Math Myth

At lunch today I told this story to some 5th grade kids.

Once there was a division between the Sum and the multiplication. There was also a guy named Minus, who wasn’t very good at doing things. He wanted to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

Minus had one problem. He didn’t have a heart big enough.

So he drank a lot of milk to make himself stronger.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

He went to school and learned everything he could about the division between the Sum and the multiplication.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

After school he gathered as many numbers around him as he could: all kinds of possessions.
But his heart didn’t grow any bigger.

Finally, he prayed and asked God to give him a bigger heart.
And God gave him a bigger heart.

After this, Minus found Sum and multiplication still divided.
And because his heart was bigger now,
He applied himself to the division between the Sum and the multiplication
And Viola! He “subtracted” the division from between the Sum and the multiplication.

The Sum and the multiplication had a party and celebrated with cupcakes.

Then they all made an equation to remember how a Minus is always able to remove the division between the Sum and the multiplication.

That is why there is a minus sign used in the Division symbol.

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The God of Tenth Chances

To be sure, the subject of God’s character is an inexhaustible topic. Books about books will continue to be written, but in my experience there are few books which will reverence the One who is being studied from a personal standpoint. Whenever I listen to preachers I listen for the soft hush ready at the edge of every word apprehensive they might miss His still small voice when He speaks. I wait in the listening of men like John Bunyan, Leonard Ravenhill, T. Austin Sparks, or any believers who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, and my soul reaches out its hands to be warmed by the fire of holy men of God who let the Holiness of God forge them. Men like these came out of that fire the color of molten metal: that Amber shade of reverence that tempers each word at just the right temperature to comfort and confront the selfish human heart. In my study, I have been discipled not to know the content, but the character, not the plot-lines but the person, not the heroic deeds, but the heart of the One who did them. And one such story amazes me, simply put. And in light of so many who mistakenly wag their bony fingers at God in the Old Testament and say, “You are all wrath and no love. You look nothing like Jesus.” I feel compelled to patiently try to keep back my smile as I look them seriously in their misguided expressions, and assure them that there is more to the story if you know where to look.

The story is familiar thanks to Cecil De Mill’s The Ten Commandments, but as often happens whenever something is taken out of its culture and put into the vein of another set of values, the story gets rewritten in ways that obscure what was originally going on. One thing that has helped me to see more of what is happening in the story of Moses and God versus Pharoh in Egypt over the people of Israel, is translating the passage from Hebrew into English. Syntax, Word-meaning, nuances, and idiomatic phrases are much more refined down here at this level, and some of my findings I want to share with you. My aim is not to tell you a different story: My aim is to tell you more about the Hero.

Who is the hero? Well, the obvious answer according to the way the story has been told is that it is Moses. And Pharoh is the villain. This is close, and its easy to see how the hero’s side is the one Moses is on, and the villain’s side is the one that Pharoh is on, but I can tell you with complete confidence that the hero isn’t Moses.

How do I know that? Well, for one thing the action does not originate with Moses. Moses is not the one who is on a quest to save the people of Israel. That is God’s doing. Moses isn’t the one who goes through and slaughters all the first-born of Egypt, that was God. God was the one who remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God was the one who gave the words to Moses to speak. Moses isn’t the hero, he’s the Hero’s message boy. And God wanted him to be his message-boy. In fact, he grew angry when Moses refused to be his message boy, and let him have a message boy himself so he would actually go. Moses isn’t the hero. The hero is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who made man in his own image, and against whom Adam and Eve sinned. Same God.

It’s also the same God who saw the intentions of all humanity’s hearts in Genesis and saw the need to shorten man’s life-span so that evil would not become irreversibly rampant. Evil would have taken over the whole world except one man, God’s remnant– the one man who stood in the gap. It’s all God needs to keep his foot-hold or his work. He chose a remnant, he held onto a single thread a number of times in the Bible, where He kept on holding onto the hope and plan that he would in the end save his people.

