Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why does God allow Evil?

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
- Epicurus [341–270 B.C].
                You have not been in many arguments about the nature of God and the reality of suffering and evil in this world if you have not come across this quote in some form.  It was one of the most significant “stumbling blocks” that is employed as an argument against God’s existence, or, more specifically, the existence of the Biblical God.  All good questions deserve a good answer.  And I would say that this is one of the best questions that has been asked of Christianity in 2,000 years. 
                So how does one begin to justify the seemingly contradictory existence of a self-proclaimed Good God and the existence of evil and suffering.  This is an inevitable challenge for us to wrestle with due to our core beings.  We naturally gravitate towards wanting to do good things for people we love and want to help them avoid bad things happening to them.  In Matthew 7:11 Jesus even observes that even evil people will give good things to their children.  If we are to believe that we are Children of God, it is natural for our first response to our lack of good things, or, the perceived lack of good things for others, seems to be painting a picture of God not being half as loving as even an imperfect parent!
                As I mentioned in my preview post for this blog, this week I am assisting in the officiating for the funeral of a 22 year old man.  His death came as a shock to everyone in his family.  Especially his young mother and 14 year old brother.  They are currently embroiled in the soul scorching pain of losing someone immeasurably close and valuable without warning.  It is understandable in the midst of their grief to be questioning how God could allow something so tragic to occur.  For them, it is not a philosophical exercise to contemplate the Goodness of God in the midst of this time, it is the most challenging moment in their lives.  They are not able to find solace in the intellectualism of the class room philosophical lecture or the spoon fed spiritualism often spouted from a pulpit.  Their needs are much more practical and immediate.
                Where does God enter into this story?  How do I, in the role of Pastoral counselor, speak to them in a way to help lead towards peace?  Before I can answer the details of God’s Goodness existing in tandem with the worlds evil, we first must deal with hope.  And where is hope to be found?  It is found in the end of the story.
                When people complain about an uncaring Deity who turns his head away while we struggle here alone they are doing so by only focusing on one aspect of the character of God and God’s plan in the bible.  It is an incomplete process to proof text scripture, pull out quotes about God being good, turn and compare it to the “reality” we perceive, and trumpet that as proof of the bible being untrustworthy and God untrue.  If we are going to glam onto statements of God’s goodness we also have to look at what he promises us in the context of his goodness.
                Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down  out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
                  He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the    thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
                                                                                                -Revelation 21:1-7

                We become so transfixed on the “now” that we miss that God has an ultimate plan that he is working towards through ourselves and through this world.  He does not promise that this life will be without pain and suffering, but he does promise that he will make all things right.  The reality of sin has transformed God’s perfect design into a perversion of itself.  But, He is working all things towards a day when “every tear will be wiped away”!  If I am to have any hope in the goodness of God it is found not in whether or not “now” is good, but it is found in the hope I have in what my forever will be. 

                Our currently limited perspectives cause us to often become short sighted and consumed by what is happening to us right now.  Now, I do not mean in any way to diminish anyone’s suffering, but we on a simpler level recognize that we have to have the end goal in mind when we confront any difficult circumstance.  When a marathon runner is in the middle of a difficult training run, they cannot be consumed with the now, they have to focus on first, the limited nature of the training run and second, that a greater joy will be theirs if they can simply hold on and complete the race that is before them. 

                In much the same way we have to realize that where we are now is a finite and transient time.  We are made for something much greater and eternal.  While suffering is suffering, and evil is evil, having the reliability of hope in God’s ultimate promise can help us to continue on even while the now seems bleak and desperate. 

                All of this does in no way mean that God does not care what is happening to you in the now.  We see in Scripture that God is heartbroken over the rebellion of this world.  Not only is he heartbroken, but he is impassioned with just anger over evil perpetrated upon His children.  Matthew 23:37 paints a beautiful picture for us of Jesus’s heartbreak over our condition. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”   The wording and imagery that is utilized in the passage here would indicate that Jesus is speaking with great emotion, and that the word longing could be better translated from the Greek as a sort of groaning.  As if from his innermost being he is aching to take care of his lost people.

