Saturday, July 30, 2011

Everyone Should Write, Part 2

To blog, or not to blog?  That is the question.

Well, it is a question, but it is hardly the question.  Last week, I opined that Everyone Should Write.  Due to wonderful feedback from a number of different sources, I thought I would follow that post up with some additional thoughts (and questions).

In trying to explain how writing and starting this blog have been beneficial to me, I felt I was a bit bumbling with my reasons.  Thankfully, my good friend Steve Brooks came to the rescue by providing a comment which so eloquently (and succinctly) put into words precisely what I wish I had said:
"I have found that the more I write the more I think.  Then not only does it spur me to think more, it spurs me to think deeper and lastly to consider the importance of thinking correctly."
Writing  →  Thinking  →  Better Thinking

I then saw Steve at church where he grabbed me and very briefly encouraged me to expand my thinking where this blog was concerned.  I only remember him saying one word -- posterity.  (This reinforced the sentiment that Serenity raised in her comment following the same post.)

posterity  →  future generations

Writing is not a new thing for me.  I write all the time.  However, almost all of it is done in the course of my profession as an estate planning lawyer.  I draft wills, trusts, powers of attorney and the like.  People come to me, tell me what they have and then tell me who they want to have what they have when they themselves can no longer have it.  But when I read "I, Theodore Lougash, give all that I have to my nephew, Samuel L. Chilifoot", what do I really know about Mr. Lougash?  And what does the nephew really get except for "stuff"?  Surely someone with such an interesting name as Theodore Lougash had something more than just a house and money in the bank.  What was important to Mr. Lougash?  What did he know?  How did he know what he knew?  Getting an inheritance of money and property is nice, but you can't put a price tag on inheriting wisdom, character and glimpses into the very soul of someone you loved.

Which brings me back to writing.  Every word that you write may be precious gold to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  What better place to start passing on your know-how to your digital-age descendants than a blog?

I'm pretty new to the blogosphere, so I'm still figuring things out.  I would love to hear from those of you who have been blogging for a while.  When you blog, how do you go about doing it?

My blogging hero is Michelle Hodge.  She is easily the most prolific blogger I know.  I would link her blog if I could, but it is so top-secret that only a select few are allowed to even see it.  That's how good it is!  Michelle has a full-time job, but must spend her other waking hours either taking pictures of her four young children or writing on her blog (which is about the successes, failures, joys and frustrations that she and her husband face raising their kids).  Michelle, if you are reading this, keep up the good work!  But really, how do you do it?

For the rest of you mere mortals, how do you approach your blog?  Are you active or passive in your blogging?  (Active meaning that you are always on the lookout for something to write about.  Passive being content to not write anything unless something grabs you, whenever that may be.)  Do you just post pictures of your kids or do you also share the fun stories that accompany the cute photos?

I like the blog dashboard here at Blogspot.  I enjoy working on ten different things at a time, depending on whatever mood I may be in.  There are posts which I have spent lots of time on, but have never published.  Much of my inspiration comes from the books that I read or the spiritual issues that I find myself trying to figure out.  As Steve so astutely pointed out, writing about the things that have formed mud puddles in my mind greatly assists the thinking process.  I see that as an immediately tangible benefit.

The real benefit is what I am providing for future generations, knowing that even the mundane may be seen as fascinating for those who see the 20th century as being ancient history.  Kids, this is your inheritance.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Who is Brett Barton?

This post is about me.  (I guess in a way every post on this blog is about me, but this one is really about me.)  I thought it might be fun to introduce myself, in all of my idiosyncratic glory (or infamy -- I'll let you decide).

I really have no idea who reads this blog, but have assumed that most of you who find your way here from time to time are either family or close friends who already know quite a bit about me.  While I'm far from being the most interesting person in the world, I can't help but think that there are some unique things about me that you probably don't know.

Here goes nothing.  I submit to you Brett Barton: Biases, Books, Beer, Beaches and Balls.  (If you've been browsing my blog, you should already be aware of my fondness for alliteration as well as my disdain for the Oxford comma.)  (Oh...I also have a penchant for parenthetical tangents.)

