Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Weep for Donald Sterling

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
           Matthew 7:1-2

As I have mentioned before, it is totally appropriate(and recommended) for Christians to "judge".  But what we are strongly cautioned about is the way we go about it.  This statement about judging by Jesus is directly connected to a vitally important addendum;  The measure you will use will be measured against you. 

Get it?  The way you go about judging and dealing with others will eventually be the same standard by which you find yourself measured and judged.  If you go around punching people because you don't like how they look, don't be surprised when you get punched for someone not liking how you look. 

If you haven't heard about the soap opera saga; "As the Sterling Turns; The Donald is a Jerk Saga", do yourself a favor and utilize some googlefu on that story.  But in a brief summation....

Donald Sterling is a billionaire who owns the LA Clippers.  Donald told his minority mistress that he doesn't want her publicly showing off that she is hanging around with black people.  Outrage by the media and the NBA led to his lifetime ban from the NBA, a 2.5 million dollar fine and basically  he has been forced to relinquish control of the NBA franchise that he bought in the 80's.  This summation does not also include his long documented history of his being a Class A jerk and racist who has been successfully sued for legal discrimination many times.(though those other issues never led to this result before) 

And it seems like the general consensus is that this is the right thing to do. 

Here is why it is actually a terrible omen for all of our futures.

1)  The conversation he had with his mistress was a private one that she recorded. 

Why is that a problem?:  Donald Sterling seems like a despicable human being.  But are we not allowed to be despicable in our private lives?  How would you like every single private conversation you have ever had with any person ever be accessible to anyone else to hear/read?  And then what you said in confidence, regardless of context, be used against you?

The measure you use against others will be used against you.

2)  He had his business stripped from him.

Why is that a problem?:  Donald did not break any laws.  But because his opinion of black people is unwelcomed(I hope we agree that it is a terrible opinion) it has apparently justified officially sanctioning and punishing him while literally stealing his privately owned business from him.  What if you worked in a company for 30 years and one day your boss found out that you held an unpopular opinion and he proceeded to fine you and fire you because he doesn't like how you think?

The measure you used against others will be used against you.

3)  He is, for LIFE, never allowed to go to an NBA event.

Why is that a problem?: 

Because we have decided we don't like how he thinks we have accepted that we can legally bar him from entering in to watch a public event in a public space(I believe all arenas are in some capacity funded in part by taxpayers and local municipalities).   How would you feel if you found your private views unacceptable by another group and they used their disagreement with you to legally bar you from public events?  

The measure you used against others will be used against you.

Don't get me wrong.  I have no problem with sponsors not wanting to give him money, or employees of his quitting in protest and fans refusing to attend his games.  That is within our rights to not associate with someone we don't agree with, nor, to give them money.  What is not acceptable is actively and overtly punishing him for views we don't like. 

Once we have accepted the premise that how a person thinks or feels justifies legal action(I know it is not the government punishing him, but how else do you define having money taken from him along with his business---is it voluntary??) then we all are at risk of being in the cross hairs.  Public opinion and subjective cultural morality is an ever moving standard.  Perhaps your views are completely acceptable today, but what if they aren't tomorrow? 

Christians should be outraged and opposed to the views of Donald Sterling(not to mention his adulterous relationships...), and they should also be outraged and opposed to a society that has deemed thought crime as reasonable standard for giving financial and professional punishments.  The slippery slope in our culture is getting steeper and steeper.  

The main message of Jesus when it comes to judging is that it is to be done fairly, gracefully and humbly.  What measure do we want to be held to?  The ever changing inconsistency of cultural whims, or, the never changing standard of God?

We should weep for Donald Sterling.  Not because he is a good guy unfairly being punished.  But because the way he has been punished, and the reasoning behind it, means that you could very well be next. 

Only a few days before his private thoughts were made public.....

Monday, April 28, 2014

Staying Up when the Storms Come

Confession time:  I am not a very good gymnast.  Shocking I know.... I can't do a cartwheel, swing on the uneven bars, spin on the rings, or, leap over the horse thingy and do flips as I soar gracefully over.  But you know what I can do, walk on a balance beam.

The trick to walking successfully over a balance beam is really quite simple, and somewhat non-intuitive.  Don't look down at your feet, keep your head level and look forward.  I am sure that there is some sort of neurological reason for it, but I don't like doing research, so.....just trust me...SCIENCE!  But it does make sense, when you hyper focus on the ground you are more likely to lose your sense of directive balance.  Looking at your destination is more sure-fire recipe for success. 

Life illustration moment.......You can't allow yourself to lose your forward looking focus and momentum.  We have such a tendency to become consumed by the finite moments we get ourselves into.  Tunnel vision sets in and all we can sense and know seems to be the mud we are currently standing in.  Success in life is deeply rooted in a "tomorrow" vision.  When we live only stuck in the moment of our current condition(YOLO anyone...??) we make terrible choices and get even more stuck. 

Instead, when we have a vision that takes us out of where we are right now and sees where we are heading, it becomes infinitely easier to keep moving and not get lost in the moment.  Life is full of this.  And we are so prone to forgetting the future and being consumed by the present. 

