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Still Learning, On the 3rd Anniversary of My Beloved’s Passing

Blog, The Kingdom Notes

Learning Patience in Grief I suspect there was a time in my life when I was more impatient. If I had known a friend who had lost a spouse my sympathy would have been deep, but the opposite shore not so far distant. That is, I would feel deeply, but briefly. I would want my friend to pick up the pieces and move on, to look more forward than backward. That, however, exposes the relative weakness of sympathy, in contrast to its stronger, more robust cousin, empathy. Now such a loss isn’t abstract for me, but is my own experience. Now I understand that you can’t simply move on. Moving On? We tend, I think, to be binary on loss, as if it has an off/on switch. In the initial stages of mourning we understand the utter exhaustion of sorrow, the bare and grim determination to do the next thing,…

The End of the World As We Know It

Blog, The Kingdom Notes

Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.— Yeats Living in the Context of Battle I have long argued that Genesis 3 sets the stage for our lives, the Bible and all of history. We live in a context of battle, between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. I have argued in turn that that over-arching battle will be determined based on two other battles. First there is the battle inside the seed of the woman, between our new man and our old man. The more sanctified we become, the better things will go in the great battle. The other…

Is my sense of “peace” a good arbiter on right and wrong?

Ask R.C., Blog

Acting Against Your Conscience Yes and no. It is all too common, even outside charismatic circles, for people to use their own internal sense of peace, or a lack thereof, as their own personal moral guide when faced with moral choices. The sole reason this might be appropriate, however, has nothing whatever to do with whatever moral dilemma we might be facing and everything to do with a clear biblical principle — whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). The principle here is simple enough — if we do something we believe to be wrong, even if it is not in itself wrong, we have done wrong. My lack of peace is a clear sign I think something a sin. If I go ahead and do it, I have sinned, even if my lack of peace was misguided. Suppose, for instance, that it is not a sin to…

What should we be on our guard for as our children grow older?

Ask R.C., Blog

Teenage Sin Sin is the true and obvious answer. That said, there are peculiar sins that teenagers, at least in our day, are somewhat prone to. Just as with adults, however, I’m afraid we mass our defenses in all the wrong places. The sins of our youth are just like the sins of our dotage, though they may present themselves in somewhat different ways. The key sin I am on the lookout for with my teenagers is the one I’m on the lookout for in me — pride. Pride How is pride manifest in our youth? It begins, I would suggest, in a lack of loyalty. That is our children are tempted as they grow older to look upon their family, the authority of their parents, as something they have grown past. They are tempted in turn to see their own peer group as the peak of wisdom, character and…

Taking on Ferguson

Blog, The Kingdom Notes

Listen to the JCE episode on this topic: Internet Arguments Over Ferguson There is, on the internet, a pale and lifeless shadow of circumstances in Ferguson. In the troubled suburb of Saint Louis there is marching on the street, looting on the street, and if either side is correct, corruption on the street. The internet is a more peaceful place, barely. With the release of the decision of the Grand Jury to not prosecute Officer Darrin Wilson for the shooting and death of Michael Brown we have seen everyone and their brother taking a side, making an argument, and more often than not, treating those who disagree as benighted fools and black hearted scoundrels. What Happened in Ferguson? I confess that I don’t know what happened on that August afternoon. I wasn’t there. I haven’t seen film. Nor have I read any reports from forensic pathologists. All I know about…

How can we tell the difference between the accusations of the devil, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit?

Ask R.C., Blog

Jesus’ Betrayal Jesus, we ought to remember, was betrayed twice by His disciples. While the betrayal of Judas carried Jesus inexorably toward His passion, the betrayal of Peter was of the same dark hue. Both pushed Jesus away as the other, both left Him to the accusations of others. And, it should not be forgotten, both responded to their betrayal of our Lord with sorrow. Two duplicitous, disloyal cowards. Two grievous sins. Two hearts weighed down with despair. But there the paths diverge. Godly Sorrow Judas, in his anguish, took his own life. Peter, in his anguish, turned to the One he had betrayed, to the One who gives life. Judas’ sorrow led him further from his only hope. Peter’s sorrow led him toward his only hope. Which, in the end, is how we tell the difference between the accusations of the devil and the conviction of the Holy Spirit….

Do Calvinists have too low a view of themselves?

Ask R.C., Blog

Made in the Image of God Perhaps. It is virtually impossible to have to low a view of ourselves by ourselves. We, all of us who are human, do indeed bear the image of God. Even that, however, is ultimately extrinsic to us. The imago, we need to understand isn’t essential to us in a sense, but is added to us. By ourselves, apart from His grace, we are but dust and rebellion. In His grace, however, He has imposed upon us, stamped upon us, His image. We humans thus have worth, dignity and value, though these are ultimately from without rather than within. Total Depravity In affirming the total depravity of all men we still affirm that we could always be worse. Total depravity speaks to two lines of our wickedness. First, it affirms the breadth of our sin. There is no part of us untouched by sin. The…

I Mourned My Lack of Shoes Until…

Blog, The Kingdom Notes

Nearness of Suffering It is a dangerous folly to compare, much less compete in hardship. Each of us has our own, and the closeness of our suffering is a deeper barometer of the challenge than the hardness of it. I learned this the first time I ventured out to the movies without my wife. That was what we did on date night, as vanilla as it might seem — dinner and a movie. We both loved the movies, she more than me. Whatever our choices I always let Denise choose. If Attack of the Killer Killing Things was released the same week as Rose Petals on Lavender Beaches we went to the latter. My reasoning was simple — I usually fall asleep at the movies, and might as well nap at a movie she loved as one I would enjoy, if I were awake. Surprised by Suffering Imagine my surprise…

Ask R.C. Jr: Could Jesus have sinned?

Ask R.C., Blog

The Liberty & Ability to Sin Yes, and no. How we answer depends totally on how we are using the word “could.” Augustine explored the issue well, and both Luther and Edwards followed after him in distinguishing two different kinds of abilities. We could say that Jesus had the liberty to sin, but did not have the ability, or alternately, that He had the ability but not the liberty. External Restraint The freedom, or the “yes” of the answer comes down to this — there was no outside force restraining Jesus from sinning. It’s not as though if He had tried to speak a stone into bread during His temptation that His lips would not cooperate. There are situations where outside forces do take away our choices. When I was arrested outside an abortion mill in 1989 the police restrained me with cuffs, ran an ax handle under my armpits,…

Sing for Jesus Sister

Blog, The Kingdom Notes

Blessings & Hardships of Dying There are, as I have long argued, blessings and hardships that come with every form of home-going. The surprise jolts us, but we remember that the deceased didn’t suffer. The long expected allows for fitting goodbyes, and getting our affairs in order. In between you usually get a bit of the blessings of both. There is, for those left behind, a peculiar hardship that comes with an expected death. For me, the pain of the last few months of my wife’s life comes back to haunt me this time of year. It was during the fall of 2011 that Denise was going through a clinical trial, a last gasp hail Mary effort to stop the destruction that was assaulting her. The trial rocked her body and depleted her strength. A chill in the air now puts a chill in my soul. A Glimpse of Eternity…