Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The gift of sleeplessness

We read the Bible, stories from Christian history and usually a good book to our children each evening. We are currently reading a book titled, "Prisoners of the Sea" by Florence M. Kingsley. It was initially published in 1897 and it is an exciting cast away and adventure on the high seas story. Tonight chapter thirty-eight held our attention as an escaped convict planned to kill some of the stories heros while they slept. One of our heros is a Huguenot Pastor. In the story he could not sleep. What he says was a really great perspective on sleeplessness.
But the Huguenot pastor, Constantin Dinant, was not asleep. He had not slept during the night; he had beguiled the long hours with prayers, none the less fervent because they were inaudible.
"Why bemoan a sleepless night?" he was wont to say. "These are the hours that God snatches for us out of the thirsty waste of our lives, wherein to give us the living water. Rejoice then, when sleep forsakes thine eyes, for it is a sign of favor. Surely communion with the King of king is better than the unconsciousness of sleep."
To see sleeplessness as a gift from God (James 1:17). A gift of sweet communion with Jesus the King of kings. Now there is a perspective that strikes at the very core of living a life focused on our great God, Jesus the Christ.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Inception: a reflection of longing for more

I saw the movie "Inception" a few weeks ago. The movie is a reflection of our post modern sensibility. Essentially we like to believe that reality is what we make it out to be. Inception turns that inside out and asks us if reality is really all its cracked up to be. Perhaps the reality in our minds is a better place to be.

What really struck me though was how the dream state in the movie was the thing that people longed for. There is a point where we see people lying in beds hooked up to drugs that allow them to dream. We are told that they have gotten to the point where they can no longer dream without the drugs. Supposedly this heightened dream reality is so great that it is worth giving up more and more of real life to live in the dream world. One of the students that is introduced to this world says that they are going to quit because of some things that were going on. Decaprio's character says with confidence that she will be back basically because the experience is too compelling. Sure enough she comes back.

Each person is enamored with what can be in the dream world. The characters reflect a dissatisfaction with how things are in reality. This is a true reflection of the heart of man. We all know that something is missing (Romans 8:19). We all feel the pain that tells us to long for something more something better. The problem for the unsaved man is that his longing looks like this:
I want something to satisfy. I will embrace anything that promises satisfaction with the hope that it will somehow make me fulfilled. I will accept anything that is except the all Sovereign God of the Bible that demands my soul, my life, my all. I will maintain my autonomy thank you (or at least what I believe is my own semblance of that autonomy). Romans 1:20, 24-25
 The true follower of Jesus has discovered that the longings they had prior to meeting Christ have been fulfilled. The true follower has been made whole and can testify to the satisfaction that is theirs in God. We were made for Him and our hearts are truly in a state of longing until they are satisfied in Him. If you believe you have committed your life to Jesus and yet you still feel the emptiness and longing that you always did then perhaps your pursuit of God has been corrupted by our culture. To really grapple with this I would point you toward my book, "The God Focused Life". There is a lot of help here for pointing you toward the God who will truly satisfy your soul. So if you have not yet done so, join me on the journey to live a God focused life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

True women's rights flow out of a God focused life

I ran across an article on CNN's Opinion part of their web site titled, "Will Afghan women's rights be bargained away?". Gayle Lemmon ponders what the future holds for Afgan women after the advances they have made in the last 8 years. The fact that there is even a threat to the freedom of women should be abhorrent to anyone, but especially to a Christian.

One of the favorite topics for agnostics, atheist and feminist to pick on when it comes to religion is the oppression of women. So lets throw out religion and see what that would get you. When you consider an evolutionary perspective of survival of the fittest -- you inevitably conclude that might makes right. In that scenario there is nothing but oppression awaiting women. Just because some of the religions of the world oppress women it does not follow that all religions of the world do. There may have been some people in the past that have misinterpreted scripture but the Bible clearly teaches that women are to be valued. Genesis 1:27-28 describes the creation of man and woman and in that description they are presented as equals. In verse 28 in God's eyes they are both given the cultural mandate. Before God, men and women are on an equal footing. Do they have different jobs and responsibilities before God? Yes. But even though they have differing responsibilities before God they are still held as equals in Christ (Galatians 3:25-28). Culturally there is no better safeguard for women then Christianity. It is a guardian of their equality and should cause anyone seeking to live a God focused life to cherish the wife He has been given. After all she will be a co-heir with Him of the promise that is theirs in Christ (Ephesians 3:6).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why no alien life forms exist other than demons

There is an article on Foxnews.com called, "Proof of Aliens Could Come Within 25 Years, Scientist Says". Every time I see one of these articles I think of the myriad of alien movies I have seen in my lifetime. They all have some things in common as basic assumptions.