Don't misread me.  Life isn't just a destination, we do need to embrace the immediacy of each day, but we can't become controlled by today.  What is happening to you, and, in your life, right now, is NOT THE END. 

What is your future focus?

In Matthew 14 we have this beautiful story of the disciples going ahead of Jesus on a boat.  Soon a strong wind buffets the boat with waves and Jesus walks out on the water to join them.  At first the disciples are a bit disconcerted assuming they are seeing a ghost.  Jesus says, "Nope, just me fellas(my paraphrase) and Peter says let me come out to you.

Peter wants to experience the power of Jesus.  He doesn't want to just sit in the boat and observe, he wants to leap right into the miraculous.  How often we content ourselves to sitting on the boat and accepting the mundane and boring life when the miraculous is right on the other side of the bow?!?! 

And he does it!

At first.....

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

He lost his focus on the destination, saw the problems, and he sank. 

There are two places you and I often find ourselves in;  1) To afraid to run to Jesus because we only see the "danger" in getting out of the boat.  2)  We lose our courage not long after starting off and we find ourselves sometimes in a more difficult place then we were before.

You are not made to sit in the boat.  Jesus is out there, calling you to join him.  Get up.  Get going.

Don't lose focus and courage once you start.  We start with good intentions, and that is when things can get frightening.  We are out of our comfort zone, it is scarier than we thought it was.  Too often we start off in a good way, but we don't follow through.  Sell out and run to Christ.

The great thing about Grace though is that even when we lose our footing Jesus doesn't give up on us.

 "Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him"

How encouraging.  How beautiful.  How true to my own heart.  So many times I set out with great intentions, and forget who I am looking towards.  Soon I find myself in over my head and drowning.  When I call out for help there isn't a lecture, or a thoughtful discussion on my mistakes.  IMMEDIATELY Jesus reaches out His hand and catches me. 

Walk with courage towards Christ, and know that when you fall prey to the storms in your life, you are not alone.  You will be lifted back up and you can begin again.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Promises Promises

My wife has worked very hard on me for over 8 years.  By God's grace and my bride's tenacious stubbornness I have grown in many ways.  I don't "soak" the dishes in the sink for a few days, clothes get put away, I clean up BEFORE it is requested of me, and, most importantly, I am getting better at listening and not just looking for an opportunity to interject my thoughts(still got a ways to go there, but we're working on it!)

The area where I hurt my wife the most is when I didn't(and sometimes still don't) keep promises.  Nothing "huge".  Just those little ones I(and probably you) have a tendency to flippantly throw out there.  Like, I PROMISE I will remember to take out the trash, I PROMISE I will take that out of the oven in exactly 30 minutes, I PROMISE I will get "that" done tomorrow.....

Why did I break all of those promises all the time.  Because I was just making promises because I thought that is what she wanted to hear.  It's not that I didn't care about those things at all, I just cared more about her being pleased with me in that moment and how her being pleased with me made me feel good about myself.  They were self-serving promises.  And once they had served their purpose(making me feel like a good husband for giving them) they were easily forgotten as other things came up. 

She wasn't so mad about what I didn't get done, she was mad that I had promised to do them.  At the end of the day it wasn't earth shattering if I forgot to take out the trash, but it was hurtful that I had degraded my integrity and the value of my word so much. 

Why do we make these silly little promises so often?

Because we want to make people feel good about us(that's selfishness).  We care more about the promise than the task.  And we make promises that are just plain stupid to make.  There is nothing wrong with making a promise.  But we devalue a promise by making it about everything. 

A promise should be a commitment rooted deeply in selflessness, not selfishness.  IE, I promise to love you till death do us part, I promise to stand by you no matter what, etc.  When we begin to swear to every little thing that crosses our path we find ourselves constantly getting in unwinnable situations. 

Think about the boss or co-worker who never says no.  They want to be liked and be successful so they agree to take on every assignment.  And they don't complete any of them well.  Consequently, they never succeed.  I read once that to be a good leader requires the courage and integrity to say no quite liberally. 

In Matthew 5 we are told to let our yes be yes AND our no be no.  Making a bunch of oaths and promises is a terrible thing and comes from a terrible place.  It leads us no where good.

What got me thinking about all of this is the story of Herod and John the Baptist in Matthew 14.  Herod kinda likes this crazy Prophet from the wilderness, but knows he is a bit of a problem.  His wife, Herodias, wants him dead.  So she sets up a little trap.  She has her daughter(who was actually Herod's niece) do a big dance for him at his party.  We are pretty sure from the context that it was not how we say, an "appropriate for family audiences" dance.  Herod is pretty taken by it, and in front of everyone, to look magnanimous and impressive, makes an official Oath that she can have whatever she wants.  She, thanks to her mothers scheming, asks for John the Baptists head. 

Herod is trapped, he can't lose face in front of everyone.  He made an official oath.  So, he has John beheaded.

What are you making promises about?  And why are you making them?

