Thorns and Thistles

I hate thorns. I hate thistles. I have never liked or appreciated them. And, when they hurt me, I do find a certain amount of adolescent enjoyment condemning them to a flame when I have the opportunity. I don’t know if I have ever observed anything about a theology of thorns and thistles though there may well be. Originally absent from the event of creation in the Garden, they were an introduced consequence to the sin of man; but where did they come from? Did God introduce something “Not good” after producing only good and order from His spoken word? Or, were they contrived by an outside agency?

Just to remind us of the indictment after the Fall, God said to Adam:
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17b-18).

I would first suggest that the one who contorted these little organic nuisances was Satan himself, and that “thorns and thistles” are those areas over which God has yielded some authority to Satan, after all, he is prince over this earth. Now, Satan did not (does not) have creative license to create something out of nothing (ex nihilo) as does God, but apparently, he does have ability to deform something which was declared good.

What we do see initially is that, this agricultural menace was to torment those who would work the earth. In other words, the advocacy of the earth to produce sustenance would be hindered. After the Fall, the earth would still yield fruit, but at greater cost, time, and effort to the individual. So, is this curse of the ground relegated to onlythose who toil in the soil? I propose that it does not.

We would be foolish to think that, as a result of sin, only agribusinesses were affected by “thorns and thistles.” I would also suggest that thorns and thistles are anyhindrance in anyline of work in which Satan desires to frustrate, confound, confuse, or discourage us. Satan introduces chaos wherever possible to frustrate people, or to the greater extreme, challenge their faith. He is in agriculture. He is in the business word. He is in technology. He is in automotive repair. He seeks to disrupt communication. He is in construction. Boy! Is he in construction! And where he gets me most is in chords, all kinds of chords. He frustrates me each time I deal with cords. Computer cords. Headphone cords. Extension cords. They tie themselves up in knots, and catch on every possible snare possible. Those irritations affect my vocal chords! Well, let’s just say that sometimes…I bubble over.

Though seemingly innocuous, these impositions are more than simple irritations, they are part of the corpus of schemes of Satan – the methodology, or system to introduce chaos into God’s good order, and into the lives of men. Just one of the little ways in which the Adversary is seeking to assault our spirit. Though work is deemed good before the Fall, it is still good, but now it becomes an agency through which we can be tempted…to…react…poorly.

And, Satan uses thorns to choke-out growth of the Gospel in the hearts of people (Luke 8:7, 14). Am I saying that Satan is under every rock, and responsible for every evil in the world? No, I am not saying that! Mankind cannot get off the hook that easy. But, he is lord of the thorns. How would that look on his tax return?

Some may contend this “theology” is a little fanciful, and they may be right…somewhat… but if what I say is correct then it falls in line with Satan being given authority to spew evil into our lives, to mess with us, to taunt us, to annoy us (And sssnicker?) If I am indeed wrong then somebody needs to explain why such a prominent role the thorns and thistles play in the Edenic indictment.

How interesting it is that the soldiers surrounding Jesus at His impending death would shove a crown of thorns upon His brow (John 19:2), a brutal reminder of the curse placed upon the ground for the sin of man…What would compel anyone to do such a thing is beyond me, even at the level of evil demonstrated by the Roman guards. However, it was yet another affirmation that Christ, on the Cross, would bear the consequences of the curse–all the consequences of the curse. And, He would be victorious!

I can’t get the image out of my mind about the lion with a thorn in his paw; it reduced him to begging a mouse for relief. Not to say that we are lions, or that God is to be equated to a mouse. My point is that sometimes we need assistance from an outside agency-notably divine assistance from these diabolical denizens, just to make it through the thorns of life. Each time we get attacked by one of these little agents of Satan, we are reminded of the curse upon Creation. But, they are temporary. Yes, Satan is prince of this world, but his days are numbered. There will be no thorns, and no thistles in Heaven.

Thank you, Lord Jesus!

A Brief Orthodoxy: Christian Living

As a result of our salvation by Christ, we must remember that we have been bought with a great price, and saved for a purpose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We cannot simply accept salvation and not move toward a state of holiness, or sanctification. This understanding elevates redemption in Christ to a moment of salvation coupled with the experience of the transformational value upon a person’s life. No one who has actually tasted of the Lord can continually choose to live a life as they please (Romans 13:14). Our Lord commands us to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30). This means we should be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We are made positionally holy by the blood of Christ, but we then allow the Spirit to make us holy experientially. This will be evident in the way we seek to let the Holy Spirit sanctify us in thoughts, words and deeds that are pleasing to the Lord. In doing so, we will strive to be led by the Spirit, rather than by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). We will go out of our way to minister to those in need around us as the Lord has modeled.

In addition to loving the Lord our God with all our heart we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This calls for us to reach out to others in the body to edify them and stimulate them to good deeds (Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 10:24). It also means reaching out to those around us who are in need of Jesus Christ as their savior. If we are not sharing the good news with these people, we are not being led by the Spirit, as we all are given the gift of sharing our faith in Christ. The Gospel or Good News is the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, and this Word points to the work and person of Christ as the Messiah of mankind, as the Redeemer. He has rescued us from the certainty of death due to sin. In order for others to experience this salvation, the gospel needs to be shared. How will people hear unless there is a preacher (Romans 10:14)? Among the many things that can be said about it, salvation is, by definition, being rescued from the consequences of sin. It is not a part of man’s ability; it is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). It is not based on man’s desire, but on the mercy of God (Romans 9:16). And it has been predestined from the Father before the foundations of the world for His pleasure (Ephesians 1:4-5).

