Saturday, April 26, 2014

At Last!

As of today, the summer campus of the top-secret C. H. Cobb Sermon and Book Production Facility, (located at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Midwest) resumes operations, Toy Story mousepad and all. At long last. Thought winter would never end. Don't quote me on that, please.

Please hold, the coffee just finished. Back in a sec. . .

Okay, I'm back. If you look closely, you can see what I'm working on. Displayed on the monitor at the right is an advance peek at what will probably be the cover shot of Falcon Strike. My cover lady/book consultant extraordinaire (Dani Snell, aka my daughter) nixed all my other picks. She loves this one. It's from the prolific lens of Kris Klop and is a good sample of his aviation art. You really ought to check out his stuff at Kris, reckon I'll be contacting you soon to purchase the rights to use this shot. He's the photographer for all of the gorgeous covers on the Falcon Series. Between his and Dani's work, I am very blessed.

Here I am, hard at work, slaving over a hot keyboard, as you can tell. You might see the pole for my umbrella, rising just aft of the monitor. "Why the umbrella, Cobb? It's not raining, and you're in the shade anyway?" It's those darn birds. They've got absolutely no respect. They keep dropping ordnance on me. The umbrella is part of my point defense system. A very necessary part.

Okay, coffee break's over. Back to work. Wonder what sort of trouble I can create for Jacob Kelly this evening . . . ?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Observations from the Bible on Fear, Part 1

Before you read this post, read Mark 4:35-41.
Notice how the disciples feared the storm and thought their lives were in danger. They awakened Jesus and accused Him of not caring that “we are perishing.” The object of their fear was the great storm and the very real danger of swamping the boat and drowning.
Jesus rebukes their lack of faith and then—with a word—calms the storm. Rather than releasing them from their fear by removing the danger, the actions of Jesus renewed their fear, turning it in a different direction. Now they were “very much afraid” of this unusual person in their midst who had exerted such effortless control over nature.
Positive lesson: it’s good for our fears to be turned from that which “can only destroy the body and after that have nothing more that they can do” (Luke 12:4), and to be refocused on the One who can destroy “both body and soul in hell” (Matthew 10:28). As Jesus conquers the objects of our fears by His mighty power, it’s a good and healthy thing that we transfer our fear to Him. The “fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). The only thing a Christian should truly and deeply fear is God Himself, and not with a slavish fear of judgment but with the devoted and reverent fear wholly appropriate to creatures in the presence of their omnipotent Creator.
Negative lesson: a case can be made in this account that the disciples feared being at the mercy of forces beyond their control. Being at sea in a small boat during a great storm is a classic example of being “out of control.” The forces of nature are dominant--the most you can do is bail and pray. The potential for a terrifying death is very real. But more fearsome than that is to be in the presence of One who can create or eliminate such situations with nothing more than His command. In the startling calm of the now-placid sea, the shocked disciples realized that the mighty and powerful Person they were with was someone over whom they had no control. They were in the presence of a far more terrible power than a mere weather disturbance. While at the mercy of the storm they were under the control of an impersonal act of nature, something that with sufficient planning and diligence plus a bit of luck they could conceivably survive. But with Jesus they were at the mercy of a sentient Being, a thinking, acting, planning, volitional Person. Such power combined with purpose could not be defeated or resisted. And so they feared with the fear of those wholly at the mercy of vast forces beyond their control.
How much, then, of fear has to do with a loss of control? What portion of the emotion of “fear” is really a frightened and frustrated reaction to being denied control of a difficult situation? How much of fear might be attributed to having a different agenda from that of our sovereign God? Perhaps what we are really afraid of is that God will do or permit something that will defeat our personal goals and subject us to unwanted pain and suffering.
If in fact this is the case, then the innoculation against fear is twofold. First, we must gain a greater appreciation for the goodness of God. We must take confidence in the fact that His presence and His promises are sufficient to shepherd us through difficult times. Not only is it proper that He (and not us) is in control, it is preferable because He is unerringly and unendingly good (Psalm 119:68).
Second, we must cultivate an attitude of submission, constantly bringing our goals and agendas under the control of His sovereign will. His way is often the way of pain and self-denial, stretching us beyond our comfort zone; but it is also the only path that leads to contentment and perfect peace (Isaiah 32:17; Romans 8). This peace we seek is notably denied to us when we yield to our own fears and our own lust for control.
Isaiah 30:15-17 describes two options for responding to God: one is repentance, rest, and faith. The other is yielding to our fears and attempting to take control by employing our own measures for protection (“fleeing on horses”). The effect of such disobedience is the magnification of fear (“one thousand shall flee at the threat of one man”). We become frightened of our fear itself, and so its effect is heightened and worsened.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Killing Calvinism, by Greg Dutcher

This isn’t really a review, it’s more of a brief reflection. Dutcher has identified the weak underbelly of the Young, Restless, and Reformed stream of Christianity today. As with all critiques of this nature, the author is speaking of the movement in general; the reader will always find exceptions in his personal experience. That said, you will do yourself no favors if in quibbling on this point or that you miss the overall thrust of Dutcher’s theme: Calvinistic theology is in danger of being controverted by the arrogance of some of its proponents. I remember once thinking of a bombast I was listening to, “If you are a Christian, please don’t tell anyone else.” One could say the same thing about some of Calvinism’s fans. And there have been times one could say the same thing about me.

Dutcher is not dealing with the arrogance of our opponents or their faults or failures; he’s pointing out sin in our camp. We who love Scripture and thrill in the doctrines of grace and feel deeply the depravity of man should be the very first to recognize—and confess—the scent of that depravity among ourselves—and in ourselves.

Dutcher is not a cheap-shot artist in the tradition of those who find it easier to criticise than construct. He’s rather a voice calling us to repentance, and to love, appreciate, respect, and learn from those who differ. Pick up any good volume on church history and turn to the early church fathers and read what they wrestled with as the orthodoxy of the church was discovered from Scripture over the first five hundred years or so after Christ, before you start slinging around the term “heretic.” Read Augustine, for instance. That godly champion of justification by faith had an amazing amount of residual Roman Catholicism in his belief system. Shall we call him a heretic?

And is it not possible that both we and our brothers and sisters in Christ will experience some recapitulation of “faith seeking understanding” as we wrestle with the meaning of Scripture? How many of today’s enthusiastic Calvinists went through their early Christian life with an essentially Arminian understanding until their ongoing study of Scripture reformed their thinking? I know I did. And are we not willing to give our brothers and sisters the love and respect and time and space to work through the issues themselves, just as we did?

Our church has a two year course in advanced theological training. Dutcher’s book just became part of the required curriculum. I commend it without reservation.