Thursday, October 31, 2013

One Little German Monk

As a young law student, Martin Luther abruptly changed course and entered a monastery, believing that St. Anne had protected him from a near-fatal lightening strike. Once he'd become an Augustinian priest, however, he  found  himself continually struggling to find assurance of  salvation.  He flung himself into fasting, penitence, and ritual, agonizing in his efforts to appease God. One of his mentors encouraged him to look to Christ alone. That,  Luther could not do. He'd been taught, by the Church of Rome, that God's favor must be earned (just as he had earned St. Anne's protection in the storm  by vowing to become a monk).

Seeing Luther's bright intellect, his superiors sent him to Rome, where he began noticing that the vibrant faith of early Christians had been replaced by the dead rituals of Catholicism. Disturbed by this observation, he felt further alienation from God, though he continued his priestly duties.

Upon arriving at the monastery in Whittenberg, Germany, Luther earned his doctorate in theology. This degree brought him into a teaching position at the University of Whittenberg. His preparations for his course on Paul's Epistle to the Romans revolutionized his relationship with the Lord by convincing him that faith was the only criterion for salvation. He wrote:

My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement 'the just shall live by faith.' Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning...This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.
Once Luther experienced the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, he grew even more troubled by the Roman church's practices--particularly the practice of selling indulgences. On October 31, 1517, he nailed his 95 Theses to the University's chapel door. condemning the selling of indulgences as well as promoting the idea of justification by faith. Indeed, he considered the doctrine of justification by faith to be foundational to Biblical Christianity. At one point, he wrote:

In short, if this article concerning Christ — the doctrine that we are justified and saved through Him alone and consider all apart from Him damned — is not professed, all resistance and restraint are at an end. Then there is, in fact, neither measure nor limit to any heresy and error.

Rome, of course, did not appreciate Luther's theology. It regarded his teaching as an affront to papal authority, demanding that he recant. But Luther considered Scripture, rather than the pope, to be the supreme authority in representing God's truth, so he boldly accepted excommunication. Along with other Reformers like Calvin and Zwingli, Martin Luther brought much of Europe back to the Bible.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Main Issue

Luther objected to Roman Catholic doctrine because it exploited poor people by having them pay money so that their departed loved ones could escape Purgatory earlier. But the selling of indulgences was, in actuality, a surface issue. It merely highlighted the sad fact that Catholic teaching deviates from Scripture.

The folks at The Cripplegate blog have posted an excellent presentation entitled 5 differences between Catholic theology and the gospel, which offers a brief, easily read, comparison between the two schools of thought. Since I doubt my ability to improve on their post, I'd strongly encourage you to read it for yourselves. Although the writer fails to use Scripture in demonstrating the Biblical gospel, those who are familiar with basic Protestant teaching should be able to see flaws in Roman Catholicism.

The Reformers, like Luther, understood the discrepancies Rome and the Bible. Yet, he  suffered excommunication and exile, firm in his stance that Scripture must be preferred over both tradition and Papal pronouncements. In his own defense, he said:

Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I can and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor wise to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.“On May 25, the Emperor issued his Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.

Would that 21st Century Christians had Luther's unwavering passion for God's Word! Tomorrow, as we celebrate Reformation Day, please remember that the Bible brought those brave Reformers to stand against Rome. And to stand for God's Word.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Guest Blogger...John Calvin

Time is short today, so (in celebration of Reformation Day) I'll simply offer this quote from the great reformer, John Calvin:

Those who, rejecting Scripture, imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter. (Inst. 1.9.1)

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Christian Celebration Of October 31st

October 31st is coming, with its celebration of devils and witches defiantly raised against All Saints' Day. For years, I hated the day. Even now, although I have sympathy for the little ones who enjoy dressing up and collecting candy, I hate the essence of Halloween. Thankfully, however, October 31st also marks a pivotal point in Christian history.
Internet image

On October 31st, 1517, a German  monk named Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Whittenburg Church, denouncing the unbiblical practice of selling indulgences. This key event signaled the official birth of the Protestant Reformation, which sought to restore the Church to Biblical Christianity. While Luther wasn't the only prominent figure to decry Rome's deviation's from Scripture (or even the first), his actions galvanized reformers.