As was touched upon in the last section, the question of eternal security hasn’t been proven unequivocally through Scripture. This battle has raged for centuries with neither side being able to claim victory. As far as I am concerned, it should not be a divisive issue, but it does affect the way I lead my own life. Suffice it to say here that I believe that the Holy Spirit was given as a seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). His presence is not contingent upon the level of sin or obedience in our lives. Also, we come to faith in Christ through grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we sin, that does not mean that we failed for a moment in time to have faith, we simply let our old nature get the better of us, which is characteristic of human nature including Paul’s (Romans 7:15). As this is my position on this debate, it directs us to live a life of confidence in Christ, not worrying that He will “pull the rug out” from under us at any moment. We cannot lose our salvation, our eternal destiny, if we have seriously, and sincerely committed our lives to Christ as our Redeemer at some point in our lives and demonstrate that by following after Him (John 14:15; Romans 8:38-39, 11:29).

For this mindset, we will incur constant spiritual battle with the enemy, and engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). And once again, our driving force will be to follow Christ’s command to witness for Him to all nations, to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). As such we need to be prepared and fully armed for such battles. This entails spending time in God’s Word (Psalm 1:3), the Sword of Truth, and discerning His direction. It also means we are to be relying upon the power of the Spirit of God for strength as it is beyond our physical or spiritual capabilities to go head-to-head with the enemy (Zechariah 4:6; Ephesians 6:10-18). To be fully empowered is to have the ability to obey God’s Word and Will and to live for Him in the world in a way which is pleasing to Him. Also, a glorious and successful Christian life involves being bathed in prayer on a continuous basis (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Truthland

As a child, and for most of my adult life I had the opportunity to grow up in Orange County, California. Bright, sunny, open fields, and yes, orange groves. Beaches and mountains were all available destinations in the course of a single day. All kinds of distractions were at the beck and call of the adventurous mind. The locale allowed me to grow up in the shadow of what was to become known globally as Disneyland Park. 

Many a weekend was spent in the Magic Kingdom, a dream of Walt Disney which was fulfilled as it opened July 17, 1955. As a little bit a trivia, do you know the 5 major theme areas that were part of the original park plan? I had to think about it a bit, but they were Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Main Street U.S.A., and Fantasyland. Interesting choices and names that acted as lures to draw visitors in to escape from the normalcy of their everyday lives, and of course, relinquish their dollars. 

It is probably obvious that these areas of entertainment were not categorized as Realityland, or Epistomological Acres. People wanted to escape for just a bit; nobody wanted to go to attractions such as Overdue Bills, or the Negative Test Results, or Valley of Tears, or Truthland; those attractions would not have fared so well. But, let’s get real, life, real life is not bright-colored plastic, and giant animals and princesses hugging me. I appreciate Mr. Disney’s marketing genius, but …we, people need a healthy dose of reality, of Truth if we are going to navigate this life, and its afterlife. 

A theme park may be great every once in a while to “get away from it all” but it seems that somewhere along the way distractions, and avoidance of such things as truth have become the norm. Truth it seems is only tolerable in small doses, relative, subjective, or neglected, abandoned, and scorned as the modern-day evil; as such truth is finding itself a difficult seed to find purchase in a concrete jungle. 

But, we still live in an age of reality and Truth, and embracing the absence of Truth still has its consequences. Truth matters.

The Church has been assigned as one of the sentinels of Truth, in fact the greatest Truth of all. We are not offering some subjective “option” of truth; we are offering life at the highest level, in relationship with God Almighty. We are offering knowledge of the Narrow Gate, the Narrow Road unto salvation. True Truth!

Here’s how Paul lays it down in the book of Titus…

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you” (Titus 2:11-15).

The grace of God is revealed in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. As such, believers are called to walk in a posture of holiness and obedience to the will of God. It is this body of believers who look forward to the blessed return of Christ to take them home, something in the mind of God before the foundations of the world. 

Our mission, as we have accepted it is to communicate redemption through the blood of Christ, available to all men, and subsequent to that, to live a life of God-honoring devotion in worship to Him in every way. Our message of Christ, and the sure and certain hope of His coming to take His Bride home is the message of victory the world needs to have today. 

Paul tells Titus, “These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”
Tell someone the Truth!
Encourage someone in the Truth!
Correct them in the Truth, if need be.
We have the “E ticket” to eternal life!

For all it has to boast, Disneyland will likely never offer any sort of Truthland, but God does…it is called the Church. As we rightly station ourselves upon the Word of Truth we operate as His outpost of grace to a longing world.

A Brief Orthodoxy: Christian Living

As a result of our salvation by Christ, we must remember that we have been bought with a great price, and saved for a purpose (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). We cannot simply accept salvation and not move toward a state of holiness, or sanctification. This understanding elevates redemption in Christ to a moment of salvation coupled with the experience of the transformational value upon a person’s life. No one who has actually tasted of the Lord can continually choose to live a life as they please (Romans 13:14). Our Lord commands us to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind and all of our strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-30). This means we should be holy as our Father in heaven is holy (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:15-16). We are made positionally holy by the blood of Christ, but we then allow the Spirit to make us holy experientially. This will be evident in the way we seek to let the Holy Spirit sanctify us in thoughts, words and deeds that are pleasing to the Lord. In doing so, we will strive to be led by the Spirit, rather than by the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). We will go out of our way to minister to those in need around us as the Lord has modeled.

In addition to loving the Lord our God with all our heart we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). This calls for us to reach out to others in the body to edify them and stimulate them to good deeds (Colossians 1:28; Hebrews 10:24). It also means reaching out to those around us who are in need of Jesus Christ as their savior. If we are not sharing the good news with these people, we are not being led by the Spirit, as we all are given the gift of sharing our faith in Christ. The Gospel or Good News is the belief that the Bible is the Word of God, and this Word points to the work and person of Christ as the Messiah of mankind, as the Redeemer. He has rescued us from the certainty of death due to sin. In order for others to experience this salvation, the gospel needs to be shared. How will people hear unless there is a preacher (Romans 10:14)? Among the many things that can be said about it, salvation is, by definition, being rescued from the consequences of sin. It is not a part of man’s ability; it is from the Lord (Jonah 2:9). It is not based on man’s desire, but on the mercy of God (Romans 9:16). And it has been predestined from the Father before the foundations of the world for His pleasure (Ephesians 1:4-5).

