Thursday, August 20, 2015

God’s Grace to You Displayed in the Hacking of Ashley Madison: “… be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23)

In any and all situations, we Christians have the grace of Christ on display for us to see. 

I hope that both my family and my local church do not tire of hearing me repeat this sentiment over and over.  It is a truth that we believers must absolutely cling to when life is rough and it should be a constant praise of thankfulness when things are going well, but it can also act as a filter through which we view the world and the events of the day. 

When the news broke several days ago that Ashley Madison, the online adultery-facilitating web site, was hacked and that the personal information of all of the users was now potentially open to being disclosed to the public, I did not rejoice. I don’t for one moment condone the activity that this site facilitates and encourages.  And while it is inevitable that these types of hacks and breaches happen, my first thoughts were about the husbands and wives, children and parents whose lives would be tragically effected because of the supposedly secret sins of those who participated in this service.  And today the first celebrity name popped up: Josh Duggar (link).  So again, my thoughts were initially for his, wife, children, family, church, and friends. 

How is this man’s public sin and disgrace evidence of God’s grace to you and to me?  Quite simply, it is this: God is vindicating His word by showing that all things done in darkness will be brought to the light, nothing is said in secret that will not be fully and finally known (Luke 12:2-3).  Or, as the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to put it, “…be sure your sin will find you out.” (Num 32:23) 

God’s grace to you is that if you have any thought that you will avoid having your secret sin exposed, you had better think again.  And even if you manage to eek through this life without being exposed for your lies, your pornography, your covetousness, your gossip, your anger, or your self-righteousness and pride, in the very next instant God will expose your and you will be called to account.  

In so many ways, God is displaying His grace to Josh Duggar today like He did with David thought the mouth of the prophet Nathan. King David, was called out for his sin and had nowhere to hide and no ability to deny the reality of severity of his sin.  David responded with sorrow and repentance and faithfulness to God. 

God is gracious.  It is up to Josh whether or not he will take advantage of God’s gracious unveiling of his sin as David did.  His first step of confession and repentance is a good one (link), but time will tell whether or not his repentance is over the pain and hurt he’s endured or over the sin that he’s committed.

It is up to you and I whether we will see God’s grace in exposing Josh’s sin publically and take advantage of it so that we can respond with repentance for our own hidden sins before such a rebuke is necessary for us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why Abortion May Not Be the Single Most Important Cultural Issue for the Christian

In the past, it has been a general rule that Christians are pro-life and oppose abortion.  There has always been opposition to a pro-life position from outside of Christian circles, but growing numbers of people inside of Christian institutions and churches have become more vocal in their opposition to a strictly pro-life position.  From what I’ve read, a common theme in pro-choice or pro-abortion arguments made from a Christian perspective is that legal abortion is an evil which is currently necessary in order to avoid a different moral or ethical problem which would be even worse.  

For the record (and this is no surprise), I severely disagree with any argument that I’ve seen which attempts to justify continued legalized abortion. With that being said, what I have not seen is an argument for the sanctified beauty of having an abortion or for the sanctified beauty and Christian virtue of the abortion doctor’s activity and vocation.  In other words, while various arguments are given to view the issue of abortion from a different perspective, I’ve not seen a Christian argue that it is a morally good and non-sinful thing to kill a baby in the womb.  


I believe that the single greatest issue of our time is the current sexual/gender revolution.  I believe this because this issue has the largest implications for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ because proponents inside of Christendom argue that being involved in same sex relationships or embracing of gender confusion leading to transgenderism is morally good while the condemnation of the same is morally evil.  I say this not because transgenderism or homosexuality are greater sins than abortion.  I say this because the arguments made in favor of homosexual marriage and transgenderism are so positioning these issues as not being sinful at all.  Whether it’s Matthew Vines’ “God and the Gay Christian” or any number of similarly aimed arguments, the primary objective is to sanctify an activity that, they say, has been incorrectly defined as sinful.


And therein lies the reason why this is the foremost Christian issue of our time and not merely another cultural, social, or theological issue that must be debated and hashed out.  This gets at the heart of Biblical revelation and our ability to make any sort of proclamation about what is or is not sinful according to God’s Word (or anything else for that matter).  Contrary to our opponents, establishing the sinfulness of homosexual activity is not done merely on the basis of a handful of “clobber passages” where homosexuality is explicitly mentioned, but it is done by taking what the whole canon of Scripture says about sex, marriage and divorce (along with a whole range of other things) in order to create a biblical view of sexuality. 