It is time for us to stop just trying to look good and impress people.  But to actually do good and not be too concerned with the praise we may receive.  My wife doesn't need me to promise her the moon.  She just needs to know that my yes means yes and my no means no. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is it Illogical to Believe in God

I came across an interesting question on a Yahoo philosophy thread and thought I would respond...Hope you enjoy....

A being cannot be all powerful because they cannot create a rock which has the definition of being unliftable by that being. Which would imply that they cannot create something, or cannot lift something.

1st point: Are we right about what it means to be all powerful/omnipotent? Could an all powerful being create a rock they cannot lift and then proceed to lift it?

Assuming I am right about not being able to be all powerful:

One cannot be all knowing either. Because being all knowing would require the knowledge of knowing how to become all powerful, but that's not possible, so one cannot be all knowing:

2nd point: If something is impossible, can one know it? Does that fall inside the definition of knowing all things, even the impossible ones?

That's the end of the question, just one more bonus question for those who enjoy logic puzzles.

Can being all knowing be proven impossible because that would require the knowledge gained from experience of being eternally ignorant?

Thank you for your time and patience.

Update : I'm trying to generalize this a little more. Using my logic, assuming it is correct, can ANYTHING be all powerful, or omipotent if you prefer that term. And hence omniscient.

Update 2: Ok. I came here to discuss the logic, not what I am applying it to. If I wanted to talk about god, I'd be in the religious section, where I spend a part of my time anyways.

My Answer

The "flaw" in your logic is quite simple.  You are debating ideas/concepts that are not rooted in the Biblical revelation and nature of God. 

For example; If I was to tell you that cats are the worst pets and my "logic" for claiming that is due to their incessant barking my argument against cats would be invalid.  While it may be true that cats are a terrible pet, my argument against them is actually an inaccurate premise.  To appropriately argue against cats I have to actually address real facts about cats. 

To argue against the existence of God in this case(and I am assuming that you are addressing your concept of the Judeo-Christian view) you have to have a more complete understanding of what it is that this viewpoint contends is a true representation of God.  What you are contending in your "logical" question is not actually logical in the sense that you are interacting with a viewpoint of God that is not represented in scripture. 

Let me address why this particular argument is a flawed misrepresentation.

1)  You are beginning with the assumption that the Orthodox view of God is a deity who can "do" anything.  This leads you to then set up the impossible hypothesis.  A more contemporary and funnier example of this question would be, "Could Jesus heat up a burrito so hot he couldn't hold it??"

Why it's wrong: 

Scripture reveals constantly that there are "things" that God cannot do.  Specifically, He does not contradict Himself.  To put it simply, God is revealed in scripture as being Righteous.  (important to note, he doesn't ACT righteously, He is Himself righteous).  This means that His actions are at all times "Righteous".  It is IMPOSSIBLE for him to be Unrighteous.  This doesn't mean we always immediately grasp how a specific act we observe is Righteous.  But to logically argue against God(as you are attempting to do) requires recognizing what it is actually claimed about God.

To follow the Biblical logical understanding of God when addressing the "heavy boulder" question we have to first recognize that God(as described in the Bible) is "limited" in the sense that He will not act in contradiction to His nature.  Inherent in this understanding is that God is Himself logical, AND, the source for which logic is derived(you don't have to agree with this personally, but again, it is what God is actually described as, and that is the what you have tasked yourself with arguing against).  Therefore, if God is incapable of acting "illogically" creating silly hypotheticals that demand that He act against His nature and then using His inability to act against Himself as proof of His non-existence is an illogical position.

The only thing these sorts of questions reveal is that Truth and Logic are consistent and unbreakable. 

2)  You question the general concept of "all-knowing" and use your personal understanding/definition to undermine the possibility of a deity being all knowing.

Why it's wrong:

If there is someone/something that is all knowing we can also assume that you and I are not that person.  So, simply put, to try to conceptualize the idea of a being immeasurably beyond ourselves becomes a practice of the absurd. 

To be more specific towards your question we have to first go back to the original idea of God as described in Scripture and to also identify what we even mean by "knowledge".

If we are going to try to conceptualize God's knowledge we have to again deal with what it is we are actually interacting with.  The Biblical view of God details how God is not bound by time, space, existence in the same capacity we are.  He is described (to paraphrase) as being "outside" of time.  When we then take our limited and linear concept of acquiring knowledge and in some way try to apply a similar form of knowledge to the Biblical God we are going to be wildly off the mark. 

So while you and I experience knowledge as the ongoing process of "discovering" new truths and then also acquiring the appropriate knowledge required to accurately apply this new knowledge, this is not how the Biblical God is described.  Because of this linear and increasing process of seeking and acquiring knowledge that we experience, we have developed a notion that around every new corner we will discover new knowledge(we may not say so explicitly but we behave as if this is so).  This fundamental approach to knowledge develops within us a sense of with enough time and research we can always discover something new. 

In an indirect way you are applying and trying to retrofit this temporal idea of knowledge to the Biblical concept of God.  When we ask, can He have enough knowledge to know how to do something that is logically impossible(lifting an impossibly heavy boulder), we are assuming that there is no "end" to the process of acquiring knowledge.