As was touched upon in A Brief Orthodoxy: The Church, the question of eternal security hasn’t been proven unequivocally through Scripture. This battle has raged for centuries with neither side being able to claim victory. As far as I am concerned, it should not be a divisive issue, but it does affect the way I lead my own life. Suffice it to say here that I believe that the Holy Spirit was given as a seal of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14). His presence is not contingent upon the level of sin or obedience in our lives. Also, we come to faith in Christ through grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we sin, that does not mean that we failed for a moment in time to have faith, we simply let our old nature get the better of us, which is characteristic of human nature including Paul’s (Romans 7:15). As this is my position on this debate, it directs us to live a life of confidence in Christ, not worrying that He will “pull the rug out” from under us at any moment. We cannot lose our salvation, our eternal destiny, if we have seriously, and sincerely committed our lives to Christ as our Redeemer at some point in our lives and demonstrate that by following after Him (John 14:15; Romans 8:38-39, 11:29).

For this mindset, we will incur constant spiritual battle with the enemy, and engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). And once again, our driving force will be to follow Christ’s command to witness for Him to all nations, to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). As such we need to be prepared and fully armed for such battles. This entails spending time in God’s Word (Psalm 1:3), the Sword of Truth, and discerning His direction. It also means we are to be relying upon the power of the Spirit of God for strength as it is beyond our physical or spiritual capabilities to go head-to-head with the enemy (Zechariah 4:6; Ephesians 6:10-18). To be fully empowered is to have the ability to obey God’s Word and Will and to live for Him in the world in a way which is pleasing to Him. Also, a glorious and successful Christian life involves being bathed in prayer on a continuous basis (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

God’s Good Order

I viewed a pretty spectacular demonstration of dominoes recently on the internet; a lady had spent “countless” hours setting up a labyrinth of dominoes that went up ramps, and around in circles, paralleling rows, “bells and whistles,” many levels and patterns, all leading to a grand finale. The menagerie presented in a very large area, like in a warehouse and apparently, the task numbered in the hundreds of thousands of dominoes. Though it was simply the fabric of toys, I must admit that it was a work of art. The crescendo of this effort was the toppling of just one domino that led to the falling of another, and another and so on. Multiple rows, careening in multiple directions. Wheels, and marbles leading up ramps and off cliffs; an amazing orchestration of dominoes all whirling, twirling, and clicking their way to the final fall. The finality of this amusement was a cluttered product of toppled little black pieces–a distant reminder of the perfect order it once displayed.

Yep, the result of this effort was the chaotic collapse of ingenuity, until all the players surrendered to the gravity of the initial domino felled.

The imagery is not lost on me, and although the work of creation is anything but “dominoes,” the illustration helps us see the effect of sin “in real time” in the physical world.

God’s created order is a wonder to behold. God sought to glorify Himself, and He did. He created the physical realm to present exactly as was His will. There were no aberrations, no hiccups. No Mistakes. No Compromises. The will of His sacred created order was manifested perfectly. The Planets. The plants and trees. The animals. Time. Space. And even the Imago Dei, humans were precisely constructed according to the blueprint of the divine mind. What a wonder it must have been to behold! He pronounces His creation as “Good!” and it is very good. It is Adam who affirms that the creation (Eve) made for him is “Very good!”

We could say that creation–time, space and matter were all in perfect sync with Heaven. It was the divinely appointed array of infinite “dominoes.” The cosmological system. The Periodic Table of elements. DNA. DNA! Life. And all systems were “go.”

It was a perfect world, and a perfect world order. And yet, how quickly did that curse of sin weave its way into the fabric of perfection. Satan successfully sought to disrupt that good order by bringing confusion, questioning the word of God. Luring. Enticing. Trapping. Tempting. By toppling that very first “domino” the ensuing collapse was devastating.

Yet, even in its post cursed state, we still have remnants of the glory, it’s true: the sheer magnitude of creation, the beauty of babies, the sounds and sights of animals, the brilliance of colors, knowledge, mathematics, tastes…and yes, pineapples (even in their broken state they are truly amazing. One must imagine the “majesty” they possessed in their perfect state–and may again someday!). And dare we not overlook the pinnacle of God’s created order–mankind; broken as it is, it still remains His greatest expression of creation for we are made in the image of God.

Satan tipped the very first “domino” over, and still strives to bring imbalance to any others he can. The “redefinition” of marriage, questioning the existence of God, introducing gender chaos, the demand for power, the struggle for greed, the “grifting” of our political system–by the citizenry, and by the leaders of this country–both sides. He undermines the order of life, the beginning of life, the value of life. He promotes hate. But that is Satan’s handiwork through his willing agencies. At times, the moral compass is set by Hollywood elites, sports figures, tech industries, and musicians with hot licks, business tycoons, the political elite, and sometimes the false “shepherds” of God’s sheep. Satan’s goal is to continue to disrupt dominoes, to challenge the world order, God’s good order.

It is hard to look at the world around us and not be dismayed. It is hard not to become jaded. In fact, it is difficult to maintain a Christian witness devoid of anger.

Yes, our broken world is messed up beyond description. Bodies hurt, things kill, relationships are damaged, and those thorns! (I hate thorns!). All kinds of things present in stark contrast to God’s perfect created order–they stand in opposition to His perfect will. Yes, we long for the day when that level of Edenic perfection will be restored and revisited again in Heaven.

But, there will be restored order in the Kingdom…One day.
Those dominoes will be restored to original condition.
On earth as it is in Heaven, so to speak.

We are not the ones who are going to get it there, however. Who are we to think the restoration of the world is our sole responsibility? This task is one reserved for the Sovereign God of all creation. He did it once; He will do it again…deliver perfection in His good creation, in His good time.

