening more.  That only took 30+ years to figure out.  Listen more.  It isn’t as if James hadn’t told us in his letter to the diaspora of the church at Jerusalem that they should listen more.  It isn’t that I hadn’t read that letter tens of times.  It is that I didn’t realize I wasn’t listening.  Do you ever think that you are listening but you’re not?  I am learning to listen more.  The problem is that it takes discipline to listen.  It takes discipline to shut your jaw muscles down and just listen.  I’ve met good listeners and when they listen to me I feel loved.  I need to love by listening more.  Craig told me that during a series of tasks with him that I wasn’t talking as much.  I was working more, but I was also listening more.

A week or so before that I had another friend, Jim, suggest I listen (there’s that word again!) to some lessons by a mutual friend, Jeremy Thomas, who is the pastor at Fredericksburg Bible Church.  As I listened a yearning for a deeper understanding of God’s word just dominated my thoughts.  I have been insatiable in my appetite for what matters most: knowing my God more.  Jim also suggested I re-listen (and finish listening to) the Bible Framework series by Charlie Clough.  There is so much good material in that series.  The series is about thinking.  I know, that’s goofy, but its over 200 lessons on thinking as a Christian rather than just being a thoughtless Christian (that’s kinda blunt, but I don’t know how else to put it).  Craig is a good thinker and when he mentions that he thinks I’m changing it means a great deal to me.

What matters most (my relationship with the Godhead) impacts my work, my family, my friends, and my church.  At work I want to do an amazing job, but this change in my focus means that I actually pay more attention to details (which probably thrills some of my co-workers to no end).  My family has been getting a lot more of me praying and looking for teaching opportunities [and hopefully more listening].  My friends will hopefully find me a better listener – I’m sure praying a lot more for them (even if they’re agnostic or atheist).   At church I’ve been trying harder to pour myself into preparation for my lessons (not that I spent only a few minutes before).  I want my brothers and sisters there to hunger more despite being fed more, to listen more, and to grow more.  I want them to know I love them.  Not to be a creeper, but I want you to know I love you.  When Craig tells me he’s seeing changes he’s telling me he loves me and he’s been listening and watching.  I’d hate for that message (of love) to stop with me.  Listen to someone else today; love them through listening.  It is amazing what you’ll hear.  It is amazing what you’ll learn.  It is amazing how you will grow.

Hoosier Rabbi?

I’m writing this post ahead of time.  Go figure.  I’m writing this while having been studying for a Bible study lesson I will have taught by the time you read this.  The thing I’m covering, as the title of this post suggests, involves rabbis.  Without going into the hefty religious connotations of Christ being a rabbi, I want to give you some quick summary information and then ask you a question or three.  Even if you’re not a Christian, this post has some relevance, so stick with me.

What’s a rabbi?  Here is a short bit of text I wrote for my handout (it is by no means thorough):

Rabbis would have been teachers of the Old Testament, but primarily the Law or Pentateuch. Typically a student would approach a rabbi and ask if he may follow the rabbi, if the rabbi rejected him, he would then go off to a trade. The student of the rabbi was called a talmidim. If you’ve ever heard of the talmud, it is the a Judaic book that outlines traditional rabbinical teachings. Christ operated contrary to this and sought out His disciples and told them to follow Him. Furthermore the disciples were at least in part already involved in trades – so they would have to walk away from their careers and lives as they had expected them to be and instead joined themselves to Christ.

A rabbi was expected to have a physically following disciple or disciples, and Elijah and Elisha were an important example of this concept in the Old Testament [I Kings 19:19-21]. Time was to be spent together and a lifestyle that represented the teacher was to be lived in front of the following disciple. Discipleship meant being seen with the rabbi so that others would begin to see what the rabbi taught as see the fruit of the teachings worked out in the lives of the disciples.

What I have been thinking about is this question: Who are today’s rabbis?  Who do people follow and identify themselves with?  Historically it was a life devoted to a teacher and their teachings.  In modern first world America, do we have time for this rabbi/disciple concept?  Today we follow people on twitter, television, the Internet, and of course in our cars to the store, but do we really follow teachers and devote ourselves to their teachings?

Are rabbis Richard Dawkins, Rush Limbaugh, or Barry Obama?  Of those three one is anti-religion but religious about his anti-religion, one is a right-wing-loud mouth, and one is a president with big words and many promises but single handedly incapable of delivering on what he wants to promise.  Do we follow them?  I personally wouldn’t follow them.  I wouldn’t follow Oral Roberts, Bill Gates, or Joel Osteen.

