Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Bed Who Was Afraid of Children -- a fictional story written by me

Once upon a time, there was a bed named Zem that lived in a little boy's bedroom. Zem was a very troubled bed, and so was talking to his therapist, who happened to be the monster that lived in the closet. The therapist sat on his great hairy haunches, writing in a yellow legal pad. He pushed his glasses up his muzzle with a long, yellow claw.
“What is it that is troubling you so, Zem?” he asked in his deep growl, green ichor dripping off his crooked fangs.
“Oh, doctor,” said Zem, “I have a great fear, a phobia. It paralyzes me and consumes my life.”
The monster peered over his spectacles with his large, red eyes. “Oh yes? And what is it that you are afraid of.”
Zem glanced up at the therapist with an embarrassed look. “Children.”
“What, human children?” the monster asked.
“Every night that little boy comes and sleeps on me and it terrifies me something awful.” Zem said. “I think I'm getting an ulcer. I just wish something could be done about him.” Zem looked at his therapist with a hopeful look.
“Like what?” the monster asked, stroking his great horns with one clawed paw. “Perhaps you would like me him?”
Zem gave an excited twitch, but then settled back down into an embarrassed posture again. “Yes,” he said peevishly. “Would you?”
The monster let out a laugh as from the pits of hell, and then said, “No, I can't do that. You will never be able to overcome your fears if you let other people handle your problems for you. You cannot run away from what is bothering you. The best way of overcoming a phobia is to inundate yourself with what it is that you are scared of. In this case, you need to accept the child's presence and grit your teeth and bear it, and soon your phobia will fade away.”
Zem slumped in dejection. “Are you sure?” he asked.
“Of course I am sure,” his therapist replied, and then licked his nose with his forked tongue. “Just give it time.”
“Oh, okay,” said Zem, and braced himself for a fearful night.
That night, when the boy came to bed, Zem tried his hardest to keep from going into hysterics. But after some time, when the boy was asleep, Zem's fear overwhelmed him and he wet himself.

The next week, when Zem saw his therapist again, the great beast settled in with sulfurous grunts and asked, “So how are you doing today, Zem?”
“Oh, doctor,” Zem answered pathetically, “I am not doing very well at all. Every night I get so scared that I wet myself. I am so ashamed.”
“There is no reason to be ashamed,” the monster soothed with his demonic croak. “Uncontrolled micturation is a natural response to fear. In time, it will pass.”
Zem rumpled his blankest together in dejection and said, “I just don't know, doc. I think I'm getting worse, because the boy seems scarier every night. Ever since I started wetting myself, his appearance has been transforming into something even more terrifying! At once he was merely scarefyingly fair-skinned, but now he has developed large purple bruises and welts. Just the very thought of his appearance gives me the heebie-jeebies! And the terrible screaming and crying he does when his father pats him! The sound gives me nightmares! And water comes out of his eyes in a very frightening fashion. I can't handle it anymore.” Zem broke down in sad moans.
The therapist picked at his fangs in thought, and finally said, “Just give it a few more days. I know your fear is intense, but I believe that soon everything will be all right.”
“I hope you're right, doc,” sighed Zem. “I hope you're right.

Zem's fear never lessened, and so he kept wetting himself every night. But then, after a few more days of this, the boy was gone forever.
“So what happened?” the monster asked at their next therapy session.”
“I don't know, doc, but it sure is great!” Zem answered exuberantly. “All I know is that the boy's father kept telling him that if he didn't 'stop it', then he would be sent to a foster home. And now he's gone!”
“Ah, yes,” the monster said knowingly. “I told you it would be all right.”

Monday, February 23, 2009

Scandalous Professors Make Arminians

The title of this post is a pithy little quote from the Commentary on Jude written by Puritan Thomas Manton (1620-1677), and it is a good work for Calvinists. Here is what it all means:

In good Puritan fashion, Manton spends about 60 pages on just verse 1 of Jude, with a good discussion of the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. Just as modern writers do when discussing this issue, he felt compelled to answer some of the questions raised by those who object to this doctrine, such as Bible passages that seem to speak of believers losing their salvation, and how this doctrine would lead to licentiousness. When making application, Manton writes that those of us who hold to this doctrine should live godly lives, for God does not only give us eternal life, but also a love for Him. We are Christians; so, live like one. Then he gets to the quote: "When our religious course is interrupted, and we give way to sin and folly, that is a seeming to come short, and so you bring a scandal upon the love of God, as if it were changeable; upon the merit of Christ, as if it were not a perfect merit. Scandalous professors make Arminians; in an age of defection, no wander if men plead for the apostasy of the saints."

In other words, when you profess Christ but live sinfully, you give weight to the argument than men can lose their salvation. If you don't want people to become Arminians, don't give them a good reason to with your life. Live what you believe. Good advice for me, and I am sure, for all of us.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ruth and the Canaanite Woman of Matthew 15

As I've been studying the glorious book of Ruth, I keep having my mind return to the account of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. This first occurred when I read Ruth 2:10, where Ruth reveals her humble awareness of her outsider status: "Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, 'Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?'" She knew that she had no right to Boaz's kindness, that she was not a rightful member of the covenant community. She could very well have described herself as a dog, like the account in Matthew: "And he answered, 'It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.' She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table'" (Matt. 15:26-27). Ruth knew her lowly estate, but she also knew the kindness of Boaz.

As a side note, I listened to a sermon by John Piper on Ruth 2 after I made this connection to Matthew 15 in my mind, and he made the same connection. It is always very affirming to hear or read a respected Bible teacher have the same thought that I had independently. Makes me feel that I'm not grasping at straws, interpretationally. That's cool. But I digress.

Anyway, now I've been in Ruth chapter 3, and again my mind was brought back to the Matthew 15 woman. This time it is in Ruth 3:12-13, where Boaz reveals that there is a nearer kinsman who has "first dibs" on Ruth. Now of course this comparison is not so identical, because with Ruth she has two possible Redeemers while in Matthew there is only one Redeemer with two groups of people needing redemption. But I still see similarity. The Canaanite woman knew that she had no claim on Jesus, especially not more claim than the Jews did, yet she was willing to wait and take what she could from Him. Likewise, Ruth has no direct claim on Boaz, but she is willing to wait and take what he will provide. And he is a faithful provider, promising that she will be taken care of either way. Whether he marries her, or the other kinsman marries her, he makes sure that she will be provided for. Just so, Jesus provided for the outsider with no claim on Him (Matt. 15:28).

Oh what a blessed message this is for miserable sinners such as us, who have no claim at all upon God's grace, but are nevertheless promised His grace. May we love Him and seek Him so as to be under that promise, never presuming that we deserve it, but always sure that He will give it.