Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 – An Adventure in Faith

Where do I even start? 2011 has been a really rough year, stress at work and stress at home. I had no place to escape.

I could laugh at my stupidity when I got poison oak in January from hiking unprepared and encountering mud that forced Brad and I into the bushes. I suffered for a couple of weeks, then finally went to the doctor and got a Cortisone shot and a Prednisone prescription, which made me feel 90% better and kept me from wanting to crawl out of my skin. That was January and I can laugh at myself now.

Then, one Saturday morning in late February as Brad and I were getting ready for church, I received a call from my sister. She said Dad had a heart attack on Friday night, was in a coma, and dying. I hurriedly bought airlines tickets while Brad arranged for time off for me. I flew out Monday morning and Dad died that Wednesday, March 2.

In mid-March I bought an iPhone (had to wait for my current contract to run out). I am still in love with it!

On March 27 I completed my first (and so far only) half marathon! I covered 13.1 miles in 3:08:45, even though I am quite overweight and had to walk a lot. It was hard as heck, and I can’t wait for next year.

In May was the annual 12k Bay to Breakers run. A fun race as always and a badly needed break with all the stress this year.

May was also supposed to be the end of the world (May 21 per Harold Camping). I work at Family Radio. I knew I felt broken over what I saw being taught, but I didn’t know how broken. I tried to kill myself via an overdose of Xanax in the early morning hours of May 18. Brad didn’t know, but when I was acting weird later that day he called 911. The hospital checked me over, then sent me on John George, the local psych hospital. I was there for two days, finally being released Friday afternoon (May 20). I was off work the entire next week and burned through all but four hours of my sick time.

The May 21 prediction didn’t come true of course, and since Camping had two dates in mind (the May 21 rapture and October 21 end of the world), he just moved all events to October 21. By the time the second date rolled around, even Family Radio no longer believed their own hype.

I think it was June when my sister April suggested I use the money Dad left to us to buy a condo or townhouse in my area. Brad and I went looking and found the perfect condo on only our second weekend of searching. Escrow didn’t close until the following month, and we had to deal with the leak in the bathroom ceiling before we could lay carpet, and we had to lay carpet before we could move in. We finally moved toward the end of July and the HOA was kind enough not to charge us for that month.

In September I went back for a visit at my old church, which I left 12 years ago. It was good to see everybody.

On October 18 I finished the project I has started on January 1 - reading the Bible in chronological order. It was my third time through and very worthwhile.

October is also the month we got the bathroom ceiling fixed. It has been partially torn down before we moved in, and it took until October before I hired someone and arranged for the time off work.

It’s been a very long year.

I have wondered how I have made it through this year with my faith intact. There have certainly been times when I have railed against God and said all sorts of horrible things that I didn’t really mean (I hate You, I want You out of my life, etc.). He never abandoned me, and is big enough to take my anger and give me love in return. That is grace.

My second night in the hospital I couldn’t sleep (couldn’t sleep more than 3-4 hours a night for a week afterward either), and I laid in my hospital bed unable to pray much more than “Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.” At that time I didn’t know if He would answer my prayer or not, but I knew He heard me. In the end, He not only gave me the mercy I pleaded for, but gave me grace in the unexpected gift from my sister of two days at a spa in the wine country.

As I lay in that bed, God reminded me of Scriptures, and He reminded me of an article I read saying to thank God for something you have never thanked Him for before. What better place than a psych hospital to practice praise? So I thanked Him for the clothes I was wearing (even though they were not my own), and bed I slept in (even though it wasn’t mine), the food I ate (even though it tasted terrible), and the roof over my head (even though it was the roof of my prison).

I know exactly what God has been doing this year. He’s telling me it’s time to get serious and grow up. Get serious in prayer and Bible study. Understand that He is good no matter what my circumstances are. That’s one thing that I finally got through my thick skull – God is good even when life is bad. My circumstances do not change His essential nature. How many years have I wasted getting angry at Him for every bad thing that happens? My entire Christian walk – too many years. No more. I will praise Him even when the storm surrounds me. He is worthy of praise simply because He is my Creator. He is the Potter; I am the clay (Jeremiah 18:1-6), the work of His hands (Isaiah 19:25).

It was December one year ago when a John Piper sermon challenged me to get serious about my faith. The first 2 ½ months were great – then the shit hit the fan, and it’s been a wild ride since then. But if He has seen me through everything so far, He will see me through whatever lies ahead. I have to say, the last year has been an adventure of faith, and if I have learned anything, I have learned that God is faithful when we are weak. He has enough faith for both of us and holds me up even when I doubt. He is the only one who has been able to tame my rebel heart and get me to rest quietly in His love. O, how peaceful those moments are!

This year has been a test of my faith. Dad’s death sent me into a spiritual tailspin, though truth be told, most of the questions I asked were questions I would have asked whether I was Calvinist or Arminian – they were human questions about God’s justice in sending anyone to hell, not questions of human choice or God’s choice. It was God who got me through, patiently helping me to ask the right questions so that I could discover the right answers. I didn’t really expect Him to give me answers, and am humbled that the God of the universe would work with me one-on-one to get me through Dad’s death and answer my questions.

Thank You for seeing me through all the trials this last year, God. Thank You for making me get serious about my faith right before my life went into a tailspin. Thank You for hearing me when I knew I didn’t deserve it. I will never understand why Your name is so important, but I am thankful that Your zeal for Your name and Your glory has made me an object of mercy whom You will never give up on. Yours is a love that I do not deserve and will never fully understand. Thank You for YOU.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The hospital bill from May...

Lovely. The hospital had no clue where I lived. The final billing notice from September arrived TODAY, and it's already in collections. Everything on the bill was wrong - my name, my address, my phone number - everything. They got my birth date right and that was it. This is from my short time in the ER in May.

The hospital was willing to talk to me, but the collections agency told me to talk to an answering machine. The total for my few hours in the emergency room - $3100! I never got the ambulance bill - that's probably also in collections, and God only know what else.

Things just keep getting worse. Can we please just get to 2012 already? This year has been a lost cause.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book review - True Story: A Christianity Worth Believing In

I'm not sure if the title "True Story" fits for a novel. But a lady at church gave this book to me and wanted me to read it. I looked at the back cover and saw it was endorsed by Brian McLaren; then I looked at the front cover and saw it was endorsed by Rick Warren. I set my expectations accordingly. I found the book little more fun that a trip to the dentist, but at least the dentist benefits me at the end.

The "faith" in this book is just the social gospel dressed in new clothes with a new diagram explanation.

First, the pastor character is flat and plastic. No one is that stupid. And his about-face at the end of the book is unbelievable. In fact, the entire end is unbelievable. If you are going to tell me a story, please make it plausible.

Now for a few comments about the text of the book.

(pg. 38)
"He (Caleb, the main character) felt like he'd roamed through a dense, overgrown jungle and finally found a wide path; he didn't know where it would end up, but at least it went somewhere."

Didn't Jesus have something to say about the wide road? Oh yes - Matthew 7:13-14 and Luke 13:24.

(pg. 68)
"'Before the world began, the Designer existed,' Caleb said. 'Like a loving artist, he created the world out of love, with love, to show love.'"

Really? Is this what the Bible says? See Isaiah 43:7 and then do a Bible search on the word "glory." Then decide for yourself whether love was the motivating factor behind creation, or if the world was created for the glory of God.

(pg. 88)
"He (God) won't ever force us to do something, but he'll try to win us over and hope that we love him back. He won't step on our free will or he would be more manipulative and less loving."

Tell that to Jonah. Go ahead and read that book (it's short) and then tell me how much God respects our free will.

(pg. 100)
"(The confusion of languages at Babel) wasn't a curse. It was helping them along to their calling (to multiply and fill the earth)."

The story is in Genesis 11:1-9. Verse 6 shows that what God did was out of judgment, not love. He wasn't helping them along to their calling. They were exalting themselves and rebelling against God, and He put a stop to it. Has the author ever read the biblical story?

Further on down the same page, the book says "We'll speak different languages (in heaven), but understand each other perfectly."

It's a nice thought, but where is this stated in the Bible?

(pg. 134)
The author admit that there is more than one view on atonement, but presents only one, the ransom theory, where God has to trick Satan into taking Jesus in place of humankind. Other theories are named on the next page, and only in passing. The subject never comes up again so we are left with only the one view that's explained.

The problems with the ransom theory are twofold. First, if Satan takes Jesus and releases humankind, then all humanity must be saved because Jesus died for every single person. But the Bible is clear that not everyone will be saved.

Two, since when does Satan have so much power that God has to trick him? That is a weak view of God and makes him impotent, subject to Satan's power. The author presents this as a "simple" view, but it's a view in which God is lucky because Satan fell for His ploy. This is not the God of the Bible!

(pg. 147)
"All evil and its consequences died with Jesus on the cross."

Then why do Christians who sin still suffer the consequences of that sin? We are released from hell; that does not mean that we do not suffer temporal consequences.

Further on down the page, the author likens sin to a disease, and Jesus as the antidote. He immunizes us. The Bible paints a far different picture - we are not merely sick; we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1, 5 and Colossians 2:13).

(pg. 196)
"Christians...must insist that interacting and growing with God in everyday life has the same if not more value (than the afterlife)."