So his people, in this passage are the people of Israel. God is fighting for them, and Moses is the servant who does his master’s bidding. His master is the hero. The villain is Pharoh. Pharoh is shown to be the villain in plenty of actions he does like drowning the Hebrew babies, and in things he says. One of the things he says to Moses and Aaron when they come to him, “I do not know Yahweh. Who is he?” Boy are you ever about to find out!

Yahweh is shown in this story to be very patient. It is something about Him that I have come to appreciate more and more. He says to Pharoh, not quite like what Moses said in The Ten Commandments, “Let my people go, and they will serve Me.” or here in this first account “Let my people go into the wilderness to celebrate a feast to me.” His first request was let them come and eat with me. The intention of this request was shown to be answered later on in Exodus of what God was talking about in Exodus 24. The elders and Nadab and Abihu and Moses and Aaron go up and they get to eat and drink together in the presence of the God who they could see, by the way. God was interested in celebrating, but he was also interested in holiness. So here he was, God the hero, commanding his subject Pharoh king of Egypt to release the children of Israel who had been suffering great affliction under his hand. And what does Pharoh say. He says, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey His voice?” God is so patient. He knows Pharoh is hard of heart. God is part of the reason why his heart is hard.

So then begins a contest between God and Pharoh, and God agrees to this contest, for no other reason I can surmise other than He wanted to show the world what he could do. He had to show the world how powerful He was to humble the proud. But if that was all he showed them we would just be reading a variation of the book of Job, where God flexes his muscles for Job. No, no, no. What we see here in Exodus is the just, merciful, thorough, and patient devotion God has to deliver His people, from the proud who he knows from afar. This story is prototypical for the whole Gospel which we who name the name of Christ hold to be a treasure in our hearts. The Gospel, the good news, the bitter-sweet reality is that God will stop at nothing to get his people back, but not without giving his rival every chance in the world to set him free.

So, God is a God not of second chances, not of third, or fourth, or fifth chances, but here we see that God is a God of Tenth chances. Even the seventh chance, he considered being done with the contest, but He is so patient to give his rival every chance to submit before He goes for the jugular. Because all the terror He unleashes in Egypt, the staff-snake, the blood, frogs, lice, flies, disease, the boils, he says to Pharoh, “You still won’t give up?” Then he brings 3 more signs of his power, Hail, locusts, and darkness, and still Pharoh’s heart is hardened.

Is God cruel to tease him? Cruel? Did you watch closely? God is King. He has the right, and he gives Pharoh 10 chances to turn back before he whips out the big guns. God isn’t cruel, he is merciful! He is also devoted to finish the fight He starts so he can have his people free to serve him.

Have you ever considered this, when you read the narrative of God versus Pharoh, never once does it say that God was angry with Pharoh. If you don’t believe me check the story again for yourself. God’s wrath isn’t mentioned until much later. In fact the first 10 signs God does in Egypt, God sends them by the hand of Moses. It isn’t personal yet, but then, when the 10th plague, which is the 11th sign is given out, the last straw that broke Pharoh’s camel’s back, We read an interesting statement in Exodus 11:4 which we do not see earlier on in the story. God says to Moses, “About midnight, I will go out into the midst of Egypt.” In the Hebrew it is glaringly obvious with the presence of the first person pronoun, ‘I’. I tell you, when I translated that my soul shuddered through me. God’s patience has run its course, and now He himself is coming to rescue His people. And the blow is devastating. He cripples Pharoh, and Egypt by taking the one thing they have left, what the American President J.F. Kennedy said once in his speech on peace, “We all cherish our children’s future.” God took that future away from them because of their pride.

Yes, God is one who kills; we are the ones who deserve death. But can you see His patience, His incredible forbearance which Peter, who saw Jesus closer than anybody else did, recognized? He said, “God is not slow in fulfilling his promise, but is patient with us not wanting any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of repentance.”? (2 Pet 3:9)

O the tenacious love of Yahweh, who will not let the proud stand to oppress the children of freedom! The proud person’s days are numbered, because they are nothing like God.

