Tuesday, June 20, 2017
As sheep shepherds keep watch,
The Enemy reaches with creeping fingers,
Condemning all for every botch.
We spy wolves seeking success,
Attack the fold, they make a mess,
The flock sees not persistent duress,
They mistake claws for sweet caress.
Oh my finite impotence,
Oh my inability apparent,
I save none outside the fence,
Nor bring any into God's tent.
Like all, my weakness I must bring,
Each transgression's weight too much,
To the bloody cross of suffering,
I seek healing, a potent touch.
There alone is the soul's content,
There alone each sheep must flee,
Where the Father commanded Son sent,
Where life bought for me, for thee.
So, now I go and bring my sorrows,
To a King crucified, not dead,
The one who holds all the morrows,
I, a member, He, the Head.
Friday, June 16, 2017
On about page 4, one researcher (labeled as an "activist-academic in sex") argues that sexuality is biopsychosocial (related to biology, psychology and the social world). That's one of the best descriptions I've ever heard from someone in the scientific community regarding the dynamic of human personality, preferences, orientation, etc.
Thursday, June 08, 2017
So, I see a recurring pattern of people being asked at work, church, or a community organization to give up a few more hours to serve or help or participate. The person feels overwhelmed and says, "I can't," and that they need a night, a week, or a month to recover from this sense of fatigue.
But it turns out this person is always tired, always out of sorts, always needing more hours, more nights off, more personal time, more "me time," and the like. Clearly, the solutions they have taken haven't really dealt with the fatigue. Where might they turn?
Here are some collected thoughts from someone who has read a lot on health, rest, the Sabbath, spiritual growth, and maintaining a healthy balance on life:
#1: Make choices for the good of others. One of the most draining, life-sucking, soul-destroying things we can do is live for ourselves. Jesus warned that if we attempt to gain the whole world (think personal happiness and peace) we will lose our soul. The only way to truly save our soul (the greatest peace and rest imaginable) is to lay our lives down. I believe many people are exhausted because they spend an exorbitant amount of their lives trying to satisfy their soul. They keep saying they're tired and need to rest, but it's only feeding the me-monster that will only get more hungry for more personal pleasure and happiness. Contrast this way of living with Jesus. He sacrificially died for you and me and the sins of the world. He did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). This is why Jesus can give peace and rest for our souls (Matthew 11:28-30; John 14:27-28). If you want deep rest, you'll probably be physically tired. Mother Teresa was tired. Every good, young mom is tired. Great Presidents are tired. Great humans are tired. But, they know a deeper rest, something sweeter than sleeping in, a day-off, or a Chinese buffet.
#2: Avoid screens at least 1 hour before a predetermined bedtime, if not entirely. The light of screens and the suspense of TV shows and sports all work against actually going to bed and resting peacefully. The guy who says, "I can't fall asleep until midnight," is the guy who keeps watching shows until his eyelids droop, well beyond when they would droop if the lights and TV were off. Maybe you thought this additional Netflix show would make you happy, but it turns out, it just made you tired.
#3: Find your sleep rhythm. Most people sleep best if they go to bed and rise at the same hours every night (including weekends!). Adults should find their best pattern, and that usually falls in the 7-9 hour window. Less than 7 or 8 is normally a killer, but more than 9 is more likely to cause lethargy than a sense of restfulness. Know thyself, and then accept the hand God's dealt you.
#4: Take a full Sabbath every week, on the same day (if at all possible). God designed the human body for 6 days of work and one day of Sabbath. Sabbath is a day to remember God's good gifts. Sabbath is a day for play, enjoying creation, getting outside, eating good food, and avoiding work-for-pay activities. Sabbath is always a day to pray, to worship God in community, to worship God individually, to worship God with your family, and to remember His grace and mercy. Feel free to be creative. Our family goes from 5PM Friday to 5PM Saturday (I work Sundays). Others go 5PM Saturday to 5PM Sunday, or from 7AM Sunday to 7AM Monday. If you work on the weekend, see if you can find an employer who will give you a consistent day for a Sabbath.
#5: Work hard the other 6 days. Generally speaking, humans were made to work during all the daylight hours. So when the sun is out, we should keep working. If we work hard when we're supposed to, our body will go to bed when we want it too. Some experts speculate we don't rest well because we aren't working well. We play or doddle when we should work, and then when we should be resting and relaxing, we have to catch up on the work we missed earlier.
