Thursday, October 30, 2014

Partially Seen, Fully True

"For now we see through a glass, darkly"-1 Corinthians 13:12

We do not know the future.  Regardless to what the tabloids and 1-800-pyschic commercials may tell you our ability to fully discern the future is pretty much impossible.  In the 13th chapter of Corinthians Paul is imploring his readers to live lives defined by sacrificial love.  And the motivation and encouragement for such love is the picture of the eternal hope we have from the receiving of the greatest sacrificial love that was freely given on the cross. 

But Paul uses this phrase to illustrate the reality; We can barely make out what that future looks like from our current vantage point.  Yet our hope in what we can see can be rooted in its being fully true.  While the absolute clarity of tomorrow's promise is dimly seen, the markers we pass along the way in the present point us towards the future moment when it will not be seen darkly, but in glorious light.

If we are indeed imprinted with the DNA of eternity as image bearers of God, then we will have an innate sense of seeing eternity through the dimly lit glass of our present.  And it would stand to reason that the experiences of our lives would leave markers and evidences of this eternal design.

Over the past few weeks we have been studying the book of Ruth at church and it concludes with a genealogy.  While genealogies are typically boring affairs and most of us fly right past them when we come across them in the Bible I think they serve two important purposes...

1- They place the narrative of Scripture in history.  The names mentioned are not just mythology, but traceable individuals and families that point to the reliability and historicity of Scripture.  While they are not always written to be an "exact" account of a family tree, they do not make up people to fill in the gaps. 

2-  Genealogies serve to illustrate the on going story and purpose of human life that extends beyond our finite personal mortal coil.  Dogs do not care who their great grand dog is, nor, do they care who their great grandchild dog is.  Nor do other animals.  Yet humans are intimately aware and find value in such family connections.  For good and bad we see and intrinsically desire an observable place on the timeline of eternity.

If we are indeed made in the image of an eternal God than this is logical.  And, it would be logical for Scripture as a reliable testimony to the character, person and nature of God, to contain elements that point towards these truths. 

If we are nothing more than a pile of accidental DNA than death, lineage, family, etc, would have little influence on our state of emotions.  The only value we would place on life, and ours specifically, would be for personal enjoyment and the impetus to procreate our DNA in some form.  And when those two standards(enjoyment and DNA passage) become limited, or, eliminated, it would be reasonable to no longer value such a life. 

But even at our societal worse we cannot fully embrace such folly. 

As much as we try to deny it we are powerfully affected by things that happen to people out of our sphere of relationship.  Genocide is heartbreaking.  Murder is shocking.  Death is feared.  But in a society that is hell bent to disassociate ourselves from the eternal nature of life we try to philosophically justify evaluating the value of life by subjective standards that diminish the beauty of life as a whole.

I recently wrote about two significant indicators of this cultural "evolution".  Society is trying to have its cake and eat it to.  We intrinsically sense a need to value life objectively, yet we try to justify valuing it subjectively when it suits some limited moment.  This is the fertile soil of a culture of death. 

Either ALL LIFE is of significant value that is not possible to be measured by some sort of "standard"


NO LIFE is intrinsically valuable and worthy of protection.  It is only subjectively so as long as the math lines up.....

We cannot know what the future holds because we see through a dimly lit glass.  There is no fool proof formula that proves that it all "works out".  But our internal selves, as affirmed in Scripture, point us towards the truth that life has a value that is impossible to measure.

When Ruth and Boaz got married they didn't do so because they were promised some great future if they would just do something difficult.  They did what was right and what honored God and life.  Through a dimly lit glass they chose life and a future knowing only that moving forward with God was the only way to see what would one day be on the other side.  They never saw what came of their marriage(King David and Jesus), and oftentimes neither will we.

But God does.

Just because you can't see the future, doesn't mean it doesn't exist

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Gives Life Value?

Utilitarian philosophy is influencing our culture much more than we probably realize.  In a very short nutshell---it is simply the idea that the value of choices, things, people, etc, are deeply tied to their "usefulness".  This is shaped by some evolutionary and naturalistic assumptions that measure choices by the tangible benefit they provide for the "species". 