                What we often miss as we read over this passage showing Jesus’ passion for taking care of us is that it is dependent upon US!  Jesus says that he has longed(groaned) to gather up his children and take care of them, but, they are unwilling.  The very first line of the quote I started this with asked, if God is willing is he unable?    I would answer that to Epicurus in the affirmative!  I am not sure where this silly notion of God being able to do all things comes from, but it is inaccurate, logically, AND Biblically!

                Before the Christians reading this jump down my throat let me explain.  God by his very nature is limited in a number of ways.  One example that I will draw your attention to is I John 1:5.  It tells us that God is light, in him there can be no darkness at all.  What does this mean?  God, by his very definition of himself, is limited by his inability to be less then what he is.  It is not just that he chooses to be without darkness(the context in I John would indicate darkness as sin), but that by his very nature He is unable to be in communion with darkness!

                You may have heard that famous philosophical question:  Could Jesus heat a burrito so hot he couldn’t pick it up?  While circular reasoning can be “funny”, it is a question based on a false assumption, that God’s definition of being all powerful means  that he can do or be anything.  A short list of things God cannot be:  Less then perfectly loving, less then perfectly just, petty, sinful, in darkness,  etc. 

                So what is it about God’s very nature keeps him from intervening to prevent or correct evil and sin that we observe on a daily basis?  To begin to open up our understanding of that let me direct you to a quote by CS Lewis in his book, The Problem of Pain.

                                We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of   free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it    was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.
                We can argue all day about why God chose to give us free will, but the bottom line is, he did make us to be creatures of free will.  As desperately as he desires to “gather you under his wings” he will not compromise his creation, or, ultimately, Himself.  He has chosen to give us the ability and intellect to choose Him, or, to not choose Him. Therefore, the evil we observe, AND EXPERIENCE, in this life is in direct correlation to the abuses of this free will by mankind, as individuals, and as a communal whole. 

                So where does hope fit into this picture?  If we are creatures of free will who will inevitably abuse it and cause ourselves, and often others, pain, what is the big idea God has?  Let me direct you back to the passage from Revelation that I quoted earlier.  God has an ultimate, and eternal, destination in mind for His creation.  What we experience now is the results of a broken and sinful world that has perverted God’s intentions.  So what is He waiting for?  Why doesn’t he just make things better right now?  Why is he waiting to “wipe away” my tears?

                Revelation 20:15 records, “ All whose names were not found written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire”   As I mentioned God cannot force himself over our will and will also not be able to diminish himself by dwelling in sin.  If we are not able to come before him cleansed of our sin, we will be cast into hell for eternity.  This of course would necessitate a completely new blog to deal with the issues of salvation and why salvation is found only through Christ, but for now accept the premise of eternal damnation for the context of understanding the existence of evil that you observe.

                God has given us free will, which has led to evil, which he is currently “not” stopping.  So why has he chosen to ignore and allow evil to continually be perpetuated?  Because of you!  100% without question, he is allowing evil to continue because he passionately and desperately desires to gather YOU under his wings, and you are not letting him…..yet.  The greatest message of love that has ever been conceived is that he is willing to allow evil to continue to persist because he has not yet given up on you. 

                Here is what I mean.  When we look at evil and sin, we most often look at evil and sin outside of ourselves.  It is quite natural to see something like genocide in Darfur, or children born with AIDS because their young mother was raped and wonder where God is in all of this.  We cry out to God to stop this evil, to punish those responsible, to heal the brokenness that we ourselves are broken over.  But we do so with an incomplete understanding of the nature and heart of God. 

                How I like to put it is this:  God is not the tv show “Trading Spaces” he is the tv show “Extreme Home Makeover”.  We ask God to come and sanitize and deal with the sins that bother us.  The things that make us sad.  We say, God I really hate my living room, can you come spruce it up and make it a more comfortable place for me to live?  But that is not who God is, that is not how He operates.  He is Ty Pennington, he is going to come in, take one look at the rotten floor boards, the crumbling foundations, the leaking roof, and he is going to take dynamite to it and bring it to the ground so he can build something brand new and wonderful.

