Devil, I must sleep

Martin Luther dealing with his depression:

When I go to bed, the Devil is always waiting for me. When he begins to plague me, I give him this answer: “Devil, I must sleep. That’s God’s command, ‘Work by day. Sleep by night.’ So go away.” If that doesn’t work and he brings out a catalog of sins, I say, “Yes, old fellow, I know all about it. And I know some more you have overlooked. Here are a few extra. Put them down.” If he still won’t quit and presses me hard and accuses me as a sinner, I scorn him and say, “St. Satan, pray for me. Of course you have never done anything wrong in your life. You alone are holy. Go to God and get grace for yourself. If you want to get me all straightened out, I say, ‘Physician, heal thyself.’”

Abraham does not know

Martin Luther cites Isaiah in the explanation of his shorter catechism, addressing the necessity of praying only to God.

Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.  –Isaiah 63:15-16

No where does Scripture commend the idea of praying to the dead or anyone else other than God. The witch of Endor is as surprised as anyone that Samuel actually shows up, and she is hardly an example to follow (1 Sam. 28). But efforts to communicate with lost loved ones are as common as they are tragic. Many of those seeking to contact the dead are searching for consolation and peace, for things to be said and heard, to make up for things done and left undone in the wake of the loss of someone. Instead of healing the wound, such attempts at communication are futile and misleading if not worse. Abraham is the father of the faithful, and from Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31), we know that Abraham’s bosom was the destination of the faithful departed. Who else could hear us if not Abraham? But Isaiah is clear. Neither he nor Israel know what is going on. This is okay because God our Father does know us and our issues. This means that though the pain of loss and separation are real, so is his knowledge and comfort; his grace is sufficient for this trial. It also means that whatever conflicts, issues or sins remain unaddressed between people who are separated by death, they will be resolved if they need to be in the future, and until then there is peace to be had in the here and now.

Burn the Milquetoast

James Adam’s calls for praying the Psalms:

God plainly declares that it is His purpose to bring down the evil empire in due time. But how has He chosen do so? Through the prayers and work of His saints–your prayers and mine! We must end the wishy-washy, milquetoast prayers of our own philosophies and learn again to beg for the overthrow of Satan’s domain. (War Psalms of the Prince of Peace)

The imprecatory Psalms are rarely sung in the church today and this is to the detriment of the cause of justice. It is said that God has come to this world to save his people and set the world to rights, and this is precisely what the Psalms call for which are then taken up by the writers of the New Testament and Jesus himself. Sickened by sex trafficking? Cantankerous over corrupt politicians fleecing the poor? Take up and sing the Psalms.

Psalmic Prayer

The New Testament directly quotes the Old 283 times. Of these, 116 or 41% are from the Psalms. The Psalms speak to every aspect of human experience, and give us a vocabulary to pray to God. Calvin connected the understanding of the Psalms to one’s depth of doctrine:

In short, as calling upon God is one of the principal means of securing safety, and as a better and more unerring rule for guiding us in this exercise cannot be found elsewhere than in the Psalms, it follows, that in proportion to the proficiency which a man shall have attained in understanding them, will be his knowledge of the most important part of celestial doctrine.

Nearly half of allusions to Jesus in the NT are also from the Psalms. One could hardly do better than to pray the Psalms every day.

Blood Money

Here is a trailer for a new documentary Blood Money about the enormous racket that is the abortion industry. For those who are aware that there are approximately 3500 abortions each day in our land of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, think about the monetary implications: 3500 abortions times $650 (the cost of an abortion 12 weeks and under according to my neighborhood Planned Parenthood office) times 365 days equals over $830 million each year. No wonder PP is such an enormously profitable “non-profit”.

Blast Off

Laurence Stookey quotes Joseph Weber: “Most contemporary Christians think the resurrection and ascension are a kind of two-stage rocket: The resurrection gets the body of Jesus up from the ground and then the ascension launches it into outer space.”

Introducing A New Kind of Christianity, sorta

I’ve been slow getting around to Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, but here I finally am. Reading books I disagree with is fun and a regular part of my omnivore reading diet. A friend even urged on and loaned me Jodi Picoult’s Change of Heart, and what do I do, but read it?