If some Christians are unable or unwilling to proclaim that homosexuality is sinful, then they have cut off their noses to spite their faces because they have given over any ability to actually define sin according to what the Bible says instead of defining it according to pop culture or your own personal feelings.  And if we lose the ability to define and understand sin, we lose our ability to define and understanding the necessity for a savior who bore our sin in His body on the tree.  We will have lost the ability to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all dying men. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Christian Transitioning: Giving Up Who You Were

At the heart of the gospel message is a call to radical selflessness in all things.  It is a transformation that we are, quite literally, unable and unwilling to start on our own,  and it is one that requires God’s continuing grace throughout our lives.  While the transformative journey may look very different from person to person, we are assured that all who have been saved will undergo this transformation.  One of the great pictures of the purpose of the Christian’s journey on this earth is that we will “become conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29).  It is in this re-imaging transformation of ourselves that the Holy Spirit helps us to love what He loves and stop loving the things that He hates.

Shortly after Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God, Jesus said this to the disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)  There are many things that one can (and should) say about Jesus’ description of discipleship, but one thing that must be emphasized is this: one of the things at the core of this discipleship is a rejection of a life focused on self-interest or self-fulfillment.

In Luke 19, we meet Zaccheus, a was a greedy man who was very good at gaining wealth by using an intentional government loophole to extort huge amounts of money from people.  But when He came face to face with Jesus, he saw that so much of what characterized himself as a person was diametrically opposed to Jesus that he vowed to pay back those he’d defrauded 400% of what he’d stolen.

This is not a lone story of the radical changes in activity or lifestyle.  Paul writes to a group of people characterized by their love for Christ, but who were also characterized by the phrase “such were some of you” (1 Cor 6:11).  The true Christian church has always been made up of former thieves (like Zaccheus), former liars, former drunks, former adulterers, and former homosexuals.

The Bible doesn’t give us the option to have a class of Christians where someone can embrace their sinfulness as a positive Christian virtue, acceptable and endorsed as a true expression of Christianity. Scripture does not allow people embrace their sinful sexuality as an asset to their Christian life, whether they be “Christian Swingers” or “Gay Christians”.  Do Christians cheat on their spouses, get drunk, steal, engage in homosexual sex, or give their affection to other gods?  In short, yes.  The difference is that while Christians may never be free of struggling with some sins, a true Christian is not one who embraces that sin, who attempts to sanctify that sin, and who condemns anyone for daring to say that what they are doing is, in fact, a sin.

As His followers, Christ commands us to deny ourselves as we walk this path of discipleship.  If instead we embrace ourselves in our sinfulness and attempt to sanctify our sin, we will not inherit the kingdom of God.   “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Buying Bullets and Having A Gun Range Behind a Daycare Are NotEquivalent

Viagra and Contraceptives are not Equivalent

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby verdict by SCOTUS, I’ve seen many different people posting graphics lamenting the fact that there is obviously a bias against women because Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to provide certain forms of birth control through their health insurance but Viagra is covered.  If you think the owners of Hobby Lobby are off their knick-knacky rocker, fine, but try to be honest in your comparisons. 

Right now, I’m not primarily interested in getting pro-choicers to agree with my conclusions about when human life beings or why and how it should be protected; I just want us to be as fair and honest in our conversation as possible.   This form of humoring can go both ways too.  Let me show you:

Pro-choicers don’t believe that a fertilized egg is a human child.  So, if I truly believed that, then I’d have no problem with drugs or other means used to kill that thing and stop me (or my daughter, etc) from having a baby.  Why would I?  If something is no more morally significant than naval lint, why would I care if it were destroyed? 

The reason that Hobby Lobby, and other pro-lifers, are opposed to various forms of FDA approved contraception is that they believe that these specific forms have the likelihood of destroying a fertilized egg (read: kill a baby).  Now, again, feel free to disagree with the presupposition (i.e. fertilized egg = fully human baby) and the resulting conclusion (destroying that fertilized egg = killing a human baby), but understand that if someone believes that human life begins at the time of fertilization and they also generally don’t like the idea of killing people, then that is why they don’t want to have to pay for something that very possibly will end up killing a baby. 

