Saturday, June 25, 2011

New York Approves Gay Marriage

Read Article from Christianity Today

Romans 1:25-27 "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

Watch FrancisSchaeffer video

Monday, June 20, 2011

HOW LOVE WINS - Part Five

Love Will Separate Sheep from Goats

Imagine being gathered in a room with ten or twelve friends. As you have their attention, you begin to make slanderous and insulting statements about a common acquaintance as a form of humor. Each jocular statement promotes a roar of laughter from the audience. Upon delivering your fourth quip, the crowd sheepishly glances at you, immediately diverting their attention to the shoelaces of the person beside them. Finding this response bizarre, you slowly peek over your shoulder with a peripheral glance. An involuntary wave of panic flushes over your body as you find the target of your humor standing behind you. Anxiety sets the stage making eye contact uncomfortable if not impossible. You shrink in humiliation and desire to be removed far from the situation and from the presence of your victim.

The above scene is a very mild example of the reality associated with the way foolish, insulting behavior affects relationships. Following, I will attempt to develop a representation that captures the reality of the experience of a human being who has not been honoring God as God (Ro.1:21), whether through active, aggressive rebellion or mild mannered, passive disobedience and apathy, as they step into the unveiled presence of the most overwhelmingly intense being in the universe.

As developed in the first paragraph, being in the presence of a person one has dishonored is, to say the least, uncomfortable if not overwhelmingly excruciating. This is a very natural and realistic aspect of our moral constitution. I would like to suggest that people have a tendency assume that moral reality ceases to operate as we are translated from this life into the “hereafter.” It is assumed that, somehow, the reality of one’s relationship with God and the emotional and moral consequences of one’s behavior are no longer functioning factors in one’s experience when stepping into the unveiled presence of the most overwhelming majestic and intense being in the universe. This is what I call Lucky Charms Christianity (magically delicious - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rge4eU00aNM). We seriously need to rethink and reverse this assumption!

I suggest that for a person who has not truly reconciled to God, the experience of standing in His presence will not prove pleasant. The unpleasant dimension of this encounter will not be due to anything God does to make it unpleasant. If He is guilty of making it unpleasant, it is only because the sympathy and compassion radiating from His being will add to the shame and humiliation that overwhelms the individual in question. Let’s attempt to envision the scene.

An individual who has been pursuing some form of self-supremacy (sin) and has never responded to the self-sacrificial, loving redemptive provisions of God, dies in this condition. The next conscious moment is in the presence of the Creator of the universe. God is the supreme, righteous governor of all moral beings. Governing in righteousness and wisdom places parameters upon how mercy and forgiveness can be exercised (great amounts of careful thinking upon this issue is tremendously important but cannot take place in this mini-article). What does the sinner find as he/she stands before God? The most overwhelmingly appealing, beautiful, intense and attractive Being possible. Made to be in His presence there is a deep longing to be so. However, guilt, shame and anxiety fill his/her being as a natural consequence of violating moral reality. The sinner, though longing to be in God’s presence, is utterly unfit for and uncomfortable in His presence. The overwhelming nature of this experience is beyond description. It is this experience that produces the statement, “I never knew you, depart from me, you who practice lawlessness”, from the mouth of God. It seems as though many assume this statement is made with some sort of anger and retaliatory satisfaction. I believe it is a statement of brokenness, sorrow and regret. With moral reality functioning as it does, the guilty sinner is ushered away from the presence of God in order to diminish the anxiety and guilt. However, when out of His presence, the desire to be in His presence continues to be a source of regretful longing, producing its own form of anxiety and regret. When in His presence, he/she wants out of His presence and when out of His presence, he/she wants to be in His presence. This is a “fire” that cannot be extinguished and a “worm” that never dies, constantly eating at the soul of a moral, immortal being. Consistent with moral reality, God opts for the most merciful of the two options, considering both the sinner who is not fit for His presence and the well-being of the reconciled who are invited to live where righteousness dwells.

I would encourage us to make an effort to rise above shallow, wishful thinking regarding these complex moral issues and realize the challenge the supreme moral governor of the universe faces that eventually require a separation of the sheep from the goats.

Friday, June 17, 2011

HEARING, UNDERSTANDING & OBEYING

As we enter into right relationship with God, through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ and as we receive the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, we become members of the family and kingdom of God. Throughout the gospels, there is much emphasis on the kingdom of God. I will refer to the content of two passages in the gospel of Matthew to highlight the importance of hearing the word of the kingdom, understanding the word of the kingdom and obeying the word of the kingdom.

