Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Musings, observations and the occasional insight

(Every once in a while I still read Don Banks's "Snap Judgments" about the National Football League where he shares his "Musings, observations and the occasional insight" about the week of NFL games. I don't admit this proudly - only to indicate where I got the title for this particular post.)

I want to share a few random and often unrelated thoughts that are rolling around in my mind about life, politics, the Gospel, prophecy, etc. Some of them may be the basis for future blog posts. More than likely, however, none of them will be.

And so, without further ado, here are some random thoughts:

  • I think it is a lot easier to villainize a person when you do not know him or her personally. I have experienced this far-too-often firsthand. I am a lot more likely to tone down the rhetoric if I realize the person to whom I am responding is a real person, with real feelings, and a real soul to save; a person who is precious and valuable to God.
  • With that being said, I'd like to borrow an old C.S. Lewis argument and apply it to someone/something else: either Catholicism and the Pope are exactly who they say they are (God's unerring and infallible representatives on earth), or they are "the devil of hell" (Mere Christianity, p. 43). There can be no other option. For no Church can claim to be what the Catholic Church claims to be and be anything but what it claims to be - or the Antichrist. This is very "black and white" and polarizing thinking, I know. But again, I am talking about the "system" itself, rather than the individual members. My thoughts on the issue were solidified in my mind almost ten years ago when I stood atop St. Peter's Basilica and looked down upon the Pope's quarters.
  • The same is logically true of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (though we do not claim to be "infallible").
  • I bet you will never guess - in a million years - what the population of the City of London is. Keep reading to find out the answer!! (How is that for a teaser?)
  • I have been pondering lately what would have happened had Christ not completed His salvation mission or lived a completely victorious/sinless life. Would Satan have immediately gained control of the whole universe? Would the whole universe have immediately imploded? Would the problems only have been limited to this earth? We will probably never know these answers this side of heaven.
  • It seems to me that most of us, when we reject an idea that we once subscribed to, get very cynical about the people who still subscribe to the idea and assume that there is no way the person(s) has arrived at that idea by thinking critically. We assume they are incapable of thinking independently, but have instead been "brainwashed" or are just spewing the party "talking points." And then we think we have already heard every possible argument for the particular viewpoint, and know, for certain, that it cannot be true, immediately discounting any argument that might come our way in favor of the rejected idea. Am I being ambiguous enough?
  • I think the "faith of Jesus" is one of the most foundational ideas in scripture that I am starting to understand more and more. And, by God's grace, it will be the basis for my next book - if I ever write another one (much less get it published).
  • I am surprised when I come across a committed and conscientious reader of Ellen White who doesn't believe in the idea of total victory over sin - and a completely mature generation at Christ's coming. Not only is the idea prevalent in Scripture, it is in every crack and crevice of her writings.
  • I truly believe time is short.
  • I have always been amused by the term "worship leader," as if "worship" only happened during a Saturday or Sunday morning ceremony, and that one could actually be "led" by another through this very personal experience.
  • Similarly, I have been "amused" by how churches are sometimes renaming themselves "worship centers" (like a church near where I used to live in New Hampshire did), again, for the above reasons, and as if we can only engage in "worship" within the confines of those four walls. Does 1 Samuel 15:22 mean anything to us?
  • I heard the last 15 minutes of a Mark Finley sermon a month ago, during the 3ABN Camp Meeting, and it was the best sermon I have ever heard him preach! It was full of the new covenant gospel message of "Christ our righteousness." And I e-mailed him to tell him that soon after. He graciously responded.
  • I played racquetball with my brother-in-law the other night for the first time in about eight years. He thoroughly thrashed me. Truth be told, it was the first athletics I have participated in since having ACL reconstruction over two years ago (my knee still isn't back to where it should be for a multitude of reasons - chiefly among them being my laziness). It was a blast. I forgot how fun racquetball is - and we will be playing regularly from here on out. And hopefully I can hold my own against him eventually.
  • Whoever said that you should not live close to family - or in-laws - didn't know what they were talking about. Either that, or they did not have my brother-in-law and sister-in-law living three houses away, like we do.