As this thinking has subtly seeped into our collective conscience we have begun to accept and practice thoughts and behaviors that even 100 years ago would have been generally reprehensible.  As the modernity of the 20th century reached its zenith forced sterilization, abortion, locking mentally challenged people away for their entire lives, etc, began to become acceptable(if "hidden") practices.  If you want some more information just google, "Eugenics". 

You might argue that we aren't acting so brazenly anymore.  When was the last time you heard about someone being forcefully sterilized?  While it might be true that we don't have national programs actively designed to pre-emptively deal with these "unsavory" genetic wastrels, the internal philosophy that gave rise to such policies has become deeply entrenched in the way we approach our valuation of life.

In the past few months we have seen witness to two stories that publicly exhibit this mindest;

29 year old Brittany Maynard is choosing suicide due to receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.

A mother has publicly stated that she wishes she had aborted her adult son with down syndrome.

Wait wait wait you say!!!!  How can I "judge" their decisions???  I haven't walked in their shoes!  I don't know their struggles!!!

You are right, I do not know either of these hurting women personally.  But if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and, kills its young like a's a duck. 

What is on clear display in these stories(and the thousands of related ones we DON'T hear about) is that we have accepted a philosophical school of thought that measures value by extremely utilitarian standards.  For Brittany, her life loses value, and therefore, purpose, to continue on, when she reaches a point of no longer being "her".  For the mother of a downs child, her child does not contribute in a material way to her life and her family and so it would have been better to have killed him before he was born. 

Are we forcefully executing people society deems "unworthy"?  No.  But we have bought into a belief that life has a very limited value that it is subjectively evaluated. 

In the case of Brittany some people have argued that she should hold on because beautiful things can happen even at the end.  While this may be true, I think it is accepting the terms of debate established by the subjective morality proponents.  Namely, that life has value when it "accomplishes" something.  It is holding up another false measuring stick that compares and contrasts tangible benefits to tangible costs. 

Either life, and the living of it, has intrinsic and immeasurable value beyond our limited scope of observation, or, life is nothing more than a series of mathematical equations.  Once we as a society accept someone's subjective standard of what makes their life valuable, we have accepted that all of life is subjectively valuable.  And therefore, some life is more valuable than other lives. 

And, if we accept that premise, who is the final arbiter that decides which lives are of greater and more important value than others? 

When we accept the argument that "this" life is worthy to be eliminated, than the standard by which ANY OTHER LIFE can be potentially ended has been established. 

Life is an immeasurably complex, beautiful and eternally imprinted experience that can never be measured by limited contemporary standards.

This mother thinks she should have killed this son..........

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Don't Be Forgotten

Upon the tumultuous sea of human experience the common shared impulse is to defeat the march of time and to last forever.  Whether through the endowing of personal legacies, or, the collective pursuit of cultural timeless towers we all find ourselves investing in a future that will outlive the oldest of us. 

The Pyramids have stood for thousands of years, nations pride themselves on the longevity of their history, the earliest collective human endeavor recorded in the Bible was to build a great Tower so that their name and people would last forever.  The men who shook nations are remembered for millennia, the inventions that changed life as we knew it influence each successive generation to come. 

Here comes some bad new...You will not build a pyramid.  You will not establish a new nation that will stand for centuries.  And if you are reading this you probably are not working on the next great invention.  What is your lasting legacy?

In Ruth chapter 4 we are introduced to a new "important" gentleman.  While Ruth has previously approached Boaz as her Kinsmen Redeemer there is another legally more appropriate person that must first be addressed.  Being an honorable and righteous man Boaz goes to the city gates(the place where business takes place) and waits for this man. 

But there is a very important point to take note of regarding this person.  Though he plays heavily in the narrative of chapter 4, and is even given a speaking role in the story, his name is never mentioned.  He is forgotten, an afterthought, a bit character that is listed in the movie credits as "man at gate". 


I would argue that it is because he refused his calling.  He had a moral and legal obligation to Naomi and Ruth to take on Ruth as his wife and to start a family with her and provide and protect her for the rest of her life.  But it would have potentially put him out, so he declined. 

While you are probably not weighing the pros and cons of marrying a young widowed pagan woman who is currently taking care of her widowed mother-in-law, you do have a calling in your life.  You are made in a beautiful and wonderful way.  You are unique and gifted in ways that no one else has ever been.  God has called you to Himself for a purpose that is much more than you can envision.