All of the chaos, all that which is opposed to God will be divinely dealt with…Sometimes I get the notion we think we are needed in order for that to happen, but it is God who privileges us to work with Him; He gets the glory.

We are reminded of that in Psalm 46:10:
“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Our tendency is to look around us at the destruction and mayhem, and grieve, as though God is somehow behind in points. Yes, our hearts are heavy, but we forget–He is working on something.

All those dominoes, in their right time, will be divinely restored to their correct position.

The words of Christ ring true in Revelation 21:5:
“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” 

In the midst of all the “clicking” we tend to lose our composure and count things as lost. But, He is at work. He’s got a plan we cannot always see. And He has never once been the underdog. He has never lost control. We do listen to God. We seek to know our part. We do what we know He has called us to do. But let’s remember–It’s His world. He knows what He wants. It is His good order.

And He will be exalted!

 

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Bible

As a result of deep faith in the Godhead, I hold a high view of Scripture, as it is the eternal written Word of God (Isaiah 40:8), divinely breathed for the benefit of mankind (Psalm 119:9). 2 Timothy 3:16 affirms that, “All Scripture is inspired by God,” or God-breathed. God has given His Word, by the Spirit, through men who were moved, or inspired (2 Peter 1:21). Because God used humans to perform the act of writing, He also allowed them to write in their own individual styles, using their economy of words (Luke 1:1-4).

 I accept the Hebrew Bible as being the Word of God, the Old Covenant, or Old Testament as it was actually a compilation about Jesus, the coming Messiah (Matthew 1:22; Hebrews 1:1-2; Galatians 3:24). I also embrace the 27 books that make up the New Testament. The Bible has been written both by divine and human efforts, and compiled by God for the benefit of the Church. The EFCA has held strongly to the Word of God to the degree that the question, “Where stands it written?” has become the unofficial litmus test of our beliefs and practices. This reflects the desire and commitment to be a people dedicated to the authority of Scripture. Continue reading “A Brief Orthodoxy: The Bible”

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Human Condition

Humankind is the pinnacle of God’s creation masterpiece, yet we are a fallen race. In light of the Scriptures, mankind is able to understand his sin and thus, the need for a Savior. Mankind was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 11:7) though not in a physical sense as God is Spirit (John 4:24). This means that we are made in the image of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26); we are relational, rational (having the ability to choose), moral, loving and capable of a vast diversity of feelings (emotional).

In the beginning God had made it clear to Adam just what the parameters of obedience were. Genesis 2:16 reveals that, God had given all things to Adam to enjoy with the exception of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam’s nature had included the ability to choose whether or not to obey the word of the Lord. The Lord assured Adam that, “the day that you eat of the fruit, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Unfortunately, he chose to rebel, to be disobedient and follow after his own desires. As a result of this moral evil, death was introduced to the human race (Romans 5:12). In addition, the punishment included the issuance of some forms of natural evil in that thorns and thistles were made a part of Adam’s world, nature would at times be the enemy of man (Genesis 3:17-19). As a consequence to Adam’s sin, the rest of mankind is left to deal with bodily deterioration and death, and also the natural external evils such as famine, earthquakes, storms, plagues and thorns, as well as spiritual death, or separation from God.

When presented with the opportunity to disobey God’s command, the free will that the Lord had given allowed Adam the freedom to choose sin (Genesis 3:1-6). The ensuing depravity is spelled out with the corresponding solution to eternal separation from God (Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:15). As a result, we find ourselves in the possession of a contaminated “gene pool,” under total depravity, separation from God, and physical death as a consequence (Romans 5:12). Our lot was identified in Genesis 6:5, “and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Before the fall, Adam had never known the experience of disobedience, nor the consequences, but something had caused him to cross the line. After all, what was the threat of death to a man who had never seen it? Apparently, this man had never suffered any punishment of any kind. Satan had enticed Eve to seek to become like God; he had challenged the authority and veracity of God’s words (Genesis 3:4-5). As all of mankind has emanated from the loins of Adam and Eve, we bear the penalty of that sin. Romans 5:12 confirms that, “through one man, sin entered into the world,” and ever since, every person in the history of mankind suffers the burden of that penalty, except Christ. Sin spread like a wildfire through all of mankind (Genesis 6:5). In Romans 5, Paul does not seem to be referring to actual sins committed on a daily basis by men, but the sin, or guilt that has been inherited by mankind because of the sin of Adam. This guilt of Adam was assigned, or imputed to us. It is original sin in that it originated from Adam, and we are born with it; even those who are unborn are laden with original sin (Psalm 51:5). Some may contest this imputation of sin upon us, and object that it is unfair for all of mankind to bear the guilt of one man. But even from birth, we have found ourselves efficient sinners, and therefore able to perform sins leading to death, in and of our own accord (Romans 7:14-25). These sins which we commit reveal our fallen nature. Perhaps, the best response to this is the argument that, through one man also, we are saved, as the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us as well if we believe on Him (Romans 5:15-17).

Adam was lost on the temporal fruit of the moment (James 1:14-15). It is not likely that he was concerned about damning the rest of humanity with the burden of sin nor its consequences; however, he definitely did not have his heart set on eternity. Much of this carries over today, as individuals gravitate toward fulfilling their own self-interests, even in the midst of plenty, they will seek out and protect their own interests first, while moral and reasonable rationalizations fall by the wayside. Yet, self-interest serves to put ourselves before others including God even when we suspect that it is leading to self-destruction. In light of this, all sin is illogical and irrational. How could Satan have expected to exalt himself above God (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14)? Why should Adam have felt he was lacking anything? They were foolish choices. The only explanation that we have when we sin is that we are illogically yielding to our own selfish desires (Romans 7:13-21). We are electing to place ourselves in a position of primacy above God. Consequently, we are choosing to separate ourselves from the will of God (James 4:4). When we are separated, we are not abiding in Christ. To the extent that we do not abide in Him, we lessen the degree of fruit that we produce (John 15:4).