So bear with me as I try to use a really bad analogy (RBA) to examine at the Viagra/birth control comparison that is clogging up the Internet:

Viagra and Contraceptives are both related to sexual intercourse.  Viagra has to do with a man’s physical ability to participate in sexual intercourse while contraceptives try to stop what naturally follows intercourse: the creation of a child. 

Bullets and Gun ranges are both related to shooting guns.  Bullets are what get shot out of guns, and gun ranges are where you can safely (relatively) shoot the guns. 

Just because I am not opposed to the idea shooting guns or of having a safe place to shoot them does not mean that I will participate in putting up a gun range behind a daycare facility. 

Sure the gun range is supposed to be safe and it is supposed to stop all of the bullets from getting outside of its property, but there’s still the off chance…the very slight chance that someone with a loaded gun could accidentally fire the gun and hit a child at the daycare. 

If me and my neighbors, or even the owner of the daycare center, got together and protested the building of a gun range, it doesn’t mean that I hate gun owners or that I have a prejudice against hunters or little old ladies who carry a 38 in their purses.  It just means that the possibility of tragedy and death is unacceptable.

So, please, if you’re actually interested in changing the minds of thinking people and not just in whipping up support from the masses that’ll get hysterical about anything, stop with the Viagra/birth control pill comparison in the hysteria following the Hobby Lobby Decision. 

PS – Medical coverage for vasectomies is a closer comparison than Viagra, but I don’t believe that anything resulting from the vasectomy can actually cause the death of a baby/killing of the fertilized egg.  So, good try with that one too, but still…not the same thing. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Diversity in Unity for Unified Maturity

(Ephesians 4:14-16)

There is an intentional diversity in the gifts that Christ gives to the church.  The gifts are individuals, diverse individuals, and they are given in order that through their ministry the whole church would be characterized by maturity in faith and a full knowledge of the Son of God.

The result of the work of these ministers is that we are to no longer be like children; so gullible and easy to sway.  While this is true and must be emphasized for those of us who have been saved, we ought not be derisive of the trusting and childlike faith that describes those who first come to see Christ as a beautiful and surpassingly gracious savior.  The point is that we ought to move past the stage of wide-eyed innocence into a stage of mature understanding. 

The imagery of the boat on the sea is excellent.  Maturity doesn’t calm the waves or still the winds; maturity allows you to withstand the waves. Maturity allows you to properly harness the right winds in order to get you to where you need to be.  Those who remain immature in their knowledge of the Son of God are easy prey for the sophisticated religious philosophers because they have never really recognized and understood how to examine these teachings on their own.  Or, worse, “they recognize it only in theory, but have never learned to make sue of it.” (F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians, 88) 

Thus, a local church that is filled with mature believers who are filled with the Spirit and properly using their own gifts so that the church as a whole is characterized by maturity will continue to grow less and less likely to be led astray by falsehood.  And while there are probably more well intentioned and fully convinced purveyors of false doctrine than I would like to contemplate, there is also no shortage of those who intentionally use parlor tricks, argumentative trickery, or well planned deceptions in order to deceive people in order to gain for themselves whatever it is that they desire.  Like a card counter or a gambler using weighted dice, it may look genuine to the untrained eye, but it is anything but genuine when examined carefully. 

Love is the concept, the reality, that both begins (4:2) and ends this section (vv. 15,16).  In our struggle for personal and corporate maturity, we must keep the love of Christ and our love for Christ squarely in our minds.  Tough love is only tough if it is also truly loving; acting in a way that is truly unloving is not the will of God for anything that we do.  If we are slandered as unloving or uncaring because of our attention to the majesty of God and our desire to love and honor Him above all others, we must do our best to explain how saying something that may be unwelcome or cause distress in the conscious of our audience is really a loving thing for us to do. 

And Gospel truth is never unaccompanied by love.  We hear of some people who are ‘all truth but no love’, but in fact people without love cannot be ‘all truth’, any more than people without a concern for truth can be ‘all love’ in any serous sense of the term. (Bruce, 89)

And once again, Paul is not stressing an individual’s spiritual growth in a vacuum.  His detailed analogy of how the body fits and works together verse 16 signals the conclusion that the goal is corporate maturity.  We must strive for corporate maturity in our local churches, and not merely our own personal spiritual maturity. 