                We say, God come stop genocide, and he says, “Alright, but if I deal with that now, I am going to deal with the fact that you are sleeping with someone you are not married to, I am going to deal with your gossip and slander, your hard heart towards your parents, your spiteful words to your neighbor, your foul language, your internal sexual sin of the heart and mind, your drug addictions, your __________ fill in the blank…..”   And we respond, “hold on one minute there buddy!  I am just talking about REAL bad stuff, you don’t need to get too personal about this” 

                God will not ever do anything part way.  Once he begins the process of making all things new, your sin will be dealt with same as the man raping a child after he has killed their family in a village in Africa.  You cannot expect God to just come along and make YOUR life more palatable while ignoring your own crumbling foundations and leaking roofs.   And what has stayed God’s hand on the dynamite plunger so far?  You.

                Jesus showed us God’s heart, that it is groaning passionately to gather you home.  And because of that he is going to give you every last chance he can, he will keep the door open for you until the last possible second.   As you watch the news and hear terrible things happening in the world, as you hold tightly loved ones as you struggle with the pain of a terrible and unforeseen disease or loss, be comforted in knowing that God is broken and weeping with you.  But he knows the end of the story, that this death destruction is not the end of the story.  And because of that, he is keeping the light on, just a few hours more, just a few moments extra to give everyone every possible chance that there can be to come home. 

                So how do we answer Epicurus?  As long as there is still hope for some, God will stay the execution of Justice because he loves us too much to give up just yet.  He is willing to stop evil, but he is not able to give up on his children.  He is not able to give up on you yet.  There will come a day when all things will be made right, and he will answer to the evil that has gone on under his ever attentive gaze, but for your sake, I pray that it doesn’t come too soon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another God and Evil Blog Preview

 Here is a quote that I will be looking at in this blog post
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
- Epicurus [341–270 B.C].

Preview Bad Things and God

This week I will be attempting to tackle the subject of why do bad things happen, or, more importantly, why does God allow bad things happen.  I was thinking about this topic for a while, and I was finally prompted to move forward on completing it.  The catalyst for that is thanks to my participation in the officiating of my first funeral as a pastor.  It was a 22 year old man who leaves behind a grieving family to question this tragic situation.  So, stay tuned as I wrestle with an issue that we have each dealt with in some capacity before.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bishop Swilley's "Coming Out"

   For those who have not heard;  A pastor at a church in Georgia, Church in the Now, has recently "come out" as a gay man.  According to the story, his wife encouraged him to do so.  In most stories that I have found regarding this situation I was surprised by a two things; 1)He is called a protestant royal(meaning he is a big deal in the protestant world, 4th generation pastor, large church, etc)  2) That there is no "opposing" view point presented in the story.

  Regarding 1:  Generally speaking, as a protestant, I am very well versed in the major players in evangelical christianity in America.  Even some lesser known leaders of medium sized churches are on my radar.  Yet, I have never once heard of this guy.  I spent some time trying to do some background research on him to see what had been written about him, or his church, in the past, and I found practically nothing at all.  No articles, books, conferences hosted, etc.  He is being touted right now as a great example of how the evangelical church is "waking up" to accepting homosexuality.  And that if some "revered" leader such as himself can make a stand, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the "fundamentalists" stop being so terrible.  Which leads me to my first thought about all of this.  Is this a fake leader being propped up to move forward an action line in the ongoing debate?  I do not mean, he himself was not a pastor, but was he really the type of influential leader and theological teacher that he is being presented as?

   One of the most revealing comments I read regarding that question came from a commenter on one of the news sites covering this story.  They said "if you desire in any way to incorporate some spiritual things into your life from a christian perspective, but not an exclusively christian perspective, this is the church for you"  That person went on to say that they had been watching sermons from the Church in the Now for years and they loved that they presented a very open spiritual view.  So, under the auspices of a Church, "Bishop"(self titled) Swilley had been teaching for years a spiritually relativistic perspective that was christian flavored.  If you would go to their website, it has very little theology or doctrinal statements about who they are in Christ as a congregation, but a very easy access to online financial donations!

   As I read many of Swilley's comments I see that there is a great deal of generalized proof texting of scripture going on.  A lot of Christ Loves you just as you are(true), so just accept who you are and be happy(untrue). They quote his son as talking about how Leviticus tells us to not have cloth of two fabric and compares that to why we should not longer consider homosexuality a sin.  Which again, shows very little theological and biblical understanding of those differing issues, not only in biblical theology, but Jewish cultural understandings.  All of which leads me to feel strongly that the media has taken a non-player in Biblical Christianity and created a figurehead, where none previously existed, to allow a non-biblical perspective to influence and infiltrate the Church.