The first thing you should know about me is that if something becomes super-popular before I have watched it, read it, heard about it, etc., then I am biased against it.  This bias is so strong that there is usually no point trying to overcome it.  I first realized this when I was 14 years old.  The movie Top Gun had just been released and everyone that I knew kept telling me "You have GOT to see this movie.  It is the best movie EVER!"  Every time one of my friends wanted to talk about things like geese, kilmers, volleyballs, Berlin, wing men and losing that lovin' feelin', I had less desire to see this movie.  I had one friend who went to the movie in the early afternoon and liked it so much that when he came out of the theater, he got back in line to buy a ticket for the next showing of it.  When he told me that I just HAD to see it, I remember thinking something along these lines: "I'm sure of it.  I hate it."  (Let me know if you get the irony in that last quote.)

My taste in music is very peculiar.  I hate "pop" music.  Actually, that's not true.  I do like lots of what was once pop music, but only after it becomes unpopular to the point of ridicule.  But whatever is playing on the radio right now that everyone is loving, I don't like it.  Bring back the synthesized sound of the 80's and 90's and the hair metal bands with the guys who sound (and look) like girls!  Sure it sounds dated, but's great music.  It warms my heart that my son listens to the likes of Boston, Def Leppard, Kansas and Bon Jovi.  I also love progressive rock, which more than likely won't mean anything to you as it's a genre that most people stay away from.  It is about as unpopular as good music can get.

Other biases: against smoking, against narcotics (except for Mountain Dew) and against household pets (we have 3 of them).

I love to read.  My parents encouraged me to read from a young age.  However, I credit my aunt Karen for getting me going by giving me two Hardy Boys books as a Christmas present which I read and loved.  After reading those two books, I read the entire Hardy Boys hardback series (all 58 of them).  I became such an aficionado of the Hardy Boys that at the age of 9, I could tell you the name of every single book along with its corresponding number in the series.  If that weren't enough, I still know them 30 years later.  Every now and then my kids will quiz me just to make sure I still have it.  ("Dad, what's #19?"  Me: "Too easy, The Disappearing Floor."  I'm sure this information will prove to come in handy some day.)

It took me a little over 3 months to read the entire Bible at the age of 12.  I started my first journal soon after that which I have kept current to the present day.  It is a reading log in which I record every book that I have read.  (This has come in handy for those times when I'm at the library and a particular cover catches my eye.  I'll grab the book, take it home, start reading and if it seems vaguely familiar, I can just check the trusty reading journal to see if it's a book I've read before.)

I love most genres and would list my favorite authors as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Michael Crichton, James Clavell, George R. R. Martin, Orson Scott Card and Malcolm Gladwell.  Due to my bias mentioned above, I have never read anything written by John Grisham.  I also resisted reading Harry Potter, but finally read the first book and was not impressed.  Lord of the Rings?  Read all three of them.  Blah, blah and blah.

I love beer, as long as it's not mass-produced (there's that bias again).  I guess I'm just a snob.  When it comes to beer, I am a huge snob.  There's nothing like kicking back and reading a not-too-popular book while drinking a not-too-popular beer with some not-too-popular music playing in the background.

Everyone loves going to the beach.  Not me.  It's okay, I guess.  Maybe I've just had bad luck.  Our family took two vacations to Destin, Florida in 2004 and 2005.  Our 2004 trip can be described in two words: Hurricane Ivan.  Our 2005 trip can also be described in two words: Hurricane Katrina (ever heard of it?).  No more beach vacations for the Bartons!  Give me the mountains of Colorado while the rest of you deal with sun burn and sand in your butt.

I grew up with a love of sports.  I loved playing football, basketball and soccer as a young child.  However, I wasn't fast.  I wasn't strong.  I wasn't tall.  And after I went through my growth spurt at age 14, I still wasn't fast, strong or tall.  I was slow.  I was six feet tall weighing 140 pounds.  I was a fiery competitor which greatly helped compensate for my lack of athletic prowess, but not to the point where I was ever really good at a sport.  I was merely competitive (which is a nice way of saying that I was a decent loser).  I so badly wanted to be good at something.  I finally found some success in three different sports.