Really? So heaven and hell matter less that this temporal life? This life is more important than where someone spends eternity?

(pg. 217)
"The followers of Jesus have a track record of leaving behind the kind of good that lasts."

Since that's all this book is about, and the followers of Jesus have been doing this for centuries through reading the Bible, then why do we need this book?

I will also point out that the author's idea of the Sinner's Prayer is on this page.

(pg. 221)
This is the last and probably worst error of the book.

"But then one older woman spoke up. 'I like this. I don't have to make my friends feel like sinners to share the gospel with them. This is something I can share with my neighbors.'"

So we are going to fail to tell people the truth - that we are all sinners - and somehow still make them feel that the gospel is good news? How is good news good if we don't first share the bad news?

Why do you need Jesus to preach the social gospel of this book? In the end, I see no need of Jesus to live out the "faith" presented here. It's the same old social gospel that gives little more than a hat tip to Jesus. It's the same old social gospel that is more concerned with temporal things than eternal things.

This book is a serious waste of time and, honestly, one of the worst books I have ever read in my life (yes, really - I do not usually waste my time reading bad books when there are so many good ones. Please don't waste your time.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

I'm sure by now everyone has heard about his death. Word travels quickly on the internet. I heard about it on Facebook. I just wanted to share a couple of links - a well-written blog post and a news story tracing Jobs' life. I have used Apple computers since I bought my first one in college. I currently have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone.

Steve Job's death blog post

ABC News story

Go to Then click on the front page graphic.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Blessings of the Church

Trying to pray and I kept bursting into tears, and not just over Family Radio. Going back to my old church Sunday just reminded me of how much God used them to help and bless me during the 1-2 years I was there. I understand now why He dragged me into that church kicking and screaming and how they helped lay the foundation of Jesus Christ in my life that I still have today. "For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" -1 Corinthians 3:11 (NASB). That is firm bedrock.

They discipled me (a huge help to a baby Christian), helped me when I had no money for groceries, and gave me worship, fellowship, and good teaching week after week. I came to believe in the Bible as God's inerrant and infallible word while I was there. All this is a huge blessing I could never repay. They were so good to me, and God was so good to use them. I broke down in tears.

Then I thought of my current church and all the good they have done in the 12 years I have been there. They have seen me through some pretty dark times, and have stood by me through it all. They even seem to like me, even if I can't fathom that. Yesterday I spent a restful Sabbath in worship and fellowship, ending with a movie night. Over the years I have been there they have been so good to me, and God has used them to show me His goodness. I broke down in tears again - I have received so many undeserved gifts. I can't get through a single day without sinning, yet over and over God has blessed me. How can I do anything other than cry?

If you've read this far, great. Because here's the other thing that I kept thinking of all weekend - all the Campingites (former or current) who are missing out on this great blessing! Living in community is not always easy, but it is something God calls every Christian to, and He uses it to bless us in ways we will never experience as long ranger Christians.

Please, my Campingite friends, don't miss out on this great blessing that God wants to give you - His church! And thank You God for all the blessings You have used both these churches to bestow. You are good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Am I Better?

I listened to the August 18 "Radio Free Geneva" program today, reviewing Micah Coate's new book, "A Cultish Side of Calvinism" (shouldn't that be "Cultic"?).

"White believes the act of receiving God's grace is a type of work that takes away from the sovereignty of God." (Micah Coate)

Dr. White replies: "No, what I've always said is - if that is not the result of the work of God's grace, if it is an autonomous free act outside of God's decree, then God can attempt to save all He wants. It's always up to man. And once you take that position, in eternity to come, those standing around the throne will always have something to boast about. Not a work, but there was something better about me. I was more sensitive, I was more spiritual. I'm the one that allowed the grace of God to succeed in my life. And those people who didn't - well, they just weren't as good as me."

And I have to be honest, it's this that bothered me from the very beginning. I realized this logical conclusion 15 years ago. I just blocked it out and tried not to think about it too much.

I believed that God drew all people (yes, this contradicts John 6:44, where all those who are drawn are raised up to eternal life). If you responded to that drawing, He would draw you more, and so on until you were saved. I took "all" to refer to every single person on earth, never allowing for the nuances of meaning in John's writing.

What I believed made no sense in the context of the whole of Scripture, and I never bothered to look at the contexts of the passages. I had to rush through passages that seemed to contradict what I believed - Romans 9 was a big one, but also parts of John 6, and many other verses scattered throughout Scripture. I didn't want to think about it because that was a God I could not worship. I was afraid of losing my faith if I explored it.

It was only last year that I came to the point of being able to accept it, and that only after a true work of God in my heart (and I am so grateful). I can now see what I believed for what it is - there is something better about me than someone who does not respond to the same drawing given to me. And I do not see that as a God-honoring position. I see that as taking some of the glory due to God unto myself. He says He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11), and trust me, when I have tried to take some of that glory, it has not ended well for me.

The whole point of Calvinism is to give all the glory to God and take none for myself. There was nothing more spiritually sensitive about me that was not given to me. I have been more sensitive since I was little, but do I suppose that is something I did? Or was it a gift of God that I can now look back and see His hand on my life, guiding me, since I was a little child? That is why, in my flesh, I searched for Him in all the wrong places. I knew He was there, but rejected the one way to Him through Jesus. And so I got involved in all sorts of silliness, looking for that fulfillment everywhere but the one place it could be found.

He is the one who broke through. He is the one who revealed Himself to me, turning my world upside down and pursuing me relentlessly until I was too worn out to fight any more. He is the one who saved me, with no help from me. That is a God I can worship because that is a God in control of this world. That is a God who glorifies Himself through the outworking of all His attributes - His mercy as well as His justice, His grace as well as His wrath. This is the fullness of God that shines through both testaments. If I am a Calvinist it is simply because the Bible constrains me to be.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Soli Deo Gloria

I posted a quote: "God saves some because He is merciful. God damns others because He is just." ~Philip Stallings

K. said: "(J)ust hope you're one of the lucky ones who get mercy. If you are, you can rejoice."

I replied: "I rejoice in God's glory, whether that glory is shown through mercy or justice."

This is not an abstract concept to me. Last year, yes, it was. It was a fun intellectual exercise. I've been very upfront about that. But all that changed this year. When Dad died, everything changed. Abstract concepts became all too real. I was left to try to fit my new theology into a world of pain and sin and suffering and death and hell. I reeled as a drunk man trying to find my way through the maze I was confronted with. I am forever grateful to the people God used who helped me through by answering my questions

So when I say "I rejoice in God's glory, whether that glory is shown through mercy or justice," I mean it. If my Dad died unsaved (and he probably did), then God had His purpose in not saving him, a purpose that will work to His glory.

If God judges Family Radio for her sin instead of saving us through mercy, He will not only be totally right in doing so, but He will derive greater glory from judgment than from mercy. I may not see all the ways that will happen, but it will. Everything - EVERYTHING - will work for the greater glory of God.

I pray for mercy for FR. God uses means to accomplish His ends, and prayer is one of those means. It is a privilege to be involved in God's work through prayer.

I say all this as I see judgment fall against FR. I say that as my job of 14 years is in jeopardy. God will be glorified in anything and everything that happens at FR. I rejoice in His receiving glory, even if the outcome for myself is not so good. His glory matters much more than my momentary happiness. My joy is in Him, and seeing glory being brought to Him.

So yeah, this Calvinism stuff isn't theoretical to me anymore. My Dad is dead, my job of a decade and a half could be gone in a moment. I am living this stuff, and I can still say, "I rejoice in God's glory, whether that glory is shown through mercy or justice." My joy is founded in His glory, not on changeable things of the world. Soli Deo gloria - all glory really does go to Him.

God's Foreknowledge

You know how it feels when something you never quite got suddenly "clicks." Yeah, that feeling. :)

I get it! I finally REALLY "get" it! I have wondered about the foreknowledge of God being active or passive. Calvinist says it's active (it is an active verb); Arminians say it's passive. Then I read in my book, The Sovereign Grace of God, "God's 'knowing' of us is a personal thing." I thought back to Adam "knowing" Eve. That is the way that God "knows" me - intimately! I get it! I think I finally understand those "foreknowledge" verses! He fore-knows us! Thank You God! It finally "clicked."

I've read the arguments before - it's covered in The Potter's Freedom - but last night it finally "clicked" in my mind to where I can see it. "God's knowing us is a personal thing." That sentence did it. Having the argument brought down to a personal level helped me to see. He fore-knew me, intimately fore-knew me. That helps me see Romans 8:28 in a new light. :)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Quick update on condo

I got a call this afternoon from our real estate agent saying that we should close on the condo tomorrow! The paperwork will be signed and it will be official! Hopefully we can get the key tomorrow. :) I will officially own my first home!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Can I Scream Now?

I didn't want to write anything until things worked out, but what can I say? Everyday is a new adventure, and not usually a good one.

We are still in the process of buying the condo. I have no idea when escrow will close so we can lay the carpet and everything. We are now on the other end of a long holiday weekend and still nothing has been done. I seriously want to bang my head against a wall.