Returning to point 1; God is Logic, and limited by His very nature.  It would be theologically and biblically incorrect to discuss God as learning new things.  Especially things that are inherently illogical.  This would be a direct contradiction to Himself. 

Let me use a silly analogy to illustrate the illogicalness(?) of this argument:
Could you plug an extension cord into itself and therefore provide yourself with unlimited and free energy?  Of course not.  Physics/electricity/nature are limited by their fundamental laws and realities.  No matter how much we study, and how many ways we learn to reconstruct the workings of the extension cord, we will never create a self-powering extension cord.

Knowledge, by definition, is limited to things that are actually knowable.  You can't "knowledge" your way into things that don't exist.  So could God, as described as being "all-knowing, have knowledge of things that contradict actual reality and Himself?  No, because logic dictates that knowledge is limited to things that are actually true.

Ultimately, while your questions are interesting, they are inherently illogical because they are arguing against an idea of God that is incomplete and not rooted in the description of God in the Bible.  If you are instead arguing; So, if someone said "this" kind of deity exists, here is why it is impossible....then your argument would be logical.  But you do not do that. 


Monday, April 21, 2014

Where's My Healing?

The biggest cause of significant health problems in the US today is behavior.  Heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, etc, are all deeply entwined with personal choices.  And those are just some of the major categories of diseases that require significant medical intervention.  We can go on and on and on about the myriad of ways we willingly compound our problems and compromise our health KNOWINGLY making bad health choices. 

Now, I am no scientist, nor am I a doctor.  But I am also not an idiot.  Observation of what is happening all around us is quite clear if we are willing to open up our eyes and use our brains.  Our family has recently entered into the gluten free world.  And let me tell you what a difference just a few weeks can make.  Sleeping better, feeling better, no headaches, need less caffeine to function.  If you are interested in the many ways that it can affect you neurologically you should read the book, "Grain Brain"

Again, I AM NOT A DOCTOR!!!  So, do yourself a favor and take a hard look at your own lifestyle.  How many things to do you choose to do that you KNOW aren't good for you?  Compound those choices over years and decades and where are you going to end up?  Not anywhere good. 

So why do we continually make bad choices even when we know clearly that there are consequences?

The problem is not a lack of knowledge and information, it is a problem of the heart!

Fundamentally there is something broken with us.  And it just isn't our physical health.  Every day we make self-centered and ultimately "bad" choices even when we know better.  Ever been in an argument with a significant other and you knew before you said something that you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT SAY IT?!?!?!  And then you did????  I mean, not that I would ever do that..... 

Our problem is a deep rooted in, soul level, problem.  And until we address the brokenness of our inner selves we will always be in an uphill battle against our bad choices.

In Matthew 13 Jesus begins to teach in parables.  His disciples, confused by his "confusing" style of teaching ask him why He is doing it.  To respond he quotes Isaiah...."You will keep hearing, but will not understand; you will keep seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become DULL.....Otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, AND I would heal them"--Matthew 13:14-15

What do we need to get better?  To be healed?  To have our hearts changed.  Not just made a bit better, or, a bit healthier, but to become completely new! 

This past week we celebrated Easter.  Easter is the center of the Gospel.  Death was defeated by the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  What does this mean?  What is the inherent promise that is found in this act of total victory?  That because of Christ, our dead and unperceiving hearts can be brought to new life.  A life that can see, hear and experience healing!

When we allow God to change our hearts it is in Him that our choices begin to change permanently.  Instead of just jumping through a few specific hoops for an allotted period of time, our fundamental identity is something brand new.  We like to go on spiritual "diets" where we improve our behavior for a period of time.  But then we always come back to where we used to be.  This is because we never really perceived the depth of our problem. 

Stop lying to yourself.  Where you are is not good enough.  You have problems and issues that are compounding in your life every day.  You don't need better habits, you need a different heart.  And you can't build that yourself.  Only He can. 

And He will

We know what we need to change, but we can't seem to change it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Starvation Diets Don't Work

Our bodies are miraculous things.  Always working, always thinking.  The body is a very logical machine.  It responds to, and prepares for, the things we do to it.  As more and more science confirms, how we eat, what we eat, when we eat, all can have profound affects upon the body.  At the center of all of this is one simple truth; Good food in, healthy body, bad food in, unhealthy body. 

Do you want to lose weight?  It's not about cutting calories, its about changing the very way you eat.  When we eat poorly our body responds to that by storing unhealthy stuff and our very cellular makeup health is diminished.  When we eat in a healthy way, we get healthy at a cellular level! 

The very worst thing you can do is to crash diet.  So many people starve themselves for long periods of time to lose weight.  And it works.  Stop eating for a few days and I guarantee you will lose weight.  And I won't even charge you 19.99 for that advice.  That ones for free!

So if it works, why is it so bad?

Our bodies are amazing machines.  It operates in response to what you are doing to it.  When you starve your body everything begins to shut down to survive.  And, what little it does get, it holds onto greedily.  So, after losing your desired weight, you start eating again.  Often, just like you were eating before.  But now your body has been tricked into hoarding.  Instead of dealing with the new influx of food efficiently it stores as much as it can possibly get to prepare it for what it assumes is some more starvation around the bend.

