Election, a Comforting Doctrine

I was browsing Facebook this morning, as I typically do over breakfast, and I came across this article posted by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod which talks about recruiting new church workers, especially among young adults. Talking about recruitment is all fine and good, but recruitment makes the Church sound like a business over which we have control.

Somehow the Church always seems to get caught up in the idea that we have control over who believes and who doesn’t based on our own efforts. Yes, we need to encourage people, young men especially, to go into church work. However, articles like this always bring about the same debates over how we raise our youth, how to retain them, and then ultimately how worship style preferences or lack of female pastors in our synod or the color of our carpets push people outside of the Church.

We put so much stock into our own efforts! What we fail to recognize is that when we start arguing over what we’re doing that is causing people to fall away from the Church or to not believe that we are contradicting what Scripture says about belief/faith. Romans 9:16 says, “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” We’ve been studying the book of Romans in Sunday morning Bible study at church for about the past year or so. The whole section of chapters 9-11 are discussing why some believe and why some do not, especially among those that are Jewish by birth. But we could also look at these chapters today in relation to those that are raised in Christian homes but do not believe.
Romans 9:30-33 says,

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
    and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, a work that is completed and not requiring of any effort of our own, is a stumbling block for many people. So many want to be able to contribute to their salvation with their own hands. But this is not what we believe, teach, and confess. Our Lutheran Confessions, which are entirely drawn from the written Word of God, speak on the doctrine of Election, which answers the question, to the best of the writers’ ability, of why some are saved and not others. Just in the Small Catechism (in the explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed) we learn that

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the last day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

If we cannot even bring ourselves to faith, then what makes us think that we can bring others to faith? Yes, maybe our mouth is the medium by which a person hears the Word of God. However, it is the Holy Spirit working in that person’s heart which brings him to confess that Jesus is Lord. Election is meant to be a comforting doctrine, a Word of Truth for easing a troubled conscience, so that even when we sin we know that God still loves and forgives those who have faith in Him. Article XI of the Epitome of the Formula of Concord says,

However, “many are called, but few are chosen” [Matthew 22:14]. This does not mean that God is unwilling to save everybody. But the reason some are not saved is as follows: They do not listen to God’s Word at all, but willfully despise it, plug their ears, and harden their hearts. In this way they block the ordinary way [Luke 16:29-31] for the Holy Spirit so He cannot perform His work in them. Or, when they have heard God’s Word, they make light of it again and ignore it. But their wickedness is responsible for this (that they perish), not God or His election (2 Peter 2:1-3; Luke 11:49-52; Hebrews 12:25-26).

Unbelievers do not believe because they do not want to, not because believers didn’t do enough to accommodate them.

The Church should do the work that God has given us to do. We are to serve our neighbor in our various vocations (e.g. baker, parent, truck-driver, hairdresser, etc.) and in doing so speak His Word, as that is what a Christian does. And we should take comfort knowing that even in our failures God’s will is done. His Elect will be saved.

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List of Favorite Children’s Story Books

My aunt asked me to give her ideas for her MOPS group. One session is going to be about the participants’ favorite children’s books. She asked me to put together a list to bring with her, so I figured that would make a quick and easy post for today! It is certainly not an exhaustive list, but these are ones that we own and that I intend to keep even after my children grow up. This list contains story books, books for children that can be read in one sitting and are not spread out over chapters.

Favorite Children’s Books

  • Frog and Toad (all 4) by Arnold Lobel
  • Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel
  • Almost anything by Dr. Seuss, our favorites are:
    • The Sneetches (Get The Sneetches and Other Stories version, Too Many Daves is so funny!)
    • Yertle the Turtle
    • Green Eggs and Ham
    • The Cat in the Hat
    • Hop on Pop
    • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton (If you get the Mike Mulligan and More version you get three more great stories by Burton)
  • The Big Blue Book of Beginner Books (it includes Go, Dog! Go! by P. D. Eastman and other great stories)
  • I Stink! by Kate & Jim McMullan (and the others like it)
  • Make Way for Ducklings By Robert McClosky (also Blueberries for Sal and others by him)
  • Almost anything by Eric Carle, our favorites are:
    • Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?
    • Polar Bear, Polar Bear What Do You Hear?
    • The Grouchy Ladybug
    • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • CPH Arch books
  • The stories by Beatrix Potter (we found an awesome compilation of all her works and it includes all her artwork and stories)
  • The Story Bible sold by CPH