God is a hero who takes down Pharoh and sets free His people, and even after his people are free to go, that last intention of Pharoh’s heart is proven yet again to be evil continually, through and through. He lashes out with the last of his strength at the Red Sea, and Yahweh obliterates his military. Pharoh knows by the end, only when he has lost everything, that he is beaten.

Now it gets personal. God is with his chosen people who have seen His wondrous works, and now we see the anger of God. We see it when the people complain, when they refuse to obey, and we see God very personally involved in leading the people in a cloud by day and fire by night, he feeds them he gives them water, and all they do is complain and say we want to go back home.

Seven strifes and sinful compainings later, God is ready to wipe them out. It’s written in Exodus 32! What? A God of love? Of course! Somehow many have come to miss the anger of God that is backed by his great love which he has for his people. It is not an out-of-control. Hardly! As he said to Moses in Exodus 34, Yahweh is “Slow to anger” literally it takes a long time for the anger to come out of His nostrils. Yahweh is an angry God, because his very name is Jealous. (Ex 34:14) Jesus showed us this in the temple when he cast out the money changers and sellers out of the temple. Zeal for his house consumed him. Anger and zeal and jealousy are not weaknesses in God’s character, they are part of what make Him good. Of all the people in the world, he did not expect the Egyptians or the other nations to know him, but he did in his heart hold that the Israelites would know him. The affront to God was not from Egypt who sinned in ignorance; it was the nation He had chosen for himself to call his own, and to show the whole world how He could love such a people.

And in this moment, God in the Old Testament is written off by many as being nothing more than a wrathful and vengeful God? You bet he’s wrathful. If a man had just patiently won a battle against an ignorant enemy, only to have the prize you fought for whom you loved so much criticizing you and begging you to go back, even erecting images to fantasize over what they used to have in their idolatrous slavery, you would feel some of what He felt.

Enter Moses, God’s message boy who God brings along for this expedition, and in Exodus 32, Moses intercedes for the people, by being part of God’s secret council. Moses represents God to Himself by being the mediator, by demonstrating his understanding of God’s character, and implores him to show more kindness and truthfulness, and God changes his mind.

The fatalists out there like some of my Calvinist friends don’t appreciate the gravity of what Moses did. To think that any sinner could change God’s perfect mind is tantamount to blasphemy. But to think of it from the standpoint of relationship, God is one who invites us into His council and considers what we have to say. Not many of us get to this point with God, because most of the time when we pray it is us who are changing our minds to God’s. It takes great humility, communication, and trust with God, for you to have a say in His council. And God is gracious enough to gladly give us this chance. After all, one might argue, which God would be better? A God who did everything the way he wanted it because that was best for everyone, or the one who entrusted the decisions of what was best for all to others who he let into his council, and still managed to do the perfect and correct thing. One is aloof, the other is accessible. Our God is not aloof, but he is accessible to the humble.

What a hero! What a God! So patient, so kind, so . . . what many of us might call “human.” Jesus, the human, showed us, better than anyone else what God is really like. Because in him, “We beheld his glory as of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:14) Jesus is God, just as the Word was God in the beginning with God. And he mysteriously assumed the whole essence of Creation in Himself because all of it subsisted through him.

And God is the God of Tenth chances, because even after 10 times of seeing if there was any other way, God Himself steps into the picture, and what a dreadful sight to behold! 10 times it is proven that creation will fall apart unless He himself comes to rescue us. Jesus, God Himself came Himself to save the world, Himself, because no one else could do it. God made the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 that the people of Israel would come out of Egypt into the promised land, and that this covenant was contingent not on what Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob did, but on what God did. And God himself walked in between the pieces, knowing that if Abraham broke the covenant, then He would have to pay the price. And so Jesus died on the cross, and gave his life willingly because no one else could do it.