  1. There are other planets with life on them
  2. The life on those other planets have a sense of moral right and wrong
    1. We see this in their defensiveness and deceptiveness (think V)
    2. We see this in their aggressiveness and disregard for all life but their own (Think War of the Worlds)
    3. We see this in our attempts to communicate with them or negotiate with them (Think ET, Close Encounters or Men in Black)
  3. Man has the ability and responsibility to bring peace or resolution
The first assumption in the list above must be accepted in order to have a meaningful discussion about the potential of alien life. How does the first assumption on the list stack up in the light of scripture?

When does the Bible tell us that the sun, moon and stars were created? Genesis 1:14-19 tells us that it happened on the 4th day of creation.

Why did God create them? He created them to separate the day from the night and to be for signs and seasons, days and years. In other words they were all created for the earth.

Hebrews 2:10 tells us that all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus. This means that even the sun, moon and stars were created by Him and for Him. They were all created for God's glory. They do not have to be populated with life in order to magnify God. The shear size and expanse is enough to magnify His power and His infinite greatness.

The problem with a life on other planets conclusion is that the fall was part of God's plan. In Romans 9:22-24 Paul tells us that God is able to reveal His power, His patience and wrath to the vessels of His mercy because He has vessels of wrath on which these aspects of His nature can be displayed. Since the fall helps to reveal more about God and since the supposed life on other planets have a sense of moral right and wrong, then God would have to allow similar falls into sin to happen on other planets. A fall on another planet would require a similar sacrifice for another sentient non-human race. Yet Peter declares in 1 Peter 3:18 that Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. To believe in alien life is to crucify Christ all over again. Scripture tells us that He died once for sins. So what are all these alien sightings? If there is any validity to them they are probably demonic in origin. There are others who have studied this extensively that have come to this very conclusion. You can find their books on Amazon.com. The central and most important thing about this discussion is to remember that Jesus is the reason for which all things were created. Man is not at the center, God is. Keep your eyes on Him and seek His face and you will find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:29).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who's to blame?

Lindsey Lohan was big in the news a few weeks back as they sent her off to spend some time behind bars. One of the articles that caught my eye was on her father called, "Michael Lohan: I blame myself for Lindsey's demise". In our culture just about everything is justifiable and not the fault of the person that actually did it. As a matter of fact it is ok to be the cause of someone else's problems as long is it was unintentional and you can blame something else (Michael Lohan blamed stupidity and drunk driving).
Why do we do this? It goes back to the Garden of Eden. The very first man and woman shifted the blame for their actions as they stood condemned before God for their pride and rebellion against Him (Genesis 3:11-13). They went from being God's vice-regents ruling the Earth to the cursed rebels responsible for bringing the effects of sin upon creation. The blame game started because of the shame a pride filled being experiences when he sees his fallen state on display. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God and saw the evil of their rebellion in the light of our gracious God's glory. Shame is an understatement for what they must have felt.
This propensity to shame and excuse has been the all too normal response of fallen man since creation. There is an answer. That answer is found in the work of Jesus on the cross. He did not play the blame game. He did quite the opposite of Adam and Eve. He was without sin and blameless but He took our blame on Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because He became the blame bearer we can stand without blame before God. The astonishing truth is that we are truly without guilt in God's presence because of Jesus. Fallen man's actions amplify our fallenness. In the midst of the deplorable state of man Jesus glory as our substitute shines even more greatly. He is truly deserving of all our love and affection.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Do you know legalism when you see it? (Part 2)