Guest Post – The Religion of Food: A Nurse’s Perspective

My sister is awesome and had this written before I have even taken the time to think about my next post for my Theology/Philosophy of Food series. The rest of this post will be her words.
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Let me start off by saying that the following expresses my opinion and I happen to be a nurse. My opinion is not to be taken as the opinion of most or all nurses, most or all medical professionals, and I am not a nutritionist. I am a bachelor’s degree prepared Registered Nurse who works on a floor that specializes in Oncology. While I have taken all of the classes concerning the disease process and treatment of cancers that all registered nurses take as well as a few additional classes at my place of employment, I have not yet received special certifications in chemotherapy or Oncology. Though I have more education and training in nutrition, preventative and curative medicine, and the disease process and treatment of cancers than the general public, I in no way claim to be an expert and my advice should not supersede or replace any of the advice that you have received from your medical doctor or a certified nutritionist. All opinions should be taken into account, but when in doubt, listen to those with the best training and education. In the case of diet and health promotion the BEST information comes from certified nutritionists and fully licensed and practicing medical doctors.

There is no doubt in my mind that food has taken over our lives. Our culture plasters pictures of near naked, impossibly thin women everywhere. It is to the point that if you venture onto the internet or out of the house to run errands for thirty minutes or more, you are practically guaranteed to see at least one of these pictures. There are two major problems with these images right away. First of all, a high percentage of the models that feature in the pictures are clinically anorexic. Secondly, almost all of these pictures are altered and airbrushed to further distort the images represented. The average American woman is five foot four inches tall and a size 16. The average model featured in these pictures, especially after alterations to the picture, is five foot nine plus and a size 0-2. These images alone are enough to set us up to be completely obsessed with body image and food.

There is a relatively new movement, especially among young adults, which is bringing our obsession with food to qualify as religious devotion. This group shuns anything that they do not view as all natural. Words such as “toxin” and “toxic” are being used to describe anything that has experienced any type of modification or other interference by man or machine. Genetically modified foods, processed, and manufactured are dirty words to this group. The words toxin and toxic have historically meant something that causes serious injury/illness or death. Quantifying something that is not even necessarily harmful to the body as “toxic” can create a lot of confusion and undue fear to those that are not familiar with this group’s liberal usage of the word. While there is nothing harmful in eating only organic, non-processed, non-modified, non-manufactured foods; there is not sufficient evidence that it is overly beneficial, especially when the high cost of these foods is factored in. Due to the increased demand for “organic” foods and the government red-tape companies have to go through to get their foods labeled as “organic,” the price difference between the “organic” foods and the foods sitting next to them on the shelves that have not been labeled “organic” is significant. Using a weekly ad from the grocery store that I frequent as an example, you can buy a 12 oz. bag of salad mix for $0.99 or 5 oz. of organic salad greens for $2.45. Organic food sometimes has different storage requirements and/or may spoil faster.

As I said, there is no harm in eating only “organic” food, but there is little proof of increased benefit, and there is definitely an increased cost. Especially among young adults, there is a lot of pressure to join the “all natural” movement. There are some practices in this movement in terms of their views on medicine, especially preventative medicine, which can be very harmful to the heath of the participant and detrimental to public health, but that is a topic for perhaps another blog. The main problem I have with this movement is the peer pressure and bullying that can sometimes arise should a person not follow these practices. For many the main issue is financial. There is also an increased time demand for following the “all natural” practices. Those specifically related to food include more frequent trips to the grocery store or farmers market due to more rapid spoilage, increased meal preparation time due to minimal prepackaged, frozen, or ready to eat foods, and for some time-demand of home-growing food and/or tending farm animals for eggs and milk and/or animals for butchering.