Yet most of us will be forgotten.

Have you ever asked yourself, "What is it that God is calling ME to"?  Have you ever sat and talked with other believers about the decisions in your life so that you can prayerfully seek God's will with your brothers and sisters?

If not, why not? 

God is probably not calling any of us to build a Pyramid, or, found a nation.  But the simple call to honor God and serve others who God has brought into your life are the foundations of a lasting legacy.  Boaz didn't marry Ruth to birth a King.  He married Ruth to honor God and to love a woman in need.  And their grandson was King David, and their many great grandsons later was Jesus. 

Boaz didn't wake up that morning to change the world.  He went forward to do what HE SHOULD do in the moments before him. 

What about you?  What small moments do you need to seek God first, and you last? 

Not all Pyramids leave a lasting legacy.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Theological Truth and Behavioral Lies

I have a good friend that I think the world of.  But there are a few....small....issues that he has.  He is a bully, a drunk, he made a pass at my wife, he is a criminal, he tortures small animals, and, well, a bunch of other stuff like that.  To be honest, I am fairly embarrassed when people start talking about all of his faults with me.  When they really press me about why I continue to allow this behavior to continue and why I never stand up to him I luckily have a fantastic answer that shuts those "haters" right up!

He is a huge Buckeye fan!!!!

Sure, he is a bad guy, but at least he cheers for the right team.  Now, if he happened to cheer for a more Northern school, clearly I would have a completely different approach to dealing with him.  But as long as I can pencil him in for being for the "Right Team" then I am fairly comfortable on ignoring the rest........

Mark Driscoll has recently resigned from his position at the church he co-founded amid a swirl of controversy and confusion.  Without trying to bullet point all the sordid details here, the question we have to ask ourselves in the midst of all of this is; "How did it get to this???"

Knee Jerk reactionism is possibly the single worst way to develop Theological or Doctrinal positions.  Whenever we create a position, or promote a "champion" as a reaction to an observed "problem" we run a great risk of making bad decisions in our haste and desire to correct the problem. 

For the Orthodox(I recognize this is a loaded, yet undefined in this context, word) Church the 20th and 21st centuries in America have been a trying time.   At the beginning of the 20th century topics like; Biblical Inerrancy, Biblical Sexual Ethics, Creation, etc were virtually unchallenged.  If you had asked someone in 1900 if they knew of any churches, or, pastors, who taught that the Bible wasn't trustworthy, or, that salvation wasn't from Christ alone, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who taught in opposition to that.  Today, you could throw a stone out your window and hit someone who listens to a Pastor, attends a Church, or reads "academic" material, that reject these historically consistent positions. 

With the advent of the internet and social media these fringe views began to exponentially increase.  For many traditional Christians there was a great desire to see someone effectively articulate a message and Theology to combat this.  Enter Mark Driscoll.

Whatever you may think of him, he was effective.  In many ways he created the new media template for Churches and Ministries as he forged a path through the wilderness of secular culture and began reaching people previously thought unreachable.  He was young, "manly", irreverently funny, hip, and Theologically Pure. 

And that last one is the problem.....

Now that the cover has been pulled back many people have come out of the woodwork to claim that they knew all along that he had some serious problems.....yet why didn't they do anything?

Because he was on "their team".  He was spreading their message more effectively than anyone else, so they didn't want to mess it up by dealing with little things like, manipulative behavior, temper tantrums, abusive leadership, etc. 

Sure, he was a bad buy in many ways, but come on!!!  He loves the Buckeyes!!!!!

Now I am a nobody....I think the only person who regularly reads this is my mom.....Hi Mom!!!  But if you happen to stumble across this blog let me challenge the Church to something.

Galatians 5:22-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Theology IS important.  But as we look to develop and entrust our churches and ministries to the future leaders, let us hold theology in one hand and the Fruits of the Spirit in the other.  If a man can articulate appropriate Doctrine, but he does so through anger and a lack of grace, HE IS NOT QUALIFIED.  People do not need a good spokesperson for Theology, they need humble servants who live as loving members of the body. 

When you look for a church, and look for a pastor, look for the fruits of the spirit being clearly visible in their life.  Do not accept anything less. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

True Love in a Romanceless Marriage

Why did you get married?  If you aren't married, what are the reasons you would want to be married?