The reason I did this post in two parts from the out set is that there are two aspects to legalism. The one we touched on yesterday is the hypocrisy of self-righteousness. This form of legalism can creep into a Christian's life through the pride of the flesh. The second form of legalism has to do with salvation and can literally corrupt it and keep one from truly knowing Jesus. Because this second form can condemn people to an eternity under the wrath of God it is important to be able to distinguish it.
What is it? This form of legalism is like the legalistic righteousness of the Pharisees. It is external in its form and lacks any internal structure. A passage that comes to mind is Luke 11:42. Here Jesus affirms that tithing their spices was right but out of balance. Jesus is addressing their legalism He is pointing out that their physical actions are not sufficient to earn them salvation. It comes back to the focus of the heart. In the case of the Pharisee their heart was looking for the adoration of men. They did their deeds for the people but clearly thought that jumping through external hoops was their ticket to paradise. This is no different than any of the man-focused works-based divisions of Christianity today. The people caught up in these sects do things in order to be right with God. They might say a certain number of hail Marys or go to confession. They might be found knocking on your door putting in time as part of their required good works. You will find these people doing lots of good things. Often they do more good things than the people who are truly following Christ (which is tragic). But the problem they have is found in their dependence upon their actions to be part of their justification before God. We are justified before God because of the work of Christ on the cross alone. When we add any work to that dependence on Christ alone it no longer remains a dependence on Christ alone. By making a frail human work part of the requirement of salvation we make salvation ultimately dependent upon the work of man. If salvation depends on man in any way there is no longer any assurance of salvation available. You can never be sure in this case because what you are depending on may change because it is rooted in man and man is ultimately mutable (changeable). The other problem with this is it places a love for man's ability alongside of a love for God's ability. This is placing a love for man's ability on par with God, which is pure idolatry. It is idolatry to divide a hearts affection. No man can serve to masters (Matthew 6:24). We must realize that the appeal to include a dependence on something within man is spoken of in the Bible. Repeatedly the Biblical authors point out that the heart of man is corrupt (Genesis 6:5, Psalm 14:1, Hebrews 3:12). We must realize that what we view about salvation must be shaped by scripture alone. When God and a desire for Him grips your heart you will see only Him as being the author and finisher of your faith. This heart for God would want to do all that it can to embrace with all energy the relationship with God. At the same time this heart will realize that the only reason it does these things is because of the work of God in it. Even John Wesley acknowledged this truth. In an interview with Charles Simeon when asked if he depended on an works in addition to Christ he said, "No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last." (Entire interview can be found here). It is with full confidence in the reforming power of the Holy Spirit to shape our hearts that I say the God focused heart will see Christ as the only means by which we are saved. Don't allow legalistic righteousness to fool you. Press on with friends depending on legalistic righteousness (Matthew 23:15). They need desperately to come to depend on Christ alone.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Do you know legalism when you see it? (Part 1)

I have been accused of legalism often. Why? Because I seek to drive the speed limit. As far as I can tell there are three reasons that you could drive the speed limit.

  1. You could drive the speed limit because you feel it is your duty as a Christian to do this. This would not make you any different then any other religion that places man made restraints on its followers. Obedience out of duty is ultimately cold and does not engage the heart.
  2. You could drive the speed limit because you feel more spiritual if you do. In order to do this you are judging yourself as better than those that are passing you on the freeway. This would make you no better than the Pharisees of Jesus day. Are you more spiritual because you followed the speed limit? You might be but not if you think that you are. Because if you are doing it to be more spiritual you have just adopted legalistic righteousness as your guide.
  3. You could drive the speed limit for the sake of bringing your heart into submission to the authority over you recognizing that Jesus is the ultimate authority. It is Jesus that has given the state its authority and as long as there is no conflict with my calling in scripture then I should submit to them. This only works if we recognize our fallen sinful state and are using this as a means of practicing bringing our flesh under the authority of Christ. In this case the action does not make us more spiritual. The action points out in practice the ultimate authority that we are seeking to know better, namely Jesus. This only remains free of legalism as long as I don't start judging others for not doing what I do. Why? Because this is clearly not stated explicitly in the Bible.

This is similar to Paul confronting Peter about refusing to eat with gentiles (Galatians 2:12-14). This was an issue of hypocrisy. Peter and Paul were wrestling with the issue of true Biblical righteousness and Peter was becoming legalistic. Making judgments based on his actions.