Along with other great reformers, Luther pointed Christians back to Scripture's authority, rejecting the notion that the Pope's pronouncements held equal weight to God's Word. His cry of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) serves as one of the lynchpins of reformed theology.  Obviously, I'm deeply committed to this lynchpin, and praise the Lord for Luther's role in making the Bible accessible to all Christians.

October 31st, as far as I'm concerned, has nothing to do with ghosts, but everything to do with the Holy Spirit raising up faithful men like  Martin Luther to defend  His Word. So, I celebrate Reformation Day, thankful that the Lord used that day to  move His church back to purity. Join me in making this coming Thursday a day to rejoice in God's grace.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

At First Sight

Almost every Christian who knows hymns loves Fanny Crosby (1820-1915). Blinded very early in life, Fanny composed over 8,000 poems and gospel songs, many of which anticipate seeing Jesus upon her entrance to heaven. In fact, she once told a preacher that she probably would have asked for blindness at birth so that the first sight she'd ever see would be Jesus' face. The hymn I'm sharing today emphasizes  her eagerness to look upon Him.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mr. Shough's Graduation Gift

Mr. Shough, who taught advanced composition when I was a high school senior, demanded much from his students, causing me to remain grateful that my guidance counselor urged me to take his class. Sometimes, as I blog, I notice myself employing various techniques I learned from him. (I always smile to myself at such moments.) Forty years later and 3100 miles away, he still mentors me through my memories.

Lately, I've been thinking about Mr. Shough as I've prayed about my writing skills. In particular, I've remembered him slipping William Strunk's The Elements Of Style into my hand  on graduation night, signifying his confidence that I had talent worth developing. I cherished  his faith in me.

Yet the book, written in 1901, seemed dry and pedantic to me. I was a teenager, and still found playing with my dog,  driving my wheelchair around the neighborhood, and chatting on the phone preferable to reading a dusty old book about comma placement and paragraph structure. It was the summer for swimming  lessons and Easter Seals Camp, not for grammar lessons. So the book nestled on my bookshelf, reminding me of me teacher's faith in me, but remaining unread.

As my disability's changes required me to get a center-mounted joystick, I sacrificed the ability to turn pages. Consequently, I gave away many books that I could no longer manage...including that thin volume of The Elements Of Style. I knew I'd never read it.

The other day, however, I knew I needed a refresher on writing skills. My blog, while reasonably well-written (if I may say so), needs improvement. It represents the Lord, and therefore the writing must show honor to Him. I don't want personal acclaim, but I definitely want my writing to reflect His excellence, underscoring that He is not a sloppy God.

My desire to write for His glory led me to download The Elements Of Style to my computer's Kindle App Thursday evening. Yes, it's still somewhat dry, but not nearly as off-putting now as it was in 1973. Perhaps I'm more mature, and consequently more patient with things I read. More likely, I simply understand that, because my writing has stagnated, I need a boost. And, even though I'm reading Strunk's book electronically, Mr. Shough's graduation gift finally offers me the guidance I want.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Unexplained Love

Cerebral Palsy obviously distorts my body in highly visible ways, but it also has effects that people don't see. And those effects are inappropriate to discuss with anyone who's not involved in my personal care, so I won't describe them here. But Sunday was particularly horrible, leaving me feeling ugly and disgusting.

Through it all, John affirmed his love for me. He saw the filth, but he loved me in spite of it, reminding me that he believes I've made him "the happiest man in the world" by becoming his wife. Although I doubt he's consulted every other male over the age of 18 on the planet to ascertain their individual levels of happiness, I certainly appreciate his declaration. His love for me, while completely baffling, touches me with its sweetness and sincerity.

John's love for me dramatically illustrates Christ's love for the Church, which He originally demonstrated in His dealings with Jerusalem:

and say, Thus says the Lord God to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth are of the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare.
“When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine. Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. 11 And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. 12 And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen and silk and embroidered cloth. You ate fine flour and honey and oil. You grew exceedingly beautiful and advanced to royalty. 14 And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed on you, declares the Lord God. ~~Ezekiel 16:3-14 (ESV)

That passage goes on to indict Jerusalem for her unfaithfulness, and I want to acknowledge its proper context. Yet I believe it applies equally to the Church. We did nothing to attract the Lord, but indeed were pretty repulsive and helpless. (Romans 5:8 says that Christ died for us while we still writhed in our sin.) The Lord doesn't love us because we're beautiful. Instead, His love is the very source of our beauty! So John's love for me, especially at the most repulsive points of my disability, remind me of Christ's inexplicable love. What a blessing to live with this reminder.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A New Opportunity

Our evening Personal Care Attendant had only planned to work until she could buy a new car. Now, over five years later, she's needing to move along. Which I totally understand, so I'm not at all faulting her decision. I very much appreciate all the years she's given me, as well as her flexibility and willingness to adapt to changes in our schedule.

