Thursday, March 02, 2017
God might have arrested this process by miracle: but this - to speak in somewhat irreverent metaphor - would have been to decline the problem which God had set Himself when He created the world, the problem of expressing His goodness through the total drama of a world containing free agents, in spite of, and by means of, their rebellion against Him. The symbol of a drama, a symphony, or a dance, is here useful to correct a certain absurdity which may arise if we talk too much of God planning and creating the world process for good and of that good being frustrated by the free will of the creatures. This may raise the ridiculous idea that the Fall took God by surprise and upset His plan, or else - more ridiculously still - that God planned the whole thing for conditions which, He well knew, were never going to be realised. In fact, of course, God saw the crucifixion in the act of creating the first nebula. The world is a dance in which good, descending from God, is disturbed by evil arising from the creatures, and the resulting conflict is resolved by God's own assumption of the suffering nature which evil produces. The doctrine of the free Fall asserts that the evil which thus makes the fuel or raw material for the second and more complex kind of good is not God's contribution but man's. This does not mean that if man had remained innocent God could not then have contrived an equally splendid symphonic whole - supposing that we insist on asking such questions. But it must always be remembered that when we talk of what might have happened, of contingencies outside the whole actuality, we do not really know what we are talking about. There are no times or places outside the existing universe in which all this 'could happen' or 'could have happened'. I think the most significant way of stating the real freedom of man is to say that if there are other rational species than man, existing in some other part of the actual universe, then it is not necessary to suppose that they also have fallen.
Chapter 5, "The Fall of Man," in The Problem of Pain (1962).
Wednesday, March 01, 2017
I was born with an appreciation for sports.
I was born with a tendency to overeat.
I was born with a love for nature and the great outdoors.
I was born with sexual attractions for women besides my wife.
I was born with a love for excessive TV watching.
I was born with a love for knowledge acquisition, preferably through reading.
I was born with a desire to be in control and to overpower people.
I was born with a penchant toward sarcasm and cruelty.
Which of these natural tenancies should I develop? Which should I restrain? Which are morally and socially beneficial?
Being born a certain way in no way determines its goodness, so I've decided to turn to Holy Scripture and to be guided by its teachings, as revealed and fulfilled through Jesus Christ (see this post for those who wonder how Christians determine which laws from the Old Testament are still in play).
Beware of arguments that suggest "how I feel" means "how I should act." Moral philosophers call this creating "ought" where there is only "is." Morality stands outside of nature (supernatural). Any morality that shifts with culture ends up not being morality at all because it's been relegated to a natural entity. But when I allow an outside morality to serve as the standard of moral actions and behaviors, it is certain that I will fall short, experience shame, and feel guilt.
Turns out, contrary to modern ears, shame and guilt are exactly how you should feel when you go against morality. Shame and guilt are gifts, designed to send us toward healing, hope, and forgiveness. And where can we turn to feel this way, to know this forgiveness? Only Jesus. He identified with those most shamed and most guilty in his day (prostitutes, criminals, sexual deviants). He loved them; extended them forgiveness; invited them to repentance; and said that surely the kingdom of God is for such as these. And so I come with all my deviant natural tendencies...O Lord, receive me again, through your cleansing and sacrificial blood.
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
The first was named Mr. Right. He was a bishop from a far away land. He came to explain an ancient document in the land of Rome. It had been penned by a martyr about two millennia prior.
For many years, the people of Rome had come to believe the letter spoke about how a person was to be brought into a right relationship with the King. They believed it expressed hope in someone who had purchased justice for them at the price of his own blood. They thought it described them as guilty and needing to be declared innocent. They thought it was a story about another doing a great work that could be credited to their account.
But Mr. Right arrived to correct them. Instead, he said, no my friends, this is a story about exiles coming home. It's a story about enemies of the people, enemies that have been defeated. All you need to do is come home through the work of the enemy-killer. When you get there, he'll put a sign on you that says "you're in." There's no transaction, no credit, to purchased justice. It's a declarative statement that you're already in.
Moments later, a mysteriously dressed Piper, arrived and bellowed out a tune unsuitable for most ears, but compelling to some. This Piper said, "If all that occurs is a declarative statement, that "you're already in," then why do you need to come in at all? Beware of Mr. Right, warned the Piper. You are guilty, and the King is angry. You're worse than exiles; you are enemies. Either you die for your enmity or you believe in the One who died for your enmity. This One is the very Son of the King. Either you take what He earned or get what you earned. There must be a transaction, a gift of credit, and purchased justice. Listen to this tune. Do not tune this out.