Does God deserve what we do to Him? He has been good, we cannot see that. We would rather blame Him, and shame Him, than bless Him and confess Him. You who see only a harsh and unloving God in the Old Testament, the issue isn’t with God, it’s with your heart. The Bible says, “Seek Yahweh while he  may be found.” You’ve got one chance this vapor of a fleeting life to seek out and know and love the God who you are called and created to obey. And Jesus Christ isn’t some milder version of an angry God, He’s the entire package with all the tears, laughter, jealousy, power, healing, and wonder-working of God as He is known through the Old Testament.

Take heed, you who are on your ninth chance God has given you, because His patience does end. You have an intercessor now who has gone to the cross for you, and if you spit on him, and refuse him with your heart, your soul is forfeit. There is no more sacrifice available for you who will not look at the love of a God so tender and good, who gives His all so that you can be free to serve him. God is a God of 10 chances, and Jesus said to forgive your brother 490 times, but know that one day it will be too late. Either your heart will turn to stone, or your body will turn to dust. “Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double-minded.” James 4:8.

So much more needs to be said on God’s behalf. This is a beginning, a taste, a call to recognize and remember the one whose image you bear. He is calling you to repent, and represent Him well in the world as perfectly and humbly as Jesus did.

The Gospel of the Cross

Reflections on Theology of the Cross by Gerharde O. Forde

The Cross means I must die
The Resurrection means I will live again by God’s kindness if I have faith.
The world is either heading toward the cross
Or it has already been crucified
All who are found to be on the side going toward the cross
Will not be resurrected
But all who embrace the cross
Will be resurrected
He who seeks to save his life by ignoring the cross
Will lose his life
But who loses his life for Jesus sake by dying to self
Will find that his life is saved

Why? Because our sinfulness, our pride, insubordination, and rebellion must die.
We must die since our sin means destruction of ourselves and all that is good.
But God made a doorway for the life He wanted to save.
Only those who die in submission and subordination to God will live.
God will make a new creation, but He won’t resurrect the old creation.

If you wish to be saved
Identify yourself as a rebel, a sinner, unworthy of God’s kindness
Lose your life of serving yourself
When you ignored the message of the cross: That you cannot save yourself
Like the child who knows he has done wrong, confesses and accepts punishment
Who thus shows his humility of heart to his parent’s jurisdiction
So submit your life to God, which to the detriment of all, falls short of holiness
And the God who is good, welcomes you to be resurrected into His New Creation

This is the Offensive Gospel.
This is the Narrow Gate.
Narrow as the beams of the cross itself.

The Hedgeman

Madam Grandmother had a house of grey:
Grey roof, grey shutters, grey siding.
All one story; All one level
Surrounded by box hedge plants waist high.

A hedgeman had come and trimmed them recently
But he only chopped the shape just right.
He did not seek to undertake
The dive seeking weeds of thorn and vine:

Young spritely clinging little buggers
Troublesome meddlers in a boxy world
In shadowy subtlety they showed their heads
A long time they had grown in secret.

The hedgeman returned at the grandmother’s request
The bushes needed trimming, but the vines were his quest.
Over two days he set about the purge
Of everything that grew up from secretly seeded earth.

He found himself saying, as the vines scraped his arm:
“My goodness this bush is a pain.”
But then he thought to himself:
I wonder if God looks that way on me?

Extricating and tending the bush planted well.
From the weeds of the seeds of the unworthy sown.
Did the Maker of creation who saw it was good
Did He say, “This is a pain.” When the devil’s seed was sown?

Grace shines like the hot afternoon sun on his back.
Reminding him of the Maker’s glowing face.
Which does not cool when faced by those who turn
Their back on him shady tents to pitch.

O grief, such grief: that crown of thorns
That encircled the Savior’s human brow
To crown the flower with Satan’s weeds
To raise up a sacrifice of earth because of Heaven’s love.