Tuesday, we called a  woman I had almost hired in July for a different shift, and she enthusiastically accepted the job. Alas, she emailed me this morning, saying that on further thought she realized that she just can't offer me a commitment right now.

So I fed Craigslist another $25 and posted a carefully worded ad. I've already had a few responses, and scheduled one interview with someone who seems to be exactly what I want. Of course, she may not be--we'll see.

All this to say I'll quite likely be blogging between interviews for the next several days. Hopefully the process won't be very long. And, more to the point, hopefully I'll be less distracted by finding a PCA so I can concentrate on writing blog posts about the Lord. Meanwhile, I'll try to rejoice in this new opportunity to trust Him.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Not Bowing To Numbers

Each day, I check Blogger's stats to see how many hits I've had. So far today, I've had 86, which is a nice increase from yesterday's 53, but quite a plummet from last week's pinnacle of 956. So I approached my composition page today, wondering how to get my numbers back up.

No sooner had I entertained that vain thought than I realized I'm like seeker sensitive churches, more concerned about increasing numbers than about being faithful to use my writing abilities to honor the Lord. So what if only 53 people read my blog yesterday? As long as I wrote with the motivation to please Him, the numbers can rise, fall or fluctuate wildly without disturbing me.

My popularity must never become the issue.

My popularity soared in college, mostly because a more popular girl genuinely liked  me and therefore pretty much demanded that her circle include me. (Only recently have I realized that I gained acceptance because of her.) But once I'd reached the status of being part of the "in crowd," I noticed a change in my relationship with the Lord.

The compromises were never obvious. I didn't smoke, drink or sacrifice my virginity. I read my Bible daily (even in their presence) and attended church and Bible Studies. But I knew that my heart focused more on maintaining my popularity at school than it did on honoring Jesus. The Holy Spirit always made sure that He confronted me periodically with my double-minded attitudes.  Eventually, He graciously brought me to repentance.

So, now I've tasted popularity as a blogger, and I feel the sweet temptation to analyze my blog to see what types of posts might reel in more readers. But hunger for popularity inevitably requires compromises. Churches adapt to culture, shortening sermons or abandoning hymns. Coeds reduce their zeal for Christ, maintaining only outward devotions. But pardon me if I decline to find out what bloggers do to increase readership. The numbers aren't worth it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fall Foilage, Amid Other Assorted Delights

Although this year's foliage has been less spectacular in downtown Boston than it usually is, John and I went up there yesterday hoping to find some. We did see lots of fall colors (not as much as we'd wanted, but a satisfactory amount), and we also encountered a few other pleasant surprises. Out of over 80 pictures John took yesterday,  I've whittled it down to eleven to share today. Consequently, I will minimize my narrative in favor of allowing you to enjoy the beauty and fun of Boston in October.
There was another State Park Ranger with this mounted Ranger who kindly took this photo. In fact, after the mounted Ranger left, we enjoyed a nice chat with her. Sadly, we also witnessed some young men with very sexist attitudes towards her.
I love this house on Beacon Hill, with its rooftop garden. The colored tree tops from Boston Common frame it well.