As the legend goes, Mr. Right led some on a journey far from where any had traveled before. In like manner, the Piper convinced some as well. Where these mysterious figures will take their convinced crowds is only known by the great King. All that's left is that ancient Roman document...how will we read it? What does it really say? You too can study it's contents: The Letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Stu in his slow and southern drawl, "I reckon she's been duped by them relig-i-ous fanatics who keep saying the same thing. But everyone of them soon disappears. I wouldn't trust any ol' cult that promises to soar and then lo and behold, they's gone in a blink of an eye."
"Yep," Chris commented with the nod of the heard, "Keep your thoracic legs on the ground is what I always say. Hmph, flying, soaring...we're caterpillar's for god-sake, we're bulky, pedestrian beasts who should keep our heads on the ground not in the clouds."
"I'm fixing to stay on God's green earth as long as I can. You won't get me crawling into one of them's cocoon. Who knows what happens in there...most of the time, I finds one of thems, cut open with no caterpillar left inside."
"Yeah, Caroline keeps saying, we're not meant to stay as caterpillars, that we were meant to fly. She says, it's our destiny, and only fools would choose the ground over the sky. Who's the fool? I've got all the grass I need; what am I going to find to eat in midair? And she keeps babbling about beautiful wings and breathtaking views; why can't we just be content with who we are? We're fine. We're fine."
"I feel so judged when I listen to her," continued Chris, "Her holier than thou attitude makes me bristle. She says, the change is all done by the Creator and Metamorphesizer, but that's just her way of saying, I'm special and you're not. We'll see who has the last laugh."
13 days later
"Stu, how you been? It's been a while, eh? Have you heard the news, Caroline up and disappeared into that silk ball, and then this morning there was a break in the ball and she's nowhere to be found."
"Is she okay? What did they do to her? I miss her so."
"Crazy religious fanatics; we gotta stop these guys."
"Stu, Chris, look up here..."
Stu and Chris struggle, but are able to turn their heads just enough clockwise to peer upwards.
"It's Caroline!! The change is complete; I'm a new thing. Isn't it amazing!"
"Caroline? What? Who are you really? What have you done with our friend? Did you eat her? Get away from me."
But then Chris looked over and Stu was marveling wide-mouthed at the flying creature above him. "Is it really you, Caroline? Is this what happens when you crawl in?"
"Yes, Stu, it's available to you. You have to give up that life to get this life, but it's worth. The Creator and Metamorphesizer is no respecter of bugs. You just have to trust His ways of death to life."
"Liar! You just want to eat my friend and ruin his life. Stay away you flying vampire. Take your lies and your wings elsewhere."
"O, Stu, don't listen to Chris. He does not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Trust and obey for there is no other way, to be happy and whole, you must die and be reborn."
Friday, February 10, 2017
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
Contra: The famous athlete caught cheating, says, "I'm very sorry; I wasn't acting like myself." The cruel adolescent after smearing a person's good name, "Nah, man, I was only joking."
There is always a place to apologize, confess a wrongdoing, and say, "This is not the person I want to be." Such a response is more credible. It affirms our actions reveal our character. It is who we are. But it acknowledges we fall short of the moral bar, and we are willing to accept the consequences of past actions and the sacrifices necessary to never repeat them.
If you've been wronged by someone, be leery of empty promises. Wait for change.
If you keep doing the same thing, don't believe your own hype, this is who you are. God can change you. There is hope at the cross.
Monday, February 06, 2017
Hmm, but innovation means a new idea or a new method, and to be original refers to something inventive or unusual.
Yes, but the stark difference is that originality cannot be copied, imitated, or improved upon.
What I wish every kid approaching 18 would know and what many in their young 20s could gain from understanding is that innovation for innovation sake is not only unoriginal, but often times a dangerous turn away from beautiful originality.
Some things cannot be improved upon. Innovation only tarnishes. For instance, a walk amid the colors, smells, and temperature of fall is simple fare. The only way to ruin such a walk is to try to capture the moment with your smart phone. Your innovative device serves as a vacuum cleaner sucking up all that was perfectly common. (Read more on the danger of such devices here: digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/)
Much could be said for all the innovative religious practices. Jesus on the cross, dying for sinners, is the original idea. But new ideas ask questions like, "Did Jesus really die?" Or "Who is really a sinner?" Immediately the original work of beauty is tarnished by this banal innovation. Or maybe we play rock music so loud that we "awe" the audience. Two problems here: first, it's a congregation, not an audience. Second, congregations are supposed to participate and sing, not just listen. No thank you innovation. What about a Bible preacher who is now simply a "Speaker" or "Communicator" who uses an electronic tablet? The medium is the message...we no longer revere the Word, we revere the worker. We no longer evaluate the message based on Biblical fidelity, but on communicative flare.