Of course! Twas not for grief He bore
But for the Joy that was set before!
His cross he endured and the seed he planted
In the tomb of the rock to sprout forth with new creation!

Determined by his Father’s love,
Pronounced for the world from the beginning
He did not merely say, “It is good.”
He simply “Saw that it was good.”

Now the hedgeman was ennobled to press
Through the thorns that tore his exposed flesh
For in these thorns a fresh thought was true:
God fell in love with the world to make it new.

Emancipation: the feeling surged as one by one the vines relinquished their hook
They could not withstand the power of man determined to make the bushes good.
Why? Because these bushes were planted first, and then the weeds took root.
The bushes are good, it’s the weeds that have corrupted their look

So even though the weeds are deep entwined
With the plants of the Grandmother’s good intention
Still, deeper is the ability to dig
With a pair of pruning sheers to clip the hidden stems.

Strong is the stock the Sower sowed
When He made the world out of His goodness
The enemy may have added his own ingloriousness
But the Angels can tell what is good by its fruit.

Oscillating between standing and kneeling
The hedgeman cleared away the weeds by probing deeply.
Humility and confidence to seek understanding and apply it:
Getting to the root, and pulling up the shoot.

Familiar with these living plants
Their tender leaves not sown by chance
Were worth releasing from these self-ish pokes
For which the fire the Angel stokes.

Grappling with the plant near the top does no good.
It took a long time to reach the now spoiled-sightly top.
With a firm hand the hedgeman pulls on the vine
So he can pluck the thorns like a bow string and cut the base.

Others yank the plant up by the stem
Hoping that the whole thing will come right out.
Those who are clever know such a risk is not sound
Even if it clears the top, soon the issue will reemerge.

During his struggle, He sees the Creator dealing with him.
Not managing his issues so as to keep God busy
But always asking the questions that get at the heart
Of why man hides and turns his back on Him.

Resting in the tension of the Master’s pull
And wincing at the precise cuts of the wise Healer
Leveling haughty lusts from creeping back out again.
He reminds me of His pleasing and excellent plan

Utilizing the hedgeman to keep the hedges beautiful
The Creator has appointed a manager for His Creation
A Creation He made so beautiful, that it was even good in His own eyes.
The only One who is Good, saw that it was good.

Lo, He did not only say “It was good” when he made the light.
Nor even when he made land, trees, fruit and seed
Nor even when he made stars, and birds and fish and animals
But when He appointed man to rule He saw that it was VERY good.

Ended the task, back stood the hedgeman and smiled
The grey house framed by box-hedged life
The weeds were cast away to rot, to be chewed, and to die
And the Hedgeman sees that the Earth is worth redeeming.

The Parable of the Dandelion: The Gospel in the Old and New Testaments

Old and New Testament

The Bible Gospel is like the dandelion.
In the Old Covenant the Gospel blossomed showing God’s goodness in His people
Whose radiance and scent were meant to draw all nations to God’s good salvation.
In the Gospels He shows His glory and Beloved He was questing for in Jesus Christ
Whose pedals stripped, and  whose seed came forth unto eternal life for the many
In the New Covenant the Gospel seeded, for the Holy Spirit to blow to all people
So that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of the Glory of God.
It’s the same God, the same Gospel, and the same seeding, flowering plant.
This is merely a pot to help locate, cherish and nurture its growth.


Two Woodcarvers: A Fairy Tale

Once there were two woodcarvers who lived in a magical forest. In this magical forest, the trees were of a very special kind of wood: when they were crafted correctly, they came to life, with the exact characteristics of the woodcarver who made them. Now, one woodcarver was a very careless woodcarver, and he found a patch of many trees, and he chopped them all down, and he dragged the tallest one away through the bushes, thorns, and briars; and by the time he had gotten his timber to his house, the log had been scratched, battered, and bruised. He split the logs, and set about to make his carving: a little puppet designed after himself. He cut out the torso, the limbs, the head, and he sanded out all the rough places, and set it up in his shop on a stage. The doll came to life, and stood on its feet. But the dummy did not take long before he too had an ax in his wooden hand, and started hacking away carelessly at every wooden thing in sight like the table and then the chair! The woodcarver grew very angry and hated his creation the more he destroyed everything he made. Finally, this woodcarver took his creation, and thrust him into the fire, where the doll shriveled up and became embers. He looked around and saw nothing but destruction and he was very unhappy.

