Monday, April 25, 2011

Keep My Drafty Heart Alive

It's so wonderful, those times as a believer, when I feel close to God, close to His heart. I feel His arms around me. I see Him smile at me. My heart is overwhelmed by His love for me, his daughter.

But there are other times.
Times when I feel the draft of a cold wind shudder through my heart.
Times when I look...
And I listen...
But I can't seem to even make out His shape, let alone hear His voice or feel His arms.

I know in my head that He is still the God who is there. And I know He's a BIG God. But I can feel a chilliness in my heart that is unsettling to me. I think I feel that draft when I take my eyes off of Him and start looking at me.

There are lots of reasons for me to look at me.
I have my responsibilities, like taking care of my family or following through on volunteer commitments. I have my hobbies, like writing this blog and reading my books and keeping all the ideas that go pinging around in my head from careening into each other. I have my worries, like the kids or the mortgage or current events. I have my besetting sin, like those things I just can't seem to kick, no matter what. I have my past--my failures--that sometimes keep me awake at night.

As soon as I start to focus on me, I lose focus of God. My flesh must be an awfully powerful force to overtake and obscure my BIG God. And yet it does.

Then the draft blows across my heart.

Last week, the week before Easter, I was feeling drafty again. My sins and my failures have a way, especially during Holy Week, of really getting me down and reminding me just how far short I fall of being worthy of Jesus' finished work on the Cross. Never mind that that is the whole point of the Cross. A drafty heart is not a logical heart.

But God is so good. There I was, in my chilly state, putting one foot in front of the other and trying ever so hard to keep my mind off the weight of my unworthiness. I was in the middle of a read aloud with the kids, and right there in the text of the book, the main character reminds the other two characters that "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him." (Ephesians 1:4) And it gets better. "In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will." (v.5-6)

And it was rhema. It was like a warm blanket on my cold heart. It was just the thing I needed to hear. And I wasn't even looking for it. God just took matters in hand and brought His word to me from an unlikely source. There is something wonderful and warming about being reminded that God's choice of me was a choice of long ago.

Long before my birth...
Before my sin...
Before my failures...
Before my worries and my self-centeredness and my busy-ness.
Before the foundation of the world.

I daresay if I could really get a hold of that reality, I would never take my focus off of God.
I would always be all about His glory. But I am back again to the fact that everything that is accomplished in my life is the work of God.
Not mine.
Not one bit.

This evening, I heard "Jesus, Keep My Heart Alive" by Sanctus Real. It was another reminder that keeping my heart warm and alive is a work of the Holy Spirit. And even when I'm not holding on to Him, He is keeping my heart alive.

I'm so tired of politics and all this bad news.
I'm so tired of chasing the moment, instead of chasing You.
I let the world wear me down; I'm desensitized.
Jesus, keep my heart alive. Keep my heart alive.
Only You can save me from a world that's breaking right before my eyes.
Take these empty 'hallelujahs' and fill my lungs again.
Cause I want to sing, and I want to mean it. I want to feel again
And let the world hear the sound of something divine.
Jesus, keep my heart alive. Keep my heart alive.
Only you can save me when my hope is fading, and I'm losing this fight.
Keep my heart alive.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Raising Tulips

"Can we all agree that we are saved and going to Heaven even if we disagree with how we got here?" my 15-year-old asked.
"Yes," her friends agreed.
"Then debate over," Eliza responded.

One of the most wonderful benefits of my children being involved in speech and debate is the social circle they have found themselves in. These young people, besides being budding communicators, are thinkers. And I love thinkers, especially Berean thinkers like them. It is refreshing to find that there is an up and coming generation of young people who are interested in making their faith their own.

So, two tournaments ago, Eliza found herself in a weekend long debate regarding Calvinism vs. Arminianism. When her friends wanted to debate the issue, Eliza declined to take the bait with the above response.

Smart girl, that Eliza. For to reduce this issue to an academic debate is to run the risk of stirring up contention, to risk offense, to impact healthy friendships. We love our Arminian friends, and as long as they are sola Scriptura, we can walk together with them. Theology as an academic debate might be fun; then again, it might not. And Eliza was probably right to walk away from it at that time.

Why then did I blog about Miracle Max?
...Because when I was growing up, I served a small god. He could save me, but only with my help--and He couldn't guarantee keeping me (a thought that terrorized me into my 30's).
...Because this is a conversation we have in our home, and we are NOT having this conversation to have an academic debate. We are after our children's hearts.
...Because I don't ever want my children to think they serve a small god.
...Because in our house, we are in relentless pursuit of Truth and Truth's God.

So, in our house, we teach the five points of Calvinism because our search for Truth compels us to go where Biblical reason and evidence lead us--regardless of how it makes us feel. And the evidence leads us right to "TULIP."

