Invisible Links

Nothing in the modern mind encourages us to see the invisible links binding together all of life. We have no sense that we live in the presence of a loving Father and are accountable for all we do… This is my Father’s world… Everything you do is connected to who you are as a person and, in turn, creates the person you are becoming. Everything you do affects those you love. All of life is covenant. - Paul Miller, A Praying Life

No Imagined Furnishings

[W]e should not fill out our knowledge of the life of the eternally triune God with elaborate, mythological imaginings. This is the perfect place for some realism and restraint in the use of the imagination in theological thinking. We know that God’s life as Father, Son, and Spirit is eternally rich and full, but we do not know its details, and we should not manufacture them. We cannot describe the geography of the happy land of the Trinity. We do no know what kind of music the persons of the Trinity listen to, or what they cook for each other, or who does the dishes, or if they carpool. We do not know if they hold hands and do some kind of liturgical round-dance, as has often been suggested in some of the more purple theological literature. The perfect life of the blessed Trinity is lived above all worlds, including all worlds that we can fill out with imagined furnishings. - Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God, 82-83

Morning Politics

Did you hear that Bank of America want’s to start charging $5 per month for its members to use a debit card? Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? President Obama waived the consumer finance protection bureau stick in the direction of BofA during an interview at ABC. I have to admit, I’m kind of cheesed about that fee but I really don’t think government regulation is the answer. I like what Dick Durbin said, “Bank of America customers, vote with your feet. Get the heck out of that bank. Find yourself a bank or credit union that won’t gouge you for $5 a month and still will give you a debit card that you can use every single day.” Government isn’t the answer to everything.

You know what is really kind of odd? The reason BofA is implementing the fee is because their other revenue source on debit cards has been throttled so they’re seeking money elsewhere. Those debit cards don’t operate for free. There is a nation-wide secure computer network that supports them and someone has to pay for it. So who throttled what? The 2010 Dodd-Frank law included a provision that cut the “swipe fees” that debit-card issuers charge merchants. That means the banks were restricted in how much they could charge stores on each transaction. And who authored this restriction? Neither Frank nor Dodd. It was none other than Dick “These Shoes are Made for Walkin’” Durbin. I wish he’d have heard his own philosophy when he authored that amendment in the first place.

In somewhat tangentially related news (both touch Wall St.) a liberal talking head on some radio station said that it is “media crime" that Fox and CNN are interviewing less articulate Wall St. protestors. Apparently it is okay to find the most red neck Tea Party supporter but if you do the same for the Occupy Wall Street group, that’s bad.

Finally, President Obama wants to increase taxes on couples who have more than $250k in taxable income. The Democrats don’t like that and would rather institute a 5% surtax on those who have $1 million in income after all the deductions. Why the disagreement? NPR summed it up:

The disagreement in their ranks arises partly from how the president proposes to pay for his plan, an approach seen by some senators as potentially making their already difficult path to re-election even more so.

So let’s set aside for the moment that someone might not get reelected and ask what should be done here. The tax increases are both intended to pay for the president’s job stimulus package. The fact that Democrats want to actually pay for what their spending is a good sign but how do you do that in an economy as sluggish as ours? There are two things that have to happen: don’t raise taxes and don’t cut spending. The idea is that there needs to be as much money floating around the economy as possible at this point. Taking it out of people’s pockets and dumping it in a money black hole is a bad idea. The Republicans want to cut spending and the Democrats want to raise taxes in order to balance the budget. The truth of the matter is that we need to do the opposite of what both parties are banking on. We’re in trouble if they fail to get a collective clue.

Once the economy starts picking up, tax revenues will increase as more people go back to work and start buying more stuff. Once tax revenues start increasing we need to do the opposite of what seems reasonable. Then we can start scaling back government spending and we can fiddle with taxes a bit. That seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it? We have more money coming in so we can spend more and since we have more money coming in we don’t need to mess with taxes, right? Wrong. Once the economy starts moving again that’s when the government has the leeway to reduce spending. The government doesn’t need to worry about upping their portion of spending into the economy, the people are able to do that. And when money is flowing we can start working on making taxes fair and equitable once again without the fear of causing those with money to hold on tighter to what they have.

But that kind of thinking won’t get you reelected. Isn’t soundbite worthy.

