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The Absence of the Spirit

mother_teresa_0820.jpgTo many of you, this article may come as a surprise. In his new book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), her “postulator”, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk shows us her most personal, intimate letters which encompass over 60 years of her life. Though Mother Teresa has been venerated by Catholics and Protestants alike, the man given the task of petitioning her sainthood discloses what appears to be a spiritually vacant soul.

David van Biema of Time magazine writes,

The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book’s compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, “neither in her heart or in the eucharist.”

We read that, Kolodiejchuk, “produced the book as proof of the faith-filled perseverance that he sees as her most spiritually heroic act.”

Are we ever called to persevere on our own strength, apart from trusting in the promises of God? I believe if Mother Teresa had embraced the authority of the epistle to the church at Rome instead of the Roman Catholic church, she could have had a peace and security not in the goodness of her actions in spite of doubt, but on the basis of Christ’s work done in perfect obedience, graciously imputed to her by faith.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)

She wrote of her own effervescent smile, calling it, “…a mask…a cloak that covers everything.”

Contrast that with the words of Peter,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9, NASB)

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Weddings

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This evening, I had the blessing of attending my cousin’s wedding. It was a reminder of God’s faithfulness to provide companionship for his children. It was also a joy to be a part of such a happy day for a dear friend and relative (who is also my brother in Christ).

 

 

As my family left the church and headed for the reception, I began to reflect on what had just taken place inside. While this wedding was breathtaking, some elements were clearly unorthodox. I weighed each part in my mind, evaluating it based on my past experiences of matrimonial ceremony. I determined that every part, even ones I didn’t fully appreciate or understand, expressed the unique personalities of the bride and groom. They weren’t just being unorthodox, they were making it personal…and I was honored to be able to celebrate their wedding their way.

It’s important to be careful about how particular we think about what should and should not happen at a wedding. The Bible has virtually nothing to say about weddings. One of the few verses that even comes close is Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Note that the passage doesn’t even say “weddings”, it simply says “marriage” is to be held in honor among all. There isn’t any set standard of dos and don’ts when we talk about weddings. You can make it exactly how you like it… as long as it’s not too long!

I think the most important detail a wedding should have is to place a high priority on the meaning of marriage. So when their pastor took time to focus on this passage from Ephesians, it showed me that he and both my cousin and his wife sought to honor marriage through their wedding. All the glitz and glamor is well and good, but in order for it to be meaningful and lasting, a wedding must reflect the values of our Creator as we seek to abide joyously in the relationship he designed.

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Ephesians 5:22-33

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Perhaps no area of my life is more confusing or dramatic than dating. Questions like “Does she like me?”. “Do I really like her?”, “What did she mean by that?”, and most importantly, “How am I trusting God in this situation?” will likely continue to be big issues until I find the upcoming Mrs. Robinson. But while this area of life can often be confusing, there are some ground-rules I’ve established that make everything much simpler and less dramatic. Furthermore, while these ground-rules do not prevent all sinning, they set certain parameters that act as a shield against common pitfalls in dating.

Here are some of the main ones:

442px-1885-proposal-caricature.gif1. No romantic interaction, insinuation, or even contemplation of dating girls who do not have an exemplary walk with Jesus Christ. If there’s a possibility of marrying this girl, I would be violating both God’s word and Henry Scougal’s wise maxim about how we become conformed to the things which we love. This leads well into rule #2…

2. Dating relationships (aka Romantic Dating) exist as a means of determining marital possibility, not merely for “having fun”. While going on one date with a girl does not constitute a dating relationship, or romantic dating – continuous, regular, one-on-one interaction will happen only between me and someone I am thinking seriously about pursuing unto marriage.
This leads well into rule #3…

3. No dating girls who have boyfriends. To many girls in the 21st century, this apparently seems like an obsolete rule. More than once, this rule has been called into question under the grounds of, “If my boyfriend and I are both ok with hanging out with other people…why do you have a problem with it?” The truth of the matter is, my principles in dating are fairly inflexible, and they are not based on other people’s principles. I know if I had a girlfriend and she were hanging out one-on-one with another guy, I’d likely be jealous, a bit nervous, and perhaps even suspicious of him. This is a good thing, since we’re talking about relationships of loving commitment. The fact that some guys don’t make a big deal about it with their girlfriends doesn’t lend me any necessary consolation about their relationship.

4. Almost no physical interaction outside of short hugs and side hugs with girls with whom I’m not in a dating relationship. Sometimes I even hesitate to hug some girls based on this same precept. In the past, I think some people mistakenly assume I’m a very un-physical person who doesn’t enjoy physical expression in a relationship. Quite to the contrary, I enjoy physical expression very much. So much, in fact, that I realize I how important it is for me to err on the side of caution. I have very deep-seated desires for physical interaction with a woman, and I limit my physical interaction because I want to guard my own heart from false satisfaction and sinful indulgence of the flesh. Even in small things, this can be a temptation.

