Us vs Them 

Posted by DavB Wednesday, March 5, 2014 10:00:00 AM

I wonder if it is just part of human nature to need an opponent. Is it our thirst for victory in something? A result of comparison? A longing for belonging?


And we are in the middle of our own culture war today, in which conservatives are losing. It's an easy and lazy way to pick our sides and mark our targets. We and I pick our sides and categorize 'them'. It's certainly easier to dislike 'them' then it is to dislike Fred Smith who is a real person and happens to fit 'their' category. Both sides do this.

Romans 4  see it here: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+4&version=NASB

It looks like the battle lines of the culture war of the 1st century (Romans 4) were drawn over the issue of who had the law and who didn't, where circumcision accompanied those who had the law.
One of the Lord's efforts in us is to correct our categorizationing. (Like my word?) The way we categorize people needs correcting. I will not tell you that we should not categorize. It's a popular thought, but it's actually stupid. (too harsh? but still true). In life we must categorize people. But we must do it correctly.

The bottom line of Romans 4 is identifying the authentic follower of God. The 'real deal' is known one way, and it has nothing to do with their laws/ways/lifestyle/tradition/heritage/religion. Abraham got it right, a prototype for 3 major religions. The depth in how he got it right is still amazing to me.

What he did? After hearing God say that He would provide Abraham kids/land/blessing, Abraham thought it would actually happen.
That small bit of expectation, a pure and simple belief, was enough to spiritually recategorize Abraham plus history plus humanity. Abrahamn was "fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform" Rom 4:21
I'd say it's not that Abraham "believed in God" but that he "believed God"; altogether different.

While we conservatives fuss about who curses and who smokes and who sleeps with who... God is watching to see if anyone might listen to him and then agree, or should I say expect. Was Abraham a good conservative? Well, for one, he let his wife be taken against her will as the sexual object of another man. I'm ready to categorize Abe as a real jerk with that one. He would be crossed of my list. He is one of 'them'.
But God is so so different. He just wants to save. He just wants to heal. He takes Abraham the 'other' Abraham and makes him a promise. When Abraham thinks 'sure, ok' then the whole game changes... The Lord justifies Abraham:
to petrify: to make into rock (petra)
to verify: to make true (from Latin verus 'true')
to mystify: to make it mysterious
to justify: to make it JUST a.k.a. Righteous.

God causes jerk-Abraham to become perfect-Abraham because Abraham believed God's promise.
Abraham didn't even believe it all. Abraham didn't fix all his bad habits. Abraham didn't switch sides in the culture war of his day. He just trusted God.
God who can speak worlds into existence, spoke perfection into Abraham even though he was otherwise flawed.

The Lord's categorization: Those who trust Jesus are God's people, those who don't aren't. Culture aside.

Lord, have mercy on jerk-David. I simply trust you.


 

The one flaw; undetected, deadly. 

Posted by DavB Monday, March 3, 2014 8:50:00 AM

Have you ever been talking to someone and they seem incapable of understanding your point. The more you explain the more they seem to take it the another way. I think it's hard for any of us to truly see things from another perspective, once we have made up our minds.

This is why we are stuck in a basic assumption, a flaw, that we can scarcely detect. We have our minds made up in assumptions. Most of these are normal enough, it's futile to try and remove all assumptions. But there's that one assumption. There is one which has misled us.

We start with natural social behavior. We learn our identities by our relationships. We find out who by are by our likeness and different-ness to others. People tell us who we are, and we tell others who they are. Social dynamics create the culture or subculture which defines us.

At the next level, we want to make progress. Within our base social framework, we try and do better than the next guy, at something. Our formative years are spent trying to get better grades, better athletic scores, better popularity status, better "I-do-this-better-than-you" at anything at all.
Ironically, I've heard someone credit themself as "I don't play those comparrison games, because I don't care what people think" ...and yet you hear underneath they are still comparing themselves to establish their identity. "I socialize better than others."

Level three. On matters of faith, spirituality, and morality... Naturally we want to compare ourselves to others. It's the thing we do. So God gives us a standard and FLAW! ...we immediately want to know if we follow that standard better than other people. There's the 10 commandments, we compare ourselves to others. There's the "spirit of the law" in which we still compare ourselves to others. It goes on.
And the Lords asks us to believe a simple thing: His laws are THE standard. Our relative-comparable-obedience does not matter, not even slightly.

The one flawed assumption is that we are measured based on others.
"His laws are THE standard" ...simple belief statement.

When we use a relative-comparable approach... grade me on a curve... we might think we pass.
But ask yourself, "Do I follow God's laws"? and you know within yoruself the answer is no, not perfectly. "I do mostly". Compared to others I'm... No, no, no I don't follow His laws perfectly. If it's a percentage, I might be above half, but if it's just Yes/No, the answer is no.

Because we are comparing ourselves, we do not detect the flaw. We are actually guilty, as law breakers, while still convincing ourselves we are innocent. We might be better then others, but we are not innocent.
Because we are comparing ourselves, the flaw is deadly. I think I'm good enough because I'm better than [enter comparrion here]. And we remain with our guilt unresolved.