If you read Nicholas Sparks books(please please don't) you would probably answer something about love, romance, fate, etc.  The common dream is that we find some perfect person who will give us continuous butterflies in our stomach and satisfy our deep desires for romantic intimacy.  If you can only find that perfect Prince(or Princess) your story book life will begin and you can live happily ever after. 

Marriage has become a strangely one sided affair.  Yes, I know it involves two people.  But the basic assumed premise of a successful marriage is that YOU are in some way satisfied by the person you are married to and the circumstances you find yourself in.  And when either one person or both individuals no longer feels this way the marriage comes to an end. 

While many may bravely soldier on under these conditions for a period of time the foundational narrative of personal satisfaction overrides other senses.  In my relatively young life I know a number of my peers who have been divorced.  In not once instance were there occurrences of abuse, infidelity, criminal behavior, etc.  They were all cases of, "We(or I) are no longer in "love" with that person". 

No wonder people keep waiting longer and longer to get married!  When you are contemplating committing your life to another person against the backdrop of a culture that says marriage is about love alone when we know how fleeting such emotional feelings can be, the risk seems too great.

In Ruth chapter 3 we have the story of Ruth basically using cultural and religious obligations to convince an older man(Boaz) to marry her.  Our modern sensibilities balk at this story.  Where is the love we ask?  The romance?  The passionate kiss in the rain after they both discovered how much they truly needed each other!!?!?!

The book of Ruth is a foreshadowing of the story of Christ and His Bride(the Church).  The picture of what a marriage is in Ruth is a radical departure from our modern concepts.  Yet it is a picture of the most important love we can ever observe and experience. 

Marriage is not based on "romance", but Love.  These are wildly different concepts.  Starting with Love can, and often, develops romance, romance is not a natural step on the progression to Love. 

Romance is something you feel.  Love is something you do, regardless of feelings.

Romance is an outflow of attraction.  Love is not based upon attraction.

Romance is a temporary event or condition often sourced in impulse.  Love is a permanent act of the will.

Romance is conditionally offered.  Love is unconditionally provided. 

The message of the Gospel is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And the maintaining of our relationship with Christ is not dependent upon us, or, our actions, but completely based upon the character of Christ. 

How would it feel to know that your Eternal destination was dependent upon your "wining and dining" God through your own "appeal".  And, if for whatever reason, God grew tired of you, or you were no longer up to snuff, He said, "You know, it's not you, it's me.  We have just grown apart.  Sorry".............

The True Love Boaz and Ruth experience is not trying to find some perfect person to compliment their personal preferences, but to instead commit life to service to the other.  This is an act of the will, not the impulsivity of feelings.  Christ offers us the Gospel not because we satisfy some sort of romantic need in His life, but because He has chosen to be our Agape Lover and Guardian Redeemer.  Our appearance, intelligence, personality, etc, have no bearing on the stability of our marriage to the Lamb. 

Ask yourself, "Am I looking for a romantic marriage, or, am I looking for sacrificial Love that serves the other, and not the self?"  When the years go by, the kids and jobs come and change.  When the decades tire you out and exhaust your patience.  Which will sustain you?  A whirlwind trip to Paris, or, a spouse who is committed to give the best of themselves to you regardless of the circumstances?

The modern marriage is not a picture of the Gospel.  The Gospel is a picture of Marriage! 

Old couples don't get there because of how many romantic dates they took, but how many unromantic days they stayed.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How Do We Love

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”
C.S. Lewis

The modern definition of love is most often used in the context of feelings that you feel for someone.  If someone makes you feel good and is attractive you have all the ingredients for "love".  And if you realllllly have these strong feelings for someone, and happen to also want to have sex with's love....let never the two be split asunder! 

Shockingly, today, we have an ever increasing number of divorces, children born out of wedlock, affairs, etc.  When "feelings" become the arbiter we have established an amorphous and unstable standard on which to base relationships and our conceptions of love. 

There is a reason that marriages often dissolve between years 5 and 10.  For most people the butterflies of fresh love have been replaced by the mundane nature of daily living coupled with the stresses of children, bills, careers, and new "attractive" people.  When we place romance as the pinnacle of the value of a relationship we will soon find ourselves without good reasons to continue.