The agent will not let us lay carpet or have electrical work done until escrow closes. She may also hold out for the money for the furniture, but I don't know yet. I only know that we should have had the keys last week and instead everything is crazy because the bank is being stupid.

I went to my ING account to pay for the condo (a joint account with my sister set up for this purpose using the money Dad left when he died). I found I cannot wire money. What kind of bank doesn't allow that? Red flag #1. I send two checks because checks have a max amount and the condo is more than the max of one check. So I overnight two checks. It takes two days for the checks to arrive. Red flag #2. Then I find out these are NOT cashier's checks, just regular checks! What crazy ass bank sends regular checks to buy a house? Red flag #3. Do not ever bank with ING!

Needless to say, regular checks take forever to clear. The money was gone from the account on Friday, but the title company still doesn't have confirmation.

So I call the real estate agent and ask her if we can install carpet and have the electrical done while we are waiting for everything to clear. She says no, and she has the keys. So we can't even begin to do anything until she decides we can have the keys!

Meanwhile, my computer died again and Brad's watch. The keyboard is broken and simply won't. I can do everything else, but not type. I do not know if the heat fried it or Brad sweated all over it and fried it. Either way, it's fried.

So today I suddenly realize that maybe just a new keyboard will make my current computer accessible. I was in San Francisco so I stopped at the Apple store and bought a new keyboard. I'll try it out tonight when I get home.

As of yesterday, I still couldn't cash Dad's life insurance check, but I went ahead and bought a new tricked out Mac computer. I'm going all out this time because I can with the life insurance money. April called me today and said to go ahead and cash the reduced check. Evidently, Dad owed them money, and they will take their pound of flesh from his heirs if need be. So I get less, but still a good amount, and plenty to spare for a new computer.

Then Discover Card calls me today. They think the huge amount might be fraud and had declined the transaction. They cleared the transaction, but Apple has to process it again. So I have to call Apple and they put it through for me. What a headache!

Meanwhile, I was lucky to see the call from Discover because I had accidentally turned my ringer off. Brad figured it out and when I checked, sure enough, I had accidentally turned it off.

So...recap. We still don't have the condo or any of the work that has to be done before we can move in. :-p My computer is dead long before it's time. Whether or not Brad did it, it has always broken on his watch. He is not touching the new one. I have a new, separate keyboard that I hope will give me control of the computer again. Discover wouldn't let me buy a new computer until I talked to them and then called Apple.

It's been nothing but one headache after another and I want to SCREAM!


This year has been a year of learning to trust in God. I know that He is just making me live out the radical theological changes that took place last year. He is drawing me close, and making me finally grow up. I am finally beginning to learn that God is worthy of praise and glory whether or not my computer works, no matter who dies, no matter how much the bank holds up my ability to buy the condo. His worth is not dependent on any external circumstance!

And I am now beginning to see this as a good thing.

For the longest time I have allowed myself to slip and fall in my Christian walk every time external circumstances turn against me. If things don't go my way, I blame God. I am finally beginning to truly "get" the fact that God's worthiness does not rise or fall with what happens in my life. God's worthiness is based in who He is, not what He does. This is a big discovery for me! It's something I've always known, but only on an intellectual level. Now it is becoming a real knowing on a heart level.

I'm falling in love with Him again, unbidden as always. In the words of the wise owl from the Bambi movie, I am twitterpated. I am getting another glimpse of Him as He truly is, and praise is the only possible response to that. He is God. He is sovereign. He is good. I love Him and I want to follow Him with all my heart and soul.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mentioned on the Dividing Line! :)

I was mentioned on Tuesday's Dividing Line by Rich Pierce, though not by name. Dr. White talked about Harold Camping, and Rich chimed in, "Now the young lady on our Facebook page has reported - who works there - that a number of employees have already been laid off, and they [Family Radio] are, as we predicted they would be, in desperate money trouble, and...that's the only thing really left to do." :)

The Dividing Line is available on iTunes. Straight mp3 files are posted every Tuesday and Thursday to the Alpha and Omega Ministries blog. Tuesday's program can be accessed here.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

What Abby the feral tabby taught me about God

This is the story of how I got "Abby and feral tabby" and what she has taught me about God.

About 10 years ago I wanted to get a kitten. I wanted a female orange tabby. This was before I knew that female orange tabbies are NOT common. Most females with the gene for orange fur are calicos.

Anyway, so I that spring I eventually settle on a little female gray tabby (Xena) and adopt her, my dreams of a female orange tabby forgotten.

Except God didn't forget and He has a sense of humor. I lived in a house at the time (rented a room). One day Brad and I went into the backyard to look for something. He opened the back door and surprised a feral momcat with a litter of kittens. They all disappeared lightening fast.

To makes a long story short, it's October, the kittens are only maybe 6 weeks old, and it was getting cold out. I felt bad for them and had the resources to help. I had Xena's old playpen (basically a large cage). I rented a humane trap and trapped momcat and all six of her kittens and put them in the cage. I provided food, water, and a litterbox in the cage.

Momcat would glare at me, distrustful of my plans for her. Here she was, in a strange place, no place to roam, just room for her and her kittens, and enough room for her to lay down and let them nurse.

I didn't know what I was getting into when I became a Christian. I had no idea where it would lead. I know God wanted me and was pursuing me and frankly, I was tired of running. I became a Christian as much by default as anything else - I couldn't run away from Him anymore.

In many ways, I am still there, still unsure of who He is or what His plans for me are. Oh Lord, change my heart!

Eventually I found homes of all the kittens and got momcat fixed. I had planned to just put her back outside after fixing her, but the whole process took so long that she had bonded to me. And over time, I have bonded to her. This is the cat that has come to be called Abby, or as I like to call her because it rhymes, Abby the feral tabby.

And would you believe that she is a female orange tabby? ;) God has a sense of humor.

God has also used her to teach me about myself. I am Abby. I am wild and distrust His plans. How often I have wanted to explain to Abby that everything I do is for her own good! I am not trying to hurt or kill her, but her kitty brain can't comprehend my plans. And my human brain can't comprehend God's plans.

Abby loves me more than Xena ever could. Xena has never known anything but a warm bed, two meals a day, and human love. Abby never had any of that. She knows what she has been rescued from. When we realize what we have been rescued from our love for God grows deeper. Abby knows, and God wants me to remember my past and be grateful. He could have left me to live and die as a Wiccan.

Now that Abby knows how wonderful human love can be she walks around mewing to be scritched or stroked or petted. She wants to be loved on, to experience my love for her, just as I want to experience God's love for me.

Abby has done nothing to deserve my love (other than look cute!). I know I have done nothing to deserve God's love. I don't know why He chose me. The Bible says He chooses the weak things to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27), and I am weak, but I will never understand why He chooses the weak.

Anyway, so there's the story of Abby, God's sense of humor, and how He has used her to teach me about both myself and Him. I want to have the trust of Xena and the love of Abby. I want to remember my past and be grateful for His grace. I want that to increase my love for Him. I want to be reminded of how wonderful His adoption of me is. :)

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Worship was pretty good today. The sermon text was just what I needed. I asked Pastor Brent if he picked it for me but he said no, so it's something God picked. :) He spoke on 2 Corinthians 4:7-18. It's a text on suffering. I didn't even know it was there. Truly, God picked today's text.

Though Pastor Brent has been going through hard stuff and maybe he was preaching to himself: He and his family are getting ready to move 2500 miles next month. None are thrilled with it, but they are sure it is God's call.

Our pianist was gone so we did all praise choruses and one hymn a cappella (It Is Well With My Soul).

The sermon was titled after the song "It Is Well With My Soul," and Pastor Brent likes history so he told about the author of the hymn (Horatio Spafford), a guy who went through terrible times, a story I heard at my first church many years ago. He lost all five of his children and everything he owned. The point was trusting in God in hard times as well as good times. It's easy to praise Him when things are good, not so much when you lose your five children and all your assets in under two years.

And it occurs to me why K has been after me, kicking me while I'm down, insisting that I can be well and life can be good and all sorts of other unbiblical stuff. She seems to believe in Word of Faith theology, a theology where we become like God and his hands are tied. It is not just Arminian, but hyper-Arminian!

It's a theology that I pegged as unbiblical even when I was Arminian. It's a sub-biblical view of God where God is so dependent on us that He can't do anything without our permission. This is not a god (I use small "g" intentionally) that I could worship.

Either God can do anything He wants whenever He wants (like step into history through Jesus, heal people, or even *gasp* bring wrath and justice down), or He's no God at all. He's either sovereign or He's not. Period. K actually told me that God limits his sovereignty. Um, no. Call it what you want, but that god is not a sovereign God, and certainly not the God of the Bible.

Both her and my Catholic friend (and the Catholic girl has proven a true friend) believe that my current struggles with God are because of my Calvinist beliefs, and really, that's not true.

I just have never been challenged by so many things hitting at once. My Dad's death effected me far more than I thought it would, and is forcing me to really face the reality of hell and whether I can follow a God like that. The issues I'm facing are Christian issues, not issues with Reformed doctrine.

Perhaps I have people against me so that when God brings me through, it will be seen to be just Him and He'll get the glory. I don't know. I do know that I have gotten grief from Christians who should know better. Brian has shown true maturity - even as an Arminian, he can see I am hurting and has chosen not to kick me while I'm down. I can't say the same for everyone.