Adam was enticed by the enemy (Genesis 3:1-7). He did not have to fight against his old sinful nature. He had free will to choose, but the opposing force was definitely the enemy. Ever since that first sin, mankind has been battling the enemy andthe old nature, or original sin. James 1:14-15 reminds us that we sin when we are carried away by our own lust. Just as with Adam we do have the option to say, “No!” and God will allow us a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). Adam let that lust for the fruit of the tree get a foothold and he finally succumbed to the temptation. It is likely that we are able to sin with greater ease now that we are innately filled with moral evil (Romans 7:21). As a result, we have the guilt, or “original sin” from Adam’s sin, and the predisposition to sin more easily due to the presence of our own sinful nature. We do, however, have the benefit of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and direct us away from temptation (Galatians 5:16-25).

As a result of this depravity mankind is indeed separated from God, fellowship has been interrupted. Death, including both physical and an eternity of separation awaits those who do not experience a life saving relationship with their Creator. Throughout the Old Testament, sacrifice was the model presented that produced a substitutionary atonement, which covered sin and allowed a holy God to commune with His people (Leviticus 8). Subsequently, Christ became the sacrifice that not merely covered our sins, but took them away completely (John 1:29) for those who have truly followed Him and kept His commandments (John 14:21). We are justified, or rescued, and seen as completely righteous in the eyes of God (Romans 5:1, 2, 10; Colossians 1:20). We have been reconciled to our righteous Creator, and are in the process of being transformed (renewed) into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:24;Colossians 3:10).

Fictional Theology

No doubt I’m going to lose a few of you folks with this as I revert into my conservative waters of orthodoxy, but hear me out. First though, a confession, well, more of an admission: In general, I am not a fan of fiction – well, for the most part; there are a few works of intrigue here and there. Although I do appreciate parabolic writing, metaphor, and analogy, I do not consider it a great value to invest time in reading the fiction genre. On a greater level of distain, I strongly do not appreciate theological fiction; it blurs the lines of truth. At best it is benign-esque, at worst it is dangerous and misleading. So, be that as it is, that’s where I stand.

Still with me? Good. Let’s press on.

Continue reading “Fictional Theology”

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Church

There is only one true Church of Christ (Matthew 16:18). This is the Bride of Christ, or all those who have placed their trust in Christ alone (Romans 3:20-28; Ephesians 5; Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9). They have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.  This means that they believe that salvation is attained through faith alone in Christ, not as a result of any works on their own part (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Church is then revealed through smaller local churches (Acts 9:31; Romans 16:5). These local churches should be made up of only true saints, those who have a personal relationship with Christ, not intruders or posers (Matthew 16:15-20). The true Church is made up of individual local churches, or bodies, that introduce others to Christ (Evangelism), encourage growth and maturity (Discipleship), and hopefully equip others to spread the gospel (Equipping) (Colossians 1:28).

As believers, the Lord has given two ordinances to remind us of the position we hold in Christ (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Although only two are considered essential because of Christ’s command, this is just one of the areas where the EFCA reveals its latitudinalism, or breadth of acceptance in things not essential to salvation. There is freedom among the congregants to embrace either form of baptism, immersion or sprinkling, believer’s or infant. They may define within themselves what degree of spiritual significance is represented in the elements of communion, where they stand in the Calvinism-Arminian debate, and where each stands in his conviction on the tribulation. These matters are not considered to be matters where agreement is critical, useful but not critical. The sole element for church membership is spiritual life through personal faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior. The essential element of fellowship with others is their belief and expression of faith in Christ. This has come to be known as, “Believers only but all believers.”Though all beliefs are important, and should regulate, to some degree, how we live our lives, there is an openness to allow people to worship and believe as they are led by the Spirit.

Baptism is an association that we have with Christ as we identify with His death and resurrection (Romans 6), and in so doing we recognizethat we have new life in Him. Two forms of baptism are utilized. The first is Believer’s Baptism. This states that a person should be baptized after he has come to Christ, and desires to express that action and commitment to the world and the Church (Acts 8:38). This act is not to be misunderstood in any way as being salvific; it is simply an outward expression of what has already taken place internally, more specifically in the spiritual realm.  The other form, which seems to be weakening in popularity, is infant (paedo) baptism. This, as the term implies, holds to an infant being baptized very near birth. Infant baptism is best viewed as an “act of dedication” of the child, and, as well,  in no way is considered to be salvific, or an act of redemption. Most Evangelical Free Churches subscribe to the believer’s baptism, as do I, as the preferred, biblically justifiable mode.

Communion is a memorial ordinance given for expressing our thanks to Christ for the gift of His life, as a reminder of the gospel that we need to share with all (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Matthew 26:20-29). It is a time when we proclaim the Lord’s death (1 Corinthians 11:26) and remember that God delivered us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13-14). The Jews celebrate their Passover each year, and they corporately share a meal to remember, and reflect upon God’s deliverance of them from Egypt. Christ became our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), and we corporately share this meal to remember and reflect upon the fact that Christ delivered us from slavery and death as well (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). We come before God as His community, given life through Christ, we confess our sins, and we profess Jesus as Lord. It is clear that salvation, once and for all, comes through the saving grace that Christ gave in dying on the cross, not from these ordinances (Hebrews 10:12). The Lord’s Supper also carries with it an eschatological prospect as well in that we look towards the day when we share in the marriage supper of the Lamb, when we will drink of the cup together with Christ as the Bride of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 9).

Fellowshipping in a church setting is encouraged in Scripture, as we are not to forsake the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:25; Luke 4:16). We are to gain encouragement, sympathy and strength from those brothers and sisters who are experiencing life as well. We are to gain understanding from the Word as it is shared freely in a worshipful setting (Acts 2:42). As Christ is the head, the Church is the body (Colossians 1:18, 2:19; Ephesians 1:22-23). We are made up of unique giftings. There are many members of this body with multiple functions and talents (Romans 12:4; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4). This church should accurately reflect the model of the church found in Acts 2. They should be focused on Scripture as their rule. They should be enjoying intimate fellowship with one another. They need to be identifying with Christ, experiencing the intimacy of prayer, and being used to bring others into the fold (Acts 2:42-47).