It seems in this case that legalism there and even now can be when we see ourselves as more pleasing to God because of something we do or don't do. Anytime our eyes are focused horizontally (i.e. man) instead of vertically (i.e. Jesus) we run the risk of becoming legalistic. I have an acquaintance out here that heard me speak on tithing and afterward confronted me about legalism. He said that there is no requirement to tithe. While I agree that there is no verbatim (and said as much in my talk) the bigger issue for me is that, if the people under the old covenant which had not seen the completed pouring out of God's grace could tithe then why would I who has witnessed the full impact of God's amazing grace not want to tithe (See my blog post on tithing from 8-9-10). This particular acquaintance has gone on to say that not only do we not need to tithe because of grace but that to tithe (even out of a joyful and grateful heart) is sin. He also told me that asking God to forgive our sins after our initial salvation is a lack of faith in God's completeness of forgiveness granted on the cross and thus to ask for forgiveness of sins is sin. So this acquaintance has separated himself from other believers like myself that simply want a vibrant relationship with God. We want it so much, that we take our sins before His throne and seek His forgiveness and help in eradicating them from our lives so that we might know Him better. This kind of demand where grace is used as a club to condemn the actions of fellow Christians is a form of legalism. In this case he sees himself as more right in God's eyes then me and so he condemns me and separates himself from me (and from a whole host of other Christians I might add). Can tithing become legalistic? Absolutely! Almost anything can. Helping the poor, wearing certain clothes, even evangelism can all become legalistic if the focus of our heart is not right. If we are doing it for appearance sake (i.e. being a man pleaser) then it is probably legalistic. There is only one person that we should care about ultimately pleasing and that is Jesus. The reason for doing things to please Him is simple. We do what we do for the sake of the love that He has placed in our hearts. It is the relationship with God that drives us to live a life that reflects a love for the things that He loves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Emotional reminders of our insufficiency

Today was an admittedly challenging day. I looked at our bank account. (When your unemployed this can be a discouraging thing to do.) While I know that it is God that supplies our needs sometimes I get hit with a tsunami of emotion when I contemplate the gravity of it all. After applying for what seems like hundreds of jobs one begins to feel a bit rejected. My pride quickly kicks in and begins to feel injured. Thoughts like "No one wants me", "I'm just not good enough" and "Perhaps if I had just contacted this person or that one". All of this is really an emotional roller coaster that takes off from the platform of self, climbs the mountain of pride and quickly plunges into the maddening spiral of self in the pit of pity. Thank God for His grace, and the examples that we have in His precious word. Paul talked about being buffeted by a messenger of Satan. He requested that it be taken away. God's responded that His grace was sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). God's grace is just as sufficient today. These times of my failing are valuable reminders of my insufficiency. They cause me to depend even more on Jesus. Without Him this time of challenge would be truly overwhelming. Because He has so graciously granted me a heart that desires to focus on Him, He saves me from myself. The Holy Spirit draws my eyes to my magnificent God and plants my feet on the solid rock of Jesus. If you find the trials overwhelming turn to our Lord and use our insufficiency to embrace the sufficiency that can only be found in Him.

Prop 8 - Winning battles and losing the war

Last week the news was falling all over itself to report on the overturn of proposition 8. I am not sure how this is being reported in the rest of the country so if you need to get up to speed here is an article from the San Jose Mercury News titled, "Federal judge strikes down California's ban on same-sex marriage". 50 years ago we would have said universally that homosexuality is sin and it was viewed by most people as morally reprehensible. Today this is no longer the case. Today people see pedophilia as morally reprehensible and sin. Will this still be the case 50 years from today? It is a legitimate question in the light of how our culture has changed in the last 50 years. What has happened that has brought about the changes that we see today. 50 years ago the 1960's were kicking in and free love with a strong dose of independence was the siren call many could not resist. The moral walls of our society began to crumble. What caused the walls to be so weak in the face of the immoral tide that struck it? I did not live then but I think that the roots of the problem can be traced to the church of the early twentieth century. From what I can tell in church history there was a strong reaction to the neo-orthadoxy coming out of Germany's seminaries and universities. Two things happened. Neo-orthadoxy called into question the literal inspiration of scripture and saw inspiration as being something more personal that happens when the word of God becomes inspired for me (This is a broad simplification because of space. E-mail me if you want to discuss this.). The second thing is the conservative church over-reacted to what they saw as a liberal take on inspiration. Another thing was coupled with this. The church was hit with a widely distributed set of books called, "The Fundamentals". This produced a conservative swing that put up code of conduct fences and condemnation fences. Phrases like, "I don't smoke, I don't chew and I don't run with boys that do" were byproducts of this conservative swing. I think it was during this time that some denominations developed the theology of secondary separation. In a nutshell they separated themselves from anyone that did not adhere to their brand of doctrine. Some denominations still hold this view to this day. What happened is, we added a whole bunch of things to the Christian life and walk that were not scripture, but were held in the same regard. This did not have the intended effect of strengthening the church. Quite the opposite happened. The young people growing up in this environment in these churches saw right through the hypocrisy of it. Essentially the moral strength of the word of God was gutted by man insisting on adding his two bits to the pot. Since the churches moral base seemed to many to be arbitrary the next logical decision was that anything goes. People started crossing lines that were clearly spelled out in scripture. Line after line was crossed. The church retreated from this onslaught. Usually she demanded more and more that her position on all these added things was the right one. When she seemed to be losing the culture she resorted to politics. The church began to be seen as political -- seeking to legislate her version of morality. This brings us to today with a society that is rapidly sliding toward an ancient Roman style of life. Rome was marked by open pedophilia, gladiatorial games and meaningless marriage. The church as it appears to the world is a moral mess. She has very little integrity left. She pats herself on the back when a bunch of conservatives in California rallied the people to make a state constitutional amendment even in the face of great opposition. We won that social battle but we lost the court battle at this point, and it looks like we could lose the war.
And yet there is still hope. I see a fresh desire for God, a renewed embrace of God's word and a greater compassion for the lost. God is moving in people everywhere to ignite a passionate fire for Him in their hearts. The only way that this war will be won is in the hearts and minds of people. They have to meet the awesome God of the Bible Jesus the Christ (Psalm 24:1-5). Their moral foundation needs to be in the bedrock of His word and His word alone (Hebrews 4:12). Is this a daunting challenge? NO! God used 12 men to turn the world upside down. With God anything is possible (Mark 10:27). Be encouraged. Don't be ashamed (2 Timothy 1:12, 2:15). Keep your eyes on Jesus and show the world around you the magnificent God that you serve. Helping others to embrace a God focused life will bring them freedom from slavery to sin and give them the greatest possible future they could ever hope for. So seek the Lord and take Him with you into the world.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How does a God focus affect tithing? Is it for today?

Is tithing for today? Have you ever wondered how it works now that we are under grace? Do we still have a legalistic requirement to give a tenth?

People go back and forth arguing about the issue of tithing. On the one side you hear people proclaiming that we should give 10% of our gross income. Someone else says you should give 10% of your net. Another guy comes along and says you don't have any requirement at all. What is it? Does the Bible give us a clue? I think that there is real clarity on this issue in the Bible. Without any question the Bible can be taken out of context and often twisted to make it say whatever we like. However the goal of this site is to look at relevant cultural issues through the lens of scripture and see if a God focus brings us greater understanding. So we will let God be God and submit to his clarity.

To begin with lets consider the issue of the ten commandments. Paul tells us in Galatians that the ten commandments are a school master to bring us to Christ. What he is saying is that the ten commandments were there to show us that we needed a Savior because we were insufficient to accomplish the task ourselves. Because of the ten commandments and our inability to keep them it becomes apparent that we need help of some sort to achieve communion with God. That help comes from the Holy Spirit and it manifest itself in the fruit of the spirit. One of the results of the Spirits work in our hearts will be a desire to know God better. So how can we know God better? Lets start with the ten commandments. Well how can we follow the ten commandments without being a legalist? First of all I would define legalism as any act done for the sake of making myself more spiritual in comparison to others. Legalism always carries with it the idea of comparison, i.e. how can I become more spiritual than someone else or how can I achieve the same perceived level of spirituality I observe in someone else. This is a very horizontal man-focused type of achievement. God's law is God centered it shows us what is pleasing to God. If we pursue the following of God's law in full awareness of our falleness and unworthiness with the idea of perhaps coming to know God better in this pursuit then we avoid the monster of legalism. So in this way the ten commandments truly teach us how to bend our will to bring it into subjection to the desire of God and the things that please Him. It really is a schoolmaster.