In March of 1986, my dad and I went on a ski trip to Telluride, Colorado.  We spent four days on this wonderful mountain.  The first two days were spent taking beginners' lessons.  The third day we ventured out on our own to ski other beginner runs beyond the "bunny hill."  The fourth day we actually went to the top of the mountain and skied the whole way down on an intermediate trail.  I fell in love with everything about snow skiing on this trip.  (Take that, beaches!)  We had the opportunity to go to Telluride again the very next year.  I was excited to return to see if I had improved any from my first trip.  You see, I had been training and was hoping to see if all of my hard work had paid off.

My dad had given me a high-tech video for Christmas which promised amazing improvement for people who wanted to become better skiers.  All one had to do was watch the video and then visualizing himself executing the same flawless turns and techniques that the professional skiers on the video were doing.  I so desperately wanted to be a better skier, so I faithfully watched the video almost every single day for the three months leading up to that second ski trip to Colorado.  Like I said, I trained hard.  Would you believe that it worked?!?  I had transformed from a snowplowing traverse skier to an aggressive parallel skier willing to take on any run just from watching a video over and over again and believing that it was me skiing on that video.  The darn thing worked and I found something that I was really good at.  It was great.

Before I was a snow skier, I was a ping-pong player.  I grew up with a ping-pong table in my house.  I would play my friends at times, but my primary opponent and arch-nemesis was my dad.  When it came to ping-pong, he was merciless.  He was also pretty good (like me, having grown up with a table in his home playing against his dad).  At the age of 10, I entered a Ping-Pong tournament that was put on by the Christian school that I was attending at the time.  Any and all students of the school from Kindergarten to 12th grade were allowed to play.  Having gone up against my dad numerous times, I had some decent experience and figured that I would win a few games even though I was much younger than most of the other competitors.  As it turned out, I kept winning and winning knocking off kids who were seniors in high school while I was just in the 5th grade.  I made it to the championship and was squared off against a girl who was a junior in high school (who, oddly enough, sometimes reads this blog).  It was an epic battle but I took the "best of 5" championship by winning 3 games to 1.  I was crowned champion of the entire school and loved the sweet taste of success in an unlikely sport, but a sport nonetheless.

My ping-pong career did not end there.  As an adult, I have played table tennis tournaments in such exotic locales as Atlanta, Chicago and Wichita.  I have brought home trophies and medals which are now gathering dust in some out-of-the-way cabinet or closet.  I have practiced against a ping-pong robot.  I have built my own paddles and am still willing to take on anyone that challenges my table tennis superiority.

If you're not strong and fast enough to play football or not tall enough to play basketball, don't be afraid to look elsewhere.  Snow skiing is great, but is definitely not cheap and not easily accessible if you live in the Midwest like I do.  Ping-pong is more accessible and not as expensive, but you better get along well with Asians if you want to play.  And then there is running.  All you need is a pair of shoes and a stretch of road.

I made a New Year's resolution to begin running on a regular basis in the year 2005.  That became the most successful New Year's resolution I ever made.  I began running in January.  In February, my friend Bill encouraged me to sign up for a race.  In March, I ran that race -- a 5K (3.1 miles).  In April, I ran a 5K three minutes faster than I ran the one in March.  In May, I decided to run a marathon (26.2 miles).  In October, I did just that.  It was a great experience and I'll never forget the feeling I had when I crossed the finish line with tears in my eyes on that fall day in Chicago.  (It was made even more dramatic when I found out 20 minutes later that my beautiful wife finished as well, despite not having run at all for the two weeks leading up to the marathon due to a knee injury.)  That about sums up my accomplishments in the world of sports.