 The Second Thought: The interviews he has been given have all been mainstream media journalists who have asked only very generic softball questions.  There is not one serious question presented regarding his decision.  The articles mention he mentors pastors in about 100 churches, but no indication of what does that mentoring entail or how those pastors are reacting to this revelation.  Also, when he presents some statement to defend his newly public position there is no questioning of his reasoning, philosophically or theologically.  While I do not expect some journalist from the Georgia Daily Star(made that name up) to be well versed in either to know how to ask these questions, but they also do not pursue asking for other perspectives on this story.

  Here is why the lack of multiple perspectives causes me to have a red flag regarding the intention (purposeful or not) of this story.  If you were writing a story about some potentially controversial decision that President Obama was making there would be a few things a good journalist would be assumed to be doing.  1) Interview the POTUS (or his spokesperson) about the reasons behind that decision. 2) Interview significant opposition leaders about their response to the decision(in this case, Republican House/Senate leaders).  3) Interview the "small" people affected by the decision.  If a journalist only wrote an article from the perspective of the POTUS on a significant decision, we would all be justified in thinking that there was some sort of undue influence or collusion on the part of the POTUS and the media.  We expect our journalists to not be biased, but to present a complete story regarding these issues.  In the case of Bishop Swilley, only step 1 of a journalists responsibilities has been observed.

   My purpose of this post is not to discuss the biblical position on homosexuality, or, to question the salvation of Bishop Swilley.  My intention is to observe and comment on my confusion and trepidation about the presentation of this story.  While those are both interesting, and perhaps, important, side issues, the main issue is what is the media trying to feed us?  So less of a commentary on theology, and more of a commentary on culture.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Knowing God's Will

                Knowing the will of God is one of the most difficult things for Christians to discern.  Well, at least it is the one we like to pretend is the most difficult to discern.   Why do I use the word pretend?  Because I believe that we make how to know the will of God into some elaborate and confusing process (in our heads) so that we allow ourselves to be stuck in either indecision or sinful decision.  Before I explain how and why knowing the will of God is “easy”, let me illuminate what I mean by the two “stuck” positions.


                When we have a difficult decision to be made it is often the hiding spot of those too fearful of being “wrong”.  Instead of exhibiting an adult and mature attitude towards the tough issues in life people choose to run from any risk.  This can be seen in practice through the lives of people who let life “happen” to them.  Either due to laziness or timidity, they never take ownership of their lives, and if it goes bad, well, it wasn’t their fault. 2 Timothy 2:17 tells us that we do not have a spirit of timidity, but one of boldness!  When we allow life to just happen, we are saying too God that He is a liar.  That when he tells you that you have a spirit of boldness through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in your life you are looking in his face and laughing.  Let us not forget what happened to Sara when she laughed at the Angels statements of her future pregnancy!
                I am not advocating a bull in a china shop attitude when it comes to life decisions.  But you HAVE to make a decision.  But I do like what I like to call “Hulk Hogan Life Philosophical Approaches:  Namely, I would rather ask forgiveness then permission. 

                Sinful Decision: 

                I want to believe what I want to believe.  And so I justify whatever decision I want to make by claiming some strange convoluted theology that defends what I am doing.  Example:  I had a Christian friend in college who had sex with every girlfriend he had because he just KNEW that it was God’s will that he was going to marry this girl.  After like 3-4 of them I began to think he might not know God’s will for his life as well as he was claiming…….

                With all of that being said let me address what I would contend is the 2 step surefire way to knowing God’s will for your life. 