And so you gain it all back...and more than likely, gain even more.

So you starve again.

And you gain even more again.

Do you need a personal and visual illustration of this?  Check out the before and after photos of people who won the "Biggest Loser".  It is amazing how much weight they lose.  Now, look up photos of those people a year after the competition.  They have nearly all gained it back.  Why?  Because they weren't actually living and eating realistically.  The tricked their bodies into losing weight temporarily.  They didn't actually change their core lifestyle to create permanent health changes.

 Our physical realities are mirror images of our spiritual realities.  We often approach sin with this zero sum game mindset.  There are no fundamental forever changes taking place.  For brief periods of time we just eliminate sin.  And for a while it works.  We get our spiritual bodies prepared for Bikini Season, then we get lazy again.  Soon, it is all back.  Many times worse than it was before.

"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives it finds the house UNOCCUPIED, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that man is worse than the first"
          -  Matthew 12:43-45

Key word here; Unoccupied. 

We do good at starving our sin nature.  It is easy, for a period of "dieting" to eliminate sin behaviors.  Drink to much?  We stop going out for a few weekends.  Struggling with sexual sin?  Turn off the internet and stop returning those "phone calls" for a while.  And then we say, look, I am doing great!  And then we find ourselves right back where we started.

Like misguided yo-yo dieters we approach our spiritual health with the belief that simple elimination will fix the problem.  And the real solution is the same;  Change your diet permanently.

I have lost over 100 pounds in the last few years.  How?  I do not live like I used to.  Vegetables are a part of every meal.  Candy and treats are barely apart of my diet ever.  I fill up on healthy food all day long and it causes me to actually not crave bad food.  But, every time I go without food for a long period of time I find myself eating crappy food again.  The solution is to keep healthy food always going in.  When I do that, there is no room for the bad stuff. 

Jesus is teaching us an important truth.  It is one thing to get sin out of your life.  But if you don't fill up on Him, it will just come back.  Leaving your heart unoccupied is the sure fire way to invite any and all crap into it. 

Stop starving yourself to be Holy.  Start filling up on the good stuff.  Jesus said, Taste and see that I am good!  Just like changing your eating habits, it might be a challenge, but once you adjust, the bad stuff will make you feel sick to your stomach.

Sound familiar....spiritually?

Monday, April 14, 2014

When God's Will Is Difficult

One of our cultures greatest weaknesses is our unwillingness to deal with anything that makes us uncomfortable.  We seek out friendships, voices, activities that reinforce what we already want to believe and do.  Challenges are just too.....challenging.  A common refrain is that we want people to just accept us just as we are.  Which is itself a philosophy built upon the premise that the way we currently are is perfectly fine and acceptable.  Of course there are other people who should change, but not us, we are just fine.

This has bled deeply into the American Christian identity.  We proof text scripture to affirm ourselves.  Jesus is bent and twisted to conform to fitting into a that "celebrates" whatever it is we already have decided in our hearts to do.  Or, we just ignore Him all together and pursue whatever it is we want. 

The will of God is a difficult thing to grasp and pursue.  Often, we falsely assume the will of God is that we are to be "happy".  And if things fall outside of that spectrum we claim to be following the will of God by jettisoning it.  As a 30 something year old Pastor I can tell you of multiple stories of people, who claim to be Christian, who are leaving/left their spouse because they weren't "happy".  And since God clearly WANTS them to be happy, it is God's will that they abandon their vows.....

When did God's will become a tool to achieve personal happiness???

There is something very interesting when you study the immediate effects of following God's will in Scripture; It is really difficult and often unenjoyable.  Perhaps you can set me straight, but I cannot think of an event in the Bible where following the Will of God led to some sort of immediate personal satisfaction and "happiness".  Paul followed God's will to great personal trials.  Abraham gave up comfort to follow after God to a place he knew nothing about.  Jesus submitted to the Father's will, even to the death.

"Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done" 
            - Matthew 26:42

Even Jesus, when seeing what the immediate experience of following God's will was, prayed for another path. 

Following God's will is never easy.

But it is always worth it.  It is always the best.

Catch this important line in this passage, "if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it..."  God's will was deeply rooted in dealing with a deep problem.  Sin.  Sin had to be dealt with.  It had to be defeated.  And the cup of God's wrath that Jesus is referencing had to be drunk.  Either by Jesus, or, by us. 

And that is the beautiful thing about God's will for us.  What He calls us to isn't pointless and without immeasurable value.  It is the exact perfect and right answer to our problem.  If Jesus had not submitted to God's will, as difficult as it was to follow, the beauty of salvation would not be ours.  Sin would not be defeated, death would have the final triumph. 

When you think about God's will in your life, are you willing to drink whatever it is that He has for you?  Or do you only want that which gives you what you want?  God's will is what will lead us to the beauty that our hearts ache for.  But it is often a path that is much more difficult than what selfishness and shortsightedness desires. 