A spiritually mature church is not marked by ranks of credentialed theologians who seem detached and unconcerned about the obedient spiritual lives of the church or of the souls of their communities. Nor is a spiritually mature church marked by its lack of committed and convinced theologians, or by those who profess theological humility or ignorance while having boldness in calling for action.  The mark of a mature church is that it will strive for excellence in theology so that the loving actions that are present are rooted and grounded in truth.  In practice, the mature church will, at best, succeed in imperfectly finding the balance of theology and activity while never ceasing to strive in becoming more faithfully obedient to God. 


In a paragraph: The ministry of the church is reciprocal.  Those who teach do so in order that the body may individually grow so that the whole body will be mature.  This results in an identity of mature solidness in the faith that is not broken by new or different teachings that are spoken in clever and compelling ways.  The church is to be defined by truthfulness in deed and word.  Through it all, Christ is clung to and proclaimed as both the source and the goal of all growth and stability in the gospel. 

In a sentence: Resulting from the ministry of the church, Christians are to mature in faith and knowledge so that unbiblical, deceitful, or clever teaching will not sway the church.

Monday, June 23, 2014

New Federal Law Forces Animal Rights Groups to Provide Bear Skin Rugs to Employees

I am a master at really bad analogies or really bad examples (RBA or RBE for short), so I hope to not disappoint in the one that I’ll use today. 

I believe that human life begins at the point when the sperm and egg join together; I believe that human life begins at conception.  And when something is intentionally done to kill this new little life, regardless of how far along this child has developed or in what circumstances the child was conceived, that is a monstrously evil thing. Frankly, I’m not sure what is worse – the fact that many of the ways that abortions are done are so utterly barbaric and horrifying to think about (i.e. dismemberment, chemical burning, suctioning the brains out of a child’s head, etc.) or the fact that other – more sanitized – ways of killing children doesn’t bring about the same type of horrified reaction.


Of course I realize that what I just said has, for many people, put me on the whacko-mobile.  I get it. 


For years my understanding has been that conception means fertilization, and that these two concepts were virtually synonymous and there wasn’t really any debate over the definition of conception.  Well, that is not the case, and apparently it hasn’t been the case for a while.


As I understand it…

Technically, conception (scientifically speaking) means fertilization.  However, in medical contexts conception can refer to fertilization or the successful implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterus.   


Why is this important?  Well, because depending on the definition one chooses to use, you could say that Plan B or the normal birth control pill have no abortifacient effects.  Because abortion is the termination of a pregnancy, and pregnancy doesn’t start before conception. And if conception means the successful implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, then medication that makes the uterus inhospitable to implantation thus causing the fertilized egg to not be implanted would technically not have an abortifacient effect. 

But, if you are convinced that human life begins at fertilization, then anything intended to prevent the baby from being implanted in the uterus (oral contraceptive) or from continuing in his or her natural progression (IUD/barriers) would cause the end of that pregnancy…the death of that child…an abortion.

Tomorrow the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is supposed to give a ruling on the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act.  As I understand the issue, it is not whether or an individual can buy (or not buy) various types of birth control for his or her own use, the issue is whether or not the United States government has the right to tell an employer that he or she must pay for something that he or she is opposed to on religious grounds.  In other words, if I owned a business I would be required to pay for (through the insurance plan that I must provide) the very things that, if used, would or could cause an abortion. 


What if this weren’t about abortion?  Instead, what if George Bush had passed a law requiring all companies to provide free or discounted beef to their employees?  Now, there’d be exceptions for Hindu temples and maybe even Hindu ministries, but any Hindu charities or private companies owned by Hindus would be forced to provide this free or discounted beef for their employees.


Furthermore, in proper George Bush fashion, his regime was not going to budge on this stance, and that while individuals have the right to buy or not to buy beef, a business has no such right to make that decision. 


This is not about President Bush, President Obama, Republicans or Democrats.  I know that abortions occur every day.  I know that.  I also know that money from the government to Planned Parenthood helps to fund the death of babies.  I get it.  I don’t like it, but I get it. 


Would I love to see all abortions illegal?  Absolutely.  And I will use my voice and dollars to try and change the hearts and minds of Americans so that someday, hopefully, Americans will want that too.  But it isn’t about this either. 