After the model that was established by Paul of establishing a church by the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23) and deacons, the EFCA allows each individual body to be autonomous, or self-governing. The understanding being that Christ is the solid foundation, rather than any particular denominational ruling body. Christ is the ruling authority, or governing head rather than any other governing authority. This principle can be traced back to Christ’s establishment of the Apostles who were to be the leaders in the fledgling church. This in no way encourages a hierarchy of authority, as Christis the head; it does however, follow Biblical precedent of authority, control and competent leadership.  In light of this, I embrace a church leadership of plural local elders. It is thought that government works best when it has the consent of those governed. This model is made up of elected elders by the congregationwho govern the majority of affairs of the church. The elders therefore do not have absoluteauthority. The pastor is one of the elders, and does have a leadership role among the elder board. Major decisions involve the consideration of the congregation.

As such has been embraced and found to be an appropriate Biblical model, the local churches of the EFCA are considered to be congregationally ruled, but elder led, which is a most cherished aspect of our denomination.  As Paul exhorted in Titus 1:5, we are to set things in order and appoint elders. Thus, it has been the determination that the congregation would elect, or appoint elders to lead in the everyday governance of the local body.  The overall everyday affairs of the local body are free from the direct control of the National Office of the EFCA.

We do however, appreciate the accountability to, and the umbrella council of the National Office. The fact that we are considered autonomous churches does not mean we are independent.  Rather, we enjoy working interdependently with other Evangelical Free Churches, and with like-minded faiths to demonstrate the unity in the body of Christ for which He prayed in John 17, and for the concerted efforts of the proclamation of the gospel.

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Holy Spirit

Perhaps this article is one that needs most to be addressed, and asserted, even in the evangelical world. It seems over the years, as the Holy Spirit has been referred to as the “Third Person of the Trinity,” that, by definition of third, He has been relegated to a position of lesser importance. The Holy Spirit is equal in divinity and majesty with the Father and the Son, although the members vary in function. God sent the Son to redeem sinful man (John 3:16). Christ returned to the Father, and the Spirit was sent to be “another helper” (John 14:16).

The Holy Spirit is the first person of the Godhead mentioned in the Creation account (Genesis 1:2). The Spirit of God was brooding over the waters of the earth. In the very beginning of Creation the Spirit was involved revealing His divinity and power. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “let Us make man in Our image that he may become like Us.” Here it is clear that the Spirit is actively involved in the creation of Man as well. Creation was a Trinitarian endeavor.

Throughout the Old Testament the Spirit had been given to empower, embolden, and guide God’s chosen people. The Spirit was with Joshua, Gideon, Saul, and David to help them in battle, and for guidance. Job 32:8 suggests that Jewish thinking considered to be the “Breath of the Almighty,” was indeed the Spirit of God who gave wisdom or counsel. Isaiah 11 describes the Spirit as being one of understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, and providing a fear of the Lord. And through Joel, God said He would pour out His Spirit upon all mankind (Joel 2:28).

As God knew he desired to redeem a chosen people unto Himself (Ephesians 1:4), He provided the Holy Spirit to assist man, or be his helper. By the time of the New Testament, the picture becomes clearer as to how this would take place. In the New Testament this involved Mary becoming pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).  In John 14:16-17, Jesus, speaking to disciples who believed He was there to liberate Jerusalem from the oppression of the Romans, declared that He would be leaving, but that He would send another helper that would be with them, and inthem.

Later in John 16:8, it is clear that the role of the Spirit is to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. This is done so that He can fully perform His primary function, that of glorifying Christ. His ministry is a “floodlight” ministry to point to the work and the person of Christ. He does this by convicting, leading, guiding and transforming believers into the image of Christ. In this way He glorifies Christ as He brings to the foreground the person and work of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “no one can say that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” So the Holy Spirit is responsible for every single believer in the body of Christ, as it is He who touches the hearts, so people might see, and trust in Christ and His work of redemption.

The beginning work of the Holy Spirit is to convict a person of the sin in his or her life and the need for a Redeemer. It is this conviction that turns a person’s heart to Christ for their salvation. This conviction is a calling of God to the sinner to repent and turn to Him. As noted earlier, it is God’s desire to have fellowship with us, and His initial contact is for the Holy Spirit to call us to Himself. Our favorable response to this invitation is the completion of what is known as regeneration (1 Corinthian 12:3). It is a one-time event in the life of the believer, and is the beginning of a new life in Christ. He is an heir in the Kingdom (Romans 8:15). This favorable response cannot be made without the Spirit first imparting to the sinner a measure of faith (Romans 12:3), or the gift of faith to receive (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Once a person is in the fold of Christ, they enjoy justification, which was addressed earlier. Throughout the remainder of our lives we are involved in the sanctificationprocess. Therefore, sanctification is the lifelong process of the Spirit conforming us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is the lifelong process of the Spirit working within us so that we may be experientially holy in the same way we are considered positionally holy through the work of Christ. It is the means by which the Spirit lives in us, and makes known to us the sinful areas that need to be dealt with and brought before the Lord (Romans 8:11). We will never attain a level of perfection in this life, but we are to strive for this goal, we are to be willing vessels in the hands of the Maker to be molded, willing to strive to be holy in our everyday lives. As we are obediently molded into Christ-likeness, we will evidence the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22, those being love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The revelation of these “gifts” may be gradually increased as we are in obedience to the Spirit of God.