#6: Take strategic breaks during the day. The reason most of us never feel rested is we are actually in a constant state of motion, attention, or work every minute of every day of every week. We go from work, to home, to projects, to housework, to kids' activities, to long trips, to church meetings. But since it is humanly impossible to not rest and recuperate, we accept poor substitutes to break up our day that never satisfy our body or soul. For example:
1. The internet: We feel overwhelmed, so we check our email or social media or the news. Such things are never restful. We replace one unrestful activity (our actual responsibilities) with another unrestful activity (internet). Sure, we got a mental break from our actual responsibilities, but we never rested truly. It would have been better to go for a fifteen minute walk outside or a 5 minute prayer break, but since those things don't look like work, we avoid them.
2. Eating: Our bodies get run down and so we want to appease that feeling with food, but too often we stuff our bodies with bad fuel. We need vitamins and nutrients, but those don't taste as good or have as quick of a reaction as sugar, fat, and caffeine. As a result, we eat foods that cause drastic highs and lows (which tax the body on both ends), and now we don't have enough energy to fuel a good day, nor the kind of health that allows for good sleep.
#7: If you are feeling tired, today, eat supper and then go to bed. Many studies suggest that "sleeping in" has limited to no value on getting caught up on sleep (for instance click here). Take a night or two and just go to bed after supper. If you wake up in the middle of the night, stay off your phone, computer, or TV, and keep the lights off. Breathe easy, don't panic, and just wait till your body goes back to sleep.
#8: Exercise regularly. You can walk, run, life weights, swim, or play a sport, but you probably should do something (for longevity sake, jogging is the hands-down winner). Especially, if you work in the white collar world, odds are your body hasn't used enough energy. And just in case you haven't heard, sitting IS the new smoking. So move, your body everyday, and 75 minutes a week at a vigorous level. You'll sleep and feel better, and you'll probably live longer too.
#9: Embrace your humanity. This is really the point to all the eight solutions that proceed it, but just in case you haven't picked up what I'm putting down, let me get specific. You are a finite, human person who has limits. You can believe the lie that Adam and Eve believed in the Garden that you can go your own way and do your own thing and still feel happy and restful. Or you can confess your humanity, your selfishness, and your unwillingness to submit to God. You can confess that you've blamed God for feeling tired or unhealthy or unrestful, and look in the mirror and see your own pride, presumption, and unwillingness to live based on reality. Your demands for happiness and control expose a sinful heart, a desire to take God's place. So confess this as sin, nonsense, and death. Cry out to Jesus for forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and rule in your life, and then live according to your finite position. Obey God; follow His commandments; honor the body He's giving you; use it to serve others; and don't worship at the gods of television, entertainment, and self. Let God be God, and yourself an undeserving recipient of His grace.
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Reason #1: Jesus and the first Christians were lunatics. Jesus claimed to be one with God, able to forgive sin, and preexistent to the Jewish patriarch Abraham. The early Christians claimed that a crucified Jesus had resurrected and appeared to many, including 500 people at one time. They died (some murdered even) professing this to be true, even claiming Jesus was a divine being worthy of worship (something no sane Jew would ever do). They even put these ideas in stories Christians call the New Testament, which leads me to reason #2...
Reason #2: The New Testament is full of contradictions. One gospel account says there were 2 angels at the resurrection of Jesus, another mentions only 1. Some gospel accounts have Jesus having supernatural abilities to read minds and predict the future, others depict Jesus as ignorant of future events and unable to do miraculous works. Clearly, the lunatics (see reason #1) did not sit down to collaborate and ensure we'd have a consistent story-line. If they were smarter, they would have worked out these kinks in the first century to ensure consistent ideas and practices. This naturally leads to reasons #3...
Reason #3: Christians are inconsistent practitioners. Christianity is a divided mess. They have pacifists and war-mongers. They have Mary-worshipping Catholics and Bible-worshipping Evangelicals. They allow Mother Teresa and George W. Bush to both claim to be Christians. In history, the Catholics kill Lutherans, the Lutherans kill Baptists, and the Baptists kill liberals (at least in the voting box). Why does such a divided, confused, and inconsistent religion still exist in the 21st century? Why hasn't this thing died off yet? It almost proves Christianity's belief in sin, ignorance, and the fallenness of humanity (but we can't give them that). It's almost as if something (or Someone) is behind all this. This makes me think of yet another reason...