This is about a law that would force me to either participate in an activity (by paying for it) that is not just loathsome to me, but participating in something that is so contrary to my religious convictions that if you don’t have the same perspective you may well not even be able to comprehend how bad it is. 


But suffice it to say this, it’d be worse than requiring Peta to provide free meat, bear skin rugs, and coon skin caps to all of its employees. 


Peta wouldn’t oppose being required to provide these products to their employees because they hate their employees or want them to suffer.  They’d do it out of a love for the animals that would be butchered to make those products.  I’m not opposed to government requirement to provide birth control to women because I hate women or want to see them suffer.  I am opposed out of my love for the babies that are slaughtered and my desire to have no part in it. 


What happens when you follow Jesus and He leads you out of evangelicalism?

I remember when the iPhone 5 came out and there were several noticeable glitches with its map app - the most noticeable was that it would give you very clear turn by turn directions to the wrong place – all the while telling you that you’d reached your correct destination.   So at the risk of showing my colors as a guy who is not an exclusive apple devotee, I have almost exclusively used (and been pleased with) the google maps app.  Notice how I said "almost exclusively"?  Well, I was in a hurry one afternoon and just tapped the address stored in the contact info on my phone which then immediately brought up my apple maps app. I hesitated...but then just had it map the way for me to get to this home (a place I’d been to once before, but coming from a different direction).  The short conclusion to the story is that I ended up in the right town, and even on the right street as where I wanted to be, but in reality I was nowhere near where I intended to be.  The problem wasn’t that I followed the directions incorrectly – it’s that the guide I listened gave me very wrong directions.

What happens when you follow Jesus and He leads you out of evangelicalism?  The same thing that happened when I used my maps app on my iphone…you get lost.

The map was fine.   The information was there. But the guide I listened to gave me bad directions. 

So much about the article I just read is so unremarkable.  But that in itself is noteworthy.  The reason that this is noteworthily unremarkable is that the thoughts expressed are so much a part of the common refrain of post-evangelicals today.  Also, like many critiques of pop-evangelicalism, if you can see through the cloud of smoke rising from burning straw men, this woman raises a few points of concern that we would do well in noting.  One of these that she raises is the identification of evangelicals with republicans or, probably more to the point, equating republicans with evangelicals.  Evangelicals should be known for the gospel and not for political associations.  Go ahead and vote republican if you want (or if you can), but be careful to not merge the two into one. 

But the broadside fired against evangelicals as a-contextual and a-historical interpreters of the Bible was quite bold.  I suppose this attack could have lost some of its force if it hadn't came from someone whose view on LGBT issues and so-called marriage equality were changed by deeply contextual, deeply historical and a serious study of the Scriptures.  I mean, how bad would it have been if she would have accused evangelicals as she did and her opinions on this subject were swayed merely by something as a-contextual to the Bible as…well, I don’t know, the opportunity to be around and interact more with the queer community.  Oh, wait….

From the limited amount of information that I have (so my conclusion could be incorrect), it seems to be the case with this author that, like many current and former evangelicals, her former commitment to evangelicalism was primarily one of preference or convenience instead of conviction. 

Harsh?  Maybe

True?  Well…we’ll see. 

A person who was formerly convinced to the point of conviction about specific theological conclusions would have come up with thoughtful and thorough biblical reasons for these conclusions.  Even more so, a leader (as this woman claims to be/have been) in churches and ministries should have had distinctly evangelical convictions nailed down and able to defend them in an evangelical (read biblical) way. 

Foolish ignorance (intentional or not) of what the Bible actually says is not an excuse.  It didn’t work for the people in Jesus’ day, and it won’t work for you today.  And a self-professed theological humility, which is actually great theological hubris, when it comes to the gospel will no more diffuse the judgment of Christ than rigid and non-biblical legalism worked for the Pharisees (I wonder of some Pharisee wannabees had religion minors in college?).  

If you claim to follow Jesus and you’re led away from the evangel, then you’ve lost your way and have taken a wrong turn.  The way of Jesus is the way of the gospel of saving grace. On this path, one of the primary ways that we show love and compassion for those around us – whoever that maybe – is to proclaim the word of God and the gospel of the saving grace of Christ to first help that person see their sin and run to our great savior.