5. Very little physical interaction with the girl I choose to date. Specifics? No kissing. If I’m going to be with this woman the rest of my life, I’ll have plenty of time to kiss her. Limited cuddling. Basically a prolonged side hug whilst sitting next to each other watching a movie. Holding hands? Yes. Does this seem boring? Even to me it does; but I think it’s very wise. If the relationship is everything it should be, anything more than this is unnecessary as long as we’re just dating. If the relationship doesn’t work out, I don’t think there’s any room for feeling guilty about doing any of this with someone I was sincerely interested in.

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Does David have ADHD?

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According to National Resource Center on ADHD, some of the symptoms of ADHD are:

  • Often has trouble organizing activities.
  • Is often easily distracted.
  • Often having difficulty concentrating on conversations

In lieu of my beginner’s knowledge of this disorder, I’ve come to wonder if our current understanding of ADHD may shed some light on the Psalms – namely Psalms 2-6. Before you write this off as complete nonsense, bear with me as I explain my rationale.

Now, if I’m getting any pattern from those symptoms, it’s that ADHD causes people to lose focus. Something distracts people with ADHD from fully developing their thoughts on a given matter. With that in mind, let’s consider the opening stanzas of each of these Psalms:

Psalm 2:1-3
Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against his anointed saying, “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!”

Psalm 3:1-2
O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.”

Psalm 4:1
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!

Psalm 5:1-2
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my king and my God, for to you I pray.

Psalm 6:1-3
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger, nor chasten me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. And my soul is greatly dismayed; but you, O LORD – how long?

If my evaluation serves me well (and I think it does) it appears that David has demonstrated a proclivity for calling out to the LORD, and asking for some sort of salvation from a perceived threat or cause of anxiety. However, upon examination of the ends of these same Psalms, will we find David able to maintain a constant focus on this issue? Will he be able to maintain his focus on asking God for deliverance?

Psalm 2:12
Do homage to the son, that he not become angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in him!

Psalm 3:8
Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessings be upon your people!

Psalm 4:7-8
You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.

Psalm 5:11-12
But let all who take refuge in you be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may you shelter them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For it is you who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, you surround him with favor as with a shield.

Psalm 6:9-10
The LORD has heard my supplication, the LORD receives my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; they shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.

For some reason, David is unable to maintain a sense of his own fears and worry. A gifted psychiatrist could have helped him fully explore his depression and thereby arrive at a therapeutic solution, such as Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. Had he been able to receive more modern psychological treatment for this disorder, he could have become an Emo poet, a brilliant post-modern philosopher, or perhaps an advocate for other patients suffering from similar symptoms.

But, instead of realizing and coming to a deeper understanding of his own constant inadequacy, we see David is conspicuously refocusing on God and his providence, specifically his being a “refuge” or provider of “blessing”.

Perhaps that was enough.

“…seeing that his divine power has granted us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence.”

2 Peter 1:3

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For the 2-3 people who might’ve clicked “The Latest” on the side-bar, this will be a reprint.  But the only way I can save my posts from that page are to put them hear.  Since I am going to revise that page with a new post today, I decided to put the old post hear.  I hope you are encouraged! 

Taught adult Sunday School for the first time yesterday! Got about 25 minutes to talk to people who were 2x, 3x, and a few almost 4x my age. It’s a pretty big honor.

Then Sunday evening, I attended the Senior graduation celebration at my church. It was just another reminder to me of how much God is at work within my church. Got a glimpse into the lives of students I’ve never known…but it was such a huge encouragement to see how their lives are being shaped by Him.

At the same time, just the fellowship I had while I was there eating was a profound reminder of God’s grace to me through Immanuel. I am regularly blown away what an encouragement these people are to me in common conversation.

I just want to encourage you that, if you don’t have a church home, or if you have one, but you haven’t embraced it to the point of having deep and encouraging relationships…do it! You’ll never regret breaking out of your comfort zone to find Christ’s exceedingly greater zone of comfort in his Church.

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Looks

 

:: I want to preface this post by saying it is not objectively written. The only truth that I am sure about is contained in the passage quoted at the bottom: that God looks beyond our appearance. The rest is just my silly, fallible opinion::

I came across a thought-provoking, albeit superficial news story on the Drudge Report today. The story, “We only date ugly men” is published by the British tabloid news journal, The Sun. Obviously this source is unscientific, but it raises an interesting question: Do women care less about looks than men?

The article claims that many women would prefer to date an ugly 393px-red_rose.jpgman over a handsome one for many reasons:

“Ugly men try harder”
“Most preferred a sense of humour or financial and career success”
“Good-looking guys are self-obsessed”
“Good-looking men are just boring”

As someone who works in retail, I find myself dealing in the superficial all day. While it does seem that women don’t care as much when it comes to beauty, I am convinced women do care as much about looks as men – not that it’s a bad thing. They simply may care about different traits than men care about, when it comes to appearance.