So what does all of this have to do with tithing. Tithing in the old testament was always a starting point. There were multiple opportunities for people to give more than a tithe. Some argue that this was also the de-facto tax levied on the Israelites to pay for their infrastructure. That may have been the case but tithing continued even when the Jews were under rulership in which they were taxed. Jesus lived in such a time and His words are instructive here. Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 record Christ's words on tithing. He tells the Scribes and the Pharisees here that they tithe down to the very herbs they grow in their garden but they neglect justice, the love of God, mercy and faithfulness. He goes on to say that they should tithe without neglecting these other issues. In Christ eyes tithing was not just acceptable but something that should be practiced as a normal matter of pursuing God. Why? You see tithing gives us an objective standard much like God's law that we can easily follow. It gives us a standard of 10% that we can take off of the top. As a starting point it is often just enough to cause us to have to adjust our standard of living down. It means we have to give up some things. You see when we tithe out of a desire to know God better we end up giving up some things for the sake of pursuing that relationship. It means that there are a few less things to get in the way of our pursuit of God. Tithing puts us in a place where we are trusting that God knows better than us what we need. It is in a sense abandoning ourselves to the hand of God in the area of our finances. When we do it with the express goal of knowing God better it becomes a pure joy to us to take part in building God's kingdom. We know that investment will last more than anything else we could buy. There literally becomes no better thing we could do with the money God entrust to us. On top of all that the people in the old testament tithed and they had not yet seen the full magnificence and glory of God's grace given at the cross. How could any of us on this side of the cross knowing the full weight of what has already been done give less then those who never knew. Giving a tenth is a requirement for us just like God's law for the sake of our hearts being brought into subjection to God so that we might know Him better. Who would not want that?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Happiness Vs. Joy

How many times have I heard the phrase, "God wants me to be happy"? It alway brings to mind the same internal response. "No God did not die on the cross to make me happy He died to make me Holy." If the situation seems appropriate I will share this phrase. But in a sense if God created us to begin with during the 6th day of creation then you would think that in a perfect world Adam probably was happy. I think that when people make this comment about God wanting them to be happy they are sensing the happiness that was lost in the fall. But happiness is not something we can manufacture. It is the result of circumstances. A child does something funny and we all laugh. Someone tells a joke with that perfect timing that brings a happy smile to everyone's face. Being happy is an emotional result of something that happens. Therefore in a fallen world happiness will be sporadic at best. Joy on the other hand is something that is abiding. Joy comes from the peace that floods the soul of the Christian who is resting in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:7). Joy is not contingent on circumstances. A person can be going through a major trial and still have the peace and joy of the Lord. Happiness would have been blown away by that type of circumstance. Joy comes to us as a result of surrendering to Jesus. The more that we put to death the deeds of the flesh the greater our abiding joy will be. Even in the midst of adversity we will find joy in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:6). The disciples rejoiced when they faced demons and returned rejoicing (Luke 10:17). Seek to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ and you will find that joy begins to become a regular component of your life because true joy comes from God.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Middle finger musings

Several times over the years I have witnessed someone cutting someone off with their car and receiving the reaction of a hand extended with only the middle finger pointing upwards. I have seen the same reaction when bikes cut off cars or when cars cut dangerously close to pedestrians. This gesture is used with the intention of causing great emotional stress in retaliation for the stress that someone else's actions have caused. 
What makes a person think that flipping someone off is going to elicit any sort of agitating feelings in the object of the gesture? Further what causes the person who is flipped off to take offense at the gesture? There is no animal that takes offense at the motions of other animals. If we are nothing more than higher animals you would think that we would surely have evolved past this silly self destructive behavior. Survival of the fittest would require it. But for some reason we seem offended by this waving of a limb in a mean spirited manner perhaps accompanied by an expletive or two. Why? I believe that this action and response is an assault on man's dignity. Which begs the question where does this dignity come from? It assumes that man has intrinsic value. But if he is just another animal why does he have intrinsic value? Why does the individual matter? I believe that without realizing it that every time man makes an assault on another persons dignity they are giving an acknowledgment that man has dignity and value. I believe that if you look hard you will be hard pressed to find a reference point for man's dignity and value in nature. Certainly the animals do not exhibit anything even close to this. So where does it come from except God. I believe that the fact that God created man in His own image is the answer and true reference point for man's dignity and why he has dignity at all. Ultimately when you see someone flipping someone off remember that unintentionally they are acknowledging that man has dignity derived from His creator that he can effectively assault. Once again we see that pagan man cannot get away from admitting he has a creator no matter how much he may want to. As we seek to live a God focused life things like this should strike us more and more with the constant reality that God truly is with us (Romans 1:20). Every day all men every where live before His face. Sometimes pagans end up pointing to God in a way that they never intended.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What is faith?