T: total depravity
U: unconditional elect
L: limited atonement
I: irresistible grace
P: perseverance of the saints

To admit that the effort is completely God's is to make me small and God big. A big God doesn't need my help; a small god does. A big God is sovereign; a small god is limited. A big God can save me and keep me; a small god can save me and lose me. A big God has an efficacious, irresistible grace; a small god has a small, insufficient grace.

And THAT is why I broach the topic here. For it is not merely an academic pursuit for parents to teach their children that they serve a truly omnipotent God. It is a Biblical pursuit.The God of the Bible is a BIG God, and my children must have a BIG theology.

When life gets hard, they know God is BIG.
When they have tough questions, they know God is BIG.
When they feel defeated by their sin, they know God is BIG.
When they are cast down by suffering, they know God is BIG.
When they stare evil in the face, they know God is BIG.

So, in our house, we are raising tulips.
And I couldn't be more pleased...
because life is far too big for a small god.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Flawed Theology of Miracle Max

Inigo Montoya: "He's dead. He can't talk."
Miracle Max: "Ooo, look who knows so much? It so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead...Now mostly dead is slightly alive. All dead, well with all dead, there's usually only one thing you can do."
Inigo Montoya: "What's that?"
Miracle Max: "Go through his clothes and look for loose change."

In this famous scene from The Princess Bride, we've got two basic belief systems pitted against one another in one hilarious sketch. While Inigo believes that dead men can't do anything--not even speak--Miracle Max believes that there is a state between life and death...mostly dead, he calls it, or slightly alive. Of course, the audience recognizes ridiculum when we see it. And we know that it is only biologically possible to be one or the other: alive or dead.

And it is precisely this fantastic assertion of Miracle Max that makes the scene so funny. Nevertheless, many of us seem far too willing to apply this same ridiculum to real life.

Consider what God says about being dead.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked." (Ephesians 2:1-2)
"And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses..." (Colossians 2:13)

Now, consider how some Christians process that.
"Yes, I know that the Bible says we are dead in our sins. But I also know that it is my choice to respond or not to God's free gift of grace."
So you believe you are only mostly dead in your sins? But you are slightly alive enough to respond to the stimulus of grace?
So, when Miracle Max says it, it's ridiculous. But when you say it, it's suddenly theologically sound?
No. Dead is all dead. Or you are alive. There is no in-between state.

Newspaper columnist and pro-abortion feminist Anna Quindlen once defended her stance on abortion with a statement that went something like this: "There are some of us who believe that you can be a little bit alive." Of course, all of us who are pro-life immediately see the preposterousness of such logic. For if you are slightly alive, you are alive period. And that is what makes abortion and embryonic stem-cell research murder. If we believed with Quindlen that you can be slightly alive, then we'd all agree that abortion is no big deal.

Miracle Max's logic is ridiculous, and Quindlen's logic is not only lacking, but offensive. Nevertheless, while we can be acutely logical regarding abortion, many of us fail to apply the same logic to salvation.

Evolutionists deny the existence of God despite the evidence of intelligent design and a fundamental order in all of creation. They remain stubbornly in favor of evolution because to accept creationism is to accept a Creator. And, of course, that can't be true. So the evidence must be faulty. Uh...yeah...

But how the evidence makes us feel has nothing to do with its veracity. We all know that's bad science.

Likewise, those who oppose God's sovereignty in ALL things oppose it despite the evidence. For, if we believe that 'dead' really means 'dead', that means we have no ability to respond. And if we have no ability to respond, that means God has to make us alive first. And if God has to make us alive first, that means we are totally dependent on God for our salvation. And if the road to eternal life is narrow, that means He makes few alive. And we know that can't be true. Therefore, 'dead' must really mean...alive.

Yeah. That makes perfect sense...
For you and Miracle Max and Anna Quindlen, anyway.

Again, how the evidence makes us feel has nothing to do with its veracity. We all know that's bad theology.

"But...but... but I believe in the sovereignty of God," you say.
God's sovereignty, like life or death, has no in-between state. He is not sovereign in some things and not in others. Bible teacher Derek Prince once said of the sovereignty of God: "It means God can do what He wants, when He wants, to whom He wants, and He asks no one's permission." And long before that, theologian Abraham Kuyper said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine!'"

The nature of sovereignty in general and God's sovereignty in particular means you either must accept His sovereignty in ALL things...
...or deny He has sovereignty in ANYTHING.

Correct. It is not fair that I, whose heart is desperately wicked and whose righteousness is filthy rags, can live with a Holy God for all eternity. It is not fair at all. And that humbles me because it puts God's love in the right perspective. For it is the sheer magnitude of God's wrath towards sin and the sheer magnitude of God's sovereignty in all things that demonstrates the sheer magnitude of His great love towards us, the objects of His mercy.

It comes down to this. If you show me a dead man who can do one single thing in his own power, I will show you a man who cannot possibly be dead.

Miracle Max is seriously mistaken; I'm with Inigo Montoya.
"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."