                One:  The Bible.  Ok, so no brainer right.  But allow me to clarify this.  First, the wrong way you can take that:  Either looking for some exact word for word statement on how you should handle a specific situation, or, literally opening the bible and reading the first thing you come upon and considering that an answer(people seriously do that….sigh)
                In the first example, it is obvious that the bible is “strangely” silent on whether or not you should sell crystal meth to children.  But obviously you cannot just assume it is ok to do something just because there is not a specific injunction pertaining to that issue in the bible, or, more specifically, because Jesus himself did not speak against it.  When you are deeply familiar with the Word of God you are able to clearly understand that there is an answer to this issue, whether or not it spells it out exactly. 
                Illustrative Example:  My wife does not need to tell me that she would hate a Jean Claude Van Damme film for our date night.  Though she has NEVER said she doesn’t like his movies, because of my intimate familiarity with who she is, I have no excuse to bring home “Time Cop” tonight instead of “Leap Year”(which is another movie she has never mentioned but I guarantee she would like it) And for the second example, opening up the bible and pointing at something, just stop, stop being stupid.
                As we grow in our familiarity with the real and living God as He reveals Himself through His Word, it becomes more and more natural for us to naturally incline towards being shaped and defined by who He is, not who we want Him to be.  If you claim you want to know God’s will better but resist developing an intimate and personal relationship through the regular immersion into His word, then you are a liar and actually are not that interested in knowing His will.  You just want a lazy mans religion, that you can just hear some trumpet blow overhead and everything is answered for you and wrapped up in a nice bow that requires no effort or thought on your part.
                The second step we need to take to discern God’s will in our lives is community.  We are told two things that reinforce this view.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that above all things the heart is deceitful.  Our own individualized thoughts are highly deceptive.  That is due to our self-centered sin nature.  Like my Christian friend with multiple sex partners, he WANTS it to be God’s will because he is a horny kid who is willing to believe anything that gives him what he wants.  And then Matthew 18:20 tells us that where two or more are gathered in HIS name, HE IS THERE also. 
                With these two biblical truths we can see that it is people outside of our personal emotional position who themselves are rooted in God’s truth that will be able to speak clear truth to us about a given situation.  How many times have you listened to a friend talk to you about something that was going on and you felt flabbergasted about how obtuse they were being?  From your perspective the answer was so simple.  As your friend tells you that his girlfriend hired a hit man to kill him, but he isn’t sure if he should break up with her or not because he loves her soooo much, you just sit there scratching your head because it is so obvious. 
                We constantly are doing that when we try to discern the will of God.  When we leave ourselves to process the decision singularly and internally, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  We NEED each other.  If you do not have a community of believers who are deeply rooted in the word of God you will always struggle with discerning God’s will for your life. 
                I know that the topic, the will of God is a huge one with many possible facets.  But I think once you remove all the theology and biblical exegesis, it comes down to this:  I need to learn how to hear God speak clearly in my life! 

Short Thought

The left claims that a womans right to control her reproductive abilities(with abortion) is an inherent individual right that no other individual or society can take from her.  Yet the left is also at the forefront of claiming that an individuals rights are secondary to the greater good of society as a whole as exhibited in progressive and socialized government programs, such as, but not limited to, health care, welfare, etc.  I find that contrast to be perplexing. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Coming Soon!

Later this week (thursday night at latest) I will be posting on "How to Know the Will of God...In MY life"  Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Communion and the Washing of Feet

   Our church just recently had our communion service and I spoke on the spiritual meaning, and importance, of the washing of feet before the communion meal.  If you have never had a full biblical communion service, which does include the washing of feet, look into it, it's awesome.  I have transcribed the brief message I gave concerning that aspect of the service for your benefit and edification.  

Washing Feet:

                Tonight we will observe the act of washing each other’s feet.   We find the biblical basis in the New Testament found during the last supper where Jesus washes his disciples feet in John 13.  And if you read as far back as Genesis 18, the act of washing of feet was an important part of the cultural understanding of coming to rest as the guest of someone. 

                It is important when we come to scripture to understand the context of its message.  All scripture was written for real people living in a real time and place, and the message had an important meaning to those original hearers.  And in light of the washing of feet as part of our communion service it is of essential importance. 

                The act of washing of ones feet in the middle east of the ancient world was a very important and essential part of daily life.  While today our feet are generally always completely covered by comfortable shoes and warm socks, such items were rare at best during the biblical era.  And even when we go with only sandals we travel on well paved and clean roads and sidewalks.  If you were going hiking with friends and someone showed up with sandals you would be shocked.  But for the ancient world there were no well paved and clean paths.  The dirt, mud and filth of the outside world clung to your main mode of transportation, your feet.  And you were often walking over the same terrain that pack animals were also traveling.  And if anyone has been riding in a carriage drawn by a horse, you have learned that they are not too concerned about where they relieve themselves.