Reason #4: Christians believe God is the power behind everything. Christians believe God created the world. Christians believe God is the ultimate cause behind all that happens in history (some Christians even say, God plans and purposes the evil actions of humans and demons). Such backward, pre-scientific, premodern, neanderthal ideas should have died. Surely, science and human thought can work out the origins of the universe, morality, and human dignity without looking to answers outside of space and time. Who needs God to know what's right and wrong? Hasn't all the wonderful things of the 20th century proven that science and atheism make countries more wholesome and peaceful? (Just don't look at the Soviet massacres, the evolutionary morality that propelled Hitler's Aryan race and the Holocaust, or the horrors of communist China and Vietnam, or the culture of death that has slaughtered millions of babies in the name of progress in the "enlightened" nations of the West.) Keep pointing those fingers at the lunatic Christians and their belief in a single deity who rules the cosmos. Such idiocy...oh, and one final reason.
Reason #5: Christians will never know till death if they are right. You can't test their beliefs in a laboratory. All their ideas are "pie in the sky," hopes of heaven. They think future happiness is to be postponed, that personal sacrifice and acts of love now are the way to ensure long-term, eternal joy. Such fools turn away from certain forms of physical pleasure and sexuality. They miss out now on what could be theirs, putting all their hopes in a future they won't even know is true until they die. They prize martyrs who gave up their lives for love and religion, but we know those martyrs were just lunatics. Mother Teresa was a fool. Eric Liddell an idiot. Christian doctors giving their lives among Ebola patients are crazy. Missionaries who give up the bliss of Western civilization to feed the hungry and share the message of Christianity don't have a clue. Darwin is right: it's all about survival of the fittest. The way to honor my species is to grow strong, populate widely, and ignore the weak. Let science be king and all else proven liars.
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Neil Postman’s classic on the nature of television received the intriguing title, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985). Jacques Ellul penned The Technological Bluff (1990). Now in 2017, Tony Reinke writes a fantastic book, filled with penetrating theological insight, rigorous research, and probing analysis on the nature of the smartphone and its users, and the only thing that falls flat is the less-than-alluring title, Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.
In 2016, Time magazine declared the iPhone as the most influential gadget of all time. The world of smartphones is far different from the world of silent movies or Atari. To minister in such a world, the church needs an army of servants, teachers, and shepherds who can personally find freedom from lurking smartphone dangers. Only then can we assist others to handle these amazing gadgets to the glory of God.
But what if you struggle with smartphone abuse as I do? For instance, my smartphone overuse at home is the most common argument between my wife and me. My kids will sometimes stand in front of me and say, “Dad, I thought you weren’t working today,” while I sneak in a quick email. Quite unconsciously, in the middle of meetings (that in my pride I have determined as boring) I will pull out my phone to check my favorite teams’ sports scores.
To whom shall we go? Answer: Jesus, and Reinke’s book can help. This book cannot save you, but the God to whom this book points can.
Each chapter stirs our affections, challenging us to look away from our device and instead toward our satisfying Redeemer and Creator. In the end, Reinke’s counsel related to the smartphone turns out to be a tutorial on human engagement with all technologies.
With compelling sentences, Reinke forces theological inquiry in the face of technological temptation: “What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?” He offers a well-crafted turn of phrase, one after another, such as, “The clicks of our fingertips reveal the dark motives of our hearts, and every sin—every double-tap and every click—will be accounted for.”
Later in the book, Reinke argues, “It is better to lose the capacity to scroll for pornography than have your whole body thrown into hell.” Fitting words for someone like myself, greatly thankful that God freed me from a pornography addiction before the onset of smartphones. Sadly, this dark sin still shackles others with Tinder, chat rooms, and images squalling feverishly for lost souls in cyberspace. Others racked with crippling loneliness turn to their phones to deal with relational fears, believing the lie that through a few million microprocessors and network connections isolation will end.
So, read the book. Find freedom in Christ. And Crossway, after this book goes through its first printing, consider a retitling of the book (the existing title can serve as a subtitle), such as, Swiping Our Souls to Death, Seeking a Screen Savior, or iSwipe Therefore iAm.