  • I guess I have given some people the impression in the past that I did not think my seminary training was beneficial. This could not be further from the truth. I absolutely loved my time in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and think there are many fine Christians who teach there.
  • One of my absolute favorite seminary occasions was chapel every week - especially when the 300-400 attendees (mostly men) would sing a hearty hymn. Nothing against women, but there was just something about having a predominantly-male congregation, lifting up their strong voices during chapel. There is a nostalgic feel to it.
  • I was also ecstatic whenever I would show up to chapel and see a man I greatly admire - Dr. Richard Davidson - as the scheduled speaker. He always made seemingly archaic Old Testament stories, rituals, ceremonies, and concepts come alive.
  • The population of the City of London is 11,700! (Check out this Wikipedia article for the explanation.)
  • I listened/watched my friend, Mark Cleminson's, testimony today (he, of Amazing Discoveries fame). Though there are still some unsettled questions in my mind, I think he presented a very balanced and edifying message.
  • I heard from someone else this week that the Vatican is supposedly funding Islam - the same Islam that rose up as a protest against the false Christianity of Catholicism, and the same Islam that Catholicism fought back against. And now the Vatican is funding their hated rival. I am not saying it is totally crazy, but it is almost . . . .
  • Then again, their long time nemeses - the Waldensians, Lutherans, Anglicans, etc. - have "kissed and made up" with Rome in some fashion or another over the last decade or two. So who knows?
  • I know this stuff is not breaking news for those who regularly get their diet from various conspiracy sources, but supposedly the "smoking gun" in all this was Slobodan Milosevic - the deplorable Yugoslavian dictator who was responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent lives (or so the media wants us to believe, it is alleged). Supposedly, during his trial - in which he defended himself - this genocidal man pulled back the curtain on Catholicism's funding of Islam. He seems like a very credible source to me - if, in fact, this is even what he said during his trial. (I trust you sense my sarcasm.)
  • On the other hand, someone else proposed to me the other day that, essentially, there was no way the Vatican could seize the same level of control in the world - at least in the West - because all these countries enjoy a democracy, unlike bygone eras when they were run by "hereditary monarchy systems." But these same Western countries, allegedly committed to democracy today, are becoming more and more socialist in their approach, resulting in the stripping away of freedoms - especially religious ones. Exhibit A is Canada, where it is becoming increasingly "sticky" to maintain one's commitment to religious convictions and speak out against - for example - gays, without potentially violating hate speech laws. Methinks it isn't a stretch to imagine a day when all these democracy-loving countries (including the United States) will one day strip away all our freedoms for "the common good."
  • Which is why, to me, it has become increasingly sensible to be a "libertarian" when it comes to politics.
  • I was greatly blessed by my dad's presentation on "corporate repentance" a few weeks ago at the NNEC Prayer Retreat. I don't think anyone else has ever presented it in such a powerful, balanced, practical, non-judgmental, and loving way. And I can truly say that it made a lot more sense to me than it ever has in the past. Which is why I think it is just what the Seventh-day Adventist Church needs to hear - especially at this critical juncture of earth's history.
  • I have a beautiful, loving, and gracious wife. And one of the things that amazes me the most about her is how she can stay at home all day with two crying kids, get frustrated with them, and then come back a few minutes later and seem to have boundless energy, love, and affection for them. She is able to put the stress behind her and commit herself fully to them - in a loving and caring way.
  • I am also amazed at how I grow to love and adore my kids more and more every day - constantly thinking that my love for them cannot grow any deeper or richer. But it does.
  • And I am also skeptical about the idea that I am going to love my kids even more when they are whiny, self-centered, fairly cognitively-developed teenagers, than when they are cute, innocent toddlers and infants. But people tell me this is true. Until then, I will just accept it by faith.
  • This is no criticism of any of my former churches, but I think God has my family in the right place at just the right time. I have been able to devote so much more time to my growing family in this district right now than I probably would have been able to if we had not moved. And we would have been living in a two-bedroom condo (with Acadia Belle living in our closet, or we, living in the basement, two flights of stairs away from our kids who think it makes sense to wake up frequently through the night).
  • God works in mysterious ways - or at least brings good things out of less-than-ideal circumstances.
  • If you read through my complete list of ramblings . . . congratulations!


Corey said...

I did read through your whole list and found it very insightful. I enjoyed the format. You did get me on the population of London!

Andrew said...

I just wanted to make a few comments. I like your list.