Here’s what I mean:

Women compare themselves with each other. In magazines, television, shopping malls, and schools they take in how the most “attractive” or “popular” women look and ask themselves how they measure up. They create standards in their own minds of what is ideal. Men do the same thing; but for men, it’s a matter of what to look for, not what to be.

As much as they embrace this method of determining their worth, I believe women get sick of such “ideals”. Furthermore, after being so consumed with observing and maintaining as close to the “ideal” as they can get, it is both unnerving and refreshing to be with a man whose appearance has nothing to do with these all-consuming ideals.

One time at work, a man came in to pick up a few pieces of clothing. He was in a dirty jump suit, slightly pudgy, and well beyond his twenties. As my co-worker “Megan” helped him at the register, I watched her body language. Megan herself is always dressed carefully and elegantly, so I was interested observe how she responded to a man who probably had been lying underneath automobile engines all day, caring nothing about his own appearance.

Afterwards, I told her, “You liked that guy.” Megan blushed a bit and admitted I was right.

“How did you know?” she asked.

“Cause he was dirty! He looked different…unruly…and I saw how you smiled as you watched him.”

~

So is one sex less superficial than the other? Men and women have both idealized what it means “to be a man” and “to be a woman”, and they exert these idealizations in every aspect of judgment of the opposite sex. Just because a woman isn’t looking for a polished, symmetrical, chiseled man, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care a great deal about how a man looks. It may simply mean she requires a different set of idealized gender associations to be met: she may require that he look rough, dirty, and strong instead.

~

When they entered, [Samuel] looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed is before Him.” But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” {emphasis mine}

1 Samuel 16:6-7

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Three “Gap” Theories

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I have three blogs in the works, but I haven’t posted anything in a few days. For the 2-4 people who seem to comprise my regular readership, I thought I’d post something about my job. Sorry for everyone who thought I’d delve into a lengthy discussion on Genesis 1.

There are three entertaining responses people have to learning when I tell them I work at Gap:

“Oh, weird, I wouldn’t imagine you working there!”

“I could totally see you working there!”

“That’s funny. You know what makes you…right?”

The first response comes from people who know theological David. These people associate me with any one of three general topics: predestination, John MacArthur, or something to do with how I don’t like the Emergent movement. Although a few people in Bellingham see me like this, the people who would think this about me are more likely to have known me growing up, since I was so heavily (and providentially!) immersed in Calvinism in high school. The Gap is a perpetual symbol of pop culture, so a theological nut like myself ought to feel uncomfortable in a setting that seems to symbolize “the world” to such an extent. Shoppers find low cut blouses, high cut skirts, and low-rise jeans at Gap. So, my presence there seems to be either some sort of inconsistency in my conservative values, or a blatant capitulation to my fleshly desires.

The second response comes from people who see me primarily as assertive, loud, and (lately) more fashionably dressed, social David. To imagine someone like that working in retail is no stretch of the imagination. These people are less likely to be familiar with 195 pound, golf shirt wearing, tuft-of-hair-in-the-front, Senior year of high school David. I wouldn’t say I didn’t care about style; I just didn’t have any. But that was ok, I really didn’t care what people thought of me as long as they knew that God elects them to be saved prior to their response in faith.

The last response comes from people who like to get a reaction out of me; these people know defensive David. They know I’m conservative, and they know why I’d work at Gap too; but instead of focusing on that, they know I’ll get irritated when they insinuate that working at Gap is supposed to mean I’m gay, since it would be impossible for me to know how to fit jeans for women and actually find them attractive at the same time (I do, and it helps…though I really try not to pull a Matt. 5:28). Add on to that the assumption that GAP stands as an acronym for “Gay And Proud” and you can guarantee I’ll get at least slightly defensive. I’m realizing how often people mess with me just to get a reaction!

The truth is, I work there because it’s a very enjoyable job. I walked in to work today, clocked in, grabbed some free candy, put on my name tag, and proceeded to greet friendly customers with “Hello, how are you?” all day. I usually get smiles from people when I do this. My manager never had any criticism for me, just the instructions: “work on section two”, “you’re my main cashier”, and “we have a GapCard goal of seven today”. All I really had to do was fold clothes, answer questions, and be a genuinely friendly person to as many people as possible for three and a half hours. Plus, we got a great new CD for our store soundtrack, so my manager and I were both singing along to the Police’s “Message in a Bottle”!

Colossians 3:17 says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

During my time working, I’ve made it a fairly regular goal to have an attitude that comes out of that verse. All my co-workers (who’ve worked for more than 4 weeks with the store) know that I’m a Christian, and it means something very real and practical to me. I’ve had a chance to share my faith with many of them directly. I’ve also gotten to learn about what their views are about their lives. No one has ever made fun of me for my relationship with Christ (to my knowledge), and many people seem to have a certain respect for my convictions.

I think it’s a great job, overall. I am grateful that the Lord has opened this path for me.

[The Gap logo is taken from http://www.wikipedia.com. It serves to illustrate the company about which I am writing, as well as the company for which I work.]

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