We bestow more abundant honour…

Feet in Grass

There were a bunch of titles that I considered for this article. “Feet are awesome,” “The root of the problem,” and others. But I stuck with the above mainly because it was biblical. And even if the context of it isn’t talking exactly about my subject… it is in principle. At least I believe so.

I have always taken great pride in making my feet tough and strong and capable. I would run barefoot on sharp gravel and through the woods and climb trees barefoot to strengthen them up… so I could do all those things all over again. I used them almost like hands as far as picking things up goes, and just as much as hands when climbing trees.

I was even able to navigate blackberry patches in bare feet. And that is quite the challenge, let me tell you.

Feet in TreeMy feet never took on the symptoms that people normally have from being constantly confined in shoes (such as being unable to straighten your toes), mostly because I hardly ever wore shoes.

I loved my feet. And I still do. They’ve been through a lot with me, and I trust ’em to take care of themselves (for the most part anyway). They are very capable appendages.

I can tell a lot about a person from their feet. A person will take great pains, often enough, to take care of their face and watch its expressions and appearance. They know it is their ambassador, like their clothes. Some people know that their hands also represent themselves (mostly people who’ve read Sherlock Holmes, I’d imagine), and take care of them as well, to make them show what they want to show.

Feet on FenceBut our feet are like the knights guarding the backdoor. People don’t often think of them as representatives, but they are, and often they will tell you things your hands and face will not.

Besides, feet were created originally to be beautiful, just like the rest of our body. And I always saw them as such.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that not everyone likes feet! They think they are disgusting and devoid of beauty or practicality other than for walking on here and there, and even then they are despised for carrying out this noble task. How terrible.

But these same people like hands… and eyes… and mouths…. And all those are just as messy, often as not! So… why?

Feet in SkyHonestly, I see it as a symptom of a very common ailment among people throughout the world and throughout time.

Arbitrary preference.

Two big words, but let me break that down. Arbitrary means without external reason or control. Ungoverned. In this context, I am using it to refer to a decision made with no valid or weighty reasoning behind it. A preference is another kind of choice, a choice between two things, one of which you choose to like more than the other. Normally a preference is made based off of reason (or it should be). As in, you prefer one college over another, because it is cheaper and provides better schooling.

The problem is when you make an arbitrary preference. A preference that dictates that you do not like something as much as another for no reason at all. I am not talking about having two options with equal merit and choosing one — no, that is something else. I am talking about choosing one thing over another with no reasons considered for either, or even without looking at them!

An example?

A favorite color. Honestly, I don’t have a favorite color in the traditional sense, because every single color has its specific place in creation with its own unique role. They are different, and they affect me differently, but I do not set one up over another in its own right as far as esthetics go.

However, if you ask me what my favorite color is, I will say it is green. Why? Because I took several things into consideration to make that decision. I looked at what the color green means to me, and discovered that it meshes beautifully with my life passions and principles. And so, green is my favorite because it reminds me, more than other colors, of what is really important to me.

As for favorite foods, I have none at all, no matter which way you look at it. I enjoy each food placed before me in its own right, and do not arbitrarily decide to dislike something. And I definitely don’t choose to dislike a food I haven’t tried. I will make health and quality distinctions (such as, I don’t eat refined sugar or flour and things like that, and I don’t eat shellfish), but those are informed choices, not arbitrary preferences.

Why did I make this decision (and it is a decision)?

Feet with FlowerBecause I realized long ago that in choosing to dislike something, I am choosing to reject something for which I could have been grateful. I am choosing to insert into my life a dose of unhappiness. What do I mean by unhappiness? A lack of things happening to me that I like. (Quite different from joy, but that is another article.) If I choose to like as much as I can, I am happier. Which is good.

And if you look at it that way… making an arbitrary preference would mean I would be rejecting a blessing from God. And that is not something I want. I want everything He will give me!

That is why I started this post off about feet. Feet are a blessing from God, for which I am thankful. And I want to encourage you all to take them as an example of the infinite multitude of things that are often overlooked in God’s abundant blessings to us. And then, maybe, to remember to choose to like things, just because God gave them to you.Feet in Tree

Avast There and Listen Up! I Got Some'at To Say!

think outside the box
Image by smemon87 via Flickr

“God is wrong.”

“God Never Forgets.”

“What are the differences between being anxious to please God, and being anxious to please a man?”

“God never has an opinion about anything.”

“Is miserable. * cheerily *”

“Is cannibalism wrong?”

“Is polygamy wrong?”

