Friday, December 31, 2010

God's grace in 2010

I am so thankful at how God has carried me through this year. I have a few observations I want to make.

First, how boss J. went on a rampage against me at the end of 2009, making the beginning of 2010 pretty bad for quite some time. My depression was back, this time clearly situational in nature and nothing my medication could help with. A meeting with someone above him to try to resolve the issue only made him feel more powerful against me.

However, things were happening behind the scenes that I was not privy to, and I now see that what happened was that he was given enough rope to hang himself, and he did that quite well. I ended up vindicated and he was told to lay off on me. The punishments he levied were 95% undone, and I can live with the 5% remaining. So God saw me through that.

Second, I was able to get off my anti-depressant this summer. I was already on the highest allowed dose of Celexa because when I first started getting treatment for my thyroid a year or two ago, the medication made me very edgy and I would cry easily. The doctor raised my dose of Celexa and that took care of that problem.

So this summer I decide that I've long since adjusted to the medication so it's time to go back down to my regular dose. I wean myself off the 60mg back down to 40mg. I felt pretty good so I decided to see if I could go lower without the depression returning. I went down to 30mg and then the starting dose of 20mg and still felt good. Eventually I got myself off completely. I never thought that the depression I have had my whole life was a thyroid issue! Yet on thyroid meds, the depression has resolved along with all the other symptoms. I thank God for exposing the true cause of my depression and getting me on the right medication to combat it.

There was a little edginess I felt after getting off the meds and I am dealing with it through natural means - St. John's Wort and Omega 3 oil. I would like to think that I will be able to stop taking the St. John's Wort and then continue with the Omega 3 oil just because it's healthy. I will probably try that this coming year.

Third, and the pinnacle of joy and grace this year, God opened my eyes and heart to what is classically called Calvinism or Reformed theology. This evolution did not come out of nowhere (though I began talking about it at a very specific point in time). I listened for a long time before I said anything, and during that listening time God worked in my heart to make what used to be repugnant become something beautiful and desirable.

I wrote two notes about this - How this came to be, and It has to be said - so I will not repeat myself here except to say that I am so thankful for His grace. I certainly don't deserve the blessing of knowing Him better, yet He has chosen to reveal a little more of Himself to me. That is pure grace.

I certainly don't understand everything about these doctrines of grace, but I have made a start. Many thanks to the ministry of Dr. James White for introducing my to these topics and getting me to think Biblically. I can now embrace passages and chapters I used to avoid.

Fourth (and connected to point number three), I want to mention that as I searched for information on Reformed theology I came across the ministry of John Piper. More than a source for information, I found his message quite challenging, and he has made me think about God - and sin - in a new way.

It is evident from a handwritten note in my 10th Anniversary Edition of Desiring God that I completely missed the entire point Pastor John tried to make. I noticed the 25th Anniversary Edition is coming out next month, and I think I have grown a bit in the last 14 years of being a Christian. I now understand what he means by "Christian hedonism" and why this truth is both liberating and devastating.

God is calling me to more - to be so satisfied in Him that I will willingly lay aside the false and passing pleasures that compete for His place. I pray that He will help me in this journey. "God is most glorified in us when we are more satisfied in Him." This is the highest goal I - or anyone - can aspire to.

And that leads me to my last point. Some of you may know this and some may not, but I have been fighting Binge Eating Disorder for the last year. My weight has skyrocketed. I have been fighting this in my own strength - and losing. Perhaps God is using this to get me to turn to Him. I cannot overcome this on my own, but "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). And so I commend this eating disorder and myself to Him and pray He will help me through this.

Soli Deo gloria!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Who hardened Pharaoh's heart?

Okay, I can't let go of this issue. It all started with Dr. James White critiquing a sermon from Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel on Romans 9. Romans 9 mentions Pharaoh and so pretty soon we are back in the Exodus story.

Chuck Smith said there are two Hebrew words for "harden." A cursory reading of my study Bible notes only two Hebrew words. However, as Dr. James White indicated, there are actually three Hebrew words used in the Exodus story (one word is used only one time). He contends the three are interchangeable; I am not so sure. (See, I do not just take his word for it; I check it out for myself.)

So here are the verses with their Hebrew words. I'm quoting from the New American Standard Bible. You are welcome to look up these verses in any translation you wish.

