An analogy is powerful persuasion. But it also has its flaws in that it never holds 100% correspondence to what it is being compared to. Such was the case of my last post, math = God’s systems. Specifically, I focused on order of operations, and how it you do math out of order, you get the wrong answer. I compared this to fudging God’s order from the Bible. For example, many people now think (especially in California) that it really doesn’t matter if you have sex before marriage. I insisted the correct order does matter.
image from Pegponderingagain.
Then http://marshajobrien.com/ pointed out that my post didn’t sound right. It sounded condemning, compassionless, cold. Maybe it turned a lot of people off to the gospel when my wish is to attract people.
image from josephprince.com
While I believe there is a great truth to the order-of-operations analogy, at the same time there is a fallacy: Grace trumps. God redeems the brokenness and hurt of our lives. He gives us new beginnings. Think of doing the math problem wrong and still getting the right answer: that is grace.
Grace is when we turn to God, realizing our sin. We want forgiveness. We want a new start. And He embraces us with compassion. He shows us a better way to live life. When we blow it, He continually gives us a new opportunity.
The tension between grace and law are summed up in the prodigal son: He was restored to full sonship, but his part of the inheritance was entirely and irrevocably squandered. We do lose blessings by our bad decisions. But God works the math to always favor us. Even this runs the risk of lacking grace.
If you don’t follow the correct order of operations, you won’t get the right answer. Such is math.
If you don’t follow the correct order of operations in the Bible, you won’t get happiness. If, for example, you fornicate before marriage or dismiss marriage or change it into something God never designed, you won’t get a good result.
Why rage against the rules of math? Why complain, “Keep your math morality to yourself. I have my own order of operations. Every man is right in his own eyes. How dare you judge my math answer?!?”
Ok, never mind. I didn’t say anything. Sorry.
But you don’t have the right answer. Math’s rules cannot be changed by the latest winds of social change. So too the Bible is right. Twist its rules to your own demise.
… like SOUL business.
… of God that lets you pass into Heaven.
I bet somebody out there could re-do this a lot better. Show me when you’re done!
At the California Science Center in Los Angeles, you can pick up a pickup truck. A small child can pull on a rope many yards out pulling a lever down. At the other end of the fulcrum, hanging on a shorter side of the lever, is the truck. It’s a thrill for kids to feel like Superman.
Prayer works like leveraging.
In finances, if you can manage to invest loaned money to make more money than you own on the interest, you can be fabulously wealthy. You don’t have any $. You take others’ $, invest it with brains, and then you get loads of $$$.
Prayer works like that. It multiplies your meager efforts and magnifies your impact. Prayer accomplishes what is humanly impossible.
When I was a pastor/missionary in Guatemala, we went from the ghetto to the Historic Center, four blocks away from the National Palace. We went from preaching on the bus to housing a thriving school and church. God did it. I prayed.
Frederic Henry in the movie version
You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you. Or they killed you gratuitously like Aymo. Or gave you the syphilis like Rinaldi. But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you.
— Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms
All the existentialists and atheists have to offer is a dismal outlook. Hemingway’s message: have as much fun as you can in life, enjoy selfish pleasures, but in the end death is cruel and capricious.
This is a far cry from the Christian cosmovision. Our sins have separated us from God, but we can repent and run to God’s mercy. If we do, we are no longer subject to an arbitrary and harsh life and death. God protects and sustains us. And when we die, we go to Heaven, where we continue to enjoy joy — not the fictitious joys sinners continually try in vain to grasp.
It amazes me that people can read Hemingway and not turn to God. They embrace his hopelessness and rail against God. His message led him to commit suicide at 61. The Bible says: You will know the tree by its fruit. In other words: Before you buy into someone’s message, see if it worked for that person, at least.
Frederick Nietzsche went insane. Christopher Hitches died of alcoholism-induced cancer. He confessed that he was so bored of people that he kept himself drunk. Jean Paul Sartre took speed to stay up for days and not have to take a break in his writing. The list goes on.
I’ve been a pastor for 20 years now, and I’m still on the learning curve. But instead of getting frustrated (that I’m never able to fully get everything I need to know), I’ve realized that all pastors should always be on God’s learning curve.
In fact, the “experts” in whatever field are on their way out. The moment they “know it all” is the moment they stop learning. It’s the moment they stop keeping up with change. Some upstart is going to overtake them and become a new expert.
Many leaders have become dead weight. Their “expertise” keeps them from moving forward. They’re about be passed up by people looking to the future.
Consider Kodak, the erstwhile unchallenged leader of cameras and film worldwide. Today, the bastion of Rochester, NY’s, economy is a hollow shell. Kodak’s leadership is turning it into a poster printing company. Their once-unquestioned dominance is now a joke. They rested on their laurels. They missed the switch to digital and never caught the cutting edge again.
- Stay learning.
- Be only a “half expert.”
- Don’t rest on improving.
- Don’t worry if you make mistakes.
- Don’t defend your mistakes.
- Jesus forgives you.
- Keep moving forward.
In order to make a negative into a positive, you have to make the sign of the cross.
But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. — Ex. 32:32.
Hmmmmm. I’m not there yet. Here Moses is taking the hit for Israel’s bad against God. Paul similarly wishes to lose his own salvation if by it he could save his countrymen, the Jews (Ro. 9:3).
I was a missionary for a long time. I sacrificed. I gave. I put others first. I grew and matured, but I never got to this level. I never wished my own eternal damnation if that could save a people. My idea was and is to go to Heaven myself and to take as many with me as possible.
I come up short though. My pastor, Rob Scribner, said Moses and Paul take responsibility for their people. I have prayed like Daniel assuming the collective guilt of my people, but never did I rescind my individual salvation in favor of another. My love for others stops shy of that.
I suppose Moses and Paul both had the notion that they wouldn’t lose their salvation by saying this. They were PLEASING God by aligning their hearts with His; He gave His Son for us to be saved. Still, I can’t get myself to mouth this vow.
Do you feel responsibility for others?
There are people out there whose only goal is to humiliate you. They can’t live with themselves, so they have to put you down to feel better about themselves.
For sweet guys like me who thinks everyone ought to encourage each other, these people are a drag. I’m learning to keep praising Jesus in spite of others’ efforts to pull me down. After all, it’s only Jesus that’s worth working for.
I’m learning to stop looking to man, to hope only on Jesus. As they say, man will let you down every time. I pick up a lot of energy from friends. But when friends turn into feeding frenzy, it’s time to call off the friendship and remember that I’m in this only for my Lord and Savior.
I’m sorry, did my back break your knife?
I don’t know how to become impervious to pain. I only want to learn to focus more on the one who died for me and less on the one who would kill me.