Okay, enough about me!  I'd love for you to comment and tell me what unique things make you unique.  In the meantime, I'll be enjoying a Boddington's beer while I plan my next vacation to the mountains.  I wonder if  the Aspen Holiday Inn has a ping-pong table?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Everyone Should Write

I just finished running with two of my closest friends in the world.  I used to be a hard-core runner, but have completely fallen off the wagon.  Now I'm trying my best to get back to it because I am grossly out of shape.  But on this particular morning, I was running just so that I could hang out with Mike and Dale.  I've run a lot of miles with these guys.  I was there to watch both of them complete their first marathons (different races, mind you) and swelled with pride as they crossed the finish line knowing that they had spent many of their miles training for those races with me.  Over the years of traversing the roads, paths and parks of Columbia, we have bonded and become great friends.

As they ran off into the hideously hot and humid morning air leaving me behind to reminisce about the glory days when I could run for longer than 30 minutes at a time, I realized that both of them blessed me this morning by sharing some of their own random observations about life.  It's good to have friends like this.  Words are exchanged and I come away encouraged and challenged.  It's a shame I have to get up at 4:30 AM on the hottest morning of the year to reap these benefits.  These guys should do me a favor and start a blog so that I can tap into their wisdom whenever the mood strikes me.  Don't they realize how much we could all benefit from their unique insights?

Hmmmm.  (that's the sound I make when I am thinking)

We are all unique.  We all have different experiences and have learned different lessons over the course of our very different lives.  Do you know what this means?  Well, it means a lot of things.  For purposes of this particular mud puddle, it means that you know something that no one else does.  You may be unknowingly holding the key to unlocking the mystery that I have been struggling with for the last 20 years.  (Highly unlikely, since I'm not aware of any mystery that I've been dealing with for that long.  Except for understanding women.  And we all know there is no key to that mystery.  Anyway, you get the point.)

Why aren't you sharing what you know with the rest of us?  Some of us obsessive-compulsive types really are interested in hearing what you have to say.  If it's nothing new under the sun, no harm done.  If it's a glimpse into a new way of thinking, that's a very beautiful thing.

I have found that I enjoy having a blog.  I have tried to pinpoint what it is that I like about writing and sharing my thoughts in a forum such as this.  It could be that I am just looking for affirmation and wanting pats on the back (who wouldn't want that?); yet I believe it is more than that.

I think I know things.  (Gosh, I hate the way that sounds.  It sounds so arrogant.)

Arrogant or not, it's what I think.  I'm not completely sure that I know anything, but as long as I think I know some things I'll keep talking about them just in case someone else hasn't thought about them before.  I enjoy that.  I enjoy the conversation and talking about matters that I've never talked about and thinking along lines previously foreign to me.

All of this to say that I wish everyone would at a minimum write, whether it be in a personal journal, public memoir or blog such as this.  Putting thoughts and abstract ideas into written words is a wonderful discipline that will always benefit the writer himself (or herself) and might just benefit everyone who has the opportunity to read those words that are shared.  Seeing the world through a different pair of eyes is precious and profound.

Think about it.  Write about it.  Dale and Mike, you too.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It Is Finished. Love Won.

A good friend of mine encouraged me to read Love Wins.  I had never heard of it, nor had I heard of the author -- Rob Bell.  Little did I know that when I picked up that book and started reading that I would be picking up a live hand grenade.  So what do I do after it blew up in my face?  I pick up another hand grenade, pull the pin and begin this blog entry.

Love Wins is a great book.  I honestly don't know how much of it I actually agree with, but that does not diminish the power of the ideas which are expressed therein.  This book made a dramatic impression on me, but of paramount significance were these two ideas:
  1. When Jesus said "It is finished!", He did it.  He conquered sin and death.  He conquered all sin and all death as He was the perfect sacrifice perfectly satisfying the perfect wrath of God (Romans 5:18); and
  2. There is no fear in love (I John 4:18).
"It is finished!"

What a mind-blowing idea that Jesus' death completely satisfied the righteous wrath of a holy God.  Jesus took all of the punishment.  God has been forever appeased.  Can this be true?  There is something very compelling about this possibility despite many arguing that such an idea does not stand up to the words of scripture.  This could be the unifying theory which brings together the best of Calvinistic, Arminian and Covenant thinking.