                By the time you had arrived at your destination, by the time you were ready to settle in for the evening, your feet would be completely covered in filth and grime.  Not only were they dirty, but you can only imagine the smell.  Some of you would probably confess that even when your spouse has their feet covered by shoes all day, that smell is bad enough.  Just imagine if they were walking in mud and dirt all day as well!  Just the other day I had accidentally stepped in some dog “droppings” while walking my dog.  I took my shoes off on the patio, refusing to even bring them inside to clean them off. 

                It was not just for your sake that your host would offer you water for the cleaning of your feet, but it was for their sake as well.  Especially before a meal.  Can you imagine trying to enjoy some delectable dishes your host has prepared for you and all you can taste is the smell of everyone’s filthy feet?  You could not truly enjoy the evening your host was offering to you as long as the soles of your feet continued to be covered in the filth of the world that had inevitably clung to you.

                In John 13:3-7 we see Christ turn this tradition into something much more beautiful than simple practicality:
3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
   Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you- also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
Three things to draw your attention to in this passage.

1)    To truly come to this time of communion, our feet need to be washed.  And it is not just a physical washing, but a spiritual washing, prompted and conducted through Christ.  We cannot come completely to the dinner table while our souls continue to be covered by the dirt and grime of this world.  Our own ability to engage with what the communion table represents will be hampered when our spiritual taste buds are being flavored by the overpowering odor of the dirt of this world.  There will come a day when our bare feet can walk cleanly on paved streets of gold, but not yet.

2)      This is a time where as believers, who are already clean, have the opportunity to let go of that filth from the world that still finds a way to cling to us as we go through life.  In the 10th verse we are reminded that we have already been bathed, symbolically we see that in believers baptism.  This, tonight, is a time where we can receive a spiritual “tune up”.  Our bodies have already been made clean through Christ, but we still have to realize that we can still carry dirt, filth and baggage into our time of communion

3)      We need to serve each other as Christ showed us, humbly and lovingly, help to prepare ourselves  to come to the lord in communion together.  God has not called us to be spiritual lone wolves.  We need each other to help by the serving through the washing of our dirt.  It is through our community that we can experience the regular touch ups to help us work through the filth that we still find ourselves stepping in, even as believers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Who Would Jesus Vote For Last Tuesday?

                Politics and religion.  The two things that you should never address in polite conversation.  But, what if you talk about them in context together?  Do two wrongs make a right?  Before I even address this topic, “Who Would Jesus Vote For?”, I do want to say that I believe that the two most important things to talk about in conversation ARE politics and religion.  In many cases there are right and wrong positions that people(including ourselves) will take in those two areas and if we never have a safe and “polite” conversation to discuss these differing points of view, how will our viewpoints ever mature and grow in wisdom and truth?

                Here comes a big spoiler for the rest of this post;  Jesus never spoke about politics, specifically, he never spoke about liberal policies vs conservative policies!  Can you believe it?  He chose to be strangely silent on a super duper important issue; who I should vote for in 21st century America!  Clearly, while the preceding statement is dripping with sarcasm, the point I am trying to make is that when it came to specific modern political ideology he had nothing to say, but we cannot use that fact as a basis for not having an expectation that we are able to clearly articulate a “political” position by being deeply rooted in the coherent worldview and perspective that Jesus preached on.

                One of the most impressive things(in my opinion) about Jesus’ earthly ministry was His way of deflecting “bad” questions.  By that I do not mean he avoided them, he instead cut through the crap that we often build into our questions and got quickly to the heart of the issue.  What do I mean by that?  We like to obfuscate our true intent lying beneath the obvious surface of our questions by asking around the issue.  The reasons we do this are many.  Most pertinent reasons to our topical question(voting) are; we obfuscate out of fear of hearing the answer we don’t want to hear, and, we obfuscate by trying to manipulate the questioned into answering in our pre-approved way. 