Are you looking for just right now, or, for always?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Problem With Our Hearts

Behavior modification is all the rage in religion.  When you study the main precepts of any religion it is deeply tied to behavior.  Do this, don't do that.  To be a good "whatever" requires certain behavior markers that prove on the surface that you are what you claim to be.  At its heart is the idea that we, through our own strength, can perform acts of righteous justification.  Our self-evaluation, and the evaluation of others, becomes rooted in these measurables.  It seems so simple, so obtainable, so righteous.

But behavior modification is a load of baloney. 

My kids do not behave in the manner that I wish they would.  They are selfish, disobedient, difficult, whiny, frustrating.  Anyone who has raised kids could probably list some pretty funny scenarios where their kids bad behavior caused a bit of embarrassment.  Every day we go back to the drawing board of doing our best to shape and direct their behavior so that they can grow up to not get themselves put in jail. 

What I, and all parents, need to recognize is that bad behavior is not just bad behavior.  It is an outflow of the heart.  My son doesn't just need to stop telling us that we make "gisgusting" food as he pushes his plate angrily away.  He needs to have his heart, his innermost being, changed to WANT to honor his parents and be obedient.  I am bigger and stronger than him(for now) and I could absolutely force his behavior in a more appealing direction.  But what happens when I am no longer stronger and he lives on his own? 

In Matthew 12:34 Jesus has an insightful line, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart."  This whole section in Matthew is Jesus confronting the Pharisees in their behavior modification priorities at the expense of peoples hearts.  Your actions, in a vacuum, are not what honors God.  Your heart is what God seeks. 

So how do we change hearts?

"Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul so that you may live"--Deuteronomy 30:6

Religions love to talk about what you have to do to be good enough.  Jesus talks about what God is going to do so that you will be seen as righteous.  Behavior modification will only take us so far.  The fundamental change of our hearts will change our behavior forever. 

When we look at our lives and hearts we can see, when we are honest, so much sin and absurdity.  Quick to anger, bitterness, infidelity of heart and behavior, jealousy, etc.  And we can exhaust ourselves constantly trying to combat it.  There are little victories of course, but the war is always keeping us back on our heels.  God's promise is that the war is over, the victory is won, our hearts will be changed.  But only when we allow ourselves to have our hearts circumcised by Him.

Do you know you need to change?  Are there behaviors and sins that you just can't seem to get real control over?  Come to the Cross.  This isn't just some sort of philosophical theorizing, it is practical and true.  Repent and believe, the Kingdom is near. 


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jesus Christ "Superstar".....?

We have a lot of "Jesus Movements" today.  I put the preceding term in quotations because I am a bit skeptical about how Jesusesy(?) they really are.  In my typical way I have done in depth scientific research into the types of movements that are currently out there in the landscape today.  This is not necessarily an exhaustive list, but hopefully a good starting point...

Kum Bay Yah Jesus Movement:

This is a real popular one today.  This Jesus Movement is marked by lots of Social Justice stuff.  The Jesus you find here has a few clear characteristics;  Kind, gentle, non-judgemental, tolerant, just wants everyone to get along.....  Passages about hell and sin are generally jettisoned, ignored, or wildly re-interpreted due to how they create a lot of contradiction with the characteristics that this Jesus is known for. 

Within the Kum Bay Yah Jesus Movement there appears to be a low view of Scripture.  But, you can't say that, because their claim is that by reinterpreting the Orthodox historical understanding of things like sin and hell they are actually the ones with the high view.  The ambiguous concept of "love" is the driving theological framework for interpreting scripture.  The irony of this(which I can leave for another post to unpack) is that this newly defined "high" view of scripture requires us to accept that for 2000 years no one was ever capable of reading the Bible correctly.  The whole time God must have been so frustrated with all our mistakes, but, lo, a miracle occurred.  Modern professors and "theologians" finally arrived to set the record straight for God.  He must be so relieved!  I feel so bad for those uninformed bigots from 200 years ago because they are going straight to hell(if this movement believed in that.....)

Health and Wealth/Name it Claim it Jesus Movement

At least this movement gets things about sin right.  What do they get wrong.....This Jesus is a great buddy to have around.  His main purpose in your life at this moment is to make everything "Awesome!!!!"  Are you dying, pray.  Are you sick, pray.  Did another tribe just genocide nearly your entire people  And, if things don't work out in just the right way, you aren't praying enough, or have enough faith, or, have unrepented sin...probably related to not giving enough......

Even though Jesus died horrifically, and, Paul had a miserable experience, and pretty much every apostle died in unmentionably cruel ways...while generally being broke....This Jesus clearly says you are better than those Patriarchs of the Faith, because everything will be awesome. 

Can God heal, and bless, and do miracles in your life?  Of course!!!  But, pretty sure Jesus didn't come to Earth so your legs are the same length again....

Legalist Jesus Movement

This is the easiest Jesus to understand, and the hardest to combat.  Legalist Jesus is all about you cleaning up your act to prove your righteousness.  Which is really appealing to us in so many ways.  We like to see the goals and the hoops we need to achieve and jump through.  One, because it gives us a sense of personal self-worth when we accomplish it, and, two, it allows us to compare ourselves to other people...mostly how we are better than them.