Looking  out across Charles Street from The Soldiers and Sailors Monument offered a stunning panorama!
This path on the Common made the quintessential fall picture, complete with dappled sunlight. Easily my favorite.
We met these three dogs on our journey. Aren't they gorgeous?
Squirrels usually won't come this close to our wheelchairs, but with next to no acorns on  the ground this year, this brazen little guy evidently hoped I'd give him a treat. Sorry buddy.
Our Park Ranger friend found us again at the Public  Garden. Alas, she hadn't arrested her tormenters, and said she deals with that sort of disrespect all the time. While I firmly believe the Lord ordains gender roles within family and church structures, it's wrong to think women should be excluded from secular fields. She had a more gracious attitude about the matter than I, and dismissed it with a smile.
Our new friend asked a tourist to take a photo of the three of us.
After lunch, we wandered down the  Greenway in search of foliage. This tree cooperated.
I loved the rainbow of colors on this portion of the Greenway, especially with that shocking patch of purple flowers..
As we neared South Station to get our train home, I noticed these cheery autumn flowers and thought they made a fitting end to our hunt for fall colors. What a surprising, delightful day!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Treasure Hymns Hold

Hymns. These days, churches tend toward more contemporary praise music, which indeed is more emotionally stirring. For many years, I preferred contemporary praise music, as befitting a product of the Jesus Movement (from San Francisco, to boot!) of the 1960s and 70s. Thankfully, through most of the 80s the church I attended slipped a couple hymns into each Sunday morning service, so I learned them. Certainly, I preferred the praise music, but the hymns weren't intolerable. I wouldn't admit (even to myself) how much I liked loved them.

In the past several years, however, I've come to appreciate the depth of theology that hymns encapsulate. While I still like modern praise songs, hymns (with some exceptions) focus my mind on Jesus and His gospel. The lyrics teach the great doctrines of Christianity, celebrating their wonders as they help us memorize great truths.

I would like my Sunday blog posts from this point forth to feature the great hymns, maintaining an attitude of worship begun at church. I pray these hymns will help us reflect on the Lord, His majesty and His gospel.

When I Survey The Wonderous Cross was one of the first hymns I memorized as a young Christian. It summarized my conversion experience. Hearing how Jesus died in my place, for my sin, made clear demands on me.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Death Of A Vision

On December 18, 1990, a very special friend of mine lost his battle with AIDS. Reportedly, Jesus appeared to him that morning, telling him it was time to go. So, surrounded by his mother and friends from her church, he took off his oxygen mask. He lingered until 11:00 that night, listening to the prayers and worship songs of those who had gathered in his  hospital room. At that point, his cousin told me, he said he again saw Jesus, and then  he drew his last breath.

Over the next few months, his mother called me several times. In one conversation, she told me that Jesus had given her a vision that He now employed her son in heaven as an intercessor for people living with AIDS. Her vision was confirmed, she added, by an acquaintance of hers who independently experienced the "exact same" vision.

This vision offered me a measure of comfort as I grieved. It offered a sense of purpose to a death that otherwise held no meaning that I could understand. So I embraced it.

I continued serving with Love In Action, and its AIDS support group, frequently praying for those who had tested positive for HIV. One night, while praying with particular intensity, I found myself praying to my deceased friend as if, because the visions cast him in the role of an intercessor for those with HIV, he was some sort of intermediary between me and the Lord.

My misdirected prayer amounted to necromancy! Deuteronomy 18:10-12 clearly prohibits this practice, so my actions horrified me. I instantly repented, and have never again prayed to any being except the Lord.

My sin of praying to a dead person caused me to begin questioning the assumptions of the Charismatic movement, beginning with visions and prophetic utterances. I began searching the Bible and reading John MacArthur's book, Charismatic Chaos. I began my journey away from Charismatic teaching, learning to evaluate my subjective experiences by Scripture rather than forcing patch-work fragments of Bible verses (in conveniently selected versions) to lend credibility to my experiences.

The Lord used my friend and his mother to teach me the critical importance of His Word, even when it challenges my theology. Over the 22 years since He began delivering me from Charismatic theology, I've had to relinquish some cherished experiences that I'd believed were personal revelations from Him, and the process has been humbling. But I rejoice in His faithfulness to correct me through His Word.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Walking Away From Strange Fire

When I first began seriously questioning Charismatic theology, my pastors and my friends couldn't accept that Scripture gave me my basis for turning from the doctrines and practices of the Charismatic movement. Mind you, I'd pretty much always maintained a certain reserve regarding prophecy, healing, "words of knowledge" and the like, often baffling and frustrating my friends when I failed to "feel" the Lord's presence. But 1991 marked a decisive turn. Although I remained in that church until 2002 (and noticed that the senior pastor used the Bible in his sermons more than he had prior to 1991), I no longer identified myself as a Charismatic.

