Hawaii 2010

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Philipino Brothers

Today in Church we recognized Student Missionary Outreach, directed by Renato Del Mundo. He has been allowed to go into high schools all over the country with an anti drug and alcohol program that feeds many into the Bible Studies.

We talked about the political tensions over the upcoming elections and the need to stop the corruption that is keeping a country already poor in a desperate condition. One of our members has made many trips there to work with the prison churches and the poor. We were inspired by the success of their ministry in helping students find places of service, meaning and purpose in their lives.

The Philippine community in American is so patriotic and strong and family oriented. Young Alvin, living and working in LA told us that in every Philipino home their are a constant stream of visitors and relatives and much money sent home to help their families still living in great need.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Remembering Alex


Thirty two years ago my best friend Alex died of an aortic anyeaurism. It was an undiagnosed birth defect called "Morphans Syndrome". Every year I think about his young and talented life and wonder about the ways of God with man. Why do some live too long and others die too young? Is Alex resting till the resurrection of the body as some teach, or fully engaged in heavenly activities as others teach?

I miss him. I wish you could have known him. I want to see him again some day. I think all those things will be possible some day, in another eon. We only knew each other for a decade, but what things we did and what fun we had.

The Community of Men

Golf Tournaments in retirement communities are a social event. I am not that familiar with them, so my impressions are those of a newbie. We had new partners for the second round and by the end of the day were talking and sharing like brothers.

The Banquet was a feast with laughing and applauding the winners, and some raffles. I know it was just a bunch of friends, who share a common home and common beliefs and lifestyle, but the sense of celebration and joy was delightful, enhanced a bit by an open bar, but, still, to me, just the tiniest taste of what "community" feels like.

Jack and I climbed from next to last to the middle of the pack. Jack has been playing for a few years and I have been playing for thirty five....and he is beating me regularly. Such is life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Senior Communities love golf

Today and tomorrow I am enjoying two rounds of golf with my friend Jack. He lives in Leisure World. Unlike Sun Lakes, they have a smaller population, just one clubhouse facility. They recently remodeled and raised even more to update the pool.

Our remodeling and changes in Sun Lakes seem to be more political and volutle. They have a lot of pride in their community and want to keep things nice.

Golf commraderie is something special. You can sit down with a golfer and begin swapping stories like you are old buddies. The fresh air, the good and bad shots, the joking and laughter, not to mention lunch and drinks, make it a great experience and one that is rare for me, as these things are usually over the weekend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Calling, election and free will

Hardly a week in my life goes by without some form of this discussion or view enters a faith conversation. As I have been visiting the verses in the New Covenant about the church, the ekklesia, the called out ones, I keep confronting this sense of calling from God, chosen by God, elected to believe, and as an educated Calvinist by training I get it, in terms of a boastless, gift from God, the beginning of which is His choice and His alone. Once the seed is planted we then have a great deal of involvement in our progress toward maturity.

This being a minority report at this place in church history, I am still amazed at the resistance to this fairly well defended concept gets, and the scant evidence for a robust defense of choice and free will as the be all and end all of any entrance into the blessings of salvation.

Both groups proceed from this basic premise to build complete theologies of salvation and then build church systems to use them, and yet both cannot be essentially true.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Beck Reviews unveil alternate reading of Romans

Paul warned the Romans against teachers who would twist the gospel back toward faith plus works of the law. They did have Christ in their gospel enforced by a wrathful, perfectionist judge. They had removed the temple cultus from their legalistic teaching but did not comprehend that Christ is the end of the law for those who believe. See http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/ to follow the discussion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Finally a Fire

Last Winter we went through several boxes of fire logs, and this year, a rainy cold front finally allowed me to fire up the fireplace. Sorry people who live in cold places, our fireplace is more for entertainment and decoration, but the touch of warmth cozifies the room.

Many of my friends are in their 80s, and I simply want to tell the younger generation that folks who reach that age in good health are lively, funny, active, interesting and loving. We laugh and kid each other, as they continue to live full lives and drive and work and read. I have a very sweet man who has been on hospice with advance heart failure. But, oddly, he continues to stay on the living side of the river month after month. He has been in and out of hospice facilities, and although all preventative measures except oxygen to keep him comfortable, he gets close and then rallies. We have actually joked about it. I have wrestled with the common saying we have here that God knows the exact moment of your check out and until then you are invincible. Oh, I forget to tell you, he is 92.

To be fair and balanced, it is difficult to see people going down, and struggling to get through each day, take the right medications, get nourished and try to maintain a lifestyle when every activity becomes a challenge, when conversation becomes a struggle to organize thoughts and to remember specifics. We say.....getting older is not for sissies.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Duke

This is Herm our Council President.I thought Irmal really looked Dukish in this one.