4:21 - "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" - chazaq
7:3 - "I will harden Pharaoh's heart" - qashach (the only time this word is used)
7:13 - "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" - chazaq
7:14 - "Pharaoh's heart is stubborn" - kabed
7:22 - "Pharaoh's heard was hardened" - chazaq
8:15 - "Pharaoh hardened his heart" - kabad
8:19 - "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" - chazaq
8:32 - "Pharaoh's hardened his heart" - kabad
9:7 - "The heart of Pharaoh was hardened" - kabed
9:12 - "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" - chazaq
9:34 - "Pharaoh sinned again and hardened his heart" - kabad
9:35 - "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" - chazaq
10:1 - "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart" - kabad
10:20 - "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" - chazaq
10:27 - "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" - chazaq
11:10 - "The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart" - chazaq
14:4 - "Thus I will harden Pharaoh's heart" - chazaq
14:8 - "The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh" - chazaq
14:17 - "I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians" - chazaq

Chazaq is used 12 times. Strong's entry
Kabad or kabed is used 6 times. Strong's entry
Qashach is used 1 time. Strong's entry

Almost every time Pharaoh hardens his own heart, kabad or kabed is used, though there are exceptions such as 10:1. Every time the text explicitly states that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, chazaq is used. Qashach is used only once in 7:3, and there it is an action of God.

When the text says "Pharaoh's heart was hardened" or "The heart of Pharaoh was hardened" both chazaq and kabad/kabed are used. They may be interchangeable or the author may be using each word to indicate who did the hardening: God (chazaq) or Pharaoh (kabad/kabed). I will admit this is speculation on my part, but this is what I am seeing after finding each Hebrew word and plugging it into the text.

Thoughts or ideas? Did I miss something obvious?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

It needs to be said

If you are in the dark about what I am talking about in this blog post, please refer to my previous blog post.

I have a few things to say, since some people are not at all happy at what is happening to me. I don't feel the same. I feel excited and exhilerated. This is not the unsure feeling I had as God first drew me to Him. In that case I knew I was safe and in good hands, but was quite unsure who's hands were the good ones anymore. In this case, I not only know I am in good hands, but Whose hands those are. :) This allows me to follow God without fear of where I am being led.

Yes, I do feel that God is showing me something new, bringing me into a truth that would have made me angry not too long ago. That can only be a work of God in my heart, making me open to things that I before found repulsive. Yes, God has used Dr. James White to articulate these things to me, but his words would fall on deaf ears without the work of God.

Quite simply, this is where I feel God is leading me; to not follow would be sin.

I can see these things in the way I came to Christ. Total depravity - that man can only use his will against God? Yes, my initial reaction to the drawing of the Father was to fight back and dig my heels in. I didn't want Him in my life. Irresistible grace? Well, when I got to the point of "choice" I realized there was only one "choice" to make - the one for God. I could not have done anything else. Unconditional election? There was certainly nothing good in me that would cause me to choose God. I was a Pagan worshipping other gods for crying out loud! Only a sovereign God could take out my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh (Ez. 11:19, 36:26). Only a sovereign God could save me.

I tried to hold onto my Arminian ideas. I did. I wanted to be convinced. That's why I read Chosen But Free by Normal Geisler (the link is to the second edition, which I read; the 3rd edition has just come out). Unfortunately, I don't feel Dr. Geisler made a cogent argument based on Scripture.

After that I read The Potter's Freedom. I feel that Dr. White did a wonderful job of exegeting all the relevant texts, including answering the common proof tests put forward by Arminians. Most of the material was totally new to me; I had no idea that there were answers to these texts! I read it slowly and carefully. The Potter's Freedom, quite literally, rocked my world.

After that I read Debating Calvinism, trying to get, perhaps, a better defense of Arminianism from Mr. Hunt than Dr. Geisler managed. However, once again, I felt that the weight of Scripture was on Dr. White's side. (Here's my Amazon review.)

I'm not writing this to argue. I am simply sharing my heart about what I feel God is doing in my life. I am wowed and humbled that He would not only save me, but reveal Himself to me more and more over time (as He does with all believers).

Please be kind. As friends I only want you to be happy at what I am discovering, not jump on me as if I'm going off into some weird heresy (as some were concerned when I first came to my views on the Sabbath). God didn't lead me astray then (I'm not in some weird cult am I?), and He won't lead me astray now. I only wish to follow Him and His word. There is no other rule for faith and life other than His word, the Bible.