Petersons Old Veit Farm Reflections
I have blind spots and a lot more to learn about everything. Any truth I express is a gift from God. Follow God's "blog," not mine!
- Name: Daniel Leslie Peterson
- Location: Diamond Lake, Northeast Washington state, United States
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Abstaining from something does not have to mean that you view that thing negatively. Abstinence can actually be a means of affirming its goodness. Put another way, practicing self-denial does not necessarily mean you are “in denial”!
I am fully convinced that sex is a great gift from God. I have tried to make this clear in my writing. (See the posts on March, 12, 13, and 14, 2014, http://veitfarm.blogspot.com/2014_03_01_archive.html)
Committing to 90 days of sexual abstinence was motivated by my need to better grasp that goodness. Some sinful habits had become ingrained in my body and brain—not to mention my heart!—and were ruining what God created very good. It hasn't been easy, but it's been good.
Christian asceticism can be taken to ungodly extremes. God is not against pleasure; he invented it! But I think our permissive and hedonistic culture causes us to forget or ignore asceticism’s proper place. Patience and self-control are good fruit of the Holy Spirit. God made us and knows how our flesh and body works. I have never appreciated food more than when ending a period of fasting. I fast at times not because food is bad, but because I am forgetful and need to be reminded how good it really is.
Scripture and Christian tradition wisely encourage abstinence because it is one of the best tools to bring focus to our hearts. The main point isn’t the substance or behavior we abstain from, but rather the way stopping for a while uncovers heart issues we may not otherwise see.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Losing Your Eye or Hand to the Easy Yoke
In the midst of a 90-day abstinence from all sexual activity, I was struck by these words of Jesus:
“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matthew 18:8-9).
In Matthew 5 the context is adultery, which Jesus points out occurs in the heart even if one is “just looking.” In Matthew 18, the context is causing “little ones” to stumble (children have just been referenced in verses 1-5).
Most of the discussion of these passages that I can remember focuses on not taking what Jesus said “too literally.” As if anyone has in recent times! I read a comment that if we did, there would be a lot of one-eyed single-handed Christians walking (or limping) around.
If it’s not so literal, what did Jesus mean? That seems to me a much more useful and important discussion. In my case, it meant that I should be willing to go to some pretty extreme efforts to avoid sinning sexually, whether that sin involves committing adultery in my heart or causing someone else to stumble as the result of my actions.
Some find a 90-day commitment to sexual abstinence to be “pretty extreme.” Believe me, it is! At times it felt like giving up my right hand or even both eyes would have been far easier! But I want to follow Jesus, and these words of Jesus spoke to me and encouraged me. The remark in the book of Hebrews is very true: In my struggle against sin, I have not yet resisted to the point of shedding my blood as my Lord has (Hebrews 12:1-4).
I cannot take any credit or claim any strength for going the 90 days. Also in Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (11:28-30). My sins certainly weary and burden me, and I have nowhere else to go. God’s grace and gifts are, indeed, amazing.
Does our aversion to taking extreme measures on behalf of our own souls reveal a misunderstanding of Christ’s easy yoke?
[This post was adapted from an email I sent to a few men who are my “circle of accountability.”]
Monday, July 21, 2014
A Heavy Heart at a Sad Situation
I have a growing awareness of how pervasive sin is throughout the world of Christian organizations and leaders. This is, of course, “nothing new under the sun.” The all-too-common errors and falls of Christian leaders should always disturb us but never surprise us.
Celebrity culture may be nothing new, but it sure does seem to be having a heyday in our time. In preparing a message, I am currently studying the conclusion of 2 Peter:
14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
The background to Peter’s conclusion includes 2 Peter 2 and Jude, where the “perversion of the grace of our God into a license for immorality” and greed by false teachers is clearly described.
My problem is that I find my own heart growing heavy with this sad situation. Internet blogs now provide a virtually endless supply of stories detailing the ways leaders abuse their followers in the name of Jesus, and the way some followers end up abandoning Christian faith. Subsequent blog comments often unfold the equally endless debates between sympathizers and defenders. And then there is no shortage of polemics from websites from all angles finding fault with everyone else!
I also find myself wondering what my mission needs to be in light of all this. Debbie has proposed that we take a “year of jubilee” from gardening next year to spend some time away from the farm, including me focusing on my writing. Beyond the teaching notes I provide to the small group gathered at Grace Bible Church of Diamond Lake, what might my ministry be? Given the comprehensive impulse of my scholarship, the “endlessness” referred to above often overwhelms and paralyzes me!
I am confident in my own convictions, but those convictions include being convinced that my own thinking is limited, subject to error, and unable to grasp all there is to know. I have biases and blind spots. So, please pray for me as I seek to keep my heart pure in all this. Peter’s conclusion remains: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Only God is God
Only God is God, and thus I am not God. In spite of the observations about myself posted below on May 16, 2014, I easily forget and continually ignore how partial and limited I really am. I like to be in control. My intelligent craving to be comprehensive and encyclopedic fools me into thinking I might know at least most of what there is to know about something, and so I come to think of myself as God. But only God knows everything and everyone; only God has the complete plan for anything and anyone; only God can think and feel and will absolutely all things all at once; and only God’s ministry with his Spirit can actually cover all the bases. Only God is God.
