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Happy 103rd Birthday, Gramma!

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went

(source unknown)

How do I know that my youth is all spent? Well, my get up and go has got up and went.
But in spite of it all I am able to grin. When I think of the places my get up has been.

Old age is golden, So I’ve heard said. But sometimes I wonder, as I get into bed.
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup, and my eyes on the table until I wake up.

Ere sleep dims my eyes I say to myself, “Is there anything else I can put on the shelf?”
And I’m happy to say as I close the door, “My friends are the same, perhaps even more.”

When I was a young thing my slippers were red, I could kick my heels as high as my head.
Then when I was older, my slippers were blue, but still I could walk the whole day through.

Now I’m still older, my slippers are black. I walk to the store and puff my way back.
The reason I know my youth is all spent, my get up and go has got up and went.

But really, I don’t mind when I think with a grin, of all the grand places my get up has been.
Since I have retired from life’s competition, I busy myself with complete repetition.

I get up each morning and dust off my wits, pick up the paper and read the ‘obits’,
If my name is missing I know I’m not dead, so I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed.

Dear Gramma,

It is always such a joy and delight whenever I visit you and I regret not being able to help celebrate your 103rd birthday. There are so many fond memories of good times spent together. To me, you’re the epitome of graciousness and a gentle spirit. You’re always pleasant to be around. There couldn’t have been a better grandmother in the world. Even though the eyes don’t see as well, and the ears don’t hear as well, and the fingers aren’t as dexterous, your mind is just as sharp today as it was 50 years ago. Back then – it’s a pleasant place for me to go where we’d sit on the front porch and watch the trolley cars go by. And you’d let me ‘help’ you push the lawn mower in the back yard. I once stepped on a bee and you had the best medicine – a Popsicle! We’d walk to the park and you’d give great big pushes on the swings and dig deep tunnels with us in the sandbox. Getting dirty was never a problem. A bouquet of dandelions always delighted you. You liked it when we’d ‘help’ in the kitchen and so you’d pull up a chair next to the counter. My favorite jobs, of course, were cracking the eggs and licking the batter off of the beaters. You’d climb up onto the top bunk bed and read us stories. Upon hearing the doctor’s advice to limit yourself to two beers a day, I still laugh at your decision to go from 12oz to 16oz cans! You taught me about honesty when, after having sent me to the grocery store to buy pancake batter, I (somehow) managed to not come home with the correct amount of change. You knew right away that I had ‘pilfered’ the cash and bought candy for myself. And too, you weren’t too pleased when you discovered me in the basement using matches as ‘indicator lights’ on my Tonka Toys. Even so, it was always comfortable to have you around. I always knew that you loved us. You still give us great big ‘bear hugs’ and squeeze us hard. I love it. I love you. And I look forward to seeing you again soon. All the very best on your 103rd, Gramma.

Love,

Bob

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Humility – Is There an Easy Way to Learn It?

January 30, 2011 4 comments

Phil 2:3 in my NIV says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

No doubt humility is an important Christian virtue and it would appear that my good friend and able chess warrior, “Dr. J”, believes I need just a teeny weeny bit more humility in my life. Honestly, how is one to know? I tip my hat to “King James” for providing yet another opportunity to learn about humility. Just when I think the game is in hand, I manage to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Oops, that doesn’t sound too humble, does it? Well Jay, set ’em up as I’m ready for another lesson. If only you weren’t such a good teacher, though. Oops, that doesn’t sound too humble either. Well, looks like we might have to play a whole bunch of games before I get this conceit – oops – I mean concept down.

If God Can Be Surprised by His Creation, Can Calvinists Really Claim Unconditional Election?

January 7, 2011 15 comments

A friend recently indicated his doubt as to whether God is suprised by anything. I’d previously come across Gen 6:6 which says, “The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.”  My only consideration of this verse and passage was that God knew what was going to happen and when sin fully engulfed man that created a separation between a holy God and a sin-filled man, God was grieved about this. 

Thinking back to my elementary school years, I knew my report cards were going to be full of failing grades and for what it’s worth, I ended up having to repeat 6th grade. Still, I hated the anticipation of those report cards. I would dread being handed the report card by my teacher. I was fearful of having to show that report card to my parents. Yet, when I was actually handed the report card and looked inside, the reality of those bad grades hit hard and I felt much worse than I had beforehand. 

The thought then occurred, how would I have felt if I wasn’t expecting those bad grades? Would I have been “surprised” even if I may have had some inklings that all was not well?

It seems to make sense that God would know everything because He’s omniscient and not constrained by time. How could God possibly be surprised at anything?  Well, seek and ye shall find – as I stumbled upon these verses while digging through a concordance for words such as “grieve” and “regret”:

1 Sam 15:10-11 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel; “I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” 

Num 14:11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous sings I have performed among them?” 