Romans 3

read it here     http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+3&version=NASB

Dealing with the culture war of Jew-vs-NonJew... Romans 3:1 starts to explain that the Jews have an advantage for having the clear law of God.
But verse 2:14 had already explained that non-Jews have a "law to themselves".
Vs.3 Jews also have an advantage in that God made a promise to them as a people, and He doesn't break promises even if they blow it.
Vs.5 Whatever we do wrong, only shows off how not-wrong God is. Humanity is a good contrast to the goodness of God.
Vs.9 In the end both sides of that culture war are equal. Why? Because they both have the same status: sinner. The Jew could say "We follow your law better than [non-Jew]" . The Non-Jew could say "I did the best I could with what I knew". But both sides are obviously imperfect.
Vs.10 Individually, we are all flawed. period. Repeat that a dozen times.

Our flaw is undetected. Our flaw is deadly. So what now? V2. 20 "through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." The law, THE standard, doesn't help us achieve, it helps us detect. It's not a call to try harder, it's a call to identify yourself. Rather than "I'm so-and-so" based on our social context: "I'm flawed" based on God's too-perfect standard. Try all you want, but it's not gonna work "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified", what we do cannot cause perfection, it can't undo our flaw.

I love the word "manifest"... "to make visible or known what has been hidden or unknown" (Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible )
Vs.21 The perfection of God, ie. His righteousness, has materialized on earth. "Manifest". It has formed itself inside the indidual person who has "faith in Jesus Christ". It doesn't come from the law, nor effort, nor culture, nor status.
Vs.24 we are made into righteousness because God has grace on us, and gives righteousness as a gift to us.
Vs.28 The deciding factor has nothing to do with our performance or comparrison. It is straightforward. Those who trust Jesus are given righteous perfection as a gift from God. Those who don't, are not given it, and left in their guilt.  

In this we are finally freed from the burden of comparrisons.

What is my strategy to be morally right?
Is it to try hard? fail.
Is it to do the best you can? fail.
better than most? fail.
follow the law? fail.
Trust Jesus? = Life!

Romans 2 

Posted by DavB Friday, February 28, 2014 7:03:00 AM

Romans 2
"At least that's not me"
POW! right in the kisser... Chapter 1 of Romans drops the hammer on "those" people, the bad kind, the "other" kind. Hearing about "those" people can be soothing. The more we hear, the more we see contrast in ourselves. And most of us don't mind sharing that news too. "They are rotten, but not me." summarizes a great deal of our daily conversation.

Ro 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

It's in Romans 1:29-31 that the list of sins is laid out. In one breath Paul offers examples of failures: murder and arrogance among others. "At least that's not me" we say of the murderer. But we cannot so easily say it of the arrogant. The Lord who can read our minds goes directly to our point of weakness. We comfort ourselves with being above others, except that we are in filth ourselves. We are arrogant.

What is more offensive to God? To end a life that he put on earth(murder), or to place yourself in his position to replace him as God(arrogance)? I see I have a lot to learn.

Ro 2:2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.
Ro 2:3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
Ro 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

!!!!! The end! The location where this all arrives: the floor of repentance. The floor where we throw ourselves down and cry out "I'm sorrry. I was wrong."

Ro 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Ro 2:6 who will render to each person according to his deeds:

our deeds... our deeds... do you feel the tug, to compare your deeds again... To give weight to the one thing you didn't do wrong... Maybe my deeds aren't so bad... at least my deeds aren't as bad as "them"... "At least that's not me".

Ro 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
Ro 2:8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

The contrast here confused me for a long time. It sounds like if you try hard, and search for what's good, you will find eternal life in heaven. But if you've read the rest of the book of Romans, that's an impossible idea. Our effort will never get us there.
vs 7 is the default we're born with: a fair chance to live right, do right, and find life.
vs 8 is the reality we choose not long after we're born: we live wrong, do wrong, and lose life.
I take these verses as a foundation for how life could have worked. If Adam and Even had never done wrong, they could have had eternal life. But they didn't obey the truth, and they brought "wrath".
My summary: vs.7 "those who are always good" and vs.8 "those who are sometimes bad"... we fall into the vs 8 category every time.

BTW... did you know there was a big argument between the Jewish christians at Rome and the non Jewish christians at Rome? The talk about Jew-vs-greek  or Jew-vs-gentile is for fighting that problem.

Jews                              vs                                non-Jews
 have the "law" (scriptures)       have their own thoughts
 have the outward sign(circumcision)  have the inward sign (on the heart)
 break the law  break their own conscience


Ro 2:9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,
Ro 2:10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Ro 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
Ro 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;
Ro 2:13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
Ro 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
Ro 2:15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
Ro 2:16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

Ro 2:17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God,
Ro 2:18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,
Ro 2:19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
Ro 2:20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,

Honestly, I do feel like I have a priveleged position as a follower of God. I can relate to the statements in verse 17-20 even though I am not a Jew. I find comfort in that I am as much on-God's-side as I can be. I try to know Him, comprehend Him, represent Him, teach His ways, and know His truth. But what does that make me??? ...my position is ordinary. I am not in any better place for this. I don't get special treatment and my membership card hasn't arrived in the mail. No special discounts. I have a perfectly equal place with the rest of humanity : I can find God when I seek Him, He will help me when I ask Him, He will save me if I trust Him. That is true for anyone, even the "others".