Those are just a few of the controversial statuses that I have propagated over my networks recently, sparking an astonishing variety of responses. And that doesn’t count all the controversial posts I have written on here over the course of my blog’s lifetime, and all the fascinating responses those have incurred as well.

Almost every time I post one, though, at least one person voices some confusion over why I write them.

Good question. A very good question.

And so I am doing it again in order to answer! Isn’t that dandy? 😀

First off, I must admit, it is a lot of fun to rile people up, make them guess, and tease them. ‘Tis true, and I humbly acknowledge the fact.

But that isn’t really the whole reason why I do it. It is actually only a small part of it. The main reason is much bigger.

See, there are two kinds of motives that I use alternately, depending on the medium, space, and time available. The first is to stir up people to help them think about something in a way they hadn’t before. I’ll get to why I believe that is important in a bit. The second is to present my own belief on a subject in order to give people more options in their beliefs and aid their understanding of that subject.

If I only have room for a quick question or a startling statement (like a status), I will go for the first one. I will rarely give my own position on these sorts of conversations, at least not right up front, but will instead focus on guiding the conversations of the people who comment.

That is because my goal is not to teach a piece of knowledge, but to teach a skill. A skill.

That skill is a way of thinking. I am trying to exercise a system of learning that people rarely use anymore, as a way to help my friends. Right, I am not just being mean, I am actually giving you something.

And it isn’t just thinking outside the box. This is a special type of thinking outside the box.

See, I want to help you analyze your lexicological assumptions, even at the very heart of your worldview. A lot of people are willing to think outside the box when it comes to things like design, or writing style, and artistic things like that, or even with things like engineering problems. But very few people are willing to go out on a limb and consider alternative explanations for facts (or even new facts that might conflict with the explanations they hold to be true) when they are directly relevant to their fundamental worldview.

People might even consider looking at alternative definitions if they are about peripheral things, but never about foundational things.

Why?

Because it is scary! A lexicological shift that deep can have massive repercussions throughout your life. You could even become a completely different person. I know. It’s happened several times to me. The power of changing lexicological assumptions at the foundational level is real, very real. But that also means it is important, extremely important, that you get those lexicological assumptions correct.

What if they are wrong, and changing them to something that is more right would change your life drastically… for the better?

What if you are missing out on loads of God’s blessings because you were too scared to even consider the possibility that they might be out there for you?

Right. The consequences of not looking are more scary than looking!

And so I help people consider alternative ways of looking at their own beliefs. I force them out of their little bubbles of complacency. I give them little nudges, giving them little glimpses of other ways of looking at things. And then they get the choice to examine their assumptions and possibly choose one that is better than the one they had before.

Even if I don’t give them what I think is the right answer, and even if they don’t change their minds about anything, I can still succeed. Because my goal is to get them to think about it in a certain way. If I succeed in that, I am happy.

But what about when I actually do make the effort to put across my own perspective on a subject? Like this blog post? Why am I writing it?

It isn’t to make you agree with me.

Honest. I’m not here to make everyone in the world agree with me. Or all the people who read my stuff. Or even to make all my friends agree with me. In fact, I don’t want that. Because that would mean I wouldn’t learn anything! I’m not right about everything. In fact, I am probably wrong about almost everything. And what I know is piddling compared to what is out there. People disagreeing with me is not a threat, and I don’t see it that way.

The goal is to provide a different perspective on a subject that you may not have seen or considered before.

My brain-tweaking statuses are there to help you learn to look at different perspectives, and my blog posts are there to provide you with a different perspective to look at. You really don’t understand a subject until you have seen multiple explanations for the relevant facts. Plain and simple.

That is also why I don’t debate, in either the conversations from my statuses, or in the comments on my blog posts. Debating removes learning, and learning is my goal: not convincing.

Would I like it if people changed their minds because of what I write? And if because of it they draw closer to God and are able to serve Him better? Yes! But that can only happen after these other two goals are met, and I can only achieve it by aiming at these two goals.

So there you are. That is why I write these weird things. And also why I avoid debating them. I’m not hear to preach. I’m here to reveal.

And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur
Image via Wikipedia

For some reason over the past couple years, people have found it incumbent upon them to ask what my views were on Israel. Yeah, right, as if you really wanted to know. * shakes head *

But evidently, they do. And they aren’t talking about my fascinating views on biblical government and Old Testament Israel (though there are a few nice people who listen to me ramble on about that), they want to know about what my views are on Israel as a nation in the current day scheme of things and in the future. * sigh *

This is one of the topics that I honestly avoid, actually, mainly because I haven’t found hardly anyone who agrees with me. 😛 But then, if I don’t talk about it… how do I know? Right.

