Thursday, January 26, 2012

A 30 Year Old Reflects on the Flu

After a week-long bout with influenza and multiple hours on my back meditating on the fleeting nature of life, I have decided to ruminate a bit:

1) A healthy, hard-working man can go from 60 to zero in short order. Life, breath, and everything else is from the LORD. I must not take for granted one day of good health.
2) Those who suffer with ongoing fatigue and illness need the love and support of friends, family, and the church. I've arrogantly assumed people could "tough it out" in the middle of illness. Now, I see how debilitating illnesses can be.
3) I should not find my identity in what I do. We are human beings, not human doings. Though my work output has been less than stellar, my humanness has not changed. Each human, no matter how sick or incapable of production, deserves dignity, love, and care.
4) Marriage and family are wonderful. I've been so blessed by my family this week through words of encouragement and many acts of love. I love you guys.
5) I long for the day when Jesus returns to consummate the new heavens and new earth. This world is broken, but I know the One who will make all things New!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

God using Human Evil for Good...

In preparation for this Sunday's big sermon on the origin and purpose of evil and suffering (@ Cornerstone Church at 10AM), I appreciated the insights from C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain:

In the fallen and partially redeemed universe we may distinguish (1) the simple good descending from God, (2) the simple evil produced by rebellious creatures, and (3) the exploitation of that evil by God for His redemptive purpose, which produces (4) the complex good to which accepted suffering and repented sin contribute. Now the fact that God can make complex good out of simple evil does not excuse—though by mercy it may save—those who do the simple evil. And this distinction is central. Offences must come, but woe to those by whom they come; sins do cause grace to abound, but we must not make an excuse for continuing to sin. The crucifixion is the best, as well as the worst, of all historical events, but the role  of Judas remains simply evil. We may apply this first to the problem of other people’s suffering. A merciful man aims at his neighbour’s good, and so does God’s will, consciously co-operating with ‘the simple good.’ A cruel man oppresses his neighbour, and so does simple evil. But in doing such evil, he is used by God, without his own knowledge or consent, to produce the complex good—so that the first man serves God as a son, and the second as a tool. For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.

This is a helpful explanation of what philosophers call compatabilism. Humans are independent moral creatures who make their own choices (whether morally good or evil), and yet these choices are all a part of God's sovereign plan to work out good according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28). 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Another reason why I'm a Baptist

So, today I was looking for some information on the web regarding different practices and procedures other churches use for church membership.

At one point, I came across the site of a fairly well-known Presbyterian church that included information on its policies for children baptisms. It had two sections listed. In one section it listed that any member of the church could have their "infant" baptized during an upcoming service after completing a few house-keeping details. In the next section they had information that indicated that all "older children" could not be baptized unless they had made their own public profession of belief in Jesus Christ.

Now as a thorough-going baptist (at least now, sorry Mom :), I couldn't agree more that baptism should follow after a person expresses saving faith in Jesus Christ. Baptism is to be the public and outward declaration of inward faith and saving grace. I find it interesting, however, that those churches who practice infant baptism can at the same time put some sort of age restriction on when it's inappropriate or not. I see an inconsistency in saying infants can be baptized and older children cannot be. Why not? The infant has no choice whether they get splashed or not. They are making no volitional response. So, why is it inappropriate to splash water on a 10 year old? Who cares if the kid doesn't believe? His 2 week old sister doesn't beleive either. If I believe baptism is the sign of the covenant, should I really care if my 10 year old would prefer not to be marked? Isn't it the parents' decision anyway?

Baptists believe that baptism follows an individual's personal decision to trust Jesus as Lord and Savior. Infants should not be baptized because salvation and entrance into the covenant community is received by faith, not through any church ritual. Repent and believe and then be baptized is the natural order (Acts 2:38). It's clean, simple, and less confusing than the practices of my Presbyterian and other infant-splashing brothers and sisters.

Note: I have a lot of love for many of the denominations and Christian traditions that baptize babies. I do not doubt their salvation and in no way doubt their sincere attempts to obey the Bible as honestly as possible. I just found the paradox in my reading today worth blogging about.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

How not to read the Bible...Why the West Wing President Got it Wrong

Facebook has allowed yet another YouTube video to go viral.  But if you would indulge me, I would like to show what the West Wing's President Jed Bartlet got right and wrong. Try not to be blown away by the video's rhetoric and cinematic effects to shame someone who holds an unpopular conviction:

What Jed got right:
* In Exodus-Deuteronomy, God did lay down the laws mentioned. But, these laws were written to the people of Israel and for that particular nation for a particular time. Israel was to be a theocracy (a nation led by God), and as such, God would not allow any deviation away from holiness unto the Lord.

What Jed left out:
* President Jed seemed to leave out the purpose behind the laws...Israel was to be a model nation to the world, a people dedicated and consecrated to God. They were supposed to be a living object lesson. Many of the seemingly arbitrary laws were to show that distinctions should be made in the moral world. Thus, certain foods were clean and unclean. Certain days were holy days. Certain practices (like not mixing seeds or clothing) were to show that mixing between pure and impure was not acceptable. Then, like today, I'm guessing people thought the laws were foolish and over-the-top...but then, like today, no one wants to be considered unholy, immoral, and unacceptable to God.

* Also, President Jed left out that much of this Old Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (see the book of Hebrews in the Bible). No longer are people under this Old Covenant. Religious practices like wearing certain clothes, offering certain sacrifices, etc. are all no longer binding because Jesus Christ came and fulfilled the Law of God.

* But, Jed, forgot to mention that God's moral demands are still applicable today. Yes, certain foods, days, and practices no longer apply, but we shouldn't throw out the entire Old Covenant, should we??? Is it ok to murder and commit adultery and steal and lie? How do we decide?

What Jed doesn't get right:
*President Jed Bartlet seems to be unaware that over 2,000 years of theologians have figured out a way of reading the Old Testament. The solution is letting the New Testament reveal what is no longer valid and what is still valid. The New Testament clearly shows that the customs and practices of the Old Testament no longer apply. But, several moral demands, including the immorality of homosexuality, is upheld in the New Testament.

For example, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we read, "Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." NOTE: The words men who have sex with men translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts (as explained by the Committee on Bible Translation, see margin of the 2011 New International Version).

So too 1 Timothy 1:8-11 8 We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine 11 that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me. All of these behaviors are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Moreover, the argument that Jesus didn't condemn homosexuality is foolish. He upheld marriage as created to be between male and female and scorned anyone who tried to circumvent that. Just because Jesus didn't mention a certain sin, doesn't make it ok. He also didn't forbid rape, child molestation, or spouse beating, but these would be an anathema to him, just as they are to us.

The Apostle Paul (in Romans 1:18ff.) suggests that because humans are unwilling to worship, honor, and serve their Creator, God has allowed humans to go onto shameful activities (including homosexuality, but also envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.). We are all dead in our sin, deserving of death, and yet we revel in our shame. That Christians speak of homosexuality as a sin is not designed to be a cruel attack on someone's personhood. I'm just as guilty and broken as anyone. Each of us need to quit blinding ourselves with lies, deception, and false ideas of tolerance. We just may be tolerating one another's sin on a path to hell. We all need a Savior. We need His holiness and His power to live transformed lives. Thanks be to God, he sent Jesus Christ to live the life we should have lived and to die the death we should have died. Have you trusted in Him?

See a Previous Post regarding homosexuality: