Friday, December 22, 2006

What We Don't Understand About Parenthood

I read comments to the Washington Post article concerning Katrina Clark's feelings about being a product of sperm donation. The feeling I had reading these comments was that only a handful of people understood what she was saying, and understood the implications of our "brave new world."

For many people they were only concerned with the apparent selfishness of the author. Their claim was that she shouldn't have brought up the issue, because she should be happy that she exists at all. Some went as far as to compare her circumstances with people who are suffering with abusive parents or no parents at all.

But that perspective is not only short-sighted, but it doesn't even address what the author is bringing up. The issue is not about expressing a complaint about less-than-perfect circumstances. It is about acknowledging that mankind didn't consider the "products" of human engineering to be human—with rights and feelings of their own. Were black people "whining" because they said that slavery was unjust? ("Hey, there are some people who have their freedom, but have no food. You should be happy with what you got.")

This girl, Katrina, is saying that just maybe, the practice of insemination is unjust, because it violates the fundamental, God-given, rights of the pre-born. But, in our society we debate whether the pre-born have any rights at all. We see them as being commodities. We weigh their dignity against those who have the power to choose, as if human dignity was determined upon ability, not on inherent worth.

The other set of commentators make the argument that it doesn't matter what form the family can take, as long as the situation is loving or the individuals, who come from alternative family structure, come out of them successful and healthy.

The problem with that premise is that our evaluation of successful, healthy, or loving is flawed. We base the ideas upon a set of unexamined presuppositions. We believe that whatever feels good, makes us happy, or gains us wealth is good. What if everything that we think is good is not good. What if something that makes us happy, will destroy us? What if we gain the whole world and loose our soul? We want to say that we determine what is good. But that philosophy just leads us to justify genocide, eugenics, greed, and hubris. And when we examine what we justify, we will call it bad when we are on the receiving end of the negative consequences.

If God created us, He determines our worth, our purpose, and our destiny. But this matter has been settled when Jesus came to the earth. That is what we celebrate at Christmas. God settled the matter of our worth, purpose, and destiny with the appearing of our Savior. And Jesus rising from the dead settled the matter of whether it was true. So in our discussions of family structures, the value of life, or our purpose for being here it all begins with what God wants, not with what we want. Success or failure is not determined by what we consider success, but whether or not we've fulfilled our purpose in life the way God has determined it.

The last sort of commentators looks toward or in disdain at certain political stances. But what most people don't understand is that political stances are worldviews practiced in public life. Some political views call for changes in laws or new laws, some are just perspectives on moral conduct in public life.

The main problem with our view of politics is that political views are adopted at a societal level through public opinion. And one opinion is no better than another, except when it calls us to some standard of belief. This view of politics leads many, Christians included, to separate worldviews from politics. And, in turn, this relegates politics to simply a process of power maneuvering.

We have loss the art of public debate, and the concern for public righteousness. We are more concerned with the preservation of "freedoms," thinking that by them we are saved. But we are depraved. We think we know what we want. But we know nothing outside of God's plan. We need to become more like children, so that we can be saved and realize our purpose.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Truth About Parenthood

Now that we've had the opportunity to socially experiment with artificial insemination, we've got a good crop of human products to examine. And these "products" are speaking out.

When she was 32, my mother -- single, and worried that she might never marry and have a family -- allowed a doctor wearing rubber gloves to inject a syringe of sperm from an unknown man into her uterus so that she could have a baby. I am the result: a donor-conceived child.

And for a while, I was pretty angry about it.

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies -- conceived in the late 1980s and early '90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish -- are coming of age, and we have something to say. (view article)

Our brave new world always has consequences. We may not see the consequences right away, but they will show up eventually. I wonder what the consequences will be realized from our holocaust called abortion?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Power of Language

It probably comes as no surprise to you that language plays a big role in our understanding of the world. But how big is a matter of debate.

Language shapes our worldview.

Consider how we talk about current issues. We use terms such as "right-wing" conservative, or "leftist" organization. We speak of liberal theology and conservative theology. We talk about "pro-war" and "anti-war." And by doing so, we begin to believe, and our minds are shaped, by the rhetoric.

For instance, the issue of war is divided, in some people's minds, between a pro-war stance and an anti-war stance. There is no other way to see the issue. Therefore, relational interactions in life can be centered around defeating those who hold an opposing viewpoint. But the issue is never between being for war, or against war. It is just like being for disciplining our children or against disciplining them. That is not the point. If you love your child, you will discipline them, whether you want to or not. But more importantly, God says that is the way we love them and achieve what's best for them.

Notice I didn't say that discipline will achieve love or what's best, but that it is the path to achieving those things according to the word of God. Discipline may be a means, but it certainly not the goal. There are other factors God mentions that will make discipline effective. But that is besides the point. Love is the goal, not the discipline. With war, the same holds true. War is a means to good and bad objectives, whether we want war or don't want war. God uses war for his purposes, and sometimes incites it. We are not commanded to love war nor cower in fear of it. But again, even this example is besides the point.

How do we see the issues of today? What shapes how we view the titanic struggle between good and evil? Don't be fooled, neither God nor the Devil are confused. We all base our assumptions on something. If we step back and view how we formulate our thoughts and words, it is a good indication of what is shaping our thinking.

And a hint: If it's not the Bible, it's probably wrong.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

What Do I Have to be Thankful For?

I am thankful.

God loves me. And he enjoys me. He died for me—exchanging his life for my sins to make me righteous by faith. But as Jesus has said, there are many troubles in this life, until he comes back.

One of the challenges I am facing now is my mother's mysterious sickness. She is getting weaker and weaker. The doctors don't know why. She believes she is dying. But no one knows for sure. She just keeps getting weaker.

Another is with my youngest sister, who is in the hospital right now. She had an emergency surgery last Wednesday, because she suddenly lost feeling in her lower extremities. So they had to do surgery on her back. The surgery seemed to go well, but she can't feel her left leg, nor move it. She is almost resigned that she may never walk again. But the doctor, nor do we, know for sure.

Not to mention that, today, we have a basement leak, and our garbage disposal is leaking.

Through this all, I've been praying. Everything is happening so fast. I haven't had the time to let everyone at my church know about my sister yet. My wife and I have just gotten through some medical issues with her dad, to the point he had to stay with us for a few months. So, we are a little tired. But we are praying.

I admit that I don't know what we should pray for sometimes. But I am praying anyway. God loves me, and he cares about what I care about. He knows how to carry me, my mom, and my sister, and he is capable of bearing with the whole world.

I've seen him heal members of my family before. So I know he is capable of that too. But sometimes the answer is "no," or better, "not yet." I pray he will do so in these cases, but his thoughts are higher than my thoughts. No matter how much faith we have, we will all physically die some day, even if we are healed for a time. So who am I to think that God has to heal right now.

But one thing I know for sure about God. His care for his children will not jeopardize what he knows needs to happen to get the best possible result. Do I know what that is? Not always, but I know he is good. I also know that he will deal with sickness and pain one day by eradicating it forever. But not yet. Right now, he promised to never leave us nor forsake us. Therefore, I always have hope whether God performs miracles or God does not perform miracles (I can see).

One thing to remember: If he was willing to suffer for our benefit, how much more will he be with us during our suffering. The highest gift anyone can give us is not money, physical healing, or wishful thoughts. The gift of himself is the greatest gift anyone can give. And God does so.

Yes, I am thankful.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hearts and Minds is a Very Good Book

I've just finished ready a very good book. It is called Hearts and Minds. I highly recommend this book, whether you are a parent or not.

The book really captures the essence and challenges of passing on a Christian worldview to our children as parents. But this book goes well beyond a typical parenting book. It really challenges me to be aware of my practice and definition of a Christian worldview, as well as acting as an examination of my worldview in relationship with my children.

This book is excellent.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Toys of Trouble

Who would have thought that "Jesus" was too offensive a word for Christmas?

Although I generally think that Toys for Tots is a good program, I think this attitude is going too far. They have rejected a 4000 toy donation of toys, because the speaking toys mention Bible verses. I know they are a secular organization, and I don't expect them to want to promote Christianity, but these are Christmas gifts for needy kids! If some parents don't want their kids exposed to Christ in Christmas, they can reject the toys. (A rare few would do so, I suspect.) But as an organization, don't reject these toys for these people.

It is as if the organization is deciding for the needy what they would be offended by, and thus treating the needy as stupid, and dependent. (I guess that is really how some people think of them.) It is admirable that this organization is willing to gather toys for kids who won't normally get them at Christmas time, but it is Christmas!

Not every organization apparently gets it though. So, it goes to show you that Christian's really need to be more intentional when giving to any organization to help the needy. In other words, let's consider what we intend to accomplish with our donation or help. What manner and group do we wish to support that fits more in line with our worldview? Why give from a temporal perspective, when we can give from an eternal perspective? Why give to help promote happiness in this life, when we can give to help promote what saves both body and soul for eternity?

I am not saying, "Let's just tell people about the gospel of Christ and forget about physical needs." But I am saying that whatever we do, whether it is world missions, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or taking care of orphans and widows, we do so with the intent on glorifying Christ — not ourselves or temporal organizations.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Is God Big Enough?

I got back from New Orleans on Wednesday, November the 8th. I was there for a conference on Marketing for Higher Education — put on by the American Marketing Association. It was very informative. But that's not what I want to discuss right now. I was fascinated with the city of New Orleans, and the people.

It has only been about a year since hurricane Katrina hit, so there is still a lot of damage in the area. While I was there I had a terrible time with allergies. I think there was some mold I was dealing with, because I am very allergic to it. I eventually ended up with a bad cold, which I am still dealing with today. But while there I did have the chance to visit the South Carrollton Avenue Church of Christ and met some friendly people there. The church was packed.

I remember asking a member there what the size of the congregation was. And they said about 100. But they seem to be double in size, because they have a constant stream of visitors. And these visitors always arrive to help in the cleanup effort. Many come to help through the church's rebuilding effort called Operation Nehemiah.

At the conference itself, there were distinguished people from the area who spoke about their experiences, and their current trials. I also got to talk with many folks about what their experiences have been like. Many still have no permanent home. Many are unemployed. Many are upset that they have not received any money from government organizations or their own insurance companies. They are suffering still.

However, in the midst of it all, there is hope. Many in the church come to help constantly. There are New Orleans natives who don't have a home, but are rebuilding their lives, helping their families, and even helping their neighbors. It is tough. But there is real hope.

Which brings up an interesting issue. Some of the people I've met were angry. They were angry with the federal and state government. They wanted their insurance companies to do the right thing, and were frustrated. Some people had their homes intact, but needed some work done, and were frustrated. And still some were discouraged and decided to use violence as a means of making ends meet.

I don't blame most of them for the way they felt. But I kept meeting people with a different perspective. They too were dealing with overwhelming problems and frustrations. And they too were angry about it. But they were different. They spoke like God was real. Their faces glowed with expectation. Their faces always looked up at the sun as they spoke.

For some, God was real. For others, the tangibles of earth mattered most. They both have serious needs. But they view those needs differently.

I have to reexamine my faith. Is it dependent on circumstances? Or am I dependent on God's goodness? Do I look for comfort as proof of God's power and righteousness? Or do I see His power and righteousness in the midst of suffering?

I know I saw God's amazing love when I met two women in particular. They each told me about how good God was even though they had lost everything.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Voting as a Christian

Now is that time of year where we get all those ads on T.V., radio, and in the mail telling us who to vote for (and what to vote for). Even on talk shows and the news, someone is telling us who to vote for. Although these decisions are serious, they are really funny too. Let me explain.

My wife and I get a lot of advertising in the mail from different candidates in our area. We find a lot of the advertising to be amusing. They all fall in one of three categories.

  • Vote for me, because my opponent is an idiot/evil.
  • Vote for me, because I will make life better for you (or I will meet all your needs).
  • Vote for me, because I will make life better for you, and I am not my opponent.

In the marketing realm this is called "differentiation." It is the process of using meta-messages to convey that this or that candidate is unique, and that it is beneficial to those who would vote for them. (Sorry, I see everything through a marketing lens sometimes.)

Okay, what does this have to do with me as a Christian?

We are bombarded with meta-messages everyday in our culture. Meta-messages are small bits of communication designed to share a broad and complicated thought in shorthand for a culture used to sound-bites and pseudo-information. We are taught to even think in meta-messages. In fact, many Christians talk in meta-messages, not even realizing where these messages originated. And these meta-messages influence the way we think, and ultimately how we view reality.

For instance, we all know that we should not believe in evolution. Right? Well, why? Is it because it goes against the idea of a Creator God, or because it isn't true? Do Christians hold a particular view because it was communicated (marketed) within their sphere of influences, or because they examined the evidence for and against the assertion? Do we believe something is true because we know it is true, or because we were taught it?

Now, these questions are tricky, because they don't have an easy good or bad approach to it. But they can help us understand how we form opinions on different subjects. And why the Bible can sometimes not be the main influencing factor in our lives.

What can we do to minimize the effects of meta-messages?

For me, I need to first recognize the meta-messages and parse them. When someone says they hate the war in Iraq, or that Bush is evil, I don't stop with listening to the message, but I ask if it is a message designed to shut down all thought processes, so I would interpret the world in a certain way.

Second, I want to do my own homework. I try to reserve judgement until further notice. Yes, it annoys some people when I don't agree with them right away. But why spread slander and gossip if I can avoid it. I will hold my tongue and seek understanding first.

Third, after coming to my own conclusions about matters, I am not quick to share it. Instead, I listen to people's perspectives, test their statements against what I've discovered, and even test my own conclusions. If I must share (because I recognize an underlining violation of reality or direction the person is taking that is away from God) I would try to gently instruct based on what I know — not what I don't know. (I sometimes fail at this.) Ultimately, I want to allow them to come to their own conclusions on the matter.

Last, considering all things the best I can, I must act. This action can be voting, but it is hardly reduced to this. Action involves helping another person come to a deeper understanding too, testing my understanding, worshiping God, prayer, humble acceptance, learning to love those who differ in opinions, and living honestly.

We must mature from reeds moved about by the wind and the waves, into a stable oak tree.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New Site Design

For those of you who have been reading my blog, my site has a new design. I am experimenting with this new Google Blogger Beta. So far I really like it. It is far superior, even in beta, than the last version. I plan to blog more frequently.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Why Our Ideas of Humbleness May Be Wrong

What does it mean to be humble? I believe most people would agree that being humble is the opposite of being boastful or proud. Many would even agree that a humble person is one who would never acknowledge that they are humble. Their view of a humble person is one who rejects bringing attention to themselves, is nice to everyone, tends to be self-deprecating, never claims to be better than someone else, and never seeks praise from others. Some people believe that humble people even shun other people's praise.

But are these popular notions justified? I think in some circumstances they are. But they may not be the rule. Here's why: look at Jesus, the most humble among men.

On the issue of humble people never claiming to be humble:
" 'All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

" 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' (Matthew 11:27-30)"

On the issue of humble people never bringing attention to themselves:
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.' (John 8:12)"
On the issue of humble people being nice to everyone:
"When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!' (John 2:13-16)"

" 'Woe to you, blind guides! You say, "If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath." You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, "If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath." You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.' (Matthew 23)"
On the issue of humble people being self-deprecating or never claiming to be better than someone else (emphasis mine):
"Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.' Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. (John 8:28-30)"

"Jesus replied, 'If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.' (John 8:54-55)"
These examples should give us pause for two reasons. It should temper what we think we know about the Bible and Jesus, and they should cause us to think more deeply about how we read the Bible. If you read the Bible as a book of rules and laws, we may miss the point. Even if we read the Bible for general principles, we can be fooled in believing that the key to following the Bible's teachings is to break the principles down into easy-to-follow steps (or rules). "Jesus helped people, so our life's work is helping people by giving them a middle-class lifestyle, an American value system, good grooming habits, and responsible treatment of the environment."

First of all, the Bible is not a single book, but rather a library of testimony from various sources, from various perspectives and genres. Although it is a collection of different writings from different authors, it contains a single theme and testimony about an invisible God. It testifies that this God created everything we understand as physical. This God allowed us to exist with wills of our own, like He has. And though mankind rebelled against Him, He worked throughout history to bring about what He intended all along: to reveal Himself in physical form within our physical understanding, and create a path for mankind to return to Him for all eternity in unbroken relationship.

There's more to it than that, because the Bible is obviously very thick! But the idea that we can read the Bible for general principles and learn ways of conducting ourselves is seriously falling far short of its goals. Like Jesus said to the religious of his day, "
the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:37-40)

Let's humble ourselves and seek truth, grace, and honesty in our relationships with God, with ourselves, and with other people, for that is the goal of this life and for eternity.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Bad Questions

The worst types of questions to ask are the one's that are designed to not be answerable. I don't mean questions that have perplexed mankind for centuries, or sincere questions of faith and experience. I mean those that are designed to conceal hidden motives and unbelief.

Here are some types of questions that are designed to conceal:

  • If God is good, why is there evil in the world. What makes this question bad is not the question itself. Some people have asked this in their greatest moments of pain and feelings of abandonment. However, for the person who has decided to evade the reality of God, this question is a mechanism to hide their desire to remain ignorant so that they can appear sincere and pious while holding to the foolish notion that there is no God.
  • If God only saves those who trust in Jesus, what happens to those who've never heard of him? Again, this question is not a bad question for the person honestly struggling with the issue. What makes this bad is that the person who wants to appear that they care, but secretly has no such concern, will use this question to challenge Jesus' identity rather than come to grips with him for themselves. The sad thing is that the question doesn't matter to this person, because they don't believe, and they will have no excuse when they see him physically.
  • If God is all-powerful, why did he allow...? From the creation story and the history of the world to our individual lives, we can sometimes wonder why things happened the way that they did. We even wonder why God would allow this, and not allow that. Sometimes this is a legitimate question, because we don't know everything like we think we do. But sometimes asking that question is futile. If a child spills some milk, no matter how much we agonize, it still happened and we still must clean it up. If God chose to do something a certain way, he has a reason. But a choice was made. If God had chosen a different course in history, we wouldn't be able to perceive it, and would probably complain why didn't he do it another way. What makes this question bad is that it conceals our spirit of complaining and arguing. We don't like something, or we don't get what we want, so in unbelief, we complain.
  • I am a Christian, and the church is not a place or a building. Why do I have to go to church, when I can commune and worship God at home? This question makes some true assumptions about the nature of the church. It also is true that God desires a sincere devotion to Him that can not be manufactured by church-going. But the question ignores (on purpose) the true reasons for meeting together as a body of believers. This question often is asked to avoid the messy process of personal growth and community building. The Bible assumes that growth cannot happen apart from people. For instance, it is easy to be a loving individual if there is no one around to test you. We would rather avoid situations that test our assumptions about ourselves, and other people.
  • I don't like church. Isn't it full of hypocrites? This question is really masking a statement of hubris. The person who asks this is just looking for an excuse not to participate in meeting with God's people. They do this by being judgmental — and yet they don't want to appear judgmental. They are saying underneath the mask that they are better than that. They are not hypocrites, nor do they even eat with hypocrites. But to get behind the question, one need only ask them if they go to work, drive a car, or go to the store. Then ask them if there are any hypocrites in those situations. Of course there are. But they've never thought about it that way.
  • Why are so many Christians nothing like Jesus? In order to ask this question, the person must have an intimate knowledge of what Jesus was really like. Some people feel that they do, while some people have a fairly good idea but have been exposed to a lot of bad examples. (In the case of the latter, they may be asking the question out of the pain of being in a fallen world, and desire something better.) The real issue is not those who profess to be followers of Jesus, because we know that Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. The real issue, that most people avoid, is about ourselves. Why are we nothing like Jesus? Perhaps we can begin to understand the Gospel message, if we ponder this instead.
  • How can Jesus be the only way to God, when there are so many other religions? This question is similar to the "What about those who've never heard of Jesus?" question. The difference is that it is more accusatory, while this one can be sincere. But what can make this question bad, is that many people don't spend much time understanding what different religions teach. They assume that there are some core essentials that they all share, that give us a sense of who God is. This question can be smug in the sense that those who ask it figure they are coming from a more enlightened viewpoint — looking down from on-high at all the little people trying to figure out God, while they have a better vantage point. It is pretty obvious they don't believe anyone can have a superior vantage point (except themselves). Behind the veneer they are asking this question because they believe Christian's are smug in saying they are right and everyone else is wrong. But the very idea of holding something as true, automatically eliminates something else that claims to be true, even for the person that doesn't believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Life is a gamble. We are betting on something to be true for eternity. The important issue is whether or not it is a good gamble, not on what someone else says.
What is the central problem? What makes a question bad? In order to turn amoral questions into immoral ones, the essential element of intent must be considered. The intent of the heart is often to do evil, not to seek the good. (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10-18) We have desires that war for our soul, and questions are sometimes the ideal way of avoiding the truth in our hearts.

Pain is usually the vehicle that turns our hearts. When we are at the end of our rope, the questions become different. We will begin seeking answers, instead of just making statements. We will be made ready to receive, because we will have nothing to hide. Then we will be prepared to not only ask better questions, we will stop asking the wrong people and ask the Answer.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Say it Isn't So

WARNING: This is more of a rambling thought than anything coherent. I don't plan to come to any conclusions on the matter, but it is worth a thought.

I was wondering about assumptions we in society hold. Some of these assumptions have kept us from God, confused us, and led us away from true wisdom. Here is my list of things that make me go, hmmm.

  • Fossil fuel. I've been wondering about our ideas about energy. I've been doing some research, and I found out that our assumptions may not be accurate. In fact there is more debate than I thought. Is fuel really made from fossils, or are we badly mistaken? Is it a limited source or renuable source of energy? I guess it depends more on what you believe than what we actually know.
  • War. The conventional wisdom is that war is wrong and bad, and peace is right and good. But is that really true? Is peace always good? Is war always bad? When you think about it, if war is wrong, then all forms of enforcement is wrong, because war is a form of enforcement—a government's will over another government, people, or country. And this can be either good or bad, like the enforcement of discipline upon its own citizens. Also, peace can exist when someone is oppressed. That is evil, isn't it?
  • Poverty. Rick Warren wants to end poverty. Can that really be done by man? Jesus said that the poor will always be with us. Is that really true, or can we end poverty? What constitutes poverty: lack of essentials, or decisions? What are the solutions? Give people stuff, teach people stuff, change the social system, all, or none? What are we talking about?
  • Truth. Is truth subjective, objective, or both? Can we know the truth, and if so, how? How would we know if we don't know?

Monday, August 14, 2006

If I Were Wise

I've asked God to give me wisdom. And I've learned that wisdom doesn't even begin until I submit myself to God's will, because following the will of God is wise.

My will in subjection to God's will. That is wisdom.

But this gets me thinking. What would it look like to walk in wisdom, and to speak with wisdom? I don't have to go too far to have an idea of what that would look like. I can look at Jesus. I can notice what he did, hear what he says, see his reaction to different people's perspectives, and even talk to him about his thoughts.

So what do I find?

If I were wise, these are the things I should expect to see in my life:

  • I will have a deep, abiding connection with God, through the Holy Spirit.

  • I will have God's Word on my heart, mind, and lips.

  • My lifestyle will be attractive.

  • I will acknowledge God's role in my life and in the world.

  • Some people will listen and learn from me. But most will find me troublesome. And of those who listen to me, most will not follow my advice.

  • Whatever I pass on to others, it will honor God.

  • Although people will frustrate me, I will remain patient with them.

  • I will have no interest in controversial subjects unless it is of benefit to those who listen.

  • My focus will always be on God's will, not on getting people to like me.

  • People who are threatened by me will treat me unfairly. And those who are sympathetic, may even desert me. But my trust will be in the Lord.

  • I will not seek honor. But will wait on the Lord.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

High Degree But Cold as Ice

When did this happen?

I've met too many seminary-trained people who don't believe in God, let alone the theology they espouse. Doesn't anybody care? People still see these guys as especially close to God, because of their training and position. Yet, they don't believe.

Since when did a degree in Bible or Theology mean that a person is to be considered close to God? I know not everyone who pursues a degree in some Christian endeavor is doing so to be perceived as being especially close to God. But in our culture, it has become more and more difficult to tell the difference. In fact, the general public normally see those who graduate from some seminary as having a special authority.

Again, I am not criticizing those who pursue degrees in Christian thought. I am just beginning to find it odd that it has become a pass to maturity. Yes, it is natural to expect leaders to be trained in the ways of Christ, and in how to think about the Christian faith. But sometimes in the Christian community we expect people to be trained in a manner that is no different than the world.

What I mean is that Christian degrees are often seen more as an entryway into employment, success, and popularity doing Christian stuff. (Get it all, plus God!) There are those who are proud of being called "Father" everywhere they go. They love the most important seats, and the honor that is obviously due them.

Conversely, churches receive resumes from these people with varying levels of skill, training, and degrees. And to some extent, I suppose that it is necessary, given we often don't know who we are hiring. (Do we really hire ministers?) But think about it. People typically assume that those who pursue degrees in Christian thought are close to God — not just trained in some way. Does that strike you as odd? It does to me.

When did this begin to be the norm?

Are men who are led by the Spirit to become janitors, or computer tech support people not as close to God as someone pursuing a degree in theology? Is a stay-at-home mom spiritual? Is the person who pursues a degree in mathematics qualified to lead others in the Christian faith? Is being a good single-father less noble than preaching sermons or writing (yet another) book?

I know everyone who reads this thinks that this issue is not important. After all, everyone serves in different ways and God is the God of all. But what is our practical attitude? Is this issue more important to God than to us?

Monday, July 17, 2006

How Our Worldview Affects Everyday Life: Part 2

So, how does our worldview affect us on a daily basis? What happens when our worldview clashes with reality?

Let's say we have a concern about war and general upheaval in the world. How would we approach the problem? (And it has little to do with what we believe about war.) It depends on what we believe about the nature of the problem. Do we have a role at all? Is the problem someone else's responsibility? How does it fit our worldview?

If we approach this dilemma by saying that the primary problem is man's inability to get along with others, then we might conclude that solving these problems is hopeless, because it is our nature to be combative. This even includes people who don't like it to be that way. (Contradiction.) Therefore, the duty of man is to fight for his own survival.

But many of us understand that the natural outcome of this viewpoint is not preferable to our comfortable lifestyles. (Reality.) The situation still seems intolerable. Then our beliefs can either lead to throwing up our hands and letting things go on as usual, or working to bring peace into the world by associating man's need for survival with the succession of hostilities. "If we can only bring peace, man can survive."

How This Worldview Works

In the beginning there was eternal nature. All that exists came from a self-existent, universal, natural matter. Man's existence into this eternal presence was a product of this eternal matter or nature. But man is, by nature, at war with nature. (Contradiction.) He must be this way in order to survive. But this very desire has a consequence: it affects man's very existence itself. So man must rise above his nature in order to bring about a new era of peaceful coexistence with eternal nature. (Utopia or Paradise.)

How does man do this? (Enter in all sorts of theories and philosophies describing how we rise above ourselves.) All solutions to this dilemma are attempting to do everything possible to ensure that man is happy and fulfilled in this life, so that he will not see the need to war. We care for the environment. We demand, through force, peace. We see that power resides in the masses, instead of the few. We create governmental and economic structures to ensure that no one need not envy another's wealth. We must make everyone happy.

But then reality hits again. Some people are not satisfied, no matter what you give them. They have their own worldview solutions. They believe that in order to survive, there needs to be a certain number of people on the earth, and that they all should look like them. So, they make war to ensure that this happens. It is survival of the fittest, and they are fit to survive. So there is conflict. What is the solution? Try harder.

Friday, June 30, 2006

How Our Worldview Affects Everyday Life: Part 1

Sometimes when I discuss worldviews, I feel I need to define myself. This is one of those occasions. Our lifestyles and ways of relating to our world stem from our worldview perspective. It is more than a political viewpoint, a religious affiliation, or cultural upbringing. The worldviews that inform or dictate our sense of how the world works, what is right or wrong, and what are the solutions to our world's problems are the worldviews I am referring to.

Our underlying worldview is not always comprehensive because we don't always pay attention to it. In some cases, we don't take it very seriously, or maybe don't even want to. We have the ability to live with congnitive dissonance — the ability to accept competing ideas. So we can get along without considering it.

But, whether we consider it, or understand it is not important, because we are influenced by it anyway. The question about worldviews is not whether we have one, but is it comprehensive. Does our worldview answer the big questions of life sufficiently and in an integrated manner?

The questions our worldview must answer are:

  • Where did we come from?
    • Who or what is responsible for our conscience being?
    • What are the implications?

  • Why are we here?
    • Do we have a purpose for being? Why do we exist?
    • If we have a purpose, can we know it?
    • How would we know if we fulfilled it?

  • Where are we going?
    • What went wrong?
    • What is the solution or solutions that will bring about the right state of all things?
    • What is our destiny?

This is just a start.

We all have ideas about these big questions, even if it is to ignore them. But they drive what we believe about our world. They influence what we think about our roles in this life. It dictates our behaviors.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Church as a Form of Grammar

How you see the church is an indication of what you believe about Jesus. The two are inseparable. The Church is the Bride of Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ. The Church is the Temple built by Christ. The Church is the culmination of God's plan for heaven and earth. So it follows that what we feel about Jesus is reflected in our reactions to the term church.

The best example of this is how we use the word church when we speak. Do we use it as a noun, verb, preposition, or adjective? I don't mean using the word in these ways literally, but using it in the same spirit these forms of grammar represent. Each of these ways of relating to the church has an implication for how we view Jesus.


The church is seen only as an entity. It is like an organization with functions, duties, mission statements, and culture. We refer to the church as an it. We become members by joining it. The structure is sometimes seen as a building or club formed out of a shared identity: Christian. (I.e. "The Church is responsible for the state of our culture.") This person likely sees Christ as an inactive figure-head.


Here the church is viewed as something one does. "We are having church this morning!" It is seen as an activity one participates in for various results — to please God, to be good; to get right; to get energized; to be entertained. This person likely sees Christ as an employer.


The person that uses the word as a preposition doesn't see the church as relevant. They use it to connect two ideas, but it serves no other purpose. (I.e. "I plan to go to church to find a mate?") This person likely sees Christ as irrelevant or inconsequential to their life and plans.


For this person, the Church is more than a place or entity. It describes a type of people. They see the word church as an attempt to explain a complex idea. They view it as a collection, group, gathering, or community of people who believe and follow the teachings of Christ and the apostles. They exist throughout time, different locations, and among different segments of society. But their identifying marks are their allegiance to Christ, to each other, to the message of salvation, and to their shared experiences of persecutions. (I.e. "We are the Church.")

How do you use the word?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What Does God Want?

I know someone who is getting married.

Previously, he had gotten married to his live-in girlfriend, and then divorced her. They weren't getting along. Even though they had lived together for many years, their marriage was rocky. There was jealousy, rivalry, and his then-wife was argumentative (according to his assessment).

During one of their separations, he met another woman who would become his girlfriend. When his divorced was finalized, he and his new girlfriend moved in together. They got along very well, and within a few months they decide to get married.

I objected. I thought it was a bad idea to enter into another relationship without working out the issues that caused him to seek out the relationship in the first place.

In response, he didn't like my objections, saying, "I thought you Christians liked marriage. Don't you guys always talk about marriage and how it is so moral compared to living together. You, of all people, should be all for this. Aren't I doing the right thing? Wouldn't your God approve?"

The answer to that question is not what he would expect.

Often, Christians get too involved in the issues of morality, not the causes. What I mean is that we often communicate to the world that God is more interested in our moral behavior than why we behave the way we do. God's solution for our wrong behavior is to fix the behavior, or do the right behaviors — then everything will be okay.

That cannot be further from the truth. God saw our problem as terminal, not cosmetic. We are dead to God. Nothing short of resurrection would suffice. Dead people cannot live, no matter what we tell them to do. Dead people cannot act alive, even if we prop them up. Dead people cannot do the things living people can do, no matter how hard we want them to try.

What God requires of us is not marriage or loving relationships. It is a life that glorifies Him. Therefore, the love we show, the freedom we experience, and the faith we demonstrate is not for our benefit alone. We don't exist to simply make the world a better place (according to how we define it), or to make a difference (really to feel self-important). We exist to glorify God in living with the gusto God has gifted each of us with. If we make the world a better place, it is the byproduct of living to please God. If we make a difference, it is the natural result of living out our purpose.

For example, a boy growing up may aspire to eat pizza everyday. If he chooses to indulge his desire for pizza, the irony is that he will eventually lose the enjoyment of pizza, and he will also lose the freedom of good health. But if he lives for God, he may have to deny himself pizza for a time, but his life becomes full and rich with all that God has to offer. And by denying himself pizza for this higher purpose, he will enjoy greater things. And maybe, one day, enjoy the pizza in a new way never imagined.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Our Sound-Bite Culture

We are more educated by movies, T.V. shows, comedians, and radio talk show hosts than by books, bibles, or brains. We can't hold a civilized conversation about politics, religion, or philosophy anymore — nor can we have an intelligent conversation at all. Our premise for any discussion is either sans-God or pro-Naturalistic. Therefore, the results are absurd discussions (or foolish talk) that amount to nothing (Ephesians 5:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:16; Titus 3:9). We have an unhealthy interest in controversies or observing anything that contradicts the Word of God — like the desire to stare at a car wreck.

But why is that? Is this a new phenomenon?

No, it isn't new. In fact, it is the primary problem of mankind. We not only do not seek God, we actively oppose Him at every turn. (Romans 3:9-18) God's testimony against all of mankind is that we love the darkness. We seek it, and find comfort in it. Anything that exposes light on us, is rejected. (John 3:19-21) That is why any alternative to Christ is acceptable, even if it is absurd.

Case in point: I've had several conversations lately with people who have an intellectual objection (so they say) to the idea of the Christian God. They each have a different objection, but it isn't consistent with how they live their lives. For instance, one person says that he doesn't believe in Christ because he doesn't like the right-wing Christian's stand on various issues. So he maintains that he is an agnostic.

The problem with approaching faith this way is that it isn't consistent. The fact is that he doesn't agree with other agnostics either! In some cases, other agnostics, and atheist, are even jerks (in his own words). So, wouldn't it make sense not to be an agnostic either, since his fellow agnostics are disagreeable?

In another conversation a woman said that she would never step into a church, because it is so full of hypocrites. So, I asked her if there are hypocrites at her job. She said, yes.

"What about on the highway as you drive?"


"What about any clubs or organizations you are a part of? Do they contain some hypocrites?"

"Yes. What's your point?"

"Why do you still work where you work, drive the highway you drive, or remain a member of that organization if they are full of hypocrites?"

"That's not a fair question."

You get what I mean. It is easier to know what we don't believe than to affirm genuine convictions.

God says that sinners really want to go their own way. They will create excuses to worship anything other than God. They will add nice sounding arguments, and pontificate about the abuses done by those who hold to the Christian viewpoint. But, they refuse to willingly bend the knee, and accept God's testimony.

I admit it. I was one of them, and at times, no different than they are. I can wax eloquent in justifying my sin and rebellion. But, deep down, I know that I do not measure up to the perfect standard, and I depend on God's grace alone. I have to admit, on a daily basis, that I stand because God condescends to stand me up. God doesn't need me, nor does He run around to make sure I am happy. But, I need God, and happiness is a by-product of God's kindness to me.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Decaffinated Faith

The Washington Post has published a couple of articles today discussing the role of faith in the lives of modern-day parents. They discuss how parents are looking to give their children a spiritual upbringing without the God-thing. They can have their children receive moral and psychological comfort without being tied to a particular religion or guilt-induced belief in God.

Just think! Religion without all the God! Isn't that great! Now we can teach our kids to create gods of their own choosing. Basically, a faith without the caffeine. It doesn't keep us up at night.

What's going on here? We don't want to retain the knowledge of God. We want to feel connected to spiritual things, and feel better about ourselves in the process. The idea of a real God will interfere with that, because we may have to come to realization of our sin. And we can't afford to believe that we are bad in any way. We don't want to have to need God. We want to create a god that approves of whatever we do, and that we can control. This is nothing new.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cliché Driven Society

If you've lived in the United States these last ten years or so, you are being bombarded with messages every day, in an ever-increasing deluge. We are constantly being told what to think and how to think from an array of disparate sources. Discernment is on the decline, but style is definitely in. The one who delivers the most clever sound bite, or loudest catch phrase is the truth for today. You've heard these sayings probably a thousand times:
  • I feel you.
  • Whatever!
  • Support our troops.
  • Protect our environment.
  • Make love, not war.
  • Give peace a chance.
  • Do something good. Feel something real.
  • Save the whales.
  • Bring our troops home.
  • All religions teach love.
  • Separation of church and state.
  • Equal rights.
  • Stop racism.
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Stay in school.
  • Don't take drugs.
  • Keeping it real.
Of course I've left out a whole lot, because there are too many. (If you want to leave a comment about some other catch phrases and sound bites I missed, please do so.) These phrases have become cliché. They are so familiar that they don't require much thinking to interpret. In fact, they are designed to direct our thinking towards whatever political or social slants that they advocate.

But what about the Christian? Are we no different than the rest of society? Sadly, often we are not. We may even repeat, and are trained by, cliché's more than the words of Christ. But what did Christ say,
"I know my sheep and my sheep know me. They..will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
The good news: Only One Voice Required.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Looking Not to Find

I got into a recent discussion about spiritual seeking. We agreed that seeking in general is what God would want us to do, rather than being satisfied. But I wasn't so sure it is the seeking God delights in.

We got into this discussion because there is a guy we both know who is on a spiritual quest. He goes to church in the Episcopal tradition right now. But he has tried other denominations, reads about different doctrinal perspectives and different religious books, and recently tried out Wiccanism. The people I talked to believed that his search is a good thing, but he shouldn't be in a leadership role at church. I generally agreed with that. But I also questioned the legitimacy of his search.

From my perspective searching involves discipline, rather than getting a little here and a little there. If I am in search of being a surgeon, I can read a few books and ask mechanics and lawyers their perspectives on surgical techniques. But I will never be a surgeon. Unless I find out what it takes to become a surgeon, and then pursuing that course, I am confusing effort with truth.
There was a woman who was looking for her keys. A man came by and asked, "What are you doing?"

She said, "I am looking for my keys. I dropped them way over there by the bushes."

The man was puzzled. "Why are you looking over here?"

She responds, "Oh. The light is much better over here."

Do you see the problem? I encounter people all the time who say they are spiritually seeking, or seeking the existence of God. Some even say they are seeking the right religion. Is that really true?

Many times the real intent is find something that makes us feel good. But who looks for the truth? I mean, really looks. According to Scripture, the problem with mankind is that nobody is seeking. (Romans 3:3-19) I believe this is true. We use the idea of seeking as a smoke screen to help us feel important and purposeful. But we are really avoiding the hard answers. In essence, we are looking not to find.

So, it is much easier to be intellectual inquirers, transcend to another plain of existence, follow some guru, or just find our goal in the act of pursuit itself. But the goal of any search is to find. In our culture, it is sometimes seen as arrogant or wrong to actually find answers to your questions. It seems so shallow compared to being a doubter, or enjoying the journey of discovery. Finding what you are looking for seems so dogmatic. But the nature of truth is, well, dogmatic.

Monday, April 17, 2006

How Do We Know What We Know?

We can know something through observation, experience, and revelation.

Observation is not just about seeing things, but also involves the interpretation of causes and effects. Following, there must be assumptions already present. For example, you observe that an apple falls to the ground each time you let it go. You may interpret that some physical laws are at work that cause this to happen. But you must have the assumption that physical laws are unchanging (thus they are called laws). If physical phenomenon are not unchanging, we can not discover anything. Therefore, we can not know anything.

But experience confirms some of our assumptions. In the above example, our experience of letting the apple drop multiple times can confirm that it is likely to happen an infinite number of times, given the same circumstances. So with experience and observation working together, we begin to know something about our world.

But we really don't have a point of reference for our assumptions until it is revealed to us. In other words, if we are either taught or shown how the world works and what is true, we have a point of departure to make discoveries. So, we actually live our lives based on revelation.

Therefore, assumptions about our universe are derived through the combination of observation, experience, and revelation.

Unlike the Enlightenment movement, which said that the experience and observation of men bring us truth, God would say that truth from Him puts into context our experience and observation so that we can discover truth. Thus, knowledge of God (or rather revelation from God about God) is the beginning of all knowledge. We can not know anything without this. In fact, if we attempt to deny this, our understanding will become more and more absurd as time goes by.

Why is this distinction important? It is important because the average citizen is bombarded with so-called knowledge everyday. This knowledge is derived from the opinions of men, and opposing ideas falsely called knowledge. Sometimes this "knowledge" is used to manipulate people's thinking, even Christian's, if that were possible. So discernment is of even greater importance today in our fast-paced, information-saturated culture.

If we can first understand how knowledge is really derived, we can begin to evaluate what we hear. Perhaps we can grow up in our ability to discern.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Small Church Disease

About a month ago, Barna announced some new findings. It seems that many church leaders may be good at motivating people (92%), but really struggle with having any sort of good strategy when it comes to ministry, or goals. (Only about 14% have any strategic mindset.)

I am not surprised when Barna mentioned the struggle small churches (less than 100 people) particularly tend to have:
[We found] some interesting correlations between the absence of a Strategic leader and the condition of a local church. First, churches without a pastor, staff member or key elder in a recognized strategic leader position tend to remain numerically small. Such churches average fewer than 100 adults in weekly attendance. Second, these are churches that are significantly behind the curve in adopting new approaches to ministry. ...That condition is partly a result of the budget limitations attributable to limited attendance, but also relates to the narrower thinking common to such ministries.

He goes on the express the problems of many churches to recognize strategic leaders in their midst, and how that hurts the church. Why is that? Why is strategy seen as best, an issue of administration, or at worst a sinful attitude or lack of faith.

Friday, March 31, 2006

To Live or to Die? That is the Question

We all have to do it.

We finally get our lives going the way we want, and something upsets the balance. The unexpected event, change in circumstances, a looming deadline, or just plain reality sets in. Then we have to make a decision.

This is not just any decision, like what to wear today, or what to eat. I am talking about the decision that will set the course of our lives. The decision that will set us into a pattern for years to come. The decision that will shape how we think and process information. It can be whether we change jobs or stay. It can be whether we marry that person or break it off. It can be whether we believe something to be true or not.

These types of questions have life-altering implications, but it isn't the questions or the results of our decisions that is at the issue here. It is always how we choose to choose that will shape our character, not the choice itself. For instance, some people may have no problem changing jobs when things get tough, or stay because they don't know what else to do. But when a person knows something to be true, and it is out of character to follow a particular path — even though it is the right course — that is the moment when character will either blossom or die a little.

Is that too drastic? No, I don't think so. Usually when we have to make decisions that are unclear, there may be fear involved. But what do we do with the fear? Sometimes the decision is clear, but the implications cause fear in us. What will we do with the fear?

In a tragic episode in Israelite history, the Hebrews were faced with unknown consequences. They knew that God wanted them to go into a land, with the promise that blessings will follow. But...

The excuses rained out from them.
"There are people living there that are bigger and stronger than us."

"Why has the Lord bought us out here to die?"

"It's the leaderships' fault. If Moses and Aaron were better leaders, we wouldn't be in this mess!"

"I don't understand why we just couldn't stay in Egypt. At least the food was good, and we got plenty of exercise."

We are no different. Whenever we succumb to fear, we die in the desert. Maybe not literally, but a piece of our character dies, never realizing the blessing waiting for us. We either look back at the good-old-days, or we fantasize about unrealistic hopes that are born out of cowardice.

Will all our big decisions be like this? No. Most big issues in life involve decisions between two good choices, or unclear paths, or obvious challenges that we are accustomed to seeing. But there always comes a time when we may have to sacrifice our Isaac, or visit our cross. What will we do then? I don't know about you. But, I hope I will have the faith to lean on Jesus.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Posting Problems

Sorry to the few of you who happen to read this blog. In the past few weeks, I have had problems posting messages. There have been some minor technical problems, but most of the problems exist in my topsy-turvy world. There are so many changes going on in my personal life, that I can't get a handle on what I want to say. This is not because I don't have anything to say. I have too much to say. There is so much going on, personally, and globally that I want to talk about. I will try my best to get to all these things, and post more often.

Thanks to those of you who have been giving me support.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Nature of Reality

This is just a thought. But, there are several systems of beliefs that we walk around with on a daily basis. We rarely recognize them. But they guide us in evaluating truth claims, in how we see reality, and in our decision-making. These are things like sayings we've heard over and over, assumptions we hold on to, old recordings we play in our heads, and memories that inform our fears and our desires.

For instance, why do some people believe that stepping on a crack will cause bad luck? Why do some people believe that everything came from nothing on its own? Why do some people believe that one race is better than another? Why do some people believe that they will be the lucky winner this time? Why do some people believe that they are the center of the universe? Why do some people believe that there is no real truth, only opinions? Why do some people believe that intelligence originated with inanimate objects?

Is it really true that optimism is better than pessimism? No. They are both bad, because they both involve the decision to believe something based on desire not truth.

Is it really true that all truth claims are equally valid? No. Because, the opposite can not be true at the same time.

Is it really true that Christianity and macro-evolutionary theory can be compatible? No. Because Christianity claims that God is the Great Cause, not matter.

Is it really true that science and the Bible can be reconciled? No, because the question is wrong. Science is man's attempt to understand something he/she finds difficult to understand. However, the Bible informs our understanding of science, and science, when properly understood, informs our understanding of the Bible. The Bible hasn't been proved or disproved by science. But science has demonstrated the Bible's accuracy in reporting, the authenticity of the manuscripts, and its historical significance.

Is it really true that the Church has suppressed women throughout history? No. The teachings of Christ and the apostles, and the actions of the early Church defy that claim. However, if you say something enough times it becomes true, especially in light of recent history. Following, can anyone really say that they can point to the Church, even today, and be accurate that they are looking at the whole Church, and the embodiment of its teachings.

Is it really true that Jesus is the only way to be saved? Yes and no. Yes, there is no way to the Father except through Christ. And yes, people who have Christ will be saved, and those who reject Christ will be condemned. No, if you are as perfectly righteous as God is righteous. (Since no one really is, or can be, then essentially the answer is a flat no.)

That's not fair! Why does Jesus have to be the only way? Let's say the way to God is a phone number. If we dial it, we can reach God. But let's say we get the phone number off by one or two numbers. We will not get God. We will get a wrong number. The possibility of getting a wrong number is greater than getting the number right, because the number combination is a precise sequence of numbers. Any other sequence, or different number combinations will be wrong. It isn't cruel, it is the nature of dialing up one specific person.

Gravity is a truth that has positive and negative consequences. The negative consequences do not negate the truth of it. But we can never ignore it and still survive.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Another Good Question

Recently, I was listening to a radio program — Family Life Today. They were discussing conflict, and their guest Tara Barthel answered Dennis Rainey's question, "How can you know if a relationship is an idol?," with an astute observation.

She said,

"I think it is Elyse Fitzpatrick who says the way to identifying [an] idol is will I sin to get it or will I sin if I don't get it? I think if you ask those questions, that's going to show you a lot of things."

That is a good question. What am I willing to sin for to get? What am I willing to sin for if I don't get it?

But more importantly, what am I willing to sin for to keep?

These questions are important and challenging, because inherent in them is a clear choice: Do I sin against God for this? If I do, it is an idol. I can not have two masters. I will hate the one, and love the other. I must choose, or it will be chosen for me.

I know in our society we keep the question of idolatry at a safe distance from ourselves. We sometimes reassure ourselves. "Well, modern idolatry is simply greed. I am not really greedy. But if I am, I struggle against it, because I give to the church and to the poor. Besides, I am not really rich, like those corrupt CEO's."

Sometimes we may see idolatry as a minor struggle with temptation. "Yeah, I struggle with my desire for chocolate. So I can't even look at a commercial for chocolate and not want some." And sometimes we may even justify our idolatry. "I need food to eat. I need a man/woman in my life. I just have needs."

But this question cuts through all the justifications. Am I willing to sin to get it, to keep it, or to sin if I don't get it? For it is in the sinning that we place worth on the object of our desire. We declare, "This thing is worth more than God."

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Question That Changed My Life

There are times in my life where epiphanies happen in casual situations. When someone says something rather mundane, yet is profound, is an example of those casual epiphany moments.

I am remembering a time when my mom asked a question that has set a new course for my life, my ministry, and what I believe about service in the Kingdom of God. It came at a time when I was heavily involved with service projects at church. I decided to get involved in different ministries, because I really wanted to serve God, show Him my love, and make a difference in this world. So, I became very busy. I was involved in bible study leaders training, leadership training, evangelism efforts, church ushering duties, and community service; along with Sunday morning worship meetings, Sunday night worship meetings, Wednesday night worship meetings, mid-week Bible study groups, and Friday devotional group meetings. (Whew!)

That Day

I remember that day. The day when I changed my mind about ministry and service.

I was involved in a community service ministry that involved visiting the elderly in nursing homes. It was tiring, but I felt I was doing something important. Then came a time when I had the time to visit my folks. My mom asked what I was up to. I tried to explain, but it was so complicated. I went into all the important work I was involved in, like the elderly visitations. After all my talking, my mom asked a simple question: "That's all good. But what about visiting your own grandmother? Isn't that good?"

"Well. Why yes." I thought. But all I could say is, "I guess so." But it got me thinking on many levels. What if God is more pleased that I visit my grandmother and family than visiting strangers? What if God wants my love to be sincere, more than demonstrating love in action? Yes, it is good to practice, but maybe I've got the reasons all wrong. Maybe God wants sincere love above trying hard.

That day changed the way I see service. Even today, I judge my service against the goal of sincerity and a sober self-esteem, rather than activity level or measured impacts. I am more keen about looking for fruit that comes from godly living, than the fruit of man (position, power, and influence). And serving God is really not a burden. When it becomes a burden, I always ask myself what I am believing. Because that is where sincere service and evil desires stem from — what I believe.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Where True Hope Resides

After re-reading my last post, I think it was sort of weird. I was in a funky mood. I am not sure it makes much sense. Anyway, I was just thinking about death and feeling sad that my friend is experiencing a lot of pain. Then in a stream of consciousness I wondered why I believe some people are less worthy of death than others. My belief often revolves around me. People I know personally, or who I witness the most pain as a result of their death are less worthy than people I don't know personally, or whom I don't like very much. But that is common to mankind. We all care more about those closest to us than those who are strangers, or foreigners to us.

Should it not be that way? Or (maybe the right question is) should I care that it is that way?