This perspective also influences the approach we take to all relationships.  It is easy to speak with eloquence about how much you love others and what a good person you are for caring about their experiences.  But when push comes to shove we would much rather talk about our ambiguously defined feelings than make practical commitments to showing love to someone else when it doesn't translate to achieving something for ourselves. 

Instead, I challenge us to approach love as a deliberate act of the will that puts others first regardless of how we may "feel" about it.  As CS Lewis said in the opening quote choosing to act love outwardly will shape us inwardly.  I have been recently studying the book of Ruth and I think there are three lessons that we can draw out about the practical expressions of giving love to others.

-----if you haven't read, or, recently read, the Book of Ruth, read the first two chapters to get the context for what I am saying here-----

Ruth is a pagan foreigner(boo), recently widowed(boo), living with her widowed mother-in-law who, with her husband, ran from the promised land some years earlier(more boos).  For all practical purposes Ruth is person non-grata in Israel when she shows up at the field of Boaz to hopefully pick up some scraps so she doesn't starve to death.  There was nothing about her that eligible bachelor's in ancient Israel would find "attractive".  Yet, Boaz displays great love towards her.

1-  He speaks kindly with her(Ruth 2:11-12).  Boaz was a busy, respected and successful man.  He could simply have ignored her and no one would have noticed or cared.  He was under no obligation to be kind to this strange pagan foreigner.  But he goes out of his way to seek her out and speak affirming and encouraging words to her.

You and I are surrounded by people who no one would even notice if we didn't take the time to notice them.  Being a loving person is about showing love to those who you have no "reason" to love.  You can say you love your neighbor, but when is the last time you sought them out to share an encouraging word, to ask how they are doing, to pray for them?  We are not loving people if we only give kind words to those who are easy and convenient for us to be kind to.

And to be even more personal, when is the last time you also deliberately spoke with kindness and encouragement to the people in your life?  Like your spouse?  If you only say, "I love you" when you want loving is that?

2-  He shares his life(and a meal) with her(Ruth 2:14).  Boaz doesn't just say something nice and then goes about ignoring her.  He invites her to sit with him, to eat with him, to show real care for her.

Speaking kind words is important, but, they are also easy.  Who do you need to go out of your way to show practically in a real and tangible way that you love them?  Don't say, "I love you....but please don't spend any time with me"

3-  Boaz goes above and beyond and makes a personal sacrifice to help her(Ruth 2:15-16).  Instead of just the bare minimum of letting Ruth have whatever scraps are left, Boaz provides for her from his own personal harvest!

Love, real love, leads to sacrifice.  If you want to practically put love into practice, are you willing to cost yourself something in the process? 

Do you want to truly love people?  Stop feeling stuff about them and start giving of yourself for them regardless of how you feel.  Because just doing stuff for people you "like" is easy and not really very loving at all.

Still a better love story than Twilight

Thursday, October 2, 2014

You Don't Really Love People

Are you a kind, loving, friendly and welcoming person?  Who would honestly say "no"?  In general we like to think highly of ourselves.  In all honesty it would be pretty debilitating to walk around thinking poorly of yourself.  It's a natural survival mechanism that we utilize to view ourselves in a mostly positive light. 

Guess what?  You need to stop thinking so positively about yourself. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't mean start beating yourself up about the things you do.  But the reality is we too often refuse to look at ourselves realistically.  And when we refuse to do, we stop growing as a person. 

I knew a guy who thought he was a great writer(he wasn't).  He even wrote a series of books he wanted to get published.  No one would touch him with a ten foot pole.  Did he start taking classes, join peer review groups, start editing and re-working his manuscripts?  Nope.  In his mind they were perfect exactly the way they were.  Everyone else was just an idiot.....

The biggest barrier to being truly loving and caring people is the belief that we already are.  If that's true, why are so many people lonely, sad, hurting and broken? 

People are hurting because we evaluate how loving we are through the lens of the people who are easy for us to love.  Let me say this very clearly, if the only people who think you are friendly and caring are the people you aren't that friendly and loving. 

In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says,

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Let that sink in......

Who in your life is it not natural and easy to love and treat with kindness?  Who is a challenge to reach out to and invite into your house to share life with? 

Unless you are showing ACTIVE love to them you are just doing that which is easiest for you.  And that isn't love at all.