Many blessings occur simultaneously in the process of conversion, or at least in very close proximity to each other chronologically. We are able to enjoy this continual cleansing process because the Spirit has taken residence in us at the point we trusted in Christ; this is known as the indwellingof the Holy Spirit. It is at this point that we receive the baptism of the Holy Spiritin which we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 12:13); the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a subsequent work of grace.We are reminded in John 14, that the Spirit is not only withus, but He is inus as well. It is this indwelling that is able to convict, lead, guide, and console us throughout this process of sanctification (John 16:8). Subsequent obedience and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s leading is referred to as being filled with the Spirit. This is seen many times in Acts as we see Paul and Barnabas being filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:24, 13:9). It is these times in which we are particularly sensitive to the will of the Lord andresponding accordingly that we are “filled with the Spirit;” we are being led by the Spirit and not by the flesh (Romans 8:14). Therefore, it is necessary that we continually be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is an occurrence that needs to be done constantly in the life of the believer as the battle with the flesh is unending (Romans 7:15-20).

In the ongoing process of sanctification the Spirit develops and utilizes gifts that He has given us to serve in the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-10; Ephesians 4:7-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11). These are not to be mistaken for the fruit of the Spirit. As we are all members of one body, the Spirit has given to each of us special gifts, or talents that are uniquely able to assist in the edification of the church and the mission of evangelism. We are to exercise them accordingly (Romans 12:6; 1 Peter 4:10-11). These include, but are not limited to, the gifts of prophecy, teaching, healing, tongues and interpretation, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discernment, helps, administration, serving, giving and pastor teacher.

After salvation, it is the Spirit who sanctifies us, continues to unify us with Christ, and empowers us to live Christ-like lives (Acts 1:8; Romans 15:13), and equips us with gifts for service in the Kingdom. As noted earlier 2 Timothy 3:16 declares that all scripture is inspired by God, and 2 Peter 1:21 affirms that God has given His Word, by His Spirit, through men who were moved, or inspired by the Spirit. Therefore, the Spirit is credited for the inspirationof the Word of God as it was written, and He is also credited with the illumination, revelation, or understandingof the Word to the readers (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

 

A Brief Orthodoxy: The Work of Christ

Hebrews 9:22 reminds us that there is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood. The Old Testament is full of examples of the substitutionary sacrificial atonement for sins (Leviticus 8). All these examples paved, or foreshadowed the way to the atonement of Christ through His shed blood upon the cross. It is only through this blood that we are washed clean, or expiated of sin, both original sin, and that which we have committed (1 Peter 1:18-19). As a result, we are able to approach the Holy of Holies, and come into God’s presence having been considered righteous by His actions.

It is fundamental to understand that Christ was presented as the sinless Lamb by virgin birth (Luke 1:26-31), actually suffered a physical death (Matthew 27:45-50), and was resurrected victoriously from the grave (John 20:1-18). It is essential that there was agony that was involved in our redemption, the idea of penal substitution was actual and carried out in the death of Christ. He was a vicarious sacrifice who had born the sins of man. He did suffer; it was not an illusion. I affirm that the resurrection was bodily in nature, and demonstrated to the world that Christ had achieved victory over death on our behalf thus offsetting the damage which was done in the garden. As a result He had achieved victory for us, being the first fruits of resurrection so that we too can look forward to life eternal in our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:20). Contrary to the position of Waldenstrom, the correct thought of the atonement affirmed in the denomination is that the atonement was vicarious, and substitutionary, it was not exemplary (Matthew 26:28; Revelation 12:10-11). All of the sins of the world were indeed placed upon Christ, and His death provided the only allowable payment to make us righteous; thus He became a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Our acceptance of this act, our belief in His act is the only way to establish a relationship with the living God. No one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6). Christ lived a sinless life in complete and perfect obedience to the Father. It was this righteousness in addition to His intrinsic righteousness as the “Son of God” that qualified Him to die for those who could not lead such a righteous and holy existence (Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17).

It is only by this act of grace that we are justified. Justification is the state of being pronounced by God to be clean, or pure in His eyes (Romans 4:25). It is only by this act that we are declared acceptable of God’s mercy and blessings, not because of any work of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). Though we still have our sinful nature, we are considered clean because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us. Justification is a legal term meaning that even though one may be actually guilty, he is considered not guilty. God allows the actions of Christ to account for our sinful nature, and thus, no one can bring charges against us (Romans 5:10). As we are brought into a right relationship with God through the work of Christ, we have salvation. This means we will not suffer eternal separation from God, but rather, we will be reconciled for all eternity with God. Romans 8:33 asserts that, God is the one who justifies, who is the one who condemns?Once we are justified, the Holy Spirit begins the process of sanctification, or working on those areas of our lives that need to be conformed to the image of Christ.

 

A Brief Orthodoxy: Jesus Christ

As stated earlier, Jesus is one of three Persons of the Godhead (Colossians 1:15). It is this second person of the Trinity that became flesh (John 1:1,14). He was, and still is one person but with dual natures (John 1:14). Contrary to what some thought, all of the fullness of deity dwelt in Him (Colossians 2:9). At His incarnation He took on the dual natures of both God and man. He is fully human and fully divine (Luke 1:31-32). Unlike the Docetists, who believe that Christ never actually had a body, but was only a spirit, I hold that He became flesh like us. Others erroneously believe that Christ was only a man and lacked any spiritual or divine nature. Though it is difficult to grasp, deity and humanity exist, each in their entirety, in the person of Christ.

Though He appeared in the flesh among us at a finite time, we do believe that His Sonship to the Father was eternal. He did not begin to be the Son at the incarnation, but from eternity was the Son (John 1:1-2). It was however, at the incarnation that the Second Person of the Trinity took upon Himself the nature of man (Philippians 2:7). He was conceived through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:35), so as not to be tainted with original sin of mankind, and delivered through Mary, that He might become flesh (Luke 1:26-31).