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
The evidence of faith is often a path that would normally be filled with fear and pain.

What I mean by this is that faith is not really faith if it does not meet the definition of Hebrews 11. There we find that faith is defined by assurance and conviction of things not seen. When I say that the evidence of faith is a path normally filled with fear and pain what I am referring to is the evidence of a step of faith taken in the context of living a God focused life in a sinful world. When we step out in faith we will usually experience pain in the objections and ridicule we receive from others. They will not understand the step we are taking because faith is acting on things not seen. Because of not seeing the things we are moving toward they will often be detractors, hence we will experience emotional pain. This will often be done by people calling us to be realistic. If you have peace in the midst of a direction that God is leading you and it does not contradict the Bible then what you are doing is the most realistic thing to do. This pain of isolation and rejection of our decision may be a reinforcement that we really are stepping out in faith. The step itself is the evidence of our faith in our almighty Father God. Normal fear comes into play when we take a step that may be financially risky like quitting a good paying job because of the havoc it is reeking in your family. Trusting that God will protect you when you try to save someone whose drowning and your not a good swimmer yourself. Anything that puts you in a place of risk because of your relationship with Jesus Christ and seeking to honor Him in your life has the potential to bring normal fear with it. But what is remarkable about the step of faith is that it is often devoid of fear. When we are walking by faith and it is to the glory of God, we will often experience an unexplainable peace. This is the peace that passes understanding. This is the peace that can only come from the Prince of Peace Himself. So like Peter in the boat during the storm even when it does not make sense, step out by faith and keep your eyes firmly fixed on the Lord Jesus. Steps like this serve to grow our faith and our relationship with Jesus.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Worthy Worship Wars

The question of worship music is one that is appropriate for consideration on this blog. When modern day Christians speak of worship they are usually referring to the music that begins a service at the church building. Often there is debate about what style of music should be used. We define services as contemporary, progressive, traditional or integrated. The goal in these labels is to help define what style of music the church service is employing in its worship. We used to think of the whole service as worship. Webster defines the worship of God like this,
“The act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; religious reverence and homage; adoration, or acts of reverence, paid to God, or a being viewed as God.” 
Perhaps the church body would become more healthy overall in its relationship with God if it got the idea of worship right. True worship is something that issues from the heart. It manifest itself in adoring Jesus in song, adoring Him in the giving of our offerings, adoring Him in the taking of the Lord’s supper, adoring Him in the act of baptism and adoring Him in the opening of His word. There are a multitude of additional ways that we can worship (i.e. personal evangelism, thankfulness for provision, etc.) they all have one thing in common. Worship comes from the heart. Since it comes from the heart it is the result of what our hearts are focused on. If we understand the fundamentals of worship then we can begin to better consider the mechanics of music.
Music is a framework for the words of the song. If you have music with no words there is nothing to sing. If you have words with no music you have a poem. To have a song to sing you must have both. Music can either compliment the lyrics or detract from the lyrics. But beyond the complimentary nature of music it can set the focus of our hearts. Music can be sensual. If our hearts are focused on sensual things I believe that is contrary to worship. Sensuality by its very nature focuses our hearts on the bodies of people. Music can also be transcendent and thus our hearts follow that focus to the transcendent realm of God. We can all think of times that our souls have been enraptured by a song. I have heard transcendent music coupled with man centered lyrics and it almost puts you in a place where your worship is of man. Both the lyrics and the music should move our hearts toward God. I think that Bob Kauflin in his book, Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God
 has done a lot of good work in this area, and is well worth any music leader consulting his material. Does style matter??? In Colossians 3:16 Paul encourages them to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. You could argue that these represent different styles of music. But perhaps the style issue would become a moot point if our goal in the music we sing in our church gatherings was the exultation and glory of God and not a sensual appeal to the entertainment of men. After all we are here because of God He is not here because of us.