So here I am, prodded at last into posting my views on this gnarly subject.

Before I launch in, though, I would like to establish a bit of common ground…

We all believe that anyone can be saved, right? That to do so, we call on the name of God? (You know what I mean by that.) Whether or not you are Calvinist, you should be able to agree with that on some level, since the Bible says so.

So we would all agree that no one will be saved merely because they have a specific ancestry, right?

Good. 🙂

(If you don’t, you probably won’t get much out of this article, but you can send me an email explaining why you think that if you want, though I might not answer with anything more than an “interesting,” haha.)

There are tons of places in the Bible that deal with this issue, and I can’t go through them all. Far from it. I won’t even be able to scrutinize the ones I do bring up in any great depth. Simply too much there, and too little time.

I would like to start off by quoting three passages that have a common phrase:

Acts 15:8-9 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Romans 3:22-24 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Romans 10:11-13 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

These are only representative samples of a crucial theme throughout the Bible, because this is the heart of what the New Testament is. The New Testament’s glory is in its all embracing invitation: God’s kingdom is no longer a nation on earth – it now transcends national borders and lineages.

But what is Israel right now?

Matthew 3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

It isn’t necessarily that nation over in Palestine or even descendants of Abraham… at least not fleshly.

Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Now, there are two passages that are key to this subject, and they must be taken together. I would love to do a verse by verse commentary on them, but that will have to wait (I do actually plan on doing that someday, though). The first is Romans 10-11, and the other is Hebrews 8.

Romans 10:1-3 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

Paul is talking about the Israel everyone thinks of: the Israel of his fleshly kinsmen. This is made obvious by the context: they aren’t saved.

And then Paul explains what they are missing: they have a false trust.

Romans 10:11-13 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

They are trusting in their own righteousness that they have in and of themselves as Jews, rather than the righteousness of God through faith.

Romans 10:17-21 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.
21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.

They were told, they knew, it was made clear to them, but they rejected it, and now, have lost it. They are no longer the nation of God.

Now here we get into some fascinating stuff.

Romans 11:1a I say then, Hath God cast away his people?

Paul asks a natural question: does this mean that now Jews can’t be saved (as some believe)?

Romans 11:1b God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Obviously God didn’t make it so that Jews can’t be saved… Paul is one!

Romans 11:2-5 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

There is a remnant of Jews who are saved… by grace through faith. Not just Paul. They are not a lost cause: they just need to change the object of their faith. Being a Jew doesn’t make them saved.

Romans 11:13-15 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles is actually also a ministry to the Jews: he hopes that by preaching to the Gentiles, he will provoke the Jews into listening to the Gospel. A Jew being saved is like life from the dead in a whole new way.

Romans 11:17-24 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

What is this tree? Well, obviously it isn’t the nation of the Jews, because we don’t become a part of the Jewish nation when we are saved… we become a part of Christ. And the Jews who aren’t saved don’t stop being a part of their lineage… they simply are not a part of God’s family.

John 15:1-2, 5 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

The tree here is the True Israel. The Kingdom of God, that is not of this world. We, being Gentiles, have become a part of it by faith, and those who were of it, who did not stand in faith, but instead stood on their lineage, were cast out (as a whole). They can still stand by faith, though, and become a part of the true Israel again.

Romans 11:26a And so all Israel shall be saved…

Ah, but some say in the future, the nation of of the Jews will turn en masse to God and be saved. And then in that future, God will work with them as a nation on Earth. They generally point to this phrase right here for their support of this idea.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is saying just the opposite.

Romans 11:26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

What is this covenant? What covenant did God make with Israel in which He said He would take away their sins? Now we turn to Hebrews 8 for the answer:

Hebrews 8:6-13 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

I highlighted some key phrases there, but the whole thing is one cohesive whole that needs to be read over and over and over again. Powerful and amazing passage, that.

Paul is looking back at a promise that God made with the Jews in the Old Testament. He said that the Jews would reject the covenant that they had, and that God would replace it with a new one… with a whole new system. In this system, the Kingdom of God is no longer based on lineage, but on faith. Everyone in the Kingdom of God, in the New Israel, will be righteous, made righteous by God himself, not by sacrifices and lineage.

And so… all Israel will be saved. Is saved, actually, because he is talking about now. He is talking about the New Testament. This is the New Covenant!

Romans 11:30-32 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

The Jews as a nation rejected God and His covenant, as prophesied. And because of that unbelief, God brought in the New Testament, bringing mercy upon the Gentiles. Upon us. He rejected lineage as a criteria for His kingdom, so that He could have mercy on everyone.

Romans 11:33-36 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?
35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?
36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.