As I've been watching the Strange Fire Conference livestreamed this week, I've relived some memories of my struggles toward a more Biblical theology, as well as some difficult conversations with pastors and friends who saw me as having gone off the deep end. Providentially, the Lord is using this conference to affirm my journey out of Charismatic theology. How gracious of Him to assure me that I'm on the right path!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Liberal Tolerance

Not too surprisingly (at least to people who know me well), I've managed to get embroiled in a Twitter conversation with a non-Christian who takes enormous offence at my unwillingness to condone same sex marriage. At this point, he and I apparently disagree on the nature of tolerance.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says:

noun \ˈtä-lə-rən(t)s, ˈtäl-rən(t)s\
: willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own
: the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant
medical : your body's ability to become adjusted to something (such as a drug) so that its effects are experienced less strongly

This definition implies that tolerance means bearing with, or accepting, things one dislikes. I first learned the word as a small child, when my physical and occupational therapists exhorted me to tolerate my leg braces, hand splints and exercises meant to decrease the severity of my Cerebral Palsy. I understood, even as a five-year-old, that they didn't expect me to like my braces, splints and exercises (indeed, I hated them with a passion), but they certainly expected me to accept them.

Lately, theological and political liberals seem to equate tolerance with approval. My conversation partner on Twitter, for instance, views my opposition to same sex marriage as a denial of his rights. But I accept the fact that same sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, and will soon be legal in all 50 states. I believe its legalization will ultimately impinge on religious liberties (and perhaps I'll cite examples in future blog posts), but I tolerate the fact that same sex marriage is the law of the land.

My conversation partner, conversely, has forbidden me from basing my arguments against same sex marriage on my Christian beliefs. That being the case, he demonstrates intolerance toward Christianity. I don't hold illusions that my reasons for opposing same sex marriage could persuade him to adopt my point of view. But since he demanded to know why I take the position I do, I wish he'd tolerate my replies.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blog Break To Watch Videos

Sorry to be brief today, but I want to catch the Live Stream of  the Strange Fire Conference at Grace Community Church. This conference highlights dangers of Charismatic theology. As a former Charismatic, I look forward to watching a few sessions.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Life With Fewer Cannolis

Thursday, I received results from a blood test my doctor had done three days after my birthday. The birthday I'd so joyously celebrated for two weeks (including the day before my appointment) by indulging on birthday cake, pizza, cheesecake, leftover pizza, cannoli and another generous piece of pizza. During meals in between, I splurged on white chocolate. So the blood test showed an elevated enzyme in my liver, indicating potential gallbladder problems.

Happy birthday, Senior Citizen!

So now I'm taking my doctor's advice to seriously reduce fat from my diet. That means, among other modifications that break my heart, way fewer cannolis. I hear that collective gasp from my regular readers. (My mother-in-law also gasped in sympathy when we told her I'd need to drastically diminish my cannoli intake.)

In reflecting on the new restrictions to my diet, I flashed back to a comment a friend made just the day before my doctor's letter arrived. As is usually the case when we see this man, he lamented the dietary limitations his doctors have imposed on him, admitting without shame that he followed the advice very selectively. "What's the point of being healthy," he wanted to know, "if you can't have quality of life?" I nodded decisively in agreement.

Yet, my friend's comment showed a narrow understanding of what gives life quality. He believes life ends in death. Scripture, on the other hand, declares that human life is eternal, whether a person spends it in hell for rejecting Jesus or spends it in heaven as a result of believing that His blood paid the penalty for sin. For those of us in the second group, true quality of life revolves around the Lord and His interests.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ~~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

I see my body succumbing to advancing age. The elevated enzyme in my liver is only one example that "the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be." But the Lord blessed me with a doctor who recommends unpleasant lifestyle changes that, while decreasing my temporal "quality of life," will enable me to continue investing myself in eternal matters.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I'm A Silent Fool

What should a blogger do  when her mind is consumed with matters that shouldn't be broadcast over the Internet? She should remain silent.

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.~~Proverbs 17:28 (ESV)

Oh, I have opinions regarding certain matters that I'm just itching to express, and I would most likely get plenty of hits on such blog posts. I've posted things in the past, venting my  emotions. Although some of those posts generated comments reprimanding my unChristlike attitudes, they were among my  most popular posts. I  have to wonder, based on the popularity of such posts, if my readers secretly prefer sensationalism.