Wednesday, May 03, 2017
These are the running concerns in David Jax's 2016 work Revenge of the Analog. Jax's journalistic talents show up throughout the book. You feel the tension of the digital download generation. You feel the sense of lostness in a world of constant streaming sound. Soon you too see the hope of owning a record player, touching the plastic mold, marveling over the album cover, and placing that needle carefully upon the record so that sound flows forth.
Jax includes the insights of technology gurus such as MIT Professor Sherry Turkle who observes, “It [technology] promises friendship but can only deliver performance.”
He takes you on a tour of the famous Camp Walden, where technology is still nearly banned for weeks of a kid's summer. Then, he askes the Camp director why technology is at odds with the purposes at Camp Wadlen. “[Sol] Birenbaum [head of Camp Walden] didn’t hesitate to answer. ‘We look at the heart of what we do, and it is interpersonal relationships.’” (page 236, epilogue)
Sure, the iPhone has it benefits, but to bow before its (near-idol like) promises and power can only mean a loss of humanity. Life was meant to be felt, shared, and experienced with human persons. Or as Jax explains, “Ultimately, analog pursuits connect us to one another in a vastly deep way than any digital technology can. They allow bonds to form in real time and physical spaces, which transcend language and our ability to communicate with just words and symbols.” (239, epilogue)
Jax's book is a fun tour of several aspects of life (schools, work, music, games, films, etc.) that all show that digital cannot and should not be received without a wary eye. What Jax's book lacks is thoughtful theological and philosophical reflections on why digital doesn't satisfy (Turkle is one of the few exceptions).
For those looking for deeper answers than a journalistic tour of the world, you'll need to turn to the likes of Neil Postman's classic, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985) or Jacques Ellul's The Technological Bluff (1990). And there's a fantastic new book (2017) by Tony Reinke (don't let the less than thrilling title fool you) Twelve Ways Your Phone is Changing You.
Here are a few nuggets to encourage you to read Reinke's book:
“What if the rhythms of Snapchat selfies and our star-studded Instagram feeds are exposing the dimness of our future hope?”
Jax's book is a fun snapshot of culture. It's the other books that better ask and answer why culture and souls cannot find hope or salvation in the promises and patterns of digital living.
Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Monday, May 01, 2017
Like all great tragedies, the life behind the tragedy speaks volumes for centuries. Liddell gave up a near certain 100 meter gold in 1924 to honor his views of the Christian Sabbath. He gave up future Olympic glory to keep his vow to missionary work in a dangerous mission in late 1920s China. He honored his missionary agency's request to stay in enemy occupied territory when WWII erupted. Like other non-combatants, he was held in a war camp for simply being British when Japan was at war. He sacrificed for the sake of other inmates day in and day out for over 18 months. He loved, he forgave, he served, and 5 months prior to his war camp's release, he took his last breath.
Eric Liddell (immortalized in both athleticism and character in Chariots of Fire) was a full soul, not just a great body. His dedication to excellence, service, and humility comes across as an act, but it's near perfection for 4 and 1/2 decades has no holes, no guile, no gild. In fact, the one missing piece of Duncan Hamilton's rich story is the power behind the life. Hamilton paints Liddell as a saint, and surely he was. But saints aren't built by human hands. Truths Liddell conveys over and over, but truths that get lost in Hamilton's account.
Hamilton notes that Liddell based his life on the Sermon on the Mount. Liddell even penned a short devotional work on the truths of the Sermon. The secret to his whole life (and the life of any who would follow after God) was summarily described by Liddell as "knowing God." One quote in a work by Liddell noted this, "A disciple is one who knows God personally, and who learns from Jesus Christ, who most perfectly revealed God. One word stands out from all others as the key to knowing God, to having his peace and assurance in your heart; it is obedience."
The centrality to Liddell's life was focusing on Jesus Christ, the one who perfectly revealed God. Only in Jesus Christ can someone have peace and assurance in the heart. Obedience will follow, indeed. But obedience flows from faith. We don't obey to be saved, but we obey because we're saved.