When I look at Jesus, I see God in human flesh. God the Father cares about everyone because He has the capacity to do so. Even if I wanted to, I really don't have the RAM to handle it. (For those who don't know, it is a computer analogy.) But Jesus as a human being, didn't concern himself on this earth about everybody's individual needs like I would be tempted to do. Instead, he worked within the limits set for him. He cared wherever he was. He provided whatever he could — or wanted to — whenever reasonable to do so. He provided what some people didn't expect, and what some people didn't request or desire. He even said "no" when the time wasn't right. But ultimately he trusted God with all of problems of humanity, even to the point of willingly dying a horrible death to redeem them.

God the Father, has a plan to redeem this world. He has a plan to provide a way for all of mankind to no longer experience death (at least like the rest of the world does). So my job is not to end physical death, end suffering per se, or to save anybody from ultimate death. I can only point to God's Way of salvation — Jesus. And even when I do so, I do so with the help of the Holy Spirit — whom does the real work of convincing. However, I can be ready with an answer for the hope that I have. (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Worthy of Death?

During the Christmas holidays a friend of mine lost his wife. She was 47 years old, and died near her birthday in December. It was sad. It was such a shock. It was so unexpected.

I began thinking to myself, "Wow! She was too young to die."

Then that thought got me thinking. Why do I believe this to be true? What makes her too young to die? I don't know. Yes, I did not want her to die so young. But there are people I do not want to die who are much older. So who is worthy of death?

Is it an extremely old person? an ugly person? a stupid person? an evil person? an unhealthy person? Is there a sliding scale for any of these categories? Is there a better time of year to die? I don't know. In fact, everybody dies, and I am sure it happens just about everyday of the year. Why do we resist death so much?

We were never meant to die. We are made for eternity. Whether we believe in it or not, eternity is in the heart of mankind.

I don't know if this solves anything. But it is just a thought.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Price of Silence

Quiz. What do these names have in common?

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Margaret Sanger (mother of Planned Parenthood)
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Woodrow Wilson
  • Winston Churchill
  • H. G. Wells
  • George Bernard Shaw
Answer: These are just some of the more ardent and vocal supporters of eugenics in the early 1920's.

Eugenics is the idea that through genetic engineering, mankind can create a better society. It was seen as a solution to the problem of poverty, social unrest, crime, and socialist uprising. At that time the knowledge of DNA and genetic research was primitive at best. But they believed that Darwinism had proven that human ills are mainly hereditary defects. And those defects can be weeded out over generations through careful breeding and immigration controls.

Many people are surprised to know that eugenics was largely an American movement before Nazi Germany made it infamous in the 1940's. However, eugenics lives on today in various disquised forms. I will not bore you with a list and proof of this, but to say that the reason eugenics was accepted by so many intelligent people, Nobel Prize winners, and academians is that it is rooted in a worldview that rejects God's rule.

Here is where it gets sticky. Where was the Church? Why was it so silent? Part of the reason is that many in the Church believed in eugenics. (True, not all, but many in the mainline churches did.) In fact, during the early 1920's sermons were even provided to churches to help them propogate the idea of the social benefits of eugenics and helping pass forced sterilization laws of "degenerates and imbeciles." The church already abdicated its role as a voice in the direction of society, and bowed to popular science. The church was (and is) content with its role as a private comfort for its adherants, and a superfical help to society as it is.

The Lord Jesus Christ has a different plan. In his plan the church does not help society hum along peacefully, but rather it is the counter-cultural alternative. The church is a change agent, not adopter. The church is to help facilitate transformation of adherants, and of every aspect of society. Therefore, Christ is Lord of science, government, economics, and life.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King

Today in our nation (U.S.) we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. He is one of my heros because he stood for righteousness, peace, and true justice. Some people have the wrong impression that Dr. King was a black leader. He wasn't a black leader, a leader of black people, nor a seeker of black justice. Rather, he was a man, whom God used, to help the human race understand justice and seek it sincerely.

During the 60's the U.S. accepted separate justice for different groups of people as normal. It was seen as righteous to ensure that some people, who were deemed as black (because their skin color matched or was darker than a paper bag), would be separated from whites in positions of power, influence, culture, education, and economic benefits. In fact, it was acceptable to subjugate black people in all these areas as well.

The belief that allowed this behavior stemmed from a Darwinian idea that the black race was inferior to whites, and contributed to crime, poverty, and immorality. Many in the Christian church didn't help very much either, because they believed some of the same things, or were too afraid to buck against the power structures.

So God raised up a judge (leader). Dr. Martin Luther King was not afraid to speak against this injustice. He committed and paid with his life to reveal and condemn the wickedness that was allowed to flourish in the U.S.. He ignited a world-wide movement of seeking after justice, and unity.

Yes, there are negatives that came out of his life. But there were negatives that came out of Jesus' life as well. For instance, Jesus knew that families would be split because of him. He knew that those who would dare follow him may be killed. He even knew that some would come in his name and do evil. But what he did was not negated by these outcomes, because what he did came right from the heart of God. And God is clear that he wants to bring all people on earth under Christ, and all are of equal value in Christ. No person is a cause of evil because of his heredity, nor is any person worthy of God's grace. Each one is a sinner because he has chosen to sin, and each one is saved the same way --through God's grace in Christ.

Dr. King is not Jesus by a long shot. But he is similar to other prophets in the Bible. He was called, he was obedient to the call, he preached to the people a message not everyone wanted to hear, and he was killed by those who hated him. Such is the lot of a true prophet.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Hearing God Speak

One thing I always wonder about is when do I hear God's voice, my own ambition or selfish desires, suggestions from the evil one, or bad advice from other people who have a vested interest? Am I being manipulated, led, or fooled?

I've met people who were sure God was telling them to take some job or do some action, and it didn't turn out well. They usually conclude that perhaps God wasn't speaking to them, or they misread the signs. I've even met people who even believe God had misled them because they didn't have enough faith.

I don't know many people who believe that God would lead them into a tough situation on purpose. This needs to be considered since even Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Why can't God do the same for each of us? I am not saying He delights in seeing us suffer, I just wonder if we got it all wrong. Maybe we are starting at the wrong place. Maybe we are asking the wrong questions.

A good rule of thumb I tend to follow when discerning God's voice is to first do what God clearly said to do, and believe whatever God said I should believe about reality. This step requires an intimate knowledge of His Word, putting time into prayer, making life adjustments, and constantly adjusting my mindset (Romans 12:1-3). As a result I will gain insight into what God wants, what He is doing in me (conforming to the likeness of His Son) and why we created me, and what pleases Him. His voice will not contradict His Word or His ultimate desire.

The next step is to seek the kingdom of God in every aspect of my life. (Why would I worry about money, a job, or any other worldly thing if this is my focus?) I live my life to glorify God, not to seek after glory for myself. I ask God for guidance because I care about the advancement of His kingdom rule throughout my life and this world. I know that relationships are of utmost importance to God, and learning what is best is glorifying to Him. He promised to take care of all the things in this life that I would need to survive, if only I trust Him.

Then last, I listen for His voice with the understanding that His ultimate purposes, the godly way I conduct my focus, and my desire to glorify Him will guide my listening. So when I need to make a major decision in life like moving or a job, I know it isn't about the amount of money I would make, the promotion or lack of, the location, or the enjoyment I seek that God would find most important in leading me. But, I can trust that He will lead me to what He considers best for His purposes, even if He hinders me.

But what about the case when two paths seem to offer the same good? The decision may come down to what I want to do most. God can say to me, any tree in the garden is good to eat, except the one in the middle. My job in listening is clear. Stay away from the bad choice, and go for it from among the good choices. Between good choices, He may just give me the freedom to make the godly choice on my own. And He would be pleased.