Well,  folks, once again various situations disturb me, and blogging offers the double "comfort" of catharsis and a spike in readership. But I'll resist the temptation  this time,  preferring to be a fool whom my readers, while they may be disappointed (without admitting it) by my restraint, consider wise.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Have You Prayed For Our President Lately?

President Obama's policies are, at best, misguided. His determination to force the Affordable Care Act on a nation that neither wants nor can afford it smacks of tyranny, tempting me to call him a tyrant. But I won't. Better to label his actions than to personally attack the man. I have good reason to refrain from demonizing him...or any other Democrat. I've been on their side of the political aisle.

From age 20 to age 43, I was a registered member of the Democratic party, and in my mid-20s I avidly read Sojourners magazine, a publication
that links a socialistic world view with Christianity. As I got involved in pro-life issues and ex-gay ministry, however, the tension between what I believed  as a Christian and my loyalties to my political party grew, causing me terrible anguish whenever I cast a ballot.

Furthermore, my conviction that Republicans had no regard for the disadvantaged failed to hold water as friends with ultra-conservative political leanings were the first to help when PCAs called in sick or I needed rides. Hmm. Their actions and more than obvious love for me seriously undercut my political assumptions.

But this essay really isn't about my journey into the GOP, so much as it's an explanation of why I must be careful not to be contemptuous of our President. Yes, I strongly oppose his Affordable Care Act! Most certainly, I believe his posture these past two weeks has been childish, and that he shows more concern for his agenda than for the Americans he professes to want to help.

Scripture tells Christians to pray for those in secular authority (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Christian conservatives would do well to remember that Paul wrote this injunction during a time when Roman emperors both oppressed Jews and ruthlessly persecuted Christians. While we should decry our President's policies, and challenge his stubborn refusal to negotiate, let's also pray that the  Lord will bless him and help him to lead our country well.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Wiser Generation

Being older, I guess I'm now supposed to be wiser. And in turn, I should impart whatever wisdom I may have to younger generations, with the assumption that my experience and example will guide them, helping them avoid the many mistakes I've made throughout my life while emulating my successes. This proposition seems reasonable. Except, in most instances, to young people.

As a 17-year-old and recent convert to the Lord, I held little respect for most older Christians. Unlike me and my friends in the Jesus Movement, older Christians seemed trapped in religious tradition, and I secretly doubted that many of them had actually been born again. How could I listen to them when I felt quite certain that God had revealed Himself to my generation rather than theirs?

Yes, the Bible teaches to respect older people.

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. ~~Leviticus 19:32 (ESV)

But, in my youthful arrogance, I chose to ignore verses such as the one I've just quoted, telling myself it couldn't possibly apply in 1971. The Holy Spirit, I erroneously thought, was doing something new...something that older people (whom I seriously doubted truly knew Jesus anyway) couldn't possibly understand. 

And therefore the thought that older people had anything to teach me seemed absolutely ridiculous! I knew better, I assured myself. As a matter of fact, I had no doubt that my elders would do well to receive instruction from me. From Christians in my generation.

And now I fancy that young people would learn from me? Frankly, no.

Although time has taught me much, and consequently I have some wisdom to pass down to younger people, I don't flatter myself that any would listen to me. They'll learn, as I did, by making their own mistakes, through which the Lord will humble them as He continues to humble me. This truth, I begrudgingly understand.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The True Crippling

Being physically disabled, in  and of itself, rarely bothers me. Of course, moments come when people frustrate me with assumptions that I'm intellectually impaired. At other times, I resent the way my speech defect hamper face-to-face communication, even with people who know me. For the most part, however, I see some of God's purposes in my Cerebral Palsy, and can embrace it as a platform for displaying His grace and power.

That acceptance becomes strained when circumstances remind me that my disability, as well as John's, force us to depend on Big Government. Circumstance such as the government shutdown.

In principle, I applaud John Boehner and the House Republicans for standing against the Affordable Care Act, which threatens the most vulnerable members of society by depleting Medicare/Medicaid as well as by casting the elderly and disabled as drains on the system. The Affordable Care Act, besides creating a myriad of regulations that will overburden health care professionals until they compromise the quality of care they can  offer, will increase our national debt (which is already way too high). The GOP is absolutely right--America simply can't afford Obamacare!