                In the first example, a young man wants to ask a young lady on a date, but is fearful of being turned down.  So instead of being direct he asks a series of leading questions, “who do you hang out with?  Are you seeing anybody?  Do you have any plans this weekend?  What’s the longest dating relationship you have had?” etc.   None of those questions would be necessary if he simply buckled down and said, “I think you are pretty swell, and if you are free this Friday night, I would like to take you to dinner”  All of the other questions and actions men twist themselves through are unnecessary if they were just forthright with what their true intentions are. 

                The second example can be shown in the interaction with a child and his parents.  A 15 year old girl wants to go to a party with her boyfriend that Friday night at a house where the parents are gone.  She of course will not directly say that.  Instead she will ask a series of questions over a period of time that he parents will answer affirmatively to.  “Isn’t my boyfriend a great guy?  Doesn’t he have great parents?  You sure do like it when we go hang out with a large group of friends instead of by ourselves, don’t you?  Can we hang out with a bunch of our friends Friday night?”  Without knowing her actual intentions the parents have just walked into the trap of supporting their daughters going to an un-chaperoned house party, and they might not even know that is what it is! 

                Through out the Gospels  Jesus was approached by people attempting to get this wise Rabbi to affirm some desired position.  Either due to their desire to hear him support something they were unsure about, or, as in the case of the teachers of the Law, to try to find him at fault in some way as to delegitimize his teaching.  Yet each time Jesus recognized what was truly at the heart of the question being asked of him and cut right through to the heart.

                Luke 18:18-19 is a great example of this technique.  ‘

                        A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “Why do you   call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.’”

                What do we immediately notice?  Jesus totally skips over the man’s legitimate question!  What the man is asking, underneath his actual words, is, does this Jesus fellow have the knowledge and keys to eternity and that it is inherent to the question whether or not Jesus can legitimately support whatever answer he may give.  Jesus answers the question by going right to the heart of the matter.  He answers this mans questions by asking about Jesus Himself.  If this man believes that Jesus is good, he would therefore in this scenario be accepting Jesus’ divinity, therefore, He could trust whatever answer about eternity Jesus might give.  If the man does not accept the premise of Jesus divinity, it is of no use asking the question because a mere mortal could not adequately answer that question for him.  It is of no use to us if Jesus has an “answer” about eternity unless He is indeed God. 

                While it is true Jesus makes very little reference to politics, other than the oft-quoted, “give unto Caesar what is Caesars”(mark 12:17) we can infer a few things about the conversation we might have with Jesus about politics.  Primarily that he would ignore the actual words of our questions and get to the real heart of the matter.

                Let us unpack what we mean by a “good” government, or a political establishment that is more/better aligned with Christianity and the Bible.  According to a dictionary understanding government is: the organization, machinery, or agency through which a political unit exercises its authority, controls and administers public policy, and directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects.  Without belaboring a point by point breakdown of these roles, let us just say that we look to government to provide stability and reliability in the lives of a diverse population through laws, programs and agencies to accomplish said goals.

                A good government, I would argue, would be one that most effectively encourages and maintains the highest possible level of quality of life for its citizens.  This is where we go off the deep end though.  Quality of life is super subjective and hard to nail down.  Ultimately Government regulates the interpersonal actions of individuals through the group experiences, so for our purposes let us just look at what the bible teaches about treating others. 

                Instead of retyping a ton of verses check out this link:


                Or, just accept my recap:  Think of others before yourself, take care of the poor and widows, give out of your abundance joyfully to those in more need then yourself.

                So, let us play out our fictional Q&A with Jesus

Me:  Jesus Who Should I Vote For?
Jesus:  Your friend Jack has been without work for 2 months, did you take him dinner last night like I convicted you to do and did you send in that check to the gas company for him like you thought about doing?

                Wait a minute you say.  Jesus didn’t answer the question!  Actually, he did.  We are just asking the question in the wrong way.  We have an expectation that the government has a preeminent role in taking care of people, when Jesus clearly teaches(and all of the NT will back this up) that WE have the preeminent role in taking care of each other.   I am convinced he would say, "why do you care what the government is up to.  Just do what I told YOU to do!"  