So read Hamilton's majestic book on a majestic person, but know that the power, peace, and assurance, the fueled Eric Liddell was Jesus Christ--his life, his death, his resurrection. As I read Liddell's life, I saw a life of glorious renewal and the power of God's grace. It exposed that I fell short of God's holy standard. But the solution isn't to lace up and try to run like Eric. The solution is to know the God that Eric knew.
This God allowed Eric to write these words, the very last words to come from his pen, words that speak to hope beyond this life, hope procured by Jesus Christ's bloody death and glorious resurrection, words that can be true for all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. These words: "All will be well."
Thursday, April 20, 2017
You can quote me on this...but do read the whole post first.
Gay is a physical and/or emotional and/or erotic attraction to a person of the same gender. This is similar to a definition I found on the online Merriam Webster dictionary that reads, "sexually attracted to someone who is the same sex."
Are people born gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some are, and probably some aren't.
Do people choose to be gay? From various scientific and psychological articles, the general consensus is probably some do, probably some don't.
The condition, feeling, and experience of being gay is not sin. Anyone who is gay or has a close friend or family who is gay knows that many who are or feel gay wish they didn't. It's a difficult cross to bear, even in a permissive 21st century culture. Who wants to be the topic of every other media post and social media interaction?
I have friends and family with both unwanted same-sex attraction and others who welcome their orientation. I love them both and pray my friendships deepen.
Let's move on...
The condition, feeling, and experience of being straight is not sin.
Now, it is possible for straight people to sin. It is possible for gay people to sin.
A straight person is sinning if they engage in a sexual relationship with their sibling, no matter how consensual the action is done, even by adults. Even if they say they are naturally attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they say, they are born attracted to their sibling, it is still sin. Even if they find it pleasurable, say it is not harming anyone else, and take measures to prevent pregnancy...still sin.
Likewise, a straight person is sinning if they engage in a polygamous relationship, no matter how consensual. A straight person is sinning if they engage in an adulterous relationship, no matter how consensual.
These are moral positions held by most people for centuries. These are moral positions held by Christians for centuries because they are the plain reading of Scripture in both the Old and New Testament. We could add bestiality and pedophilia as other practices that are sin regardless of consent, feeling naturally attracted to, and arguing no one is harmed.
In a similar manner, because I believe the Bible is more sane, trustworthy, and sure than the changing waves of culture, I also think when gay people engage in consensual sexual activity they are also outside the moral bounds set by God and Scripture. This activity (not their condition or feelings or attractions) is what the Bible says is sin. (contrary to new attempts at interpreting the Bible, the Bible does not condone homosexual practice...see Kevin DeYoung's What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?)
Throw in Jesus' warning that lusting sexually is also our hearts engaging in adulterous sin, every person reading this post is guilty before God. No one (NO ONE) is sexually whole. All are broken, struggle with seemingly natural desires that go beyond moral bounds, and thereby hurt others, hurt themselves, and sin against God.
Three responses are in order. We must first turn to God for forgiveness of sin through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. He alone can atone for our sin. He alone can give us the Holy Spirit to enable repentance from sexual sin and dangerous attractions outside moral bounds.
Second, we must continue to uphold moral truths for our lives (first! to avoid hypocrisy, see Matthew 7:1-2) and then for others as well. God's Word is light. We do no one a favor by consenting to the dangerous darkness that always hides the truth. Paul warns us in Romans 1 (a passage that mentions the sin of homosexual practice beside envy, greed, and gossip) that we should not approve of any moral transgression that keeps people from God and the truth.
Three, we must treat people engaged in sexual sin with love, respect, and honor because they are made in God's image. Yes, we can share the Good News of Jesus Christ and invite people to repentance. This will involve years of welcoming them into your home and life, lots of listening, and lots of prayer. Many will refuse to see what seems plain to you in the Bible, but don't forget, you too resisted God and re-read the Bible to make it say what allowed you to keep on doing what you wanted to do (and if you're like me are probably doing this very thing in some area of your life right now). Only God's penetrating and illuminating grace can free people from sin to see and live the truth. Only God saves, and praise God, He saves sinners like you and me.
Monday, April 17, 2017
Let's be honest, if you're involved in technology, social media, and popular idea conversations, it can be very embarrassing to "not be in the know." 10 years ago, you were mocked if you said "I just posted on Twitter," and quickly corrected, "No, buddy, you tweeted." Technological snobbery is as ripe as an October apple.