It took about a week to get the drugs the hospital gave me out of my system. It was a huge hit on my liver - the pills I took to kill myself, and the drugs the hospital gave me because I was combative. In total that was a huge amount and it did weird things like keep me awake all night.

But I am finally able to sleep pretty normally. I've avoided all alcohol, a good thing given that alcohol would have taxed my liver more.

And I finally figured out why I attempted suicide this time when I never have before - in short, I promised I would never try to kill myself while Dad was alive. I knew my death would cause his death, and I didn't want his blood on my hands. He's gone now, so the only thing holding me back was removed. So this time when Satan put the thoughts into my mind, I decided to follow. I know it's wrong, but truthfully, I still don't want to be here.

Brad and I may go to St. Peter's tomorrow morning. I could use some liturgy to soothe my soul.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Broken, part 3 (further thoughts)

I know God has a purpose in keeping me alive or I wouldn't be. I just don't know what that is or why I so easily and quickly fell for the lies of the enemy. I have truly never been in a place like this. This is utterly unlike my depression of times past when I simply thought about ways to kill myself, but never attempted. I am not sure what caused me to step over that line this time. But I feel it is a line that cannot be crossed back over, I opened a door that I cannot shut.

I question whether I can even be forgiven for breaking so many of the commandments at once, ever though His word is very clear on the issue. I know what the Bible says; my emotions say otherwise, and I have to fight to keep a Biblical perspective.

His sovereignty is my only hope and my deepest fear. My only hope in that only a sovereign God can get me out of the mess I've made (now compounded) and use this for my good and His glory, and my deepest fear in that He may prevent me from killing myself if I ever try again. I want to be master of my own fate and call my own shots in life. A sovereign God short-circuits that and must be followed because only a sovereign God is worthy of being followed.

A sovereign God takes away my freedom, and that is something I want to protect at all costs, even if I always use that freedom to destroy.

I realize I still have very deep issues with God. I thought they were resolved, but they weren't. They were answered. And the answers are ones I do not like, and so I struggle and rail against the only One who has ever loved me. I know all this - in my head. It has not yet made it to my heart.

I prayed nightly that my heart would be synched with His word. And instead of trying to live that out, I tried to kill myself. I wish it were as easy to sync my heart to His word as it is to sync my iPhone to iTunes.

I'm pretty sure this is a pretty bad screw-up, and I broke multiple commandments that night. Can such heinous sin from a believer be forgiven? Is there hope for me? Satan tells me I'm such a screw-up - I can't even kill myself without messing it up. But God tells me there's a purpose in keeping me alive.

When I came to on Thursday afternoon I was dressed in the garb of all the other inmates - blue slacks and blue shirt and non-skid socks. I have two memories of Wednesday, the first is being wrestled to the ground (or bed) and someone shouts "5mg Geodon!" I feel a sharp pain in my butt, but barely feel it and lapse back into unconsciousness. I am told they gave me a few injections, but I only remember the one.

The second memory is of waking up in one of the rooms. I am no longer tied down. I need to pee really bad. I try to get out of bed and my legs collapse under me. I try to get up again, and fall backward. I try to crawl, and again fall backward. I finally just lay on the floor and go unconscious again. I suspect I must have peed myself because when I woke up Thursday I didn't need to pee nearly as bad.

If that isn't the picture of the seriousness of what I've done, I don't know what is. Even trying to fill in the holes is painful. How could I have let myself sink so low?

And when I checked, I had no underwear. I have no idea if the others with me were the same, or they just got tired of me wetting myself and just threw some slacks on with no undies. No bra either. Just slacks and shirt, nothing underneath.

I didn't have a Bible for most of my time there. The Spirit used what He had available - Scriptures that I have read so many times that I can practically quote them, or a sermon illustration about thanking God for things you never thought to thank Him for before. In short order I was made to thank Him for my clothes, even though they were not mine, and my bed, even though it was not mine and may not be mine the next night, and the food even though it was terrible. It was nutrition and I thanked Him for that. I thanked Him for the roof, even though it was the roof of my prison.

I didn't do this because I wanted to. I did this because this is what the Holy Spirit brought to mind. There was no option. God doesn't bring to mind to praise Him in a place of despair unless He means for you to carry out that praise. It's training for me, to help me learn to praise Him for all the little things I normally take for granted, such as clothing and food, and learn to praise Him in the middle of the storm. Baby steps. :)

God didn't feel close during this time. My only real prayers there were, "Lord, have mercy," and "God, help me!" That was all I could pray. And He has answered those, both by helping me, and showing me not just mercy, but true unmerited, undeserved grace.

I saw people fly off the handle at the smallest perceived offense. They would be herded into a room. If they screwed that up by refusing to stay in the room or turning over the bed (yeah, I saw a woman do that and a security guard remarked to me how heavy those beds were), they would have their arms pulled behind their back (not in a rough way), and escorted to a room where they could be tied down as I was at first. I was combative, which is why they had to resort to drugs as well.

I haven't slept more than 4 hours a night in a week. I'll sleep 3 or 4 hours and then be awake the rest of the night. Getting back to my regimen of Benedryl and melatonin hasn't helped. Brad thinks it's the drugs being worked out of my system, but how can it go on for so long? I just want to sleep.

And so I am forced back to square one (Dad's death) to really deal with the emotional fallout, and everything that has happened since. It means admitting that I am at a place where I need help.

Camping is such a small portion of this. Yes, I am heartbroken to see God's judgment fall on the very people who believe they are immune to it, but this is where God has me, and I know that I am a created thing, and He can (and will) do as He wishes with my heart. Perhaps He wants me to feel the brokenness He feels at having to judge their evil. But I know His holiness is too important to let it go unpunished. And that is also why I am suffering - He disciplines me because I affronted His holiness and glory. I was stupid and tried to commit self-murder.

I feel like I am freefalling again, just as I have so often these last few months. God has always caught me, but I worry that this time will be different, this time he won't catch me, this time He will give me what I deserve instead of mercy.

In those times I cling to His word. He will not ever go against what He has already said. He declares me forgiven by Christ; I am forgiven, even if I don't feel forgiven or feel I don't deserve forgiveness. His word is clear. I'm forgiven. Period.

Now if I could just get my heart in sync with His word. My biggest regret from last week is not that I did it, but that I wasn't successful. I know that's wrong, but that's where I am.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Broken, part 2 (the overview)

It seems I am far more broken than I knew when I wrote the first Broken note on May 12. Here is an outline of what happened. I'll write more later.

Tuesday, May 17/Wednesday, May 18 - Came home from work and despair of things ever getting better. I drink of bunch of wine and attempt to overdose on Xanax at about 1 or 2 a.m. I have a full bottle and take most of it in three handfuls. Kicking myself for not finishing it off.

Brad stays up with me all night, not knowing what I had done. He checks on me. Wednesday at about 2 pm he calls 911. They find the mostly empty pill bottle that I had left on my nightstand (I debated whether to do that or not, but finally left it there). They take me to emergency. Brad stays behind.

What I have been able to guess at is that after being taken to emergency, I take another ambulance ride (after getting stable) to the psych hospital, arriving there sometime Wednesday afternoon or night. I have only a couple snatches of memory from Wednesday, both humiliating. I may tell them some other time. I am told I was combative and they had to use restraints and injections (one of which I remember - 5mg Geodon).

Thursday, May 19 - Brad attempts to find me, but emergency says they have no record of me. He phones April (my sister), and April is able to track me down to John George Psychiatric Pavilion.

I "come to" the same day and attempt to phone him and am able to connect. I was 51/50ed and now stuck at John George for up to 72 hours. The clock started running on Wednesday, meaning they had to figure out what to do with me by Friday - keep me on in a different ward, or let me go.

I stay in John George all day Thursday and into Friday morning. I learn the rules and know that I just have to obey the rules and I have a good shot at going home.

Friday, May 20 - I get evaluated by a doctor in the mid- to late morning and am cleared for going home. I haven't bathed or brushed my hair in three days. I have only brushed my teeth once (Thursday night). Brad comes and gets me about 1 pm Friday afternoon. I shower, brush through my hair, then get it chopped off to avoid this in the future (in case I am locked up again).

I have so many stories and thoughts, but my purpose now is to write an outline of events to build my stories around. I am still far too tired to write everything.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bay To Breakers

Ok, some notes on the race. 1) It was tons of fun this year. It seemed like more fun, even though the start time was moved up. Maybe it just seemed that way because I needed the break so bad. For several hours yesterday I was able to banish all thoughts of Harold Camping and Family Radio from my mind. My aching heart could take a break and experience some happiness.

The runner's high along with a much needed break was something I really needed. I have been praying for mercy for those of us who don't believe Mr. Camping's date - that as God brings judgment on them through the failure of the date, that He will remember mercy toward us. See my note "Broken" for more on this. At any rate, I have prayed for mercy, but yesterday God gave me grace - unearned, unmerited favor - a time to relax and enjoy the race and its usual zaniness. I could think of nothing else to pray last night than to just thank Him over and over. He was so good to me.