For me, this makes Jesus more beautiful.  It makes his death more amazing.  It makes his resurrection more victorious.  It makes the good news...GREAT!  Jesus did it all.  It is finished.  He really is the way, the truth, the life!  He did it.

Could this be the truth that sets us free to act out of love and not out of obligation or a sense of duty?  The pressure we put on ourselves to do the right thing...that was finished.  The guilt we feel for messing up...that was finished.  The fear that God is upset with us for not measuring up...that was finished.  There is NO REASON to live with those hang-ups...NONE!  They are finished!  Do you believe this?  Can you believe this?  Are you afraid to believe this?  Stop it!  It is finished.  There is no fear in love.

"There is no fear in love."

Put on your ruby slippers and tap your heels together and say this over and over until you actually believe it and understand all of its ramifications.

There is no fear in love.
There is no fear in love.
There is no fear in love.

Paul said it this way: "There is no condemnation..."  Why do we religious-types fall into fear-based, condemnation-based thinking so easily?  Judging from the apostles' letters, this was a problem in the early church as well.  Perfect love is a difficult thing to grasp, but that's exactly what we get from Jesus.  We say we believe it, but our continual striving and self-torment suggest otherwise.

We love to accuse others and even ourselves, yet the Bible has nothing good to say about accusers.  The Bible actually says that when Jesus said "It is finished," he crushed the head of the accuser.  Accusations bring death.  Those things are finished.

We learned in the old way to fear a holy God.  Enter Jesus, the very love of God, providing a new and living way to be holy, yet without fear.  There is no reason to condemn, judge, accuse ourselves or anyone else.  When we are freed of fear, we are free to love and act out of that love.  I would argue that those who operate out of love experience a level of joy and peace that seems unattainable for those who operate out of fear, duty or obligation.

This is the effect Bell's book had on me.  The doctrinal questions that are sure to arise with some of these ideas don't trouble me.  I realize that they might trouble others and I can respect that.  For me, I believe that I  need to embrace a fear-free, condemnation-free posture before God.  If you feel that you wrestle with fear and have trouble believing that you are a beloved child of God, I recommend that you read Love Wins.  Now don't forget, you might be picking up a hand grenade.  But don't be afraid; there is no fear in love.

Bibliography: Love Wins

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is this Blog Depressing?

Not too long ago, my mom told me that she had been reading my blog and was worried because she thought I came across as being depressed.  I'm not qualified to provide a self-diagnosis of the health of my psyche, so I honestly don't know if I am depressed or not.

What I do know is that I love and am loved.

I love.
I am loved.
(But not necessarily in that order -- a topic for a future posting to this blog.)

When I think about this, I am convinced that this is all I've ever wanted.  So how could I be depressed or even appear to be wallowing in my own mud puddles?

I love and am loved.  Yet I stress, I feel pain, I get angry, I inflict pain on others, I fail when I have the opportunity to succeed and I experience disappointment when there is no good reason to be disappointed.

Is that depression?  Nope.  I'd like to think of it as honesty.  And the honest truth is that I am still hoping for that thing that I'm not even sure what it is.  The Apostle Paul explains it like this:
"But we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves still groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.  For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?"  (Romans 8:23-24)
 I don't want this blog to be depressing.  I want it to always point to hope.  That's what I'm doing.  I am blessed, yet I still groan.  I eagerly wait.  I hope.

Bibliography: Surprised by Hope

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Irony of Evolution: Miss USA

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form, and void since there was no YouTube nor any beauty contestants to set the record straight.  But now...

The above video unlocks the mysteries of the universe.  Actually, it shows all 51 contestants in the recent Miss USA pageant and their answers to the question of whether evolution should be taught in schools.  While the video is 15 minutes long, the good stuff begins at the 40 second mark and is worth viewing to see at least a few of the responses.

Beauty pageants, like everything else, have become extremely competitive affairs.  The young women who compete are trained to be able to discuss a wide range of topics and have developed opinions on many of society's problems.  It is pretty clear in this video that most of them were NOT prepared to answer this question.  As a result, it is painful watching these ladies as they try to at least speak in complete sentences as their minds are racing to come up with something that will appeal to the masses while maintaining their controlled, spokesmodel exterior.