                At this point I am sure some of you(because many thousands of you are reading this…….) might be desiring for me to make some sort of definitive statement about whether Jesus was a countercultural hippie with a Che Guerrera T-Shirt on, or, that he is wearing a pinstripe power blue suit with a Rush Limbaugh button.  But I think Jesus would have very little to say about politics in general.  The focus of what He came to earth to do was not to redeem corrupt bureaucracies, but to restore the relationship between ourselves and God through His death on the cross.   

                I can make a number of strong arguments for certain political positions, and I would do so with a strong biblical sourcing.  But, the topic was who would Jesus vote for, not, who would Adam Borsay vote for.   And to specifically answer the question, I am pretty sure He would be better off just putting himself in as a write in candidate….for every position. 

                Whether you are on the far left, the far right, or somewhere in-between, I hope this challenges you to confront a few issues.  One, God does not care nearly as much about politics as you do.  And if what we are passionate about is not what God is passionate about, maybe we should reevaluate the effort we put into our political beliefs(or anything for that matter).  Two, stop waiting for the government to take care of the clearly given responsibilities that you have to serve self-sacrificially those around you.  Do not get overly concerned with the speck in your brothers eye(Matthew 7:3-5) which is the speck of him not pulling his “fair” weight in helping others, when you have a much larger plank in your own eye.   

                Here is a thought I have had that you may or may not like.  And I will end with this:

Demand socialism from yourself as you look towards, and interact, with your fellow man, but extend the right to be a rugged individualist to that same fellow man.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Welcome To The Blogoverse

  After much consideration and contemplation I have finally decided to embark into the world of blogging.  I briefly considered "vlogging", but was reminded that I have a radio stars face.....The purpose of this blog is tri-fold.

  1)  Unlike many other bloggers who try to pretend that they are very humble in their endeavors and only desire to put down a few personal thoughts for posterity's sake, I fully intend to use this as a launching pad to my career as an internationally renowned speaker, writer, and TMZ level celebrity.  This is ultimately rooted in the self-belief that I am capable of creating unique and informative commentary on a wide variety of subjects through the written word.  While time may prove this as yet unproven hypothesis as false, I will not be able to verify that until I actually attempt to accomplish something.

  2)  I desire to have a platform to expound on a variety of theological positions I maintain.  This is a two sided purpose.  One, I am an verbalizing thinker.  Meaning, I most fully grasp concepts and ideas when i am forced to express them in a way that informs and teaches others.  By having this "solid" outlet it will help to encourage me to more articulately shape and develop my theology through the influence of scripture(primarily) and of other theologians(secondarily).  Second, I would like to provide a resource for those God has blessed me with the opportunity to lead.  While I will never place myself in a position as the end all and be all of Biblical and Spiritual training, I do take the roles that I have been called to seriously, and therefore, want to help provide as many accessible resources as possible.

   3)  Finally, I want to expand the influence and reach of my pastoral role at Upper Arlington Grace Brethren Church.  While many people will tend to just ignore this blog in regards to its connection to my church, it will be a place (amongst many) that i will utilize to inform and connect to the people who have chosen to walk through the doors of our church, and to those who are considering it for the first time.

  With those three "purposes" being laid out I also want to lay out for you the expectation you can have regarding this blog.

   1) Many of my early posts will undoubtedly be nothing more than personal thoughts that may or may not be fully coherent and defensible.  But, you can fully expect me to take these potential "rough draft" ideas and more thoroughly research any given position that I may take and update accordingly.  If you have a point of contention with a statement I make, feel free to critically assess and debate it.  I welcome the opportunities to more fully develop my arguments.

    2)  Outside of cursing, I will never edit or remove a readers comments

    3)  I will address any question anyone may ask me regarding religion, christianity, truth, sex/sexuality, politics, etc.  No non-personal question will be off limits for me to respond to.

    4)  While attempting to illuminate a given subject I will also attempt to entertain.  Attempt probably being the key word.

    5)  My main influence of thought, philosophy and position will be found in scripture.  At some point I might expound upon why I believe the Bible is the most reliable source material for any position one may take, but for the purposes of reading my blog in the perspective it is intended, be aware it is written through the influence of a Scriptural Literalist Position.

  I hope you will each find this blog to be a source of helpful information and insight while still connecting in way that is engaging and entertaining.  My first "offical" blog will be "Who Would Jesus Have Voted for Last Tuesday?"  And will either be finished tonight or tomorrow.