Romans 9-11 summarized (again)

Paul labors in Romans 9-11 to answer two questions: “[Has] the word of God has failed[?]” (9:6) “Has God rejected his people?” (11:1) He answers these in at least six ways:

1. “Children of the promise” benefit from God’s promises. It is not enough to simply be “children of the flesh.” (9:8) “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” (9:6)

2. God has always had a purpose in unconditionally electing individuals *out of* Israel, independent of human decisions. “In order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls… So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (9:12,16)

3. As prophesied, “Israel has stumbled over the stumbling stone,” Christ. How so? “They did not pursue [righteousness] by faith, but as if it were based on works.” (9:32)

4. Israel has heard the message, but stubbornly rejected it (10:14-18). They have rebelled en masse. They have what they need for faith (hearing the word), but still refuse to believe.

5. The salvation of Gentile believers was prophesied. “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.” (10:20) “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’” (9:25)

6. God’s plan to eventually save ethnic Israel is roundabout: God has hardened Israel to bring salvation to the Gentiles. When the “fullness of the Gentiles has come in”, the Jews will be jealous, and this will lead to the mass conversion of Israel. In this way, God will save the elect of both Jews and Gentiles, and will fulfill his special promises to ethnic Israel. (Romans 11)

In review:

– God’s word has not failed, but has been fulfilled.
– God’s purpose in unconditional election unstoppably continues.
– God justifies both the Jew and Gentile by faith, not by works.
– God is still fulfilling his plan to bring ethnic Israel to faith.

Paul ends with an overflow of worship: 11:33-36. This God is exhaustible in wisdom. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Wholesome bitters and unwholesome sweets

“…because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant. Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels—both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish.” – Bonhoeffer, Confessions 5.6.10, Outler Translation

“As we must often swallow wholesome bitters, so we must always avoid unwholesome sweets. But what is better than wholesome sweetness or sweet wholesomeness? For the sweeter we try to make such things, the easier it is to make their wholesomeness serviceable. And so there are writers of the Church who have expounded the Holy Scriptures, not only with wisdom, but with eloquence as well; and there is not more time for the reading of these than is sufficient for those who are studious and at leisure to exhaust them.” – Augustine, On Christian Doctrine

“Anyone who is thirsty will drink water from any utensil, even if it is somewhat inconvenient. And it is better to take some trouble in getting the water pure than to drink polluted water out of a glass. Anyone who is thirsty has always found living water in the Bible itself or in a sermon in fact based on the Bible, even if it were a little out-of-date—and it is an acknowledgment of a dangerous decadence of faith if the question of the relevance of the message, as a methodological question, becomes to loud.” – “The Interpretation of the New Testament,” (Aug 23, 1935) in Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Testament to Freedom (rev.; eds. Geffrey B. Kelly and F. Burton Nelson; HarperSanFrancisco, 1995), 151.

(HT: Ron Huggins)

The Difficulty of Adult Social Life

I was talking to one of my best friends about how hard and sad the social life for adults begins to be. High school, college, and young adult communities are more spontaneous. In some ways… more thrilling. But then you grow older and have to work hard at community.

You go through a season of married life in a cave. You have young children and suddenly a trip to Target is the highlight of a week. My wife and I have sometimes forgotten what “adult conversations” are like. We sometimes have the kids stay quiet for 5 minutes at the dinner table just so we can have one. We have been so exhausted at the end of a week that it has been hard to enjoy a date. This is worse in seasons where we have let our schedules become too busy. We need margin.
Now we have to plan most of our social encounters — sometimes weeks in advance. A calendar notification pops up: “Breakfast with…” You have to drive 25 minutes to see your friends. Your relationship circles get smaller. This problem is much worse for singles or those in fledgling churches. Or those in areas of the country where friends are more geographically disparate.

Weekly scheduled time together with a few key friends — this is now the rhythm of social life. Occasional dates with my wife and, individually, with my kids. A walk to Dunkin Donuts! A bike ride around the block with a 7-year-old. A playful romp on the living room floor with my 1-year-old. This is gold. Worth more than diamonds.

Friendships that last don’t merely run on the gas of shared context or shared life-seasons or shared boredom. I have friends now that are 30 years older and 15 years younger than me. The local church — especially via non-Sunday-service meetups — is more and more central for communal life and relationship. Computer programming puts me in an amazing community with people that have very different backgrounds — we delight in what we work together on. Hockey connects me with really neat people. And through evangelism I get to meet people from around the world.

I wouldn’t want to go back to any of the earlier seasons. I remember being so afraid of being alone in high school. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself, “Everything is going to be OK. God will take care of you.”

And I should be grateful: my loneliest seasons have been formative for my relationship with God. I cried out to him and he answered. “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand… Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.” (Psalm 73:23, 25) I remember sweet moments of blasting this song in my car.

But there were social and relational perks to youth and young adulthood. One hope I have for the resurrection-community is being able to sit down with friends and say without any urgency, “So, what do you want to do today?”

To be fully known and truly loved

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

― Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

The Black Lab

Circa 2000

We’ve a small pup
A boisterous black lab with a
Bulging belly who can bonsaiii!
Blitz, bounce, and bluff in a game of tackle

By night she is blobbing her ohhh!
So sad puppy’s bewail, for she needs to
Trot a trip to the massive field (our backyard)
To take care of business

Hours later she is bustling again
For a bobble, bouting for kicks
Bumptious and brave in game
And hasty over eating her puppy-bites

Years will pass
She will become an expert botanist
A bullfrog and butterfly warrior
And a mighty guard for burglars and mailmen

For now, I smile watching her big bright eyes
Glimmer at the sound of her new
Best friends, the benevolent givers of

JavaScript Roundup (November 2014)

Continue reading

Where superlatives go to be purified

I have learned to love hyperbole
To exaggerate purposefully
It is the language of love glowing
Bubbling, brimming, overflowing

And with a little two-word qualifier
I can take any superlative
Any galaxy
Any solar system
Any star
And fit it in my pocket

My wife is the best cook
In the universe
For me

My son is the smartest boy
In the galaxy
For me

My daughters are the sweetest little women
In the world
For me

But God is where all superlatives go to be purified
In the fire of literal perfection
Where all limiting qualifiers are stripped
Where all exaggerations become understatements
Where all poets speak as children
Before the un-exaggeratable
Most High