As much as I enjoy some good post-pageant analysis, that's not why I am writing this blog post.  I want to talk about evolution.  Until I saw this video, I had no idea that evolution was still a touchy subject.  Frankly, I have no problem with evolution as it encapsulates the current thinking of the majority of the world's most brilliant scientists.

What do I know about evolution?  Nothing, really.  I only know what I have been taught and what I have read on the subject.  It appears that there is enough evidence to support the theory, while acknowledging there is much that is still unknown (for example, recent studies have challenged the longstanding notion that evolution occurs through random mutation and genetic drift).

Yes, you heard me correctly.  I have no beef with evolution.  It is a well-conceived explanation for a great many observable parts of the universe in which we live.  I do, however, question some of the conclusions that are drawn as a result of evolution.  That's because I feel like there are many scientists who can't help but overstep their area of expertise and think they know more than they really do about the subject they are passionate about.  I believe that many Christians do the same, especially when it comes to their views on science in general, and evolution in particular.  The Miss USA pageant video is a perfect example of this.

My take on this is that much of Christendom (at least here in America) has developed an irrational mistrust of science since many of the popular scientists of the last century have been outspoken in their agnostic or atheistic beliefs.  Even more problematic, though, is the view that the first two chapters of Genesis are a literal, scientific description of how the world came into existence.  I understand why some people hold that view, but I think the appropriate response when shown credible evidence to the contrary is not to summarily dismiss any alternative explanation or interpretation.  Instead, I would submit that one should do what the Apostle Paul encourages the Thessalonians to do when he tells them to "test all things."  (I Thessalonians 5:21)

I would submit that scientific discovery should be embraced as it helps us better understand not only God and the universe He has created, but also the very words of the Bible.  I would encourage you to look into these things with an open mind and an open heart.  For those of you who believe in God as I do, you should agree with me that God, in His infinite power and wisdom, could have created the universe and everything in it instantly.  He instead chose to create things over time.

Here is what I currently believe on this subject:
  1. I believe that the Bible is inerrant.
  2. I believe in the Big Bang.
  3. I believe that the planet Earth is approximately 5 billion years old.
  4. I believe that God has created all things and that He was pleased with His creation.
  5. I believe that God has ordained natural forces and processes such as evolution to populate our planet with life.
  6. I believe these things from studying scripture and studying scientific discoveries in the areas of geology, biology, anthropology and astronomy.

Back to the original question that was presented to the Miss USA contestants: Should evolution be taught in schools?

Sure!  Why not?

I find it to be a strong scientific theory with as much supporting evidence as just about everything else that is taught in school these days.  Until a better explanation comes along, I have no problem with evolution being taught in schools.  Perhaps if I was prettier and looked good in a bikini, I might think differently.

Bibliography: Acquiring Genomes; The Genesis Question; Finding Darwin's God; The Language of God

Monday, July 4, 2011

For They Know Not What They Do

WARNING: the following blog entry contains more musings on God, Jesus, the Bible, theology and the like.  Read on at your own risk.

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."  (Luke 23:34)

This utterance appears only in the Gospel of Luke with nothing similar recorded in the other three gospel texts.  Not only that, this particular sentence does not even appear in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, but was determined to be a worthy inclusion in the canon of scripture as it was found in most of the copies of Luke's gospel that were distributed out to the early churches and is reinforced in other passages (Acts 3:17-18; I Timothy 1:12-13). 