The difficulty with reading McLaren is that it’s like talking to a salesman who swears he has nothing to gain personally from you purchasing his product and he genuinely appears to believe it. In other words, the self-deception is sincere; he really thinks he is loving and humble, evidenced by self-effacement and endless declarations of humility and generosity. Oh, sorry, those declarations would qualify as statements, and don’t you know that statements “create debate (and sometimes, sadly, hate) that moves us into a new state” (p17). Those italics and fine rhymes are his. You want to walk away, but I won’t because I’m so humble. I need you to know this. Humble, humble, humble. Did I mention that? Continue reading

Kagan Trails

Elena Kagan lacks the common paper trail that leads to the Supreme Court, but she has left plenty of other tracks. William Saunders comments on her philosophy to enforce one’s ideal democratic law from the bench, rather than apply the current legislated law:

When presenting the Peter Gruber prize at Harvard Law School in 2006 to retired Israeli Supreme Court judge, Aharon Barak, she said that he “is my judicial hero. He is the judge who has best advanced democracy, human rights, the rule of law, and justice.” In 2006, Barak published a book detailing his judicial philosophy, The Role of a Judge in Democracy. As distinguished thinkers from Robert Bork to Richard Posner have noted, it is simply a handbook for judicial activism, in which the judge becomes a Platonic Guardian who makes all the tough decisions for society in accord with what he things are “human rights” and “justice.” This is simply “government by the judiciary,” and that is not part of our own Constitution.

Read Saunder’s extended critique here.

Self-Accredited Abortionists

Planned Parenthood receives over $27 million each year of taxpayer dollars in Washington State. Now they are about to about to accredit medical practices in their own clinics. From the Family Policy Institute of Washington:

Every day in Washington State, people have surgery in office-based facilities. Hundreds of offices perform procedures like oral surgery, foot surgery, and plastic surgery outside hospital facilities.

While I am not personally aware of any crisis, there is apparently concern about lack of regulation of these facilities. Enough concern, in fact, that within the Washington State Department of Health, the Medical Quality Assurance Commission (MQAC) is drafting new rules to create standards for office-based surgery centers.

Among the provisions is an accreditation requirement for the office in which the surgery takes place.

Somewhere along the way, the abortion industry realized that they were going to be included in these regulations. And that’s where this story gets interesting, because that’s when the MQAC started treating people differently. After working for nearly two years to create uniformity for all office-based surgery centers, the MQAC inserted language that would discriminate against medical facilities simply because they do not provide abortions:

“In lieu of accreditation or certification by one of the above-listed entities, facilities limiting office-based surgery to abortions or abortion-related services may be accredited or certified by either the Planned Parenthood Federation of America or the National Abortion Federation.”

Read the whole thing here.

Time Continuum

Laurence Hull Stookey says that we ought to think of time as existing on a continuum. Picture it as a line that we are still connected with the past behind, the future ahead, and the crossbar of the present moving forward. “The present is but the moving edge between the past and the future. In some sense the present barely exists. This should not suggest that the present is unreal or unimportant, but only that it is always a moving edge of the thinnest sort. In a moment you will read a word set in all capital letters; your reading of that word is now a future event. BUT now your reading of that word is a past event. In this understanding of things, the past is far more than prologue and the future far more than a distant dream. The present cannot be conceived in isolation, as if it had a life of its own. Always the past, present and future are of a piece” (Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, p20).

Christ is the great arche, the thing in which all things consist and cohere, including the past and the future. We know that every person’s identity is bound up in the past and the future, and this means that in order to be made whole in Christ, our time has to be reconciled to him. If someone is troubled or haunted by their past, this means their present (and likely future) is negatively dominated by it. If someone takes sinful pride in their past, for example by way of an accomplishment or heritage, this will distort their identity in the present. There is no escaping our intimate connection to where we come from, what we have done, and what has been done to us. But there is relief and grace only if we submit it to Christ, the great forgiver and healer. Paul called himself the chief of the sinners because he was a persecutor and murderer of Christians, among other things. Yet when he looked back on his past, he found even before his birth the plan of God: “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles. . . .” (Gal. 1:15-16). Jesus didn’t knock Paul down until the Damascus road, but providence was always at work in Paul’s life preparing him–even through and in spite of his sins–for obedience to the Gospel and work in the kingdom. His past informed his Christian life.

For the Christian, a sinful past need not pose any trouble to the present. It might pose consequences, but those consequences are still part of God’s plan for good to the person now.