This movement reads the Bible as a "how to" book on Self-Righteousness.  They like to sprinkle in a bit about Grace, and salvation by Faith, but in practice, its all in how you act.  It is a difficult challenge to address because it is hard to argue with the Bible saying, "Thou Shall Not".  Clearly you don't want to advocate for actively sinning, but it is hard to address what Grace really means.

The John 12:20-36 Jesus Movement

So how do we combat all of these false movements?  By seeing what Jesus said He was all about.  Throughout his ministry we keep getting this interesting refrain about it not being time yet.  And, then, in this passage, He says, "The Hour has Come".  Everything He was doing was simply a precursor to what His purpose and ministry was all about.  They were simple foreshadowings of the ultimate work and goal of Christ.

To Die.

To suffer.

To submit Himself fully to the will of the Father. 

To be the vessel by which God's justice, wrath and righteousness would be poured out upon.

To be the answer to our hopelessness. 

And answer not found in social justice movements, or healthier lifestyles and bigger houses, or, better ability to be self-righteous.  But an answer found in His death and His death alone.

The entirety of His ministry was to point people to the work of the Cross.  Did he heal, bless, love, serve?  Yes. But those acts were rooted in the promise of the Gospel.  Not as themselves alone having stand alone value.  The promise of the Gospel, the finished work on the Cross, is that God's covenantal promise with His people is that ALL things will be made new. 

A movement of Christians should be shaped, not by outward activities, but, by the purpose of Christ;  To die because of sin, for our sake.  And that is what leads to behaviors that foreshadow and give the foretaste to a desperate world what the Gospel is all about. 

If our message is not Christ Crucified, then we have no message.  And if we forget why Christ was crucified, we also have no message. 

What movement will you be a part of?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Jesus Loves You, But Not in the Way You Want

I really like my kids just the way they are.  I wouldn't want them to be anyone else.  Even their bad behavior is uniquely them, and, in its own way, precious to me.  The other day my son was mad at me and said he didn't want to live with me anymore.  When I asked where he would go he told me he was moving to Hawaii.  But he wasn't going to do that until he was grown up.  BUT once he was there I wasn't allowed to live with him, but I could visit at Christmas.  So, as punishment, my son was promising to move out when he was an adult(yayyyyy!!!), move to Hawaii(double yayyyy), and, let me visit for holidays(yippeeee). 


My kids are unique, precious and loved by me just the way they are.  But they better not stay this way.  I refuse to be changing diapers for my daughter before she goes of to college.  I will lose it if my future 20 year old son pushes away his dinner plate and yells at his mother that her food is Guhstusting.  I love them right now, just the way they are, and I am working every day to see them grow and change. 

In the Gospel of John, chapter 12, we have the "Triumphant Entry" by Jesus into Jerusalem.  The whole town comes out to see the miracle warrior, the messiah!  Even Christ's enemies feel overwhelmed by his support with the masses and are at a loss of how to deal with it.  But a few days later these same crowds cry for his crucifixion. 

What happened?

Jesus didn't go along with their plans for themselves. 

For hundreds of years the Jewish people had not been a free nation.  Always a vassal state, never a State.  People like Herod were appointed as their local "kings" and their benevolent rulers taxed the daylights out of them.  This is not what the people wanted.  This is not who they believed themselves to be.  They were the children of the Abrahamic covenant.  Not a bunch of oppressed minorities. 

In the century leading up to Jesus' arrival there had been a number of self-proclaimed messiahs.  They would lead somewhat successful rebellions against the powers that be after gathering a large group of "believers/supporters".  It was easy to start a rebellion with the Jewish people.  They were nationalistic, jingoistic and fairly racist.  They had decided that their identity as God's chosen people meant that they were supposed to be the dominant nation and they should crush their enemies.  While they had spent a few hundred years with the short end of the stick, they were waiting for the day when the true messiah would come to them and throw off the shackles of their oppressors.

They, and only they, were righteous and good.  And all things from God were about them.  Their vision of the future is that they did everything right and they wanted God to come to them and make it easier for them to bask in their own greatness as His people.  There was no sense of maybe they had misunderstood the ultimate goal of the Abrahamic covenant, or, its eternal purpose.  It was all about them and only them. 

Jesus was the next great hope for realizing this goal.  He was going to come in and beat up those Romans and establish the Davidic line for all time.  What did Jesus do?  Rode in on a donkey, didn't start a revolution with the thousands canting for him, and peacefully allowed them to lead him off to his execution.  Jesus didn't play their game the way they wanted to play it.  And they hated him for it.

You and I are like this in so many ways.  We like our lives just the way they are.  We want to think, feel and behave just the way we always have.  And if someone challenges us they are intolerant, mean, jerks, etc.  And we want a Jesus who not only complies with this vision of ourselves, but we want Him to help bring it to pass.  The lie we believe is that we are basically just fine exactly as we are, we just need to spice the recipe up with a decent dose of Jesusness. 