[I’ve just added this item to my booklet, “30 Meditations for the Proud,” to the portion posted May 18, 2014.]
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Overemphasis and Underestimation
I have come to the conclusion that theological divisions among Christians generally come from overemphasizing and/or underemphasizing certain teachings. I have also concluded that there is only one "subject" that cannot be overemphasized, and that is Jesus Christ.
I've also come to think that there are two huge parallel subjects that we commonly underestimate. We underestimate the extent of sin, and we underestimate the extent of grace.
Sin has enormous and far-reaching consequences. It is personal, but also corporate, generational, cultural, national, etc. It touches absolutely everything with unimaginable ruin.
At the same time, God’s goodness and love freely given in the gospel of his grace has enormous and far-reaching consequences. It is everywhere always present and evident if one has eyes to see it. It hopes for, promises, and guarantees unimaginable redemption, restoration, and glory.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Pride’s Damning Consequence: It Does Not Love!
In the previous post I wrote about my attitude toward the many Christians who differ from me. As believers, we also need to watch our attitudes toward non-Christians. Every one of us was once in that same category.
The relationship we now have with God was made possible by Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. The relationship we now have with him results from our sins being forgiven by grace through faith. This compels us to love every human being as God loves them. Just as with brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to also be very interested in and very patient with everyone who does not yet share my confession that Jesus is Lord. Just because I think that someone is “dead wrong” does not mean that I wish that person dead. I can love and accept you even if I don’t approve of everything you say or do. (God does!)
If our ambition is to become more important and attract a following, we are blind to the lesson taught by the greatest person who has ever lived (other than Jesus), John the Baptist. What made John great was his clear understanding that it was all about Jesus, not himself. Even though the gospel is all about what God has done for you and me, it is not all about you, and it is not all about me. It is always all about our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why “he must increase, but you and I must decrease.”
The Bible makes it clear that one thing is more important than everything else: To love God and one another. The commitment to die for the one you love is the primary aspect of the love that Jesus teaches and God demonstrates. True love makes the life of the other person always more important than one’s own. The most damning consequence of my pride is that it keeps me from loving! “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
This is the fifth and last in a series of posts excerpted from my “personal conclusion” to the booklet, “30 Meditations for the Proud” February 2013. To receive a free electronic copy, email me at email@example.com.
Also available is a comprehensive study, “Everything (in the Bible) about John the Baptist.” This amazing story about an amazing man has the power to change your story! Are you and your ministry preparing the way for Jesus, always pointing to him? Can you get out of the way so that Jesus and others become more and more important while you and your work and ministry become less and less important? Do you encourage your followers to follow Jesus instead?
Monday, May 19, 2014
My Two Minds: Narrow and Simple, Broad and Wide Open
As I have learned about the differing interpretations and convictions that Christians have had for nearly 2000 years, I have become narrower.
I have grown so narrow that only one thing remains most important in my view of the Christian faith: Do you and I confess that Jesus is Lord? Do you and I trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you and I love God because he first loved us? For me, this is the crux of Christianity and the only thing that is most important.
There are, of course, many other things, and some of them are very important. But none of them are as important as Jesus Christ, and all of them are secondary to his death and resurrection. I believe that if we agree that Jesus is Lord, we have the only foundation we need to live together and discuss and debate all the other matters of Christian faith. If we above all love each other with the love God has shown us in the gospel, we should be very interested in and very patient with each other as we discover how all the other things on our “lists” compare.
The sheer variety of Christian teaching through the ages forces me to conclude that my small mind may not yet grasp all that God’s Spirit and Word have revealed. Not only have I become extremely narrow, but I have also become very broad, wide open to the possibility that I have something to learn from believers whose traditions and doctrines differ from my own. If I hold my convictions by faith with a clear conscience before God, I have to believe that many others do as well. Since God has not yet led everyone to agree to the same “list,” it appears to me that Jesus himself unifies us by his Spirit, not by our agreement about everything else.
It is a plain fact that Christians have differing convictions. (I expressed some of mine in the previous blog below.) But if you or I think that anything on our “list” trumps the love of God demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at the top of the list, we are missing the point made obvious by the cross and the empty tomb: Jesus is Lord! And if you or I think that our particular convictions or theology or church are the best or the most right of all those around, we are proud, deceived fools.
[This is the fourth in a series of posts excerpted from the “personal conclusion” to my booklet, “30 Meditations for the Proud” February 2013. To receive a free electronic copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I expressed similar thoughts in my March 27, 2014 post below, “I am MORE than an Evangelical.”]