Meditating on this verse has been refreshing, rewarding; yet at the same time, confusing.  Of late, I've been questioning the theological concept of limited atonement (or as some would call it -- particular redemption).  Limited atonement is the Reformed view that Jesus' death only redeemed the sins of those chosen by God to be ultimately saved.  Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology explains that Reformed theologians come to this conclusion for the following reason:
If Christ's death actually paid for the sins of every person who ever lived, then there is no penalty left for anyone to pay, and it necessarily follows that all people will be saved, without exception.  For God could not condemn to eternal punishment anyone whose sins are already paid for: that would be demanding double payment, and it would therefore be unjust.
Luke's verse highlighted above does not mesh well with the idea that Jesus did not love all or was only willing to die for the elect.  For here, Jesus is clearly asking God to forgive the very people who brought about his unjust crucifixion and grisly death.  Not only that, he appears to be offering up a valid excuse for their sin in that they did not realize and understand what it was that they were doing.  He is playing the role of advocate (see I John 2:1-2) for the very people who are acting out of unbelief.  I find this to be a very interesting glimpse into the heart of Jesus.

This leads me to ask a number of semi-rhetorical questions.

What would Jesus' motive be in asking God to forgive a rather large group of people who do not appear to be part of the salvation plan?  Is this a one-time exception-to-the-rule type of desire on the part of Jesus?  Or does this idea affirm what Paul wrote to Timothy that the Savior "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"?  (I Timothy 2:4).

Will God honor Jesus' request?  (Surely He would, based upon what we know of the Trinity.  John 5:19)  If so, would not God always forgive in similar circumstances?  For God is never arbitrary, never capricious, never inconsistent, as far as we can understand those concepts in light of the Ultimate.  (Please know, I am not trying to draw lines and put God in a box to win an argument or to sway anyone to think in a certain way.  On the contrary, I'm trying to stretch my own mind to grasp just a little more of the unbelievableness that is the Divine.)

If Jesus wants to forgive those who brought about his death, and in fact does so, is this forgiveness limited to this particular sin or does it extend to all of the sins committed out of ignorance by this class of people?  Or perhaps such a forgiveness of sins even wipes the whole slate clean at that point?  How often does God forgive when there is no repentance and no request for forgiveness?

There are no good answers to these questions.  (If you disagree, please feel free to comment and contribute to the discussion.)  My guess is that an appropriate analysis would show that this addition to Luke's gospel is not about who gets saved and whose sins are forgiven, but instead about the undeniable compassion of Jesus; yet I feel like there is something more going on here.  This is the heart of Jesus, not just in an isolated incident (though it was a rather momentous incident), but an indication of his desire that all would be forgiven.  It's a fairly scandalous idea.

As I have contemplated these things, my initial conclusion is that Jesus is more incredible than I previously thought.  (Always a solid conclusion to come to!)  However, I cannot put into words (or even a coherent thought) precisely why I have come to such a conclusion.  The only way I can think to describe it is this: limited atonement makes Jesus look smaller.

When the Apostle Paul wrote that grace abounded much more, I think he was talking about something really amazing -- so amazing that even in our best theological constructs we are unable to grasp what really happened when Jesus died on the cross.  Even as I type this, my heart burns and I wonder if this is anything like what those two disciples felt when they unknowingly traveled with the resurrected Savior.

In conclusion, I would submit that the doctrine of limited atonement is lacking in a very fundamental way.  While it is a view that has some scriptural support, it is also based upon logic in its attempt to describe something which is more than likely indescribable.  (That's not to say that I think we should all throw up our hands and say: "What's the point in trying to figure all this stuff out?"  I believe we should continue to search the scriptures and plead with the Holy Spirit to unlock the truths contained therein.)  Where I find fault with this doctrine is that it reeks of exclusion and limitation -- two things which in my humble opinion should never be applied to Jesus when it comes to his saving grace.

I believe the gospel message really is good news.  In fact, it is the proclamation of news so amazingly good, it can be difficult to believe.  Jesus himself was the agent which made this good news a reality.  He must increase.  He must always increase.  Surely there must be a better explanation than to exclude and place limits on the ultimate effects of what certainly had to have been the perfect sacrifice.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.  (Hebrews 2:9)
A CHALLENGE: I am not a theologian, but in this post I have made a number of theological statements.  I welcome debate and would love to be shown the errors (if any) that I have made here.  Please comment with any objections, affirmations or anything in between, that we may all be edified.

Bibliography: Love Wins; Systematic Theology