The race start time was moved from 8 a.m. to 7 a.m., evidently to help stop people who come just to get drunk. The elite women got a head start at 6:55 am to give them a fighting chance to beat the men. The elite men along with Corrals A, B, and C took off at 7. By 7:15 most of them had gotten going and my Corral, Corral D, took off. I hit the start line at 7:20.

The naked people were there, costumed runners were there, we had the tortilla tossing before the race started - all the normal zaniness that makes Bay To Breakers the spectacle it is.

It was a pretty normal and uneventful run. It seemed more crowded because I was further back than usual. This may have slowed me down a bit because I would be held up by people ahead of me and had more trouble navigating around slower people.

I prayed that God would hold off the rain for all of us, and all I encountered on the course was one small squall in Golden Gate Park. I pulled out my parka, but almost as soon as I had it on, I was past the rain (or it was past us). At any rate, a fairly dry race. I can't complain about the weather. :)

After crossing the finish line I followed everyone else down a side street toward the Polo Fields and encountered people handing out race medals and marking our bibs as fast as they could. Then I proceeded past the Polo Fields to Speedway Meadow to pick up my t-shirt.

The saddest part was after finishing the run we passed by a guy preaching hellfire and brimstone. I practically feel like I know them because they are out every year. As we passed I overheard a woman talking to her friend, mocking them. I just thought, "What they said is true, even if they are not presenting it the right way." I thought about how she is under judgment for making fun of them. We will all stand before God one day and give an account.

I hoped the people would ignore the preachers and read my shirt. Every year on the back of my t-shirt I wear one of two Bible verses about running. This year I chose the Hebrews verse about running the race with endurance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. I hoped people would read that instead of listening to the hellfire preachers. I am one of the runners, out there running just like the rest, with a simple statement on my t-shirt that says you can be a Christian and still have fun.

After picking up my t-shirt, I left to find a bus. I meandered out of the park, following people ahead of me, passed a small lake, and eventually we came out onto Lincoln Avenue. I had a heck of a time catching a bus, but eventually I found an outbound 29 Sunset that I knew would take me to Balboa Park BART. Let everyone else take an inbound bus and deal with crowds; I used to live in the City and I'm going where it I knew it would be less crowded. :)

Final results were:
Distance: 12k (7.46 miles)
Top of Hayes Street Hill: 0:37:39
Chip Time: 1:41:39
Overall Place: 20,947 out of 43,414
Female Place: 9,642 out of 23,857
Female 40-49 Place: 2,360 out of 5,656

Before Hayes Street and to the top of the hill: 14 minutes a mile
Overall pace: 13:38 a mile (4.4 mph)

I did better after the hill as Hayes Street is several blocks long and gets up to a 13% grade. Hey, you can't have a run in San Francisco without one big hill, right? :)

There are two short videos; however, I do not believe I am on the first (shot from the right side). The second video (shot from the left and including sound) does show me crossing the finish line. I'm wearing a white shirt, black pants, and a white headcovering that's fallen halfway back on my head. I am fiddling with my watch right before and after I cross, briefly throwing my arms in the air when I step on the mat. You can see me, but you'll have to look closely.

Ignore the first short video. The second video starts at 7:47 and I can be seen running up (I come into view on the far left at 7:53) and stepping on the mat at 7:58.

results and video

Thursday, May 12, 2011


More on Family Radio:

I was PMing a friend last night about my Glory, part 3 note, which reminded me of the first two "Glory" notes (Glory and Glory, part 2), which reminded me that everything is as it is for God's glory. He will be glorified even in what is about to happen, even if I can't see how.

I woke up this morning from a dream thinking, "Don't give up on God" - a message not for me, but for all those who will be disillusioned by Mr. Camping's teachings when May 21 comes and goes without anything happening.

In the dream (I can barely remember) there was a list of things people would need to do after May 21, and "Don't give up on God" was the first thing on the list, the first thing these people need to remember when nothing happens on May 21.

I'm restless, waiting for the other shoe to drop, heartbroken. I weep over the judgment I see falling. I believe false prophets are one way God judges people who won't listen. I know this is His doing for His reasons, and I'm not mad at Him. I am just saddened.

Generally speaking,there are going to be three groups of people after May 21 - those who fall away entirely believing that Mr. Camping is teaching the Bible and therefore the Bible - and God - can't be trusted, those who cling to Mr. Camping's teachings no matter what, and (usually the smallest group) those who come to their senses, come out of Camping's teachings, and come to know the true God. I have seen a couple of people already come out. I know God has more and I need to be reminded of their existence to stay sane.

God's sovereignty is one of the few things that gives me hope in this.

I really didn't think this would effect me so much. But what is going on is truly demonic. I'm not that spiritually sensitive anymore - God took that away from me several years ago - but even I can feel the oppression that pervades my workplace. Fallen angels are delighting over Family Radio right now. It grieves me deep inside.

God does not rejoice over the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23), but His holiness demands justice. If these people will not find their righteousness Christ, they will fall. They have itching ears (2 Timothy 2:3-4) and God has given them over to what they want because they will not listen (Psalm 81:11-12).

I have said that the anthropologist in me finds everything at Family Radio terribly exciting. But who I am deep down in my heart is a Christ-follower, and so in the deepest part of my being I am grieved, crying, broken.

I didn't know how grieved I felt until I knelt down to pray last night and dissolved into tears. I weep as I see a once faithful ministry, and many people, under God's judgment. I know the end will not be pretty, and I know I will see it, and so I grieve, and I pray that is His wrath, God will remember His children here and have mercy.

Romans 5:1-5 says "we exult in hope of the glory of God" and that tribulation eventually produces hope. So even as I cry, I know all hope is not lost. I am seeing something I have only read about in the Bible played out in front of me (and it is sad), but God is still on His throne, and in complete control of
everything that is happening at Family Radio. In that is my hope.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The PCUSA, homosexuality, prayer, Mark Driscoll, and my Dad

A mishmash of topics. This was taken from an e-mail to a friend, but I wanted to share a little of my life.

The PCUSA (on allowing homosexual clergy) - I wouldn't call them Reformed or anything else. I like that the news article mentioned the Anglican Church of North America being formed from the Episcopal Church getting more and more liberal (2003). They are the latest. The church I went to last week was part of an Anglican breakaway group from 1977. From the diocese of the church I visited last week:

"The Anglican Province of Christ the King is a body of Anglican churches which was formed in 1977 to ensure the continuation of historic Anglican Christianity in America. The need for the new Province arose because of changes in the fundamental faith and practices of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA)."

All I can say is good luck to those who wish to follow the Bible in the PCUSA. It may be time to break away.

So far my denomination has resisted this. I have seen this firsthand at Conference, and sometimes the debates get heated. I remember one year a group brought a proposal to the floor that we issue an official statement on marriage - that it is between a man and a woman. There was some argument, though it eventually did pass. On the whole, my denomination is still fairly conservative. We do have some liberal churches (including one in New York state that is infamous), and we do allow female pastors (I disagree with this).

Today I listened to Dr. James White's podcast. The last two programs have been on homosexuality, and Thursday's will be also (he'll be interviewing Dr. Michael Brown who just published a book on the topic). It's hard, hard stuff to listen to, but it's the truth, and the truth is not always pleasant. How long will it be before stating those opinions is considered hate speech?

I also listened to Mark Driscoll's recent sermon on the parable of the persistent widow. Good food for thought there. What if God wants me to pray for L. not because He's going to change her, but because He wants to change ME?

I do believe in prayer. After my week in Seattle dealing with my Dad - MY DAD! - dying, I know prayer is real and that it works and that God hears and answers.

And God has consistently laid my friend Scott on my heart since Scott drove me to the Seattle church and home and we spent the day together. He's suffering with his dad's slow decline. I am powerless to help him or change the situation; I can only pray. John Piper says that God sometimes uses prayer as a means to getting things done. Perhaps He wants to use me to help Scott. I feel bad for him. I often end up in tears when I pray for him, and I barely know him!

Driscoll's sermon on that parable was a good. I did, however, figure out what bother's me about him while listening to one of the "Fighting for the Faith" episodes (Chris Rosebrough). The host won't badmouth him because he preaches Christ and the cross in every sermon, but he did make a comment that he is on the "fringes" of the Reformed movement. This would explain why the first sermon I heard by him (the first in a six part series on the book of Ruth) was a turn off and I came away thinking he was Arminian!

I am glad I heard that sermon though, since that put him on my radar, and God was going to use a sermon that hadn't yet been preached ("Heaven and Hell") to answer questions I didn't yet have. That is sovereignty, lol. :) That sermon turned me around. And combined with a couple of Dr. White's programs about man-centeredness vs. God-centeredness, God screwed my head back on straight.

I can't emphasis enough how much my Dad's death rocked my world and my faith. I am so glad God took an active roll in helping me to get my focus where it should be. In the end, my new Reformed beliefs stood despite the onslaught, and have grown deeper roots. Every time I lose that God-centered focus, God takes me by the shoulders and turns me around, saying, "That's the wrong question. Look at it this way."

Now I'm just pouring out my heart and totally lost how this started - on Driscoll. Driscoll, Piper, and White help me keep a proper focus and give me good teaching where my own church might be lacking, either from the pastor's time constraints, or his own Arminian views.