1. Yes. When you know people who are "villains" it becomes hard to villain-ize them. I experience this all the time as I can sometimes have violent reactions to people or ideas that hurt/threaten me.

2. You caught me for a second with the City of London thing.

3. Keavin Hayden has a book: "Saving Blood" that suggests some answers along these lines that made a lot of sense for me. That book helped me a lot.

4. You said:

"It seems to me that most of us, when we reject an idea that we once subscribed to, get very cynical about the people who still subscribe to the idea and assume that there is no way the person(s) has arrived at that idea by thinking critically."

You are correct in my opinion.

5. Total victory over sin:

Pastor Brace, I don't think you've met anyone yet whose life has been completely destroyed by that idea (or a version of it) or else you'd understand completely.

My religious experience growing up was a disaster because of that idea--or my understanding of it. I once even guilted myself into promising God that I'd never sin again. After all isn't victory supposed to be possible?

Total victory over sin may be possible in the future (I have been won "back" to this position by Graham Maxwell's talks)--in fact it may well happen, but I have ceased to worry about it. I will not go back to that dark, dark place ever again.
It was horrible. The only thing that kept me Adventist for years was a fear of hell and my own timid nature (and I am only 27).

Finally on this matter, many people who object to this idea rightly point out that it leads to a limited view of what sin is.

6. I believe that conspiracy theories are destroying the church--particularly our prophetic assumptions.

They are widespread here.

I heard about your friend last week. I have not listened to his testimony but I am not sure I will either. I'd probably have more than a few questions.

7. I am increasingly wary of people "speaking out" about religious convictions.
Why don't they just live them instead.

Sometimes I think it might not be so bad if "we" are banned from saying certain things. It's give us something else to do than hid behind words.

Andrew said...

P.S. Keavin Hayden talks about what could have happened if Jesus had sinned etc.

Andrew said...


I cannot stress how terrible sinless perfectionism made my life as a child.
I was very sensitive and felt so alone for a long, long time.

I used to feel guilty if I did not say grace before drinking a glass of water for goodness' sake!
(And I reasoned into that on my own.)

I was timid, racked with constant guilt over everyday interactions (particularly trying to keep my heavenly record clean--as you know this is part of the theology of a final generation) and superstitious.

I still suffer.

I dare you to invite stories on your blog from other people. You'd understand in short order.

Shawn Brace said...


I have subscribed to the idea of "sinless perfection" and a final generation for a LONG time, and my parents have subscribed to it essentially my whole life. It has never been a point of fear for me. Never. I think this is because it has always been presented to me - and subscribed to in my mind - in a very balanced way, bathed incredibly in the love of Christ.

I definitely know that there are others who have had it beaten into them and presented in a fearful way, but that has not been my experience or encounter at all. I view it as a very beautiful and loving idea. I think it is the devil, taking a very biblical and beautiful truth, and presenting it in an abusive way, so people end up rejecting the real thing while rejecting the false presentation of it.

Shawn Brace said...

And thanks for reading, Corey!!

Shawn Brace said...

And Andrew, I am not trying to sell a book on Sabbath, but I would suggest you read my first book "Waiting at the Altar" to encounter a positive explanation of a sinless generation/complete victory. I think it will be a refreshing look at it (I hope).


Andrew said...

Thanks for your perspective Pastor Brace.

I eventually cracked under the sheer mental pressure (I was not even 12 years old yet) and decided that I'd take my chances in hell basically.

I didn't rebel--but I definitely ignored many things that I would feel guilty doing before. There were just some things I refused to think about anymore.

I had many issues as a child and this wasn't helping me at all. If I had only made the mistake of hitting puberty with that weight on my shoulder I'd be dead today at my own hands.

I also cannot tell you how helpful Maxwell has been to me lately.

I don't mind improving as a Christian (I want to), but God will have to get me to the goal because I am not preoccupied with getting there anymore.

I will say, finally, that I do not know what to do with EGW's take on the issue. I try to avoid reading it in her writings and for the rest I interpret it using Maxwell's view:

"God can completely heal the damage done."

Andrew said...

Pastor I need a new book to read anyway, so I might very well buy and read it.

Shawn Brace said...

Andrew, while you're at it, you may be interested in checking out my latest book: http://www.adventistbookcenter.com/Detail.tpl?sku=0816324867

Blessings to you!