Antecedents and Faith

We often talk about “trusting” God, that salvation is by “faith,” but I have often wondered how much people are really able to understand those words. I got to hear my nephew preach this morning, and he did a great job of explaining Eph 2:8-9 (although he never referenced it) using Isaiah 6. God reveals himself as a holy God. Isaiah’s appropriate response was to see the great chasm between himself as God and cry out, “Woe is me.” Isaiah is forgiven by merely receiving God’s atoning gift of the burning goals. Salvation, Dave preached, has to do with seeing God for who he is, with seeing myself for who I am, realizing that there is nothing I can do to move from being a sinner to being holy, and yet also believing that the holy God has done what only he can do in reaching out and offering forgiveness to us. “Faith” is believing that God has extended the fires of forgiveness. - Bill Mounce

A Matter of Business

In October 1915, at the height of World War I, the Berlin Goethe Society invited Albert Einstein to submit an essay for its journal. He did so but warned that he would not be surprised if they chose not to use his submission. The society reviewed it with some dismay and asked Einstein to strike this passage:

“When I look into the home of a good, normal citizen I see a softly lighted room. In one corner stands a well-cared-for shrine, of which the man of the house is very proud and to which the attention of every visitor is drawn in a loud voice. On it, in large letters, the word ‘Patriotism’ is inscribed.

“However, opening this shrine is normally forbidden. Yes, even the man of the house knows hardly, or not at all, that this shrine holds the moral requisites of animal hatred and mass murder that, in case of war, he obediently takes out for his service.

“This shrine, dear reader, you will not find in my room, and I would rejoice if you came to the viewpoint that in that corner of your room a piano or a small bookcase would be more appropriate than such a piece of furniture which you find tolerable because, from your youth, you have become used to it.”

Einstein eventually agreed to remove the passage, but his own views were steadfast. The state, he wrote, “does not play the least role in my spiritual life; I regard allegiance to a government as a business matter, somewhat like the relationship with a life insurance company.”

Source: Futility Closet

Yeah, but.

And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. - Acts 16:32-33

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. - Acts 18:8-9

Some theorize that there were infants included in the household baptisms even thought they’re never explicitly mentioned. For some reason the “and were baptized” is assumed to apply to them but when the entire household “believed in the Lord” that does not. “But the infants are not capable of hearing and believing but are capable of being baptized,” they explain. That just seems like fairly large “Yeah, but” to me. If you just ignore the question of infant baptism for the moment, would you presume that infants were involved here?

Balancing Earthern Jars

But the unbelieving Jews [at Iconium] stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. - Acts 14:2-3

To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. - Ephesians 6:18-20

I can’t imagine Paul being any bolder with the gospel than he was in Iconium. Those who heard and rejected his message stirred up others against him so what did he do? He remained there for a long time speaking boldly. He didn’t know how to take “No!” for an answer.

So then, what’s up with the Ephesians’ quote? That was written years after his first trip to Iconium, did he start to wimp out in his later years? There’s no indication of that happening. As Acts progresses he seems to be just as bold, maybe even more so since he appealed to Caesar and to Caesar he went. So why does he ask the Ephesians to pray for him? Because he knew that his boldness and his success didn’t come from himself. He knew that any progress he was seeing was only because God was at work in and through him. More than once Paul mentioned how unworthy he was because he had persecuted the Church. That wasn’t cheap crape paper window dressing humility either. He really lived with the sense of his own worthlessness and great confidence in what God was doing through him. That’s a great balance to maintain, one I wish I could manage better. When things are going well, I begin to think I’ve done something to really impress God or that I’m just in a good grove. It’s about me. What I need, what we all need really, is to fight for that tension between our absolute uselessness and God’s mighty power at work in earthen vessels.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. - 2 Corinthians 4:7

New Covenant Fasting

What then is new about the new Christian fasting? What’s new about Christian fasting is that it rests on all this finished work of the Bridegroom. It assumes that. It believes that. It enjoys that. The aching and yearning and longing for Christ and his power that drive us to fasting are not the expression of emptiness. Need, yes. Pain, yes. Hunger for God, yes. But not emptiness. The firstfruits of what we long for have already come. The downpayment of what we yearn for is already paid. The fullness that we are longing for and fasting for has appeared in history, and we have beheld his glory. It is not merely future. We do not fast out of emptiness. Christ is already in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We have been “sealed … with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given [now!] as a pledge of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13-14; see also 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5). - John Piper, A Hunger for God, 41-41

Unity in the Body of Christ

On 8/14 I preached at LifeSpring on Ephesians 4:1-16 on unity in the church. What I found fascinating as I prepare the message is how central the message of unity is to Ephesians. In verse 3 we’re told “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And they way that happens is seen in 7-13. It is through the gifts God gives to his church. The end result is that we grow up in the faith and bear with each other as we gather the nations. To get the full message, have a listen:

[audio:http://www.getlifenow.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/2-01-Unity.mp3|titles=Unity In the Body of Christ]

Something Is Eternal

[Answering the objection of the infinite regress, “who created the creator?”] Unless there is a known principle excluding the eternality of anything at all, there could be no basis for such an objection. And were we to cook up such a principle, we would find that it excluded, not only God, but the possibility of us having a universe at all. Something is eternal. That something is either God, as we believe, or it is matter — stuff — as Hitchens believes. If infinite regresses are incoherent and any stopping point to head off that regress is always arbitrary by definition, then how’d we get here?” - Douglas Wilson, God Is, p. 31