I'll end just by saying that we're into the final 10 days here at work before they think the rapture is going to happen. Those of us who don't believe in Camping could use your (and anyone else's prayers). It's hard. We are watching the final moments before a horrible accident, powerless to stop it, knowing that the end will not be good, but no one having any idea how bad it will be. I don't usually ask for prayer, but this time I will - not just for me, but for all the faithful people who work here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Limited Atonement

The following was found in the comments section (#12) of the Grace To You blog. The commenter quoted James White, one of my favorite teachers:

Some object to the doctrine of limited atonement on very pragmatic grounds. "The doctrine destroys evangelism, because you cannot tell people that Christ died for them, because you don't know!" Yet, we ask, is there an advantage in presenting to men an atonement that is theoretical, a Savior whose work is incomplete, and a gospel that is but a possibility? What kind of proclamation will God honor with His Spirit: one that is tailored to seek "success," or one that is bound to the truth of the Word of God? When the Apostles preached the Gospel, they did not say, "Christ died for all men everywhere, and it is up to you to make His work effective." They taught that Christ died for sinners, and that it was the duty of every man to repent and believe. They knew that only God's grace could bring about repentance and faith in the human heart. And far from that being a *hindrance* to their evangelistic work, it was the power behind it! They proclaimed a *powerful* Savior, whose work is all sufficient, and who saves men totally and completely! They knew that God was about bringing men to Himself, and, since He is the sovereign of the universe, there is no power on earth that will stay His hand! Now there is a solid basis for evangelism! And what could be more of a comfort to the heart that is racked with guilt than to know that Christ has died for sinners, and that His work is not just theoretical, but is real?

I just wanted to make a few comments. I listened to Dr. White's podcast for probably a year a half before the questions he asked began to gain some ground. The answers were uncomfortable.

Was the atonement I believed in merely theoretical? I had to admit, yes. Theoretically, every man had access to salvation through Christ. I believed that God wooed all people through prevenient grace. But a Savior who actually saves? No. That wasn't there.

Last year there was a major shift in my thinking - a shift almost as big as my conversion 14 years previous. God got much bigger, powerful, and glorious than before. In the summer and fall of 2010 these truths were intellectual, head knowledge. But God never allows things to remain theoretical forever, and when my Dad died in early March this year, it initially sent me reeling. Overnight I went from everything making sense to nothing making sense. I blamed God and lashed out at Him.

The rubber met the road and my new Reformed ideas met the reality of life (and death!). By God's grace, they survived, and I came out the other side with a deeper understanding of who God is, what He is doing in the world, and how the doctrines of grace really do make sense in the real world.

Fifteen years ago God took a God-hater and changed her into a God-lover - a work of grace in my heart that I could never accomplish myself. But I imbibed and believed in the God fed to me - a God who provides a theoretical atonement for all (see, I didn't lose the plot from where the note started!). Last year, God did another work of grace. He took a girl that looked at Calvinism and said, "I could never believe in a God like that!" and turned her into a lover of the very doctrines she used to despise.

Man-Centered, or God-Centered? (orginal note here

After Dad's death I asked a lot of the usual questions that people ask when a loved one dies. But gradually, when I asked the wrong questions, God would turn me around and help me ask right questions so I could get right answers. I began to realize that the gospel I had believed in was very man-centered, and it still permeated my thinking. What if I was going about this all wrong and it was really all about God? What would my theology look like and how would my questions change if God were at the center?

Questions of heaven and hell would find their answer and ground in God - His holiness, love, justice, mercy, and wrath. Sin would no longer be finite because it would be committed against an infinite God - an infinite God who humbled Himself to become one of us, and die in our place! Oh, how my theology would change if I were God-centered!

That is my struggle now - to not forget the lessons God taught me, to stay focused on Him and not man. We are creatures, not the Creator. He has a perfect right to do with us as He sees fit. And can not a God who died a torturous death on a cross for rebellious sinners be trusted? Isn't this a God I can worship and believe in? Isn't this a God who truly is glorious?

And so I can believe. Reformed theology made sense last year in my head; now it makes sense in my heart as well.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Glory, part 3

This note is borne of a sermon I heard yesterday on the topic "God is love." The background to this note can be found in my two "Glory" notes: Glory (original note), and Glory, part 2.

If you are going to tell me to leave my church - please don't waste my time and yours. I feel *very* strongly about this and you are not here in my situation. Church hopping is never something to be undertaken lightly or done for any reason other than gross ongoing biblical error. This sermon was the exception, not the norm.

God is love (1 John 4:8,16).
God is holy (Isaiah 6:3).
God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).
God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14).
God is good (Mark 10:18).
God is a lot of things other than love.

These are the notes I took during a recent sermon. This is not meant to put down my pastor or my church. I love them both and know I belong there.

What I am contending is that love is not who God is at His center; glory is. I am sure some people would agree with my pastor that God’s love is the center, the essence, of who God is. I used to think so, too. But recently I have come to see that God’s glory is the center. All other things – His love, His mercy, His wrath, His holiness, etc. – are merely expressions of His glory.

The questions below were phrased as statements. For the most part, they sounded wrong to my ears, so I wrote them down as questions, then jotted my thoughts down after. The verse references were added the next day when I had some time to look things up in my Bible. Bracketed comments were also added the next day as I had more time to mull over what I heard.

Sermon Notes
April 30, 2011
1 John 4:7-16

1) Is God’s love the reason for creation? I think He created to show His glory. Why would God create everything knowing everything that would happen? [I asked God this question not long ago, and He told me everything is as it is *for His glory*!]
2) Is God’s love the reason for free will? I think we can’t love Him unless He makes us a new creation. He has to change our hearts so we can love Him (John 6:37, 65). ["Free will" is never mentioned in the New Testament, and it is only mentioned in the Old Testament in regards to free will offerings.]
3) Is God’s love the reason for providence (His care for His people)? This, I think, is right. God does love and care for His people (Matthew 7:7-11, 1 Peter 5:7).
4) Is God’s love the reason for salvation? I think Romans 9 says His glory is the reason He saves some (Romans 9:22-23).
5) Is God’s love the reason for eternal life? I think we will all live eternally in heaven or hell (John 6:58 [heaven], Matthew 18:8 [hell]). God saves some (Romans 9:22-23) to show His glory to all (Philippians 2:10-11).

Does God need somebody to love? Or is He perfect in Himself, needing nothing? [Do I really want to worship a God who needs anything?]

From creation to eternal life (# 1-5), God’s glory - not His love - is paramount (Isaiah 43:6-7, 43:25, 48:11).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God's Sacrifice (Easter weekend thoughts)

I hardly know where to begin. Each day during Holy Week, as Good Friday drew nearer, the more I thought about everything. I attended no services until Friday, but the Easter story was very much on my mind. Thursday night (Maundy Thursday) I came home from work and tried to pray before bed. I dissolved into tears thinking of all the sins I have done counted against Jesus. The God that created the universe, dying for me. I am guilty, and He has paid.

Friday morning I got up and went to the traditional three hour service at the Episcopal church. It was different this year. It was the entirety of J.S. Bach’s "St. John Passion" – in German – built around a liturgy in English. I could read the English translation of the German songs much faster than the choir sang them, and this gave me a LOT of time to simply ponder and pray. At one point they brought a cross forward and we were invited to pray at it, then later we took communion.

At the end of the service I did something I haven’t done in a long time, since I lost my ring a year or more ago. My sister gave me a garnet ring – my birthstone – as a present. I’ve been wearing it on my right ring finger as just plain old jewelry. There, in my pew, I felt impressed to take it off and slip it on my left ring finger, like a wedding band. My heart is bound to God, for this life and forever. Good Friday gave me a sense of deep gratitude for what God has done for me.

As some of you may remember, my church has been going through a DVD series called "The Mission of the Church Matters." After my Dad died, while I was in Seattle, I missed watching the second DVD. Last week I borrowed it from my pastor, and on Good Friday night, since TV felt so banal on so holy a day, Brad and I watched it. It was Matt Chandler preaching.

At one point he spoke of Galatians 2:20 ("I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" [NASB]). He explained the verse and some of the ways that might express itself in the Christian life. It hit me how many vain pursuits I spend time and money on, things that aren’t bad in and of themselves, but take time and (especially) money from things of lasting value.

I decided I need to cut back on online games and not spend anymore money on them. For Café World, this will mean no more catering orders and slower progress on the goals. It will mean I make less visits to Starbucks and Jamba Juice. It will mean considering the best uses for the money God gives me. Yeah, a simple sermon by some guy I never heard of before can effect me that much.

Saturday at church was good and fairly normal. After church and the next DVD in the series, Brad and I went for a walk in Wildcat Canyon. It was misting, but I was desperate for exercise. The rain got harder as time went on. We went as far as we could before the path got too muddy with puddles of water to continue on.

The thing that struck me the most was that the beginning of Wildcat Canyon is an old road, paved and broad. But 1/4 mile up the trail the heavy winter rains this year have taken their toll. A mudslide has covered almost the entire road. There is a very narrow path through the mudslide to the other side, and it was very muddy.