And so, we're tempted to try and embrace all new technological tools, Apps, and online networks, just to avoid the fear of being "on the out." So an invitation to LinkedIn, requires an immediate new account. An invite to Snapchat requires your humble submission.
You go out and buy the newest I-Phone, Amazon Echo, and GalaxyS-400, just in case this new technology turns out to be the sliced bread you've been missing.But if you're anything like me, 3 days later, you're hundreds of dollars poorer, and your life is as full or empty as it was a week ago.
Oh, and did I mention the accumulating paper weights of technological devices that we're not sure if we're supposed to throw away or donate to charity.
With this in mind, let me offer 3 arguments for being a late adapter (whether it's the next App or next device):
1. Old things have proven value. Many "new" items turn out to be a big bust. Also, new stuff have glitches to be worked out. My touch screen PDA of 2004 was useless in under 12 months. My 2004 myspace account lasted less than a year before Facebook proved its superior value. My Kindle e-reader of 2011 had a 6 month shelf-life before I could achieve everything and more with a different device. I wasted time and money purchasing and learning a device that turned out to not serve me well. Let a device or app be proven of its value before you attempt to adapt it to your life.
2. There is nothing new under the sun. The deepest longings of human souls have never been met nor will be met by human ingenuity. Our hearts long for what only eternity can satisfy; the next gadget will never measure up.
3. Eyes on the future, betray our responsibility for the present. If you're always looking for that new thing, for a new experience, to solve those new problems, you'll miss the responsibilities facing you today. Not to mention, most of these responsibilities are solved through the ordinary actions of love, communication, forgiveness, hard work, and emotional presence (things that devices can't conjure up if they tried).
So, be a late adapter...and just so you know, being a later adapter doesn't mean you go out and buy a rotary phone. It might look like this:
1) Wait for a new device or APP to be in the market 6-12 months before reading reviews and considering to purchase it.
2) Find wise, responsible, successful people, and ask them what Apps they use and avoid.
3) Talk to these same people about how they manage their technology overall.
Thursday, April 06, 2017
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Thursday, March 23, 2017
But in reading Andy Crouch's 2014 book, Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, I was struck by the reality that I am only "temporarily abled." That is, like many, one day my back will ache, my knees will deteriorate, and my functional arms and legs may cease to function. My heart will one day quit beating and my lungs will take in a final breath. Then, death.
So, how should I use my season of temporary ablement? Should I squander it on reckless eating, drug use, and dangerous activities? Or just maybe, is this temporary season of strength for the benefit and stewardship of others less abled?
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Good Friday April 14, 6:00PM: We will be doing a combined Good Friday worship service with the congregation of Northbrook Baptist Church at our location, 925 Blairs Ferry Road, Marion.
May God richly bless Cedar Rapids and Marion, Iowa this Easter Season.
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?
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Monday, January 23, 2017
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Thursday, January 19, 2017
My 5 reasons:
1) I want to read things that have been proven by time to be worth reading.
2) I get sucked into drama that distracts me from the drama that deserves my attention (my wife, my kids, my friends, my family, my church). I don't want my kids to have to ask me to turn off my phone.
3) I worship at the idol of fame, and too often that idol takes the form of social media. Why do I care so much? A wise man once said, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you." The wisest man, Jesus, said, "It's better to rip off a sinful thing, arm, eye, in your life than to go to hell with it still there."
4) I looked at Facebook for 2 hours total between Jan-October 2016. I was more productive, less distracted, and better relationally. I came back to it fully for 2 months and I got addicted to "it" again quickly. I'm not even sure what "it" is, but whatever "it" is, "it" has taken my affections away from Jesus. And affections for Jesus are the sweetest things in the world.
5) This will help my prayer life. I said I wanted to be on Facebook to see how my friends and family were doing to pray for them. Turns out, I spend more time scrolling and less time praying. Hopefully, if the scrolling is absent, I'll just do the praying regarding the many concerns I receive in more personal ways.
More spiritual people than me use this tool effectively. God bless you and may God use you on a medium that ate my lunch. If others are like me, feel free to join the club.
Please feel free to leave a comment if you hope to maintain contact with me. We'll figure out a way to share personal information.
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
God is willing to destroy us and our false desires in order to save us.