Irmal and Paula shared John Waynes testimony and sang for us tonight at the Cowboy dinner. Great time. He was chosen by the Dukes widow to portray him in a commercial and they have turned it into a ministry and a memorial to John Wayne's love of God and country and conversion to Christ.

I like Dr. Oz

He is helping me with his informative show. It is even better now that I finally own a DVR and can skim through the parts that do not apply to me. I never really grooved with Richard Simmons and the dancing aerobics stuff.

I had my yearly heart check up with the man who saved my life twice in the last decade by removing life threatening arterial blockages. We have a pretty deep relationship of trust since I am a patient who talks and reflects a lot.

He was amazed at what looks like a younger version of me. Eight months of diet and excercise have wittled over 20 lbs from my midsection.... may God be praised.

Its slow and frustrating and it works, this eating better and moving. My three to four hours in the gym are building muscle tone, giving energy, providing a nice break to the weeks duties, and improving my blood suger, pulse rate, blood pressure and the fit of my clothes, which, as Dr. Oz said, when you shrink out of your fat clothes, throw them away. I am not going to do that for 10 more lbs, but I wear stuff way too long and always have.

Now I am trying to figure out why I have been coughing chronically for three weeks with no cold or chest congestion. Help me Dr. Oz?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Deliverance of God continued

It is a bit embarrassing to have to argue with Christians that God is love. It makes them uncomfortable. They need to add asterisks to the statement less anyone take advantage of that declaration. They are sure that God loves them…for they have led largely sober and upright lives, and therefore…what’s not to love.

Campbell makes the point that once Jesus is proclaimed in the New Covenant, then the God who demands absolute perfection and threatens wrathful retribution is gone. The truly earthshaking and radical proclamation that God loves sinners, before they repent is so blunted by our insistence on justice triumphing over mercy, that we end up rebuilding the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile and replace the names with Christian and non Christian. Campbell believes our methods of evangelism have been affected deeply by importing bad theology into Paul’s introduction of the transformational gospel.

I am so impressed by the job that Richard Beck at Experimental Theology is doing in reviewing the book that I can’t stop reading even though I want to continue working through the book. I am about to read his attack of the citadel of the Lutheran reading of Romans. I really appreciated the historical retelling of how Augustine, Calvin, and Luther were not so consistent in supporting the frame of penal substitutionary atonement and justification theory. He even suggests that a more mature Calvin would have accused justification theory of conversion as semi-palagianism. For my readers unfamiliar with the lingo let me restate. Calvin would have believed that there was too much free will and human ability in the two step move from conviction to repentance.

I heard a song by Kristyn Getty where she reminded us that the gospel seeks to set the captives free while we rail against the evil one. The church today too often rails against the captives and dreams about how good it will be to see them rolling around in the lake of fire. If I am overreacting, understand that most of my experiences with Christians loving sinners is good, but those who stake their orthodoxy on an angry God are not nice when you cross their theology. I am not whistling dixie on that thought.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The joy of paying for Yard work

I grew up earning money mowing lawns. I worked my way through college and seminary on the building and grounds crew. I mowed the church lawns for the first two churches I served, so I mean it when I say it is great to get to the place where you can afford someone else to do it.

My Lawn service trimmed and blew the dead things and trimmed and it all looks delightful. It would have taken me a month of Saturdays to do badly what these guys do well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Goodbye Shade

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For several years Laura has said she wants our huge sideyard mesquite tree gone. It provides enormous amounts of shade, and endless leaves dropping and becoming part of the landscaping. Today that 20 year old tree is gone, and our side yard looks quite different.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another Funeral and the end of a icon

Hal was a minister of music, who sang and his wife played piano. A number of friends in the ministry came to his burial service at the National Memorial Cemetery.

On the way home I decided to stop by the Central Christian Bookstore on Central. Now that light rail travels up and down Central, the street has a very cosmopolitan feel, but the years it took to build really took a toll on business. The Bookstore was empty, gone after decades of providing new and used books for the Christian population of greater Phoenix. I spent many hours mining for classics there. It is sad. I am afraid it points a bit to the demise of reading, and the devolution of evangelicalism as well. I hope not.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's everybodies conundrum

I am 300 pages into Dr. Campbell's magnum opus and I kept thinking as I was reading how great minds run together. This guy is thinking about the same issues I have been thinking about....and then I realized that he is way more brilliant and competent than I, but I ran into the same conundrums because they are there, and they have been tripping up the church in one way of the other for 2 millennium.

He might say it differently or frame his argument on a life time of scholarship way out of my league, but to any preacher, any serious Christian, the realities of how our doctrines and beliefs hit the road in our discussions, our studies, or prayers, our practices are meeting the same problems.