Throughout the Old Testament a Messiah was promised to Israel (Genesis 3:14-20; Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 2 Samuel 7; Micah 5). The Redeemer actually was the Savior of mankind, both Gentile and Jew (Acts 10, 15). It was in the person of Jesus Christ that this Messiah would be manifested. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, was born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7) to become the Messiah to all mankind, as His life was offered up as a sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10). As such, He was a true human being. He wearied (John 4:6). He thirsted (John 19:28). He was hungry (Matthew 4:2). And most of all He suffered death at the hands of Pilate upon the cross (Luke 23:46).

He came into the world a sinless being, and lived a sinless life that was pleasing to the Father (John 6:38, Hebrews 9:14). He lived to do the will of His Father, and to redeem mankind from their sinful condition. He was persecuted by the people of His day and was put to death on a cross for no valid reason. He physically arose from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10), in a resurrected body, appeared to many, and now sits at the right hand of God, interceding on behalf of all those who have trusted in Him (Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 8:1, 10:12).

Christ is the head of the Church (Colossian 1:18). In fact He fulfils three major offices of authority set forth in the Old Testament. He is a Prophet in that He proclaimed the Word and will of the Lord. He is a Priest in that He offered up the perfect sacrifice, Himself, for our sins (John 1:29; Hebrews 7:17). He continually strives to bring us closer to God as our advocate (Romans 8:34), and like a priest he continually prays, or intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 7:25, 8:1). Finally, Jesus serves as King as He is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion; everything is under subjection to Him (Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16).

 

A Brief Orthodoxy: God

Identifying the existence and magnitude of God is essential for all assertions of faith. If no legitimate deity can be claimed or defined, then all subsequent beliefs are untenable. Mostly, the purpose of this first article of faith is the assertion of the existence and character of God. It is an assertion that we hold to a monotheistic faith (Deuteronomy 6:4), or one God (Isaiah 44:6, 45:5-6; James 2:19) who exists in one nature, yet in three persons: the Trinity (John 17:11; 14:16, 17, 26).  Though the term Trinity is not specifically found in Scripture, it is used freely to refer to that which is clearly identified throughout the Bible (Matthew 28:18-20; Deuteronomy 6:4, 2 Corinthians 13:14): that the Lord is one God. Jesus makes it clear in John 14:8-11 that He and the Father are one. Also, in John 16:26, Jesus states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Though difficult to comprehend, this doctrine is foundational to the Christian faith. It is likely the most fundamental factor in evangelical theology as all other doctrines rest upon this belief. Continue reading “A Brief Orthodoxy: God”

Rights, Free Will, and Legislation

The Declaration of Independence of the United States asserts, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I don’t believe any American would debate the assertion that we have had conferred upon us “certain unalienable rights”, but what exactly does “unalienable rights” mean, and is that definition biblically sustainable?

Black’s Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition, states that “You cannot surrender, sell or transfer unalienable rights, they are a gift from the Creator to the individual and can not under any circumstances be surrendered or taken.” If this is the same definition that the founding fathers had in mind then “unalienable rights” are those which cannot be taken away from us at any time. Even if we are not allowed to exercise those rights, they are still innately ours. But again, what does that mean, especially in our culture?
Continue reading “Rights, Free Will, and Legislation”

Too Big to Fail

I have heard a lot of talk lately about companies and institutions of government being “too big to fail.” I am not even certain that I understand what this means, but I hear it applied to banks, to automobile companies, to mortgage companies, to financial networks, to Wall Street, and public entitlements, to countries, and now the talk is regarding entire continents. Our best response has been to throw seemingly infinite amounts of worthless banknotes at the situation in vain hopes that such valueless paper would douse the already blazing inferno.

Now I am not a trained economist, politician, nor astute philosopher, but from the top of my fencepost it seems as though nothing previously thought “too big to fail” has been, and that tsunami of doom seems to be heading toward the “too big to fail” continent of North America, particularly the United States of America. The reality of our nation, the leader in the free world, the leader of the entire world actually “failing” is horrifying and we should all be sobered out of our socks. Yet, there seems to be a complacency that “everything” will be all right, that “They will do something to work it all out.” Well, I am not sure who “They” might be but I am not in the optimistic camp that wholesale embraces every action of our leaders. In fact I think, at the heart of our issue lies an arrogance that believes something in and of ourselves is unable to fail, not because of any rooted merit, but just because we are the United States. Continue reading “Too Big to Fail”

For Whom the Bells Toll

On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the bells of the National Cathedral in Washington rang in support of, and in celebration of the Supreme Courts’ decision to effectively “strike down” a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, which defined and restricted marriage to being between a man and a woman. The Court failed to make a decision supporting either one and in so doing they eroded the biblical definition of marriage. The Court failed to support the will of 7 million voters in California who in 2008 defined marriage as being restricted between a man and a woman, the biblical model.

The National Cathedral, designed to honor God and His will, had proclaimed the glee of the people of United States to openly and willfully go against the will of God and wanted to announce that to the Sovereign. We would have paid Him no greater disrespect had we taken a giant pea–shooter and “shot him in the eye” in defiance.

This is just the latest in a long chain of malevolent events which were designed to “liberate” our nation from God’s plan and authority. The Monkey Scopes Trial (1925) which sought to strip God as the Creator of life; the revocation of the prayer in schools (1962) which sought to reduce the need for communication and relationship with God; Roe versus Wade (1973) which in no uncertain way demeans the value of human life, and now this, a directed assault on biblical marriage – a clear dismissal of one of the most valued of God-given institutions.

I wonder what would have been the response if after a conservative “victory” the bells of the National Cathedral would have applauded. I am sure that multiple rainbow flags would have scoured the streets and airways in protest. Yet, I fear it is I who will be branded the unloving, offending and intolerant conservative Christian. I humbly ask the question, “Is there any way in which I can publicly disagree with the unbiblical definition of marriage and not be labeled a ‘hater’ or a ‘homophobe’?” If there is please tell me.

I have strong faith and certainty in the validity and truth of the Bible, and yet it stands in