The county has blazed a path on the other side of the road from the mudslide. It will very likely be permanent since I can’t imagine what the cost would be to remove the dirt from the road. Photos here. We got wet, but for once I didn’t mind walking in the rain. I just gloried in God’s beautiful creation, even the rain.

Easter Sunday morning we went to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (the same place I went on Good Friday). We did NOT sing "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today!" Blasphemy! It’s not Easter without that song! In the whole service we sang only one song that I knew the tune to, At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing, which was used as the closing hymn.

After church there was a potluck luncheon, nicely done, and including champagne and cake. Brad and I sat and chatted with en elderly gentleman. It was the last straw for med as far as going to that church anymore. He spoke about how "open" the Episcopal church was in accepting gays and lesbians and ordaining women. I knew I had to find another church, and plan to look into Anglican churches, since they tend to be more conservative. I know I cannot go back to St. Paul’s anymore.

But overall I was happy all day Sunday. The sadness of Good Friday dissolved into the Sunday morning light of Mary finding the tomb empty. He is risen! Our God and Savior didn’t stay dead. He overcame death! And because of that I can have life, now and eternally.

Now Holy Week is past, and I thought the emotional roller coaster of the last week might fade and disappear. But Monday at work I was browsing through John Piper’s Facebook page when I came upon a link: The Father’s Cup: A Crucifixion Narrative.

It’s a 25 minutes retelling of the Easter story. I dissolved into tears. I wept when the narrator listed all the sins placed on Jesus, and he mentioned my own. I was barely holding the tears back until he got to "divination and demon worship." That did it. I know the things I worshiped were demons, and it hit me all over again that those were counted to Jesus as if *He* had done them - my Lord! He drank the cup of the Father’s wrath for me! I am overwhelmed all over again.

I have often wondered if sometimes my tears when I pray are influenced by having a glass of wine before bed. But when I listened to this I was at work. I hadn't had anything to drink except unsweetened green tea, and I still cried.

And now I am at that time of year when I recall what God did in my life. In one week I will celebrate my 15th spiritual birthday. I can’t even begin to comprehend that or why God chose me – someone who didn’t want Him, someone who hated Him, someone who was happy worshipping things she thought was divine, but weren’t. How do I comprehend God choosing me and dying for me? And yet the Bible says, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NASB). Thank You, God, for dying for me and holding onto me these 15 years.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Glory, part 2

I've been mulling this over ever since I wrote the original "Glory" note back on April 3. At the time I said I didn't understand how His glory is part of Christian theology and I hadn't had time to even begin figuring it out.

Over the last couple of weeks I have come to believe that it was the voice of God I "heard" (in my head, not audibly), or at the very least, the Holy Spirit was bringing to mind what I have already read (John 14:26).

God is not seeking greater glory. There is no greater glory than that which He already possesses. He seeks to show that glory through everything created to everyone looking on - angels and demons and humans. And for those of us who are saved, we see the greatest revelation of that glory through Jesus Christ. Eventually every single person who has ever lived will see it, too, and bow the knee and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). And what is the reason given there for this bowing of the knee and confession with the tongue? "To the glory of God the Father"!

Every time I have turned around recently, I have been confronted with this topic again and again. After I wrote the original note, I remembered part of a verse in Romans 9, and went to look it up. "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory" (Romans 9:22-23, NASB). There is "glory" again, twice in v. 23. After I posted these verses, someone directed me to two John Piper sermons on this passage. As of the time of this writing, I have not listened to them yet, but I look forward to them.

God has been asking me to show His glory in me by making certain changes, specifically what I wear and what I listen to. Then yesterday a Facebook friend posted that he felt convicted to unfriend all his single female friends. That is hard for me to hear, but I respect him for following the call of God, that God would be better glorified in his life.

This has felt like a series of little deaths - giving up my choice of clothes, giving up my choice of music, losing my friend. And why? For the glory of God.

And all this is percolating in my mind during Holy Week, when God's greatest show of glory ever is remembered - God dying in our place for our salvation. I feel a bit overwhelmed at all God has done and is doing - and it's all for His glory!

I have been catching up on "Dividing Line" podcasts this week, and one of the programs I listened to had a reference to glory:

"The heart of Christianity is the self-glorification of the Triune God: the demonstration of His glory, His power, His majesty, His holiness, His justice, and in light of all that, His mercy and His love." ~James White, April 12, 2011 "Dividing Line" program

Dr. White is saying that God's glory is the very heart of Christianity!

And then just last night my Facebook friend Andrew posted the following, and it's given me lots to think about:

"Before I became a Calvinist and before I began listening to Piper, I thought Christianity was about guilt, sin, forgiveness, and living right. Now I realize Christianity is only about one thing: God's Glory. Everything else is there to lead us to this and help us enjoy it."

Leaving the Calvinism aside for the moment, Andrew is saying much the same thing Dr. White did in the quote above, and much the same as I have heard John Piper say: God's glory is the most important thing. He will be glorified in everything and every person, whether that person is saved or not.

Just today my Lenten devotional also mentioned glory, in the New Testament reading for the day:

"Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately'" (John 13:31-32, NASB).

Lastly, guess what the "Share Day" theme is this month at Family Radio? " all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31, NASB).

There have been too many coincidences that have occurred since God first spoke to me on April 3 for me to ignore this. God is trying to make a point to me, and He's driving it home strongly.

I have long believed that God's glory is above all. But it has never gone beyond an intellectual accent. Perhaps what is happening now is the outworking of that - putting theory into practice.

Some people have sought to invalidate my experiences. I guess that comes with the territory when I open myself up like this. What has surprised me is that all the attacks come from fellow Christians. The inevitable result is that it just drives me all the more to seek out people who will validate me.

I am not crazy. I am not manhandling Scripture. I am not seeking attention. I am seeking to share what I am learning with others, and the lesson I am learning right now seems to be that God's show of His glory is His highest purpose, and the reason everything exists. What could be more glorious than the most glorious Being creating all things - both visible and invisible - to bear witness to His glory?

If I choose to participate, He will also be glorified in me. And if what I am learning is correct, then my whole purpose for existing is to glorify God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Back on April 3 (in the comments section of the note I wrote: "I'm not going to say that's the be-all and end-all answer to everything. I'm sure it's not." Now I'm not so sure. Maybe His glory really IS the be-all and end-all of everything.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thoughts on Holy Week, modesty, and music

I apologize for how long this is. Please bear with me. I have a lot I need to say.

Things have been crazy. I am not used to God speaking to me as much as He has these past several weeks. When He called me back to Him - back to my first love - in December, I was in love. For the first time in my life I felt close, sweet fellowship. I didn't have the words for it at the time, but I believe this is what John Piper would call "Christian Hedonism." I loved it, I loved God. All was well in my little world.

Then Dad died and I entered a dark time. My faith got me through the first couple of weeks, but shortly after I returned from Seattle, I hit the "anger" stage of grief, and targeted God. Thankfully, He is big enough to take it.

Even though I was angry, I didn't sense that He was angry at me. Like a storyteller who knows the ending, He didn't return anger for anger. I never knew that you could both hate and love someone at the same time. It's possible, because now I have been there. I tried to sit in judgment of God and put Him in the dock. What pride! What arrogance! And yet He continued to love me and treat me gently.

I don't know how I would have gotten through this had He not drawn me so close right before. That was a saving grace in this situation.

I asked questions, questions I thought had no answers and were wrong to ask. I am now reevaluating that. Perhaps these questions were given to me by God because He wanted to give me answers. And He has! Even when I stopped talking to Him for a while, He continued to speak to me, and made it clear that He wanted me to speak to Him. Who am I that You want me to talk to You, God?

And so I finally bowed the knee once again and said, "I don't understand everything I want to, but I will follow." I also asked Him about all the pain in the world and the pain we cause Him. Those thoughts are summed up in my note, "Glory". Please read that first if you haven't.

That brings me up to last week, and the focus of this note. Last week I finally felt myself coming out of this dark tunnel I have been in since Dad died. When it first happened I said, "I'll be okay, but I'm not okay now." Well, I'm okay now. Dad's death rocked my faith to its very foundations, but He has brought me through, and the overwhelming grief is subsiding.

As we head into Holy Week, I am still mulling over the content in the "Glory" note. In church today we sang "All glory, laud, and honor," and I lost count of the number of times "glory" was used during the service. I'm beginning to understand that it is truly all about His glory. Nothing else matters, even if I have a hard time accepting that. He does all things for His glory.

I find welling up within me a desire for God like I haven't felt in years. For the first time in a long time, God has my full attention, and for the first time in a long time, I want to listen. Last week, He began talking to me about other issues, and I have also come to understand that He is done talking about hell. He has given me all the answers He's going to, and is ready to move on to other things.

Last week I found myself listening to a sermon on modesty. God convicted me - strongly. I had NO IDEA that I was doing half the stuff I was. I found myself having to repent for failing to follow God's commands on this.

Then, just a couple days later, I got a somewhat inappropriate comment on one of my photos on Flickr. It was a full body shot of me wearing my half marathon shirt and leggings. Clearly, the leggings are too revealing and God was telling me not to wear them anymore, at least on their own.