Some people grab the elephant in one place, to switch metaphors, and ignore all the testimony that challenges their description of the issue. Its a conundrum. Here is the way Campbell states it, if the gospel is contractual on certain human response, then it is conditional, and no longer a gift or a call, yet Paul consistently presents the gospel unconditionally, ie. "while we were yet sinners" Campbell suggests we have taught an inconsistent gospel by misunderstanding Paul's description of His deliverance of mankind as an offer and not an accomplishment of Christ. Are we saved by our faith in Christ or the faith of Christ on our behalf?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Not strangers, but friends

My second trip to Rocky Point brought the renewal of friendships with two families who have continued to improve on their property. We saw the completed bedroom for his boys that Javier built. Last time down we bought materials for the roof, and now we see a beautiful tiled room. The little girl in this family is a non stop dynamo of energy. The kids were manhandling Mariposas puppies like toys.

Don is hugging a family that are preparing to build a kitchen, and operating a thriving Mexican pastry business out of a honeycomb oven her husband built. Still poor in a poor country, but trying. Javier is facing surgery and months of rehab so we are hoping the family can pull together and survive till he returns to work.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stranger in a strange Land

Well, I am home from a Friday and Saturday in Rocky Point, it is 198 miles from my garage to the town. We had lots of waits going down with 40 people and trucks and trailers full of tools and material for feeding and camping.

We joined about 700 campers from all over to construct a total of 34 dwellings in three days, 11x19 two room structures, plastered and roofed with a door and two windows. We spent day one leveling a spot and pouring a lot of cement we mixed and poured in wheelbarrows, Amor ministries has mostly youth projects so no power tools are allowed.

We all worked as we felt we could, some played with the children and some focused on the construction while others on the foundation. Last night I took a total header when I tripped in the dark at our hotel, as some of us seniors decided not to camp.

We visited two of the families we built homes for in the past and delivered many pants and shirts to a clothing ministry. I am very proud of the hard work and witness of our church volunteers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Heading to Mexico

A group from our church will assist in the building of a small shelter for a needy family in Porta Penasco Mexico Friday through Monday. I must return to lead services on Sunday but I wanted to be part of the Camp Set Up and First Day of work. Pics to follow.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Overdosing on penal substitutionary atonement

Campbell is building a case against the Lutheran reading of Romans, and I am following along, but I can tell you from reading Scott McKnight on the various atonemnent theories that I came to the realization several years ago that I had begun to see Christianity solely in terms of Christ saving us from the Father's wrath. My understanding of the Father's love was completely conditional upon my hiding under the propitiatory stream where sin had been punished. While this may be an aspect of the truth in relationship to Christ's sacrifice it leaves out much of real truth and value in the life of Christ, the work of the Spirit, and the love of the Father for sinners. That is why I am enjoying the book so much.

How to help blind Men see the Elephant?

You carefully describe each part, while you restore their vision of the whole. Douglas Campbell's huge and skillfully developed book, The Deliverance of God, does just that concerning what may be the most monumental confusion to exist in the understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Paul.

I have finished Chapter 1 of 5, having read and highlighted 216 pages of outlining the problem of the historical and theological development of what he calls, "justification theory".

I can tell you with probably hundreds of odd and painful stories, just how deep and wide this basic confusion is among American evangelicals of all denominations. My own small journey through this situation caused countless small confrontations and separations among those who are supposedly telling an old, old story, of Jesus and his love.

Campbell attempts to show how one huge idea, which is basically bad theology, has been lifted in our conception to the place of deep and foundational truth, and this error has created enormous tensions in our understanding and sharing of the New Covenant of grace.

Is it conditional or unconditional? What is its relationship to the Law of God? What is God's attitude toward unbelievers? Can sinners rationally hear and respond to the truth or are they helpless without God bringing life?

It takes 1000 pages to prepare us to have our blinders removed and to show us that we need to reread Romans 1-8 in light of a number of key conundrums in which part of the elephant is creating a beast of destructive proportions.

One quote which demonstrates the confusion from pg 185, "What is God's attitude toward non Christians? They are under God's just wrath and will be punished in due course with suffering and death and He loves them extravagantly to the point that He is prepared to sacrifice His son in order to save them."

At some point in this last ten years, I quietly slipped over a fence to where I can, with conviction declare the inescapable love of God. I have seen the whole picture of this epic changing good news for the whole world. I have unmasked with the help of others, the false description developed over 16 centuries. It is encouraging beyond words to listen to a scholar take the same path, engaging theological
constructs with a far more comprehensive sweep than my small perspective would allow. The role of Father, Son and Spirit in this transformational rescue of humanity and this unstoppable movement toward restoration have lifted me into the presence of God where I join Paul in our only response.....doxology....Oh the wisdom and glory of God.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Happy for Saints Fans, glad I am a Saint

Great party, great games, always feel for the losers, until I think about their paychecks and lifestyles.