Jer 19:5 (I’m pretty sure God is speaking here) They have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Baal – something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. 

Given that these verses don’t appear to be spoken/written in hyperbole, they do appear (at least to me) to indicate that God can sometimes be surprised as to the exact outcome of something.  Could this be true?  Can God be “surprised” – at least in regard to things He hasn’t predetermined? These verses alone certainly don’t constitute a full defense of Open Theism.  Nevertheless, the question that comes to my mind is: if God can be surprised, can Calvinists claim unconditional election with absolute certainty?

Divergent Thought (Calvinism, Arminianism, Open Theism); It’s Everywhere – Happy New Year!

January 3, 2011 Leave a comment

A Facebook friend recently posted this comment, “We may cast the die, but the Lord determines how it falls.” I couldn’t resist a little prodding for some details and asked the question – “So, even if we ‘think’ we’re ‘doing’ something, the outcome of that something is already predetermined by God?”

I liked Tom’s response and have pasted it here:

God always knows the outcome of any event. However, he normally doesn’t control the direct consequences of any action. He can and sometimes does [control events] when asked but He’s in no way obligated to do so. Why would God create the laws of nature and [call] them good along with all creation by continually circumventing them?

[God] makes everything work together towards whatever purpose He has in mind. [For] example, all of creation was created by God to glorify Himself. Because that’s His will, it’s what will happen. The fuzzy line comes when we’re affected by God’s will.

Do we have free will? Yes. God will judge us all on what we do, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, also pretty much anywhere in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel) To be just, a judge must punish the guilty party. If a robot were programmed to kill someone, who’d be punished – the robot or the programmer? The robot had no free will to choose either right or wrong, so [the robot would] be pardoned. The programmer did have the free will to choose and will be punished for his crime. In the same way, if we have no free will and God is truly just, he would [have to] condemn Himself for forcing us to do wrong. If that is the case, then God is not good. If God is not good, then we have no hope. For if the ultimate power in the universe takes pleasure in evil, nothing He says [could] be trusted. If He is [just], by his mercy we have hope through Jesus Christ. If He isn’t [just], we have no hope because the combined power of creation was created through Him and for Him, and He sustains it all. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Does God protect us from being affected by our choices in a bad way? No. If you steal something and are caught, you’ll be brought to justice. God delights in that. Because He saved you from eternal life in Hell by your faith in Jesus doesn’t mean He’s saved you from the worldly consequences of your actions. This doesn’t mean He can’t have mercy on you. [Rather], He has no obligation to [protect] you from the result of your own free will. He’s [given] you the Bible for the purpose of helping you avoid destroying yourself and to find true life.

However, [God] works all things to the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28) If you love God and do something stupid, you will reap the consequences of your actions. God will then use that stupid action to eventually work for good in your life, not because of your wisdom, your strength, your righteousness, but BECAUSE YOU LOVE GOD.

The question [becomes]: are we living and acting from a love of God or an apathy or hatred of God? The answer has no bearing on the outcome of His plans, but they have every effect on what becomes of us.

I responded to Tom on how I liked the analogy of people employing various free-will combinations – such as the mixing of an acid and a base with the end result being that God ensures how those kinds of molecules will interact. However, something had earlier crossed my mind relating to God knowing in advance how everything will turn out. I ‘think’ Isaiah 5:1-5 infers God planting and cultivating a crop of grapes with the end result being something not anticipated – bad fruit. As such, can God be surprised at any given end result? If God is surprised at this particular end result in Isaiah, can believers claim that God fully knows each and every outcome of each and every circumstance, situation or decision one might make?

On that point, Open Theists claim that the future is at least partly open (unknown) to God except in those areas where God has determined exactly what the future will be. In any event, I would certainly agree with Tom’s earlier statements that A) we have free will, B) God doesn’t necessarily protect us from our bad decisions (or necessarily reap blessings upon us for good decisions we may make for that matter), and C) God can use all circumstances for His glory.

Perhaps unknowingly, Tom stated Calvinist thinking wherein he had previously said, “All you gotta do is let [God] take your junk.” I responded to Tom that he  might not actually have that opportunity to give his ‘junk’ to God because, according to Calvinism, God chooses whose ‘junk’ He’ll take. More to the point, God determines who’ll be forgiven for their ‘junk’ therefore determining who will and who will not be saved. So, to repeating Tom’s last statement for the comfort of my Arminian friends, “All you gotta do is give your ‘junk’ to [God] and He will forgive you.”

How about that – Calvinism, Arminianim, and Open Theism considerations are all nicely placed side by side in one fell swoop of love and togetherness. Peace be upon all my believing brethren (including you, Tim) for the coming year. Happy New Year!