Innovation is not original.
Beware the substitutes.
Find the real.
Manhattan, NY: You have seen that smirk on the back cover's of books. It's been seen on television, at conferences, and on myriads of church curriculum. But why, just why does Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City carry his trademark smirk? A team of psychoanalysts (don't worry readers, these are Christian psychoanalysts) have finished their ten month research project and finally know why.
Friday, February 03, 2017
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
Here are my 2 cents...
The quote that summarizes the whole book for me was this:
Man can ascend to Heaven only because the Christ, who died and ascended to Heaven, is ‘formed in him.’ Must we not suppose that the same is true of man’s loves? Only those into which Love Himself has entered will ascend to Love Himself.
Lewis places humanity in dependence on God. Salvation and eternity hang in the balance apart from God's intervention. Similarly, the ability to love hangs in the balance apart from God's intervention.
Certainly, humanity is capable of a form of love, just as a toddler does a form of walking. Personally, I've been known to do a form of singing. But it's not quite the real thing. Outside influence, further development and refining are all necessary to go from the form to the reality. Lewis says this comes from God because God is love. His reasoning could easily be based on the New Testament passage 1 John 4:7-12.
This sort of Divine-influenced, divine-like love must be king in a person's heart before they can navigate the other "loves" that stir in their lives. Whether it's a love for chess, white mice, a blonde beauty, or an old book, all such loves need to be ordered under the King of Love--Charity herself, the love marked by personal sacrifice and goodness for another, most of all goodness toward God.
With Charity-love (A.K.A. God-like love) at the helm, we can now love chess without it destroying the lives around us. We can keep mice and go on a date with the blonde and curl up with that book. None of them will take center place, nor will we abuse either gift for our own advantage. We neither make those things gods nor treat them as if we're gods.
So for instance, romance, or erotic love, (what Lewis refers to as Eros), can be a very demanding, god-like love. It moves us to make promises, overhaul convictions, and express things beyond human ability. Or as Lewis explains, “Eros is driven to promise what Eros himself cannot perform.”
We've all read of or seen people "in love" with things they ought not (the neighbor's wife, the bad-boy hooligan, and the like). What would ever break this erotic love? Answer: a stronger love, a king love, a chief love, divine love. Then and only then can Eros be deposed. Then and only then can we follow Lewis' counsel: “Eros driven to a forbidden object, may have to be sacrificed [in light of Charity/Divine Love].”
Pastor John Piper describes our lives as a solar system. With God and His Love at the center of the solar system, the planets (loves) of our lives can be properly ordered. But if something else seeks to control the system, chaos and disorder erupts. This is the lot of natural humanity. We're born in the chaos of disordered loves and disordered lives. Until we see Jesus' Christ death for sinners as the focal point of history and the most grounding reality of the universe and our only hope of salvation, we remain hopeless in a universe of disordered loves.
Monday, January 30, 2017
Sunday, January 29, 2017
Do you want to succeed in your first church? Do you want your first year to become 50 years in ministry? Then, look no further...
1. Whatever you do, don't keep things the same. People love variety and change. You were hired to bring that change. Change the service time, service order, and service elements. Sing all new sings, select a new Bible translation, and nod your head apologetically for all the years the church existed prior to your arrival.
2. Run with the horses. Only the Puritans ministered to hurting sheep, and where are they now? Dead, that's right. If you want a thriving ministry, book deal, and expanding platform, find the smartest, wealthiest, most gifted young adults and spend all your waking hours with them.
3. Copy the clothing, mannerisms, and styles of TED Talk speakers. The world listens to these people, and if you want the world to listen to you, it's about time you humbled yourself and put on a new self.
4. Keep your people busy. The reason sports teams excel is because they never rest. If you want to be a Next Level Church, you can't let your people sit on the bench. The Sabbath might have flown in the first century, but we're in the 21st century and it's high octane ministry or extinction.
5. You must nail social media. Martin Luther might have spent 3 hours praying before his day of ministry started, but that was at the dawn of printing. We're in the digital age, and to digital our souls must go. Spend those 3 hours planning your strategic engagement with Instaface, MySnap, and Pintawitter. Your people don't want you to visit them or pray for them. They want a witty pastor, mocking worldly ideas and worldly people on social media.
So get to it...seriously, now, don't pause, pray, reflect or contemplate. The devil's busy. Shouldn't we follow his example and get busy too?