Ro 2:21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?
Ro 2:22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
Ro 2:23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?
Ro 2:24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.

"At least that's not me" ... oops, it is.

Ro 2:25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
Ro 2:26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
Ro 2:27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
Ro 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.
Ro 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

Lord, I would rather to throw down the others in condemnation, so that I could elevate myself. I am very human that way, using my comparrison to others to define myself. But I can also see how obviously wrong I am for this. Help me disengage from the normal life of comparrison. Let me just be a plain and simple follower of you. And more... I see and admit my error. I am arrogant, among other things. Please forgive me.


Romans 2 (NASB95) New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Romans 1 

Posted by DavB Thursday, February 27, 2014 9:17:00 AM

Romans 1:1-17, ...intending that you read it alongside my thoughts below.


"Hi, I'm David the slave." This is how Paul introduces himself when he begins writing the letter to the Romans. So what's your cause? I live for my family. I live for bettering humanity. I live for my legacy. I just live (inotherwords "for anIother's cause").

Paul was a happy in 'slavery'. He's owned by God, his chore : gospel. When we want a better title for a lowly job, we add the word 'technician'. The safety-cop was called safety-tech. The janitor is facilities-technician. A cashier is the checkout-operator or customer-product-closing-specialist. I myself am the founder and CEO of my blog. Paul: a gospel slave.


v.3 What is the object of this gospel? v.4 What qualifications are explained to prove it's worthiness? v.5 Paul 'received apostleship'. [apostole /ap·os·tol·ay/] = a sending away
What's the connection between a slave and an apostle?
v.6 Who else is an apostle sent in similar fashion?
Paul has his cause: "For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel..."  The word 'preaching' here is added by inference by the translators, The focus is not the preaching, but the cause: gospel-technician.

How does Paul want this gospel to affect his relationships with the people of Rome?
"I am under obligation..." he says. "I am eager" he says.
 v.14-15 what is the scope of his chore as a slave?

"I am not ashamed" he says of his cause. And yet this same cause is worthless in modern public opinion. American culture is about humanism. People are king. Each individual person is at theheight of importance; none above her/him. People are to be respected, their beliefs given credit, their choices honored, their expressions validated, their faults diminished, and their supremacy acknowledged. Not all wrong, and yet all ill-founded on the notion that people are first. The gospel, by contrast, is perceived in culture as hateful, unintelligent, stubbornly ignorant, and unloving. But the gospel hates nobody. The gospel engages our intelligence. The gospel demands truth over ignorance. And the gospel embodies love entirely.


What is your cause?
Any cause that is not exactly God's cause is a partial and incomplete cause: partly good, and not good enough.
As an American who is raised for freedom and individuality, the gospel offers me a better option: slavery. Slavery to a perfect cause; in which I am not first.
"It is the power of God for salvation"

Read the rest of Romans 1:17 to end. It tells the tale of God relenting to people's thirst for individuality. God gives people their wish, allowing them to rule themselves and do life as they choose. God gives humanity exactly what the humanists would hope for. People act as if they are first. The result is evil. But one thing humanist society must still live with... God is not dead, and all 'relative truth' ends up answering to him. The "it's only human" qualities of humanity are obviously only human... they are not Godly, they are only human. We will answer for them, and we will condemn ourselved becase we do the very things we ourselves know are wrong.


v.29-31 Is there any item in the list which is not common in our society? Can you think of anyone who has never (over the course of their lifetime) commited more then half of these? Which of these is approved of by our society?


"although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them"


We live for our own cause, but not paul, nor I Lord.


Coffee Stir Sticks 

Posted by DavBAdmin Thursday, July 26, 2012 10:11:00 PM

Coffee stir sticks are easy to find. They surely can't cost much. But I don't believe I have ever had a good experience with a coffee stir stick. The straw kind are so small they barely move the coffee. And they are so flimsy that they have barely the strength to agitate the enormous mound of sugar that I put at the bottom of my cup. I tried using 8 or so sticks at once... Success for stirring, but unbearable guilt for wasting so many. I tried folding one over to get more surface area per straw... burned fingers trying to reach the bottom of the cup. Tried the wooden ones, bigger, stronger... something just doesn't feel right about putting a small plank in my beverage, but at least the performace was world-class. I have resorted to the only viable backup... adding cream and sugar first and relying on the force of the coffee dispenser blast to mix it up. Thinking way back to childhood days at church... I remember drinking sugar water through those miniscule coffee stir stick straws. Yeah, so they're pretty awesome then.