Yet, this government shutdown threatens, should it continue, to affect programs that John and I rely on for basic necessities. I would give anything to be free of the government subsidies that currently sustain us, believing that families, churches and private charities should care for those of us who truly can't care for ourselves. In short, I do not like being a ward of the state!

So, much to my disappointment, part of me hopes Boehner will cave in to the President's tyrannical temper tantrum. Although I know the Affordable Care Act will damage the country in more ways than I can imagine, part of me fears that the government shutdown may leave me and John destitute if it continues. And, alas, it's clear that President Obama has no intention of backing down.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Kicking The Bucket List

1 Corinthians 15, which I read during my personal devotions last week, excited me so greatly that I just can't keep it to myself. In this passage, Paul teaches that Christ's literal resurrection from the dead assures us of our own resurrection when He returns to earth. If Christ wasn't raised, he asserts (verses 17-19), we Christians believe in Him for nothing. We might as well live self-indulgent lives (verse 32a) because this present life is all we  have.

But, he argues, Christ has risen, bringing us the promise of eternal life. For Christians, that promise means an eternity of holiness with Him, with freedom from these wretched sin natures that currently pull at us. Yesterday, my pastor preached on what Christians can look forward to (The Change We Can All Look Forward To), and his sermon compliments 1 Corinthians 15 well. This wonderful change, with its liberation from sickness, pain, sorrow and sin, comes about because Christ is risen!

If, therefore, the Lord's resurrection promises eternal life, it implies that our brief sojourn in this life shouldn't be wasted on selfish pursuits.

31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. ~~1 Corinthians 15:31-34 (ESV)

Christians have a responsibility to spend this present life telling the world about Him and living in ways which model His holiness. Sadly, many 21st Century Christians get caught up in looking for ways Christianity can benefit our present situations that we see little need for repentance and living for Him. In fact, we have "bucket lists," demonstrating how little we believe heaven will satisfy us. If we think in terms of eternity at all.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, at a distinct point in history, rose from  the dead in a physical, glorified body, and  He promises to raise us up in physical, glorified bodies. We therefore need not pursue earthly lusts, knowing that He offers us an eternity of holiness. And no "bucket list" can rival His promise.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Resurrection: A Woman's Telling

Yesterday, I began sharing my observations from 1 Corinthians 15, which  teaches the doctrine of resurrection (both Christ's resurrection and ours). As I typed, I noticed myself crossing a line into teaching, and it bothered me. Scripture makes it clear that, unless I confine my audience to women and/or children, I mustn't assume the office of a Bible teacher.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. ~~1 Timothy 2:11-12 (ESV)

I can, I believe, write about the things of God, but not in a way that establishes spiritual authority over men. It's a very fine line, and difficult to define without lapsing into legalism, but I saw
something in my attitude yesterday that went over a boundary.

Women certainly can (and should) proclaim the glorious news that Jesus has risen from the dead! Indeed, the risen Lord appeared first to Mary Magdalen, commissioning her to tell the disciples that she had seen Him (John 20:11-18). Notice that He didn't make her an apostle, nor did the Church give her a position of authority in recognition of the time she'd spent under His teaching (Luke 10:38-42). Again, a fine line.

1 Corinthians 15 excited me as I read it this past week, helping me grasp the significance of Christ's resurrection in a way I never have. And I believe the Holy Spirit showed me how neglect of the resurrection has weakened 21st Century evangelicals, causing us to focus almost exclusively on our temporal lives so that we (and I include myself in this indictment) forget the eternal picture. So I will blog about the passage, but in keeping with Mary Magdalen's posture of simply relaying what I have seen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Of First Importance

Does Christ's resurrection really matter? And if it matters, is it all that important to believe that He rose literally and physically? More to the point, we ask in our self-serving way, what direct impact does His resurrection have on our day-to-day lives?

The atonement Christ made for sin satisfies us. Much like Monopoly's "Get Out Of Jail Free" card, His blood excuses us from the penalty of hell, since He accepted all the judgment for our sin. Those who accept the fact that they need salvation from their sin understand the message of the cross and embrace it gratefully. Sadly, some then misunderstand God's grace as license to continue living as they please, reveling in the fact that Jesus died for them.