Who is your rabbi?

Why Your Love Language Doesn’t Matter

Have you ever found something so revolutionary that it changed the way you did things? In my life I have found a number of things that made my head spin, my world clearer, or my world bigger. In the late 90’s one such idea came from a book that really got me churning that was called “The Five Love Languages.” It seemed to make relationships between a husband and wife simpler and easier to grasp than the odd complexity I had developed prior to reading it.  It made me want to explore love with my bride-to-be.  The problem with such concepts as the five love languages is that people hear them, learn them, or come into contact with them and them get set off in the wrong direction because they don’t understand them as merely principles.

If you’re not familiar with the five love languages let me give you this simple list of the five:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

The gist of the book is that each person has a primary way that they perceive  and express love with their spouse.  Furthermore each spouse is strongly encouraged to explore their partner’s love language and keep that in mind when expressing love for him or her.  I spent quite a bit of time liking the idea of focusing on exploring my bride’s love language and even figured out that this could be used, in a modified way, with my friends to express care for them.  Ta-da!  So did the book’s authors and other books in the series of love languages and their application were born and money was had through conferences, tests, merchandising and copyright infringement lawsuits from unlicensed tattoos [I made that last one up].  This is psychology stuff, so I’m sure that someone also discovered a sixth, seventh and eighth love language and has been trying to write papers proving the adequacy of those numbers of love languages for thesis papers and making a good practice out of helping marriages and relationships discover their tertiary love language.

Here’s the rub: this is overly complex despite the simplicity and it gets used as a poor excuse for husbands and wives to not love one another.  At least not to their fullest.  I want to explain that moving forward from here I’m going to be focused on a few Bible verses that I think make the five love languages childs play, and probably unnecessary.  The first place we should take a look is Ephesians 5:22-27:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

What I see as I meditate on the above passage is something beyond the five love languages and something that should drive a wife absolutely coo-coo-bananas in love with her husband.  A self-sacrificing husband.  A guy who takes the five love languages in, sees their inadequacy, and says, “I’m going to love you in a million ways, and these five are merely a tiny, tiny tip of the iceberg.”  I recently saw on Twitter a guy who said that he was sorry to his wife (publicly on Twitter?) that his primary love language was acts of service.  Lameness.  If her love language is knitting pot holders it doesn’t matter.  If his language was bringing stray cats home to be fed, bathed, and neutered it doesn’t matter.  Sacrificial love trumps all of the given concepts of love languages because it looks for opportunities to love in every aspect, every place, and it is not strapped to a single, primary concept of perceived or expressed love.

As a secondary point against not stopping with this love language concept is that one of the joys of my marriage with my wife has been exploring each of the facets of expression of love and trying to see how they can be expressed in deeper, more meaningful ways.  Just as humans mature (or at least should mature) we look for ways to express love in a sacrificial, yet exploratory way.  To make a food analogy just because I like vanilla ice cream doesn’t mean I don’t explore toppings, other flavors and other combinations within the world of ice cream (or frozen desserts).  The same analogy applied to music means I don’t stop at the Beatles just because I like rock and roll quartets.  Bring on trios [Cream], duos [Simon & Garfunkel], classical, dance, beat boxing, and opera*.

I’ve discovered that my wife pretty much likes all five love languages [in different quantities at different times] because she knows that they’re expressing love to her.  I would probably not be wrong in saying that 99.999% of guys love physical touch [which often gets interpreted as physical intimacy, and for the sake of argument I’m going there now], but if let us face the facts: not all gals are wired for 24/7 physical touching and there may come a time when they’re bleeding, PMS-ing, medically unavailable, or holding a kitchen knife.  It might be a good time, Mr. physical touch, to explore the finer nuances of quality time, words of affirmation, gifts [read: chocolate], or acupressure to relieve headaches.  Sacrificially speaking get a grip, turn off your hormones for a moment and love your wife some other way so she doesn’t feel the need to lock herself in the bathroom, wear chain armor, or buy a slice-wire-bikini from Victoria’s Secret Weapon.

I want to close by saying I don’t hate the general principles behind the five love languages.  They were a good starting point for me and helped me grasp why I might be miss-communicating with my bride-to-be.  They’re not an excuse to be short sighted, justify weaknesses, or get in a rut.  Make it a point to look for ways to create a richer, more complex relationship with your spouse by abandoning your love language and loving with your exploratory, revolutionary hats on.

*Stay away from country music which is an infectious disease [Just kidding (Not really)]