I didn't have any money, but was thinking I could get something when I got my tax refund or something. Yesterday, I broke from wearing leggings and a shirt to church, and wore a dress (I only had one that still fit after my weight gain). None of my jeans fit anymore. My wardrobe options were extremely limited. My money was eaten up in tax prep. I'm in the hole and digging deeper.

So I have to give a shoutout to Jane for giving me $60 yesterday to help buy new clothes. THANK YOU! Brad added an additional $5. I knew this was a sign that God wanted me to do this NOW, not at some point down the road when I have the money.

And so today after Palm Sunday services, Brad and I hit WalMart (useless except for a tight pair of bicycle shorts that I have to wear beneath dresses and skirts to keep my thighs from chaffing). For the first time, I looked at clothes with an eye to pleasing Him, not myself, and found myself passing up a pair of jeans that fit me perfectly. We couldn't find jeans that didn't show my curves (though I would still like to get a pair for hiking).

Then we went over to Old Navy. Again, difficult to find anything. We finally settled on an XL (am I that fat?!?) white dress that I can wear leggings under. As we walked in I observed a Muslim woman wearing jeans under her dress - very modest. I saw it as an object lesson from God to choose my clothes wisely.

Then over to Dress Barn. Pricey, but they had a couple nice skirts - one full length, one knee length, both very colorful. That used up all $65 and I ended up paying for one skirt out of my own money.

I'm not sure how I am going to like this. Will I ever be able to wear jeans again? I don't know right now. What will I wear to the gym? Again, I don't know. I can only take solace that as I embark on this, my only concern is to please Him. Like when He convicted me of headcovering, I thought I would hate it since I am not a huge fan of hats. But I find the lace and cloth coverings are hardly noticeable, and I have found I don't really mind it.

We will see where this goes. I only want Him to lead me. I really want to follow.

And that brings me to my last point, something that has been niggling at my mind for a while. I heard a Piper sermon a while back where he challenged people to pray before and after everything they did. How would that change things? He specifically mentioned music, and I know I have some music on my computer that is not God-honoring. At some point I need to make some time to go through it and delete the "bad" songs. God, give me discerntment as I do this. Help me to keep only You in mind and give me strength to get rid of what You want me to. The music is backed up on my flash drives, but that's something to deal with later.

So that's where I am. God is done talking about hell, but I am absolutely thrilled that He is continuing to speak to me. Who am I that the Lord of the universe would say anything to me? Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Man-centeredness vs. God-centeredness

I posted this because in a very real way I have been struggling with the issues discussed here - God's fairness, putting Him in the dock, judging Him by my human standards. God spoke to me through this phone call on the program. More and more I am beginning to see my problem is not so much about questions I am asking, but that the questions themselves come from a worldview that is not consistent with the Bible.

This something I have prayed about - that my heart would be in sync with the Bible. And it's not. I'm beginning to see that I am following a man-centered Gospel instead of a God-centered one. God showed more of Himself to me last year - that alone took a divine work - but all the intellectual learning never went on beyond that. The world made sense, God made sense; let's not rock the boat.

My Dad's death rocked that boat. It capsized it. All of a sudden the world didn't make sense, God didn't make sense, nothing in my entire life made sense. Since then I have been drowning is a sea of my own doubts and questions about God's goodness.

Why? Because what I leaned last year never got down to my heart. I still think in a man-centered way instead of a God-centered way. Maybe He is trying to change that and make that head learning travel the long 18 inches from my head to my heart, to really change how I view things. What lens will I see the world through?

The Dividing Line
March 31, 2011
Dr. James White
Excerpt from 59:54 though 1:05:43, talking to a caller, Daniel
Full audio here.

Daniel: In having a proper foundation for defending our being born with a sinful nature, I’m looking at how that relates to Adam being our just representative and trying to articulate that in a faithful way. I’ve heard everything from "well, sometimes we get Presidents we didn’t elect and their decisions effect us" to "we were actually sinning in Adam" to "we had him on our fantasy football team and so when he lost, we lost." I feel like that has to bear a lot of weight because that relates to the justice of having inherited corruption. So I’m just wondering how you would articulate that.

JW: I would articulate that by challenging the direction of argumentation behind the question. In other words, you just said it bears a lot of weight because of the issue of justice. Yeah, if you’re willing to put God in the dock and judge His justice and how He has dealt with mankind, as if we are even invited to do so, yes. But I think the Biblical response is that this is what God has done, and since it is God doing it, that’s what defines justice. Fundamentally, Adam’s role as the Federal Head of the race is an act determined by the Creator Himself. God has determined that Adam is to represent us in the same way that He has determined – without asking our permission – that Jesus be the Federal Head of those who are in covenant with Him.

And so the issue is "Are God’s acts just?", and by definition they are, and we live in Western culture where that has been reversed, to where - at one point that would not even be questioned – now we actually think that there is some standard outside of God by which to judge His actions as to whether they are just or not, and honestly I would challenge that on a presuppositional level.

...We do know how (these things) work in the sense that the Judge of all the earth will do right, and in essence the foolishness of the question is that we could actually pick somebody better. If God created Adam so as to function the way that Adam did so as to bring about His greatest glory through the redemption of a particular people through Christ Jesus, the whole idea of putting God in the dock and saying, "Well, we’re really not sure that we like the way You did this," is really more of a fundamental rebellion against the creatorship of God as it is anything else.

There is a sense in which we struggle today because so many are so infected – including within the church – are so infected with a humanism that lowers God and subjects Him to external criteria, that it’s really hard to talk with folks who have been infected that way, and they’re in the church. That’s why we need a lot more...preaching on the transcendence and holiness of God...Just to be taken with the "otherness" of God is normally enough of an answer for us to realize, "Wow, that’s a dumb question to ask."

I’m not saying “dumb” in the sense that we shouldn’t deal with this, but that if we recognize our creatureliness, and recognize His creatorship, we will actually be staying on the proper grounds to understand the Biblical response. If we have dragged Him down to where He’s standing on the same ground we are, I’m not sure we can answer the question in a meaningful fashion.

Daniel: I think the big problem is [people say], “Well, I was born this way and I can’t control it. Now it’s not my fault; it’s Adam’s.

JW: ...We see it all around us. It’s amazing how we have dehumanized ourselves in that sense. [You need to ask], "What do you mean I have no choice about this?" We are human beings, we are created in the image of God, and to recognize our falleness in Adam, to recognize total depravity, is only to make sin all the more guilty, because we know we can control ourselves, but we don’t want to.

This whole idea that people have developed – Oh, we can’t control ourselves; it’s all genetics… The Christian view of man is much higher than that – it is much higher than that. It makes the guilt of man even deeper because we are created in the image of God and we can control ourselves. I don’t buy this "We can’t control ourselves" stuff. Sin, yes – it's our nature – but we do it because we love it. And every single one of us knows when that temptation arises, we don’t have to do it. And yet so many people today have bought into the idea that we do have to.

Alpha and Omega Ministries Facebook page.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


The first two paragraphs are what really touched me, but the rest was too good not to share. :) I did not write any of this; I am simply sharing something I liked.

Mars Hill Church – Seattle, WA
Pastor Mark Driscoll
Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions - Predestination

January 20, 2008
Romans 9
Excerpt from 1:02:30 through 1:06:00 in the sermon.

God is God, and we are not. And we have no right to tell God that He's not doing a good job at being God. We have no right to be like Pharaoh and to say, "Well, that's His opinion, He didn't consult me, I think I could do better given the opportunity. He should inquire of me, seek my wisdom, heed my counsel. He has some errors, He has some folly, He has some mistakes. I disagree with Him, I judge Him, I denounce Him, and I demand of Him to give an answer to me!"

What Paul is arguing for is humility. He says, "Who are you to think that you would be a better God than God?" Ambrosiaster, an early church father, says it this way, "It is a great indignity and presumption for a man to answer back to God - the unjust to the just, the evil to the good, the imperfect to the perfect, the weak to the strong, the corruptible to the incorruptible, the mortal to the immortal, the servant to the lord, the creature to the creator."

Friends, here's the bottom line. There are only three options. Number one, Satan chooses who has sin forgiven and eternal life granted. That means that no one receives grace!

Number two, sinners choose who is to be saved. The result is that we all have already chosen! We have chosen sin, we have chosen Satan, we have chosen rebellion, we have chosen death, we have chosen rejection of God, we have chosen to be objects of wrath, we have chosen hell! Every single human being has chosen! By virtue of sinning, you have chosen! You've chosen Satan, you've chosen death, you've chosen wrath, you've chosen hell!

And the third option is that God, too, would choose, and that God would choose to save some. That God would choose in undeserving, ill-deserving mercy and grace to save some. Not only that, He would come into human history as Jesus Christ. He would live on this earth in humility to be tempted as we are, yet without sin. That He would go to the cross and He would substitute Himself in our place for our sins and that our God would die and would Himself endure the penalty and punishment for sin, and that He would rise and He would give salvation as a gift, not dependent upon pursuing Him, desiring Him, choosing Him, or yearning for Him. Though He invites us, none of us take Him up on that offer. And so He pursues us - vigilantly, mercifully, compassionately, lovingly, and continually.

And some of you will say, "This doesn't sound like God is loving." Yet Ephesians 1 says, "in love He predestined us." The predestination is the love of God in action.