The other woodcarver was not like this one. He walked through the forest eye-ing each tree. He took his time, and picked not the tallest, nor the stoutest, but the one that would be the most suitable. He finally found it, and took great care as his ax struck the tree near the ground—being very careful not to harm any of the other living things around him. Once he had felled the tree, he looked at it with eyes full of care, and lay down a blanket, and wrapped the wood around in it, so it wouldn’t be harmed by the bushes, thorns, and briars. Carefully, and painstakingly, he brought it back to his shop, where he set it up, and began his carving: a doll designed after himself. He split the logs, he cut out the torso, the limbs, the head, and he sanded out all the rough places, and set up his creation on the stage. Just as before, the doll came to life and stood on its feet. But did this dummy take an ax and start destroying everything in sight? No. Instead, he stared at his maker with wooden eyes full of care, and he took the blanket his master had wrapped him in, and wrapped it around his maker’s shoulders. And the woodcarver loved his creation, and they worked together to make more of them. And the maker was very happy.

The Grey Room

I am nobody. Life is hollow shell around me. An eggshell with no fluid around a solid embryo. The walls of my room are a prison. My body is listless of the soul that moves it. And yet, here I am.

The grey walls around me aren’t pretty. Cracks in the concrete made long ago, seem to belong there. I fill the spaces of the cracks with toys and clothes so the bitter cold does not reach me, but the heat of my own body is not enough to comfort my existence here. The window offers a white tunnel to make the ugliness of my situation more obvious. I pull my knees up close to my heart, and the dampening fog cast from my lips first warms my kneecaps, then chills them. I rock my back off and on a hard wall, and grow careless of the cold stone as I soothe myself, the way my mother never did. Do mothers do this? I bet mine is pretty.

What is happiness? A dream I had last night was warm. I played in the loving afternoon sun outside. The children all played nicely and laughed. I just woke up and it was cold. Can I go back to sleep now?

A Goodnight Kiss: a Gospel Story

– – There was a little girl of 5 years old. Her parents took her to church very week. One day in Sunday School, she learned about Jesus blessing the children. That night when she went to bd, she said her prayers the way she always did, and this time she prayed, “Jesus, could you kiss me goodnight?” And she got in bed, and she’d stay up all night waiting for Jesus to kiss her on the cheek, while she listened to her Mommy and Daddy arguing in the other room. The goodnight kiss didn’t come. But she kept asking him every night before she went to bed.
– – Then, one night while her parents were arguing and the little girl was lying in bed awake by her open window, she grabbed her ears and prayed again that same prayer, “Jesus, please kiss me goodnight.” And then as she drifted almost to sleep, she closed her eyes, and felt a breeze blow through the window and brush against her cheek. She sat up, and looked but she didn’t see anyone, but she felt in her heart that she had been kissed goodnight by Jesus.
– – The next morning, the girl skipped into the kitchen where her Mommy and Daddy were eating breakfast, and they noticed that their daughter was more cheery than usual. So her Mommy asked, “Good morning! You look chipper this morning. Did you sleep well last night?” The girl nodded with a grin, “M hm. Jesus kissed me goodnight.” And she skipped off into the next room to play.
– – How do you think the parents reacted when they heard this? They were very sorry that they had been fighting, and had not kissed their daughter goodnight. And every night from that day on, every night both of them came in to tuck in their daughter and kissed her good night.

And that is what the Gospel is all about.