Jesus comes in and says, "I love you just the way you are in this moment, but it is not the way you should be, and not the way that, with me, you can be".  We hate that.  Who does he think he is questioning my actions, my beliefs, my lifestyle?

Who does He think He is?......God

My kids are great and I love them in this very moment more than I thought it was possible to love someone.  But I love them too much to be the dad they demand that I be sometimes.  They will not eat candy for every meal.  They will not skip bed time and brushing their teeth.  They can't watch Breaking Bad before they are at least....I don't know....7... ?  Is that a good age for that...?

Are you ready to be loved in a real and life changing way?  Stop demanding that God love you on your terms.  Experience being loved on the terms of the only person who is actually capable of loving perfectly.  Mostly since He IS love.  And guess what, you are going to find out that a lot of what you want for yourself and want Him to do is going to not be what you get.....BECAUSE He does love you.

I've always been confused.  Since His head apparently was always glowing, how come they didn't know who he was???

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Theology Vs. Love

This post is borrowing elements and insights from John Pipers book, "Think:  The Life of the Mind and the Love of God"(specifically chapters 5-7).  It is a good and challenging read that I encourage anyone to pick up for themselves.

Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If the blogs are to be believed there is a great war within Christendom about the heart and future of the Church.  Heated exchanges between multiple camps draw distinct lines that say, "If you do not agree with this, you are out!"  Every public utterance has a response.  Each response receives a response.  And each response to a response receives a.....response. 

For most Christians who are not well versed in Scripture and Theology they are left to throw up their hands and say, "What about love?"  And even more difficult to understand is the perception of the damage to the Church's witness all the infighting seems to create. 

So, what do we do?  Do we step out of the debates and focus on Love?  Do we create new coalitions and draw bolder lines that all who step outside are no longer a part of the Church proper? 

Let me contend with you.  To avoid important theological debates is diametrically opposed to Love, AND, it may be important to draw more distinct lines of what it means to be a Christian.  And, to not do so is to bastardize beyond recognition the whole concept of Love.

Perhaps you find this confusing or offensive.  The whole idea that "dry and sterile" theological debate is a primary source for proper love is difficult for you to swallow.  Is not Jesus' greatest command to Love God and Love your Neighbor?  How do theological debates fit into that framework?

It fits perfectly.

How can you actually love someone when you do not know anything true about them?  You might love the "concept" or the "idea" about them, but you do not love THEM.  If my wife would ask me, "Why do you love me?"  It would be hurtful and ridiculous if I began to describe things that I love about her that are the actual opposite of who she is.  If I would tell her that one of the things I love about her is her dark straight hair, she would probably wonder what woman I was really describing because she is a natural curly headed blonde!  Or, what if I described the color of her eyes wrong, or had no actual idea what her favorite book/movie/date etc are?  Each wildly incorrect statement would be a dagger to her heart because it would tell her that I haven't really taken the time to actually know her and love her for her.

How can we love God, and love others, if we do not know what is true about them? Or, if we deny that which is true about them and only love them in the way WE want them to be?   The heart of sin starts in the garden with, "Did God REALLY say that?"  And from there we begin to craft God after our own image, instead of being shaped into His. 

So what about the greatest commandment?  It says its all about Love, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, because Loving God is at the heart of repentance and redemption.  No, because we do what I just described, love on our own terms, not His.  Which is no real love at all.

To understand this passage when it comes to loving our neighbors we cannot miss an important point.  The second command is LIKE the first.  Not the same as.  Not a perfect copy.  But like.  The way it is constructed is that it indicates that loving your neighbor is an outflow of the first commandment.  When you fulfill the first, you will be able to fulfill the second.  Conversely, if you do not fulfill the first, you cannot fulfill the second.

The first commandment is very important to grasp in its entirety as well.  It says to love the Lord your God with all of your Heart, Mind and Strength.  But what we miss in the English is the Greek verb usage in this passage.  The primary outflow of love is FROM our Heart.  The mechanism's by which we love in our heart is our Mind, AND we are to do so with great vigor(strength).  Meaning, to love God with all of our heart REQUIRES the work of the mind.  And to do so with commitment and dedication. 

This means that to fulfill the second command we must first love God out of an outflow of thinking truthfully and rightly about Him as a discipline of the use of our intellect.   How can we love truthfully when we desire to create our own truth and characteristics about Him and even deny those truths that He Himself has stated about Himself?

We cannot.

You do not have to agree with any position that the Bible gives.  But do not deny what the Bible says and say you are loving God.  They are intellectually diametrically opposed.  How can you say to your spouse, "I love you, as long as you are the opposite of what you really are?"

This is why, as troubling as it can be currently, the debates about Theology are essential.  To know and defend the truth about God is at the heart of Loving God, and therefore, Loving others.  Perhaps you disagree on some point or another, and that is ok.  Let's go to the Word and figure it out.  Because being right about Truth is of the utmost importance.  For both of us.  But let us have no more of this criticism of peoples criticism.  it is right and good to correct that which is incorrect FOR the sake of Love.