“…everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.” (Matthew 7:24, NASB)

“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (Matthew 13:23, NASB)

In the two verses quoted above we see a good representation of the place for hearing truth (the word of the kingdom – Mt.13:19), understanding truth and obeying the truth one hears and understands. When it comes to being a fruitful member of the kingdom, the basic process is, on one level, very simple. Expose yourself to truth, prayerfully and diligently labor to understand the truth you have been exposed to and obey the truth you understand.

The truth in question is truth about the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has reference to the structure and design God has for individuals and for the various corporate relationships individuals form. In other words, when we use the relational term “father”, it refers to a specific relational role accompanied by responsibilities that are to contribute to the well-being of specific individuals and society-at-large. The role and boundaries of a father is distinct from that of a husband. If we blur and confuse the two, we will create confusion, conflict and turmoil. We could proceed through a list of personal and corporate terms that reflect the point just made; mother, wife, son, daughter, family, church, civil government, friend, enemy, pastor, etc. There are roles, functions, principles, purposes for each of these in the kingdom of God as they contribute to the balance and well-being of the community. Of course, there are ways we can violate each of these designations as well. Truth, understanding and obedience play an important part in redeeming us from the ravages of such violation.

The training of the disciples, as recorded in Matthew 13, was training designed to help them understand the mysteries of the kingdom (Mt.13:11). The potentially confusing statement, “For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him”, found in Matthew 13:12 is, in its context, a statement about understanding, and specifically understanding about the kingdom of God. Those who have a certain level of understanding about the nature of the kingdom are in position to receive more truth and, therefore, will have more given to them. Those who do not understand will slip back into increased levels of darkness and confusion.

In closing, I offer an observation. It is easy to lose track of our goal and become involved in intellectual gymnastics and practical shenanigans that have nothing to do with advancing the kingdom of God. Often, we are more interested in promoting ourselves, our ministries, our churches or who knows what. Consider Paul’s instructions to Timothy as recorded in 1 Timothy 1:3-4. “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.” Let’s make a sincere effort to insure that our lives are “furthering the administration of God.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

HOW LOVE WINS - Part Four

LOVE REQUIRES WISDOM

The challenge of developing an honorable picture of love largely rests on having a Biblical picture of God. Some aspects of popular theological assumption have encouraged a static view of God. This is a view resulting from certain influences that have come from Greek philosophy. Not intending to go into depth on that idea, I suggest that the Bible reflects a very dynamic view of God. God interacts with the human race, allowing people, in a very significant manner, to exercise the use of their abilities and freedom even when they do so foolishly, selfishly, destructively and contrary to God’s guidance.

In a previous article, I stated that love is a resolve to purpose, pursue and promote the highest good one can identify. This, in a world where there is a massive network of personal and corporate relationships involving various levels and large numbers of choices, is a tremendously challenging resolve to express in practical terms. I once again refer to the statement by Charles Finney, “It is one of the most shallow of dreams, that the Divine character is all softness and sweetness, in all its manifestations and in all circumstances.” In the midst of the dynamic, complex realities of life, wisdom is required to arrive at a conclusion about what promotes the highest good, all things considered. It is shallow and wishful thinking to assume that, somehow, every individual will receive a personally beneficial outcome in this process. Again, from Charles Finney, “It is impossible that love to the whole should not manifest severity and indignation to the part which rebels against the interests of the whole.”

I close with an attempt to help the reader appreciate this dynamic. Engaging forces that are actively working against the highest ultimate good of society-at-large, certain tactics that are designed to disrupt their destructive goals might become necessary. Wishful thinking assumes everyone magically wins. To assume that this is what “love wins” means is, in fact, “the most shallow of dreams.” Imagine a battle in which the employment of wisdom requires a misdirection of the enemies understanding of one’s approach (battle strategy, course of action, intentions). This misdirection is employed in light of the ongoing persistence of the enemy (“the part”) to accomplish an agenda that will enslave and harm society-at-large (“the whole”). Let’s take this brief scenario and consider it in light of a statement the apostle Paul makes regarding climactic moments in the clash between good and evil (not as abstract, obscure imagery but as personal choices of living beings).

"Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness." (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, NASB)

Let’s be done with our “Lucky Charms” (magically delicious) Christianity that distorts reality based upon shallow concepts of love, peace and understanding.