For those who have the time and money required to maintain an “all-natural/organic” diet, by all means go for it. There are some benefits to this type of diet, which I will more fully explain in a moment. However, this lifestyle is not for everyone, and that is ok. For some the issue is money, for others it is time. In our society, the majority of homes are two-income households with the kids enrolled in school and extracurricular activities outside of the home. Though this is definitely universal, money and/or time can be an issue in most American homes. Another reasonable issue is motivation. There is little evidence that even if time and money are not an issue that the extra effort is worth it. There are many simpler things that people can do to maximize their health and minimize their risks of diseases.

First and foremost, everything within the body is done at the genetic and chemical level. The body does not use a vegetable, but carbohydrates (specifically glucose), fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. The body needs a certain amount of carbs, protein, fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fluids, and calories, but because everything is processed at the chemical level, in truth, the source doesn’t really matter. As long as everything that is needed is present, but not in excess, the body will process it effectively and will function properly. In theory, you could eat mostly “junk food” and get everything else from supplements, and experiments have been done doing just that with no harmful effects or weight gain. In theory there is no problem, in practice it is not that easy. Supplements can be used improperly and, let’s face it, if we are not full/satisfied by the food we eat, we are going to eat more.

Secondly, there are some foods that can increase the risk for health problems. When it comes to health problems, the primary culprit is genetics. Our genes regulate all growth, metabolic, immune, etc. processes. There is a reason why certain diseases run in families. Almost all of these diseases, though hardwired in your genes, require some sort of trigger. The number one trigger for most diseases, especially cancers, is cigarette smoking followed by exposure to asbestos, and carcinogenic chemical exposure whether by inhalation, consumption, or topical exposure (such as UV rays). Anything that has the potential to cause tissue damage (DNA damage) has the potential to cause cancer. There are many cancers that are caused by viruses even. I know of at least five cancers that are caused by HIV alone. Every time tissue (DNA) is damaged, it has to repair itself. Most of the time it repairs itself correctly. Often, if it repairs itself incorrectly the body recognizes the cells with the faulty DNA and kills them, though sometimes the cells with the bad DNA are missed. This is what causes cancer. There are some foods that are known to cause tissue damage when consumed frequently and in high amounts such as fatty and or/smoked meats which are linked to colorectal cancers. Obesity related diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and diabetes increase the risk of cancer. Any conditions that weaken the immune system (which usually finds and kills cancerous cells) can increase the risk for cancer. Excessive consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and spicy/greasy foods can cause GERD or exacerbate it. Obviously any foods that cause allergies or food intolerance should be avoided due to the damage that can happen to the GI tract, respiratory system, or the skin (rash/hives).

The truth is, even if you do everything right, you can’t control your genes and you may still develop these diseases. So it all comes down to risk and benefit. What I suggest is treating food as what it is: fuel. Food is neither a friend or an enemy. All food is ok, but not all food is beneficial. I spent 12+ years trying diet after diet after diet, in the end netting a 100 pound weight GAIN. About a year and a half ago I finally decided that I was not going to spend the majority of my time thinking about food anymore whether by treating or denying myself. For the last year and a half I have eaten what I wanted when I wanted, stopped when I was full knowing that whenever I got hungry again, I could have whatever I wanted. In that time, I have actually lost 30 pounds. By allowing myself to eat what I wanted whenever I was hungry, no food is forbidden (which lead to binging when I would finally give into “temptation”) or put on a pedestal. I try to make reasonable choices and will sometimes make slight changes to my habits if I find that I am drinking too much soda for example. Is this the right way for everyone, of course not. I am a diet addict and to place any significant restrictions on my diet will almost surely trigger my dieting addiction. So far my method is working for me, but I do not recommend the same method to everybody.