Here is a picture of our Christmas Cactus blooming in February, it takes lots of TLC to get it to bloom.

Preached on calling and election today, a key concept to understanding what church and salvation are, and are not.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Early training in Soccer

Soccer made a big surge into our country when I was in High School and College. The fact that we had lots of Brazilian missionary kids aided us at Belhaven. I played when I was in elementary school as well, living in upstate NY which had a more progressive view of soccer in the late 50s.

I enjoyed photgraphing these kids going through their paces today at Tumbleweed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Buy this, not that

I am sure most of you have seen this innovative new set of health books that help you make better choices at the grocery story. We just got our copy of Cook This, not That. which contains product recommendations and warnings and a lot of recipes for low calorie eating. Full of pictures. Its a great idea.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Performance Anxiety

I would like to know the cause of performance anxiety. Last week as I warmed up for my golf outing I hit about 15 perfect drives on the practice range....went to the course and could not duplicate the swing for the rest of the day? What changes in my heart, and muscles between the range and the course. What causes the tension? How can I relax and repeat the swing?

I practice with the flute and whistles and get wonderful tone and control and when I play in front of people I go dry in the mouth, cannot be consistent. How does one control the nerves to perform before an audience?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Our nightly date with renewal

Sleep is something we all need, all do, all enjoy, and occassionaly have problems engaging. Last night I watched a bit of "Lost" on tape, since I have a Tuesday evening meeting. In bed at 11, get all relaxed, prepare to drift off to sleep.....and slowly realize its not happening. Then try harder not to try, offer prayer, change positions. Nothing. Up at 2:30 and try to finish a movie I have been watching, thinking it will help me doze off. finally at 3:30ish I get some fitful sleep and pay the price all the next day.

When its deep and good, there is nothing better, when you toss and turn, all is affected. This is part of the human condition.

Thoughts on Lost, Atlantis?? Reincarnation, alternate lives?? Who knows, I just enjoy these characters and that wierd island.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Conundrum of Paul's Roman Letter

Last week my copy of The Deliverance of God came via Amazon Books. It has been a while since I tackled a 1000 page book,(with small print, mind you). Douglas Campbell has written his life work after 20 years of thinking about Pauline Theology.

As an amateur Pauline Theologian who has himself been rethinking the essential questions of the Gospel for the last ten years I feel that I have been invited into the presence of a very gifted, and very patient scholar to discuss a very essential issue. ie. justification theory. He draws you into the conundrum with careful building block arguments, and I am loving it, have gotten through 100 pages with very many highlighted sentences and comments.

Richard Beck at Experiment Theology is way ahead of me in the book and in his ability to write a cogent review. I am indebted to him for interesting me in this scholarly research.

What is the issue? That reformation Theology has built a Justification Theory from Romans 1-4 that is fundamentally different the the Transformation Theory of Romans 5-8. We have read into Paul some concepts not from Paul's heart but Luther's experience. We have a hell bound guilty mass of humanity whose only hope is to move under Christ's atoning work through a process that involves declaring our inability to be saved by works, yet requires the rationality to believe and exercises our faith to be saved. Sinners are saved by deciding to follow Jesus, Hell and eternal punishment are the just end of a retributive God who will give everyone, Jew and gentile the just desert for their sin. Christ pays for the sins of those who ask.

Romans 5-8 posits a helpless humanity trapped in sin and unable to break out, thus God in Christ identifies with us in his incarnation and life and performs the first essential to the deliverance of helpless and hopeless sinners through His death, resurrection and life giving reconciliation of sinners while they were in that lost condition, God elects the helpless, not rewards the good responder. So God has compassion on the lost, and so do the saved since they received grace unconditionally. Evangelism and a whole lot of things change to balance out Paul's essentially inclusive and more positive and universal hope of Christ's complete restoration of Adam's fallen race.

Just getting started but that is his trajectory and it has been mine for a while.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A magnetic phenomenon?

I occasionally wear a magnetic ionic bracelet sold by a multilevel marketing company.The sales presentation claimed to increase the strength of your muscles and they have a resistance test after which they ask you if it worked. Of course I thought it was psychosomatic or suggestion.

Today while beginning my seventh month of regular work outs, I came to the biceps machine. After so many weeks I sometimes feel stronger or weaker but the progression of exhaustion is fairly predictable and the same each time. Yet, today, I found myself breezing through the second to the third set with ease....and then realized that I had the bracelet on, and.....I wondered about the invisible power of magnets.