According to 1 Corinthians 15, however, the doctrine of resurrection is essential to the Christian faith. I linked to the chapter, hoping you'll read it before continuing with this blog post.  In this chapter, the apostle Paul not only provides historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection that his contemporary readers could have easily verified, but he demonstrated that the promise of being raised with Christ has implications on how believers should live.

Paul insisted that the death, burial and literal resurrection  of Christ were crucial and non-negotiable tenants.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ~~1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (ESV)

To be a Christian, one absolutely has to trust in those three historical facts. And without the resurrection, Christ's death  and burial would have only shown Him to be a crazed religious fanatic Who, while teaching some important ethical principles, made the disastrous mistake of claiming to be God's Son. The resurrection, of course, turned out to be the consummate demonstration of His deity.

Over the next few weeks, I intend to discuss various points Paul made in 1 Corinthians 15, believing that 21st Century Christians need to focus more on its centrality to the Gospel and its implications on how we live. May the Holy Spirit fill all of us with wonder as we encounter the  Living God. What could possibly matter more?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

On The Way To A Cannoli

Yesterday's mission: to get a Limoncello cannoli at Mike's Pastry in the North End. To accomplish this most noble and important task, we got off the Red Line at South Station and proceeded up the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy  Greenway. Upon entering Dewey Park, we noticed a young man playing the jellyfish Street Piano that we'd seen last week.
We asked his permission to post his picture on my blog, giving him my card so he could see it. In return, he gave us his website URL, with the explanation that he's a singer/songwriter. I promised to share   the link, and started up the Greenway toward my future cannoli. I stopped, realizing that a video clip of him singing one of his songs might encourage more people to visit his website.

 Pretty, isn't it? Ah,  but my cannoli impatiently awaited, so we had to rush on.

Well....except to stop at Armenian Heritage Park, simply  because  I thought John would like the fountain amid the circles. It is kinda neat.

Going further, with eager anticipation of a  Limoncello cannoli, we encountered The Fence. I'll leave you the task of reading about it if you wish, but I don't particularly care  for it. Still, it's one of Boston's little quirks, and therefore I can't help appreciating it.
My quest for a cannoli suffered one final interruption when I heard sweet piano music and we saw a young woman engrossed in playing another Street Piano. John couldn't hand her a card or ask her permission to photograph her face,  so this shot at least shows the piano.
At long last, we got to Hanover Street, and arrived at Mike's Pastry. Surprisingly, it wasn't as crowded as usual, so we bought the cannoli quickly and carted it back to the Greenway.
Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Six(ty) In The City

As of 1:08am yesterday, this blogger officially turned 60. Determined to turn that very sour lemon into lemonade, John and I ventured into Boston, clutching a gift card for The Cheesecake Factory that I'd been  given at my birthday party Saturday.

Crossing Boston Common, we found another Street Piano near the Visitor Center, this time with someone actually playing it!
I heard the music, and remembered reading that one of the pianos was at the Visitor Center, but I had to do a bit of hunting before I could locate it.

But if we wanted to get to The Cheesecake Factory in time, we had to get moving. Passing through  the Common, I noticed autumn colors already appearing. While I mourn the thought of moving toward another New England winter (which will pretty much exile us from Boston), I had to admit that fall has a unique beauty.
I rushed John through the Public Garden and up Boylston Street, limiting his time for picture taking until we reached Copely Square and found another Street Piano. This one was beautifully decorated!
Listen to this snippet of "Sentimental Journey" that he played:

Soon after leaving him, we made it to The Cheesecake Factory, where we enjoyed Tex Mex eggrolls and Key Lime cheesecake. My birthday tradition, since my late 20s, has been to have cheesecake, so I enjoyed keeping up the practice.
 We had planned on getting the Commuter Rail at Back Bay Station to get to South Station, but we had plenty of time to drive our wheelchairs back. It was such a pretty day (despite predictions of clouds and probable rain) and I wanted a photo of myself in front of Trinity Church.
Coming back through Boston Common, we spotted our dear friend, who portrays James Otis on his Boston Town Crier walking tour of the Freedom Trail, and simply had to take this anachronistic photo of him on his cell phone:
Okay, so I'm 60. At least I got to begin  my "Golden Years" enjoying the city that I love!


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