What I do recommend is this: we need to fix our relationship with food. Food obsession leads to food addiction whether the addiction is to overeating or over-restricting. No food (besides that which would cause an allergic reaction) should be completely off limits. Any diet that is too restrictive is going to lead to cheating and binging. Anytime we depend on food for comfort, it will also lead to binging. Everyone needs to know their own triggers, their own limits, their own needs, and find their own balance. The food wars NEED TO STOP. No one way works for everyone. The “all natural” diet is great, in theory. In practice it can be too expensive, too time-consuming, or just not worth the effort. Success or failure in any lifestyle or diet does not make or break you as a person. The size 2 is not going to be in front of the size 22 in line to get to heaven. God does not judge us on what goes into our mouths, but on what comes out of them. The only meal with specific mandates in place is The Lord’s Supper. As for the rest, all is permitted, but not all is beneficial.

-MLM, RN

A Theology/Philosophy of Food – Part 1

It seems to me that we are in somewhat of a food war. Which is the best diet to eat? Are some foods toxic? Is it wrong to eat certain foods? Can we even call processed food “food”? Many conflicting viewpoints exist on what is the best food for the human body. One camp says that a vegetarian diet is best. Another says that a low/no carbohydrate diet is the best. Another says to avoid any processed/manufactured/packaged foods. The words “toxic” and “toxin” get thrown around as if they mean something less powerful than I have always understood them. The difference of opinion available among food “experts” can be overwhelming and confusing for those of us with a family and the desire to raise healthy, happy children.

Our American society has made an idol of the body. Movies and pictures show us skinny women with perfect skin and no extra weight. They show us men with well-toned muscles and no extra weight. We are told that we are lazy if we don’t exercise and that we are harming ourselves if we occasionally eat a candy bar. If we don’t have perfect looking bodies and eat whatever food is supposedly best for the human body then we are in the wrong. I think we need to approach the idolatry of the body in light of Christian freedom, vocation, and original sin.

Both 1 Corinthians 6 and 10 have the phrase, ““All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful.” Chapter 6 goes on to say, ““All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.“Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other.” Chapter 10 continues with ““All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience.” 1 Corinthians 6 is dealing with sexual immorality and 1 Corinthians 10 is dealing with food sacrificed to idols. However, both chapters are dealing with the burdened consciences of those trying to figure out how to live a God pleasing life and those who think they can do whatever they want without regard for what is right and what is wrong.

Christians are not obligated to follow any dietary laws. The Apostle Peter had a vision, as recorded in Acts 10, that told him that Jewish believers no longer were required to follow the dietary laws of the Old Testament. Christians especially are not required to follow these dietary laws, as Paul wrote much about not requiring Christians to become Jews in his epistles. Jesus said, “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” The world may argue over what food is, what is healthiest, what is best, but a Christian should remember that we have no obligation to make laws for ourselves. We should especially not call ideas of men the commandments of God.

Individual Christians can decide what they want to eat and feed their children, but should not push others about what they eat and feed their children. Food is not a salvation issue, not a doctrinal issue. The only food that is salvific and doctrinal is the Lord’s Supper, and Christians have been debating that topic for hundreds of years. If we want to talk about diets as Christians we should be discussing spiritual food and the Holy Meal provided by our Lord Jesus for our forgiveness and benefit.

In future posts I will talk about food in light of vocation and original sin. Today all I have time for is Christian freedom. I may also ask my RN sister to write a guest post about the physiology of the body in relation to food.

Review: Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for any Child

Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for any Child
Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for any Child by Cheryl Swope
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is geared more towards making Classical Education accessible and valuable for special needs children. It is helpful in reminding all parents interested in a Classical Education for their children that it is possible and desirable for all children. Parents don’t need to be afraid of providing a wholesome, beautiful education for any child God gives them. Cheryl Swope’s book reminds her readers that Classical Education doesn’t mean exclusive education solely for the brightest students, but it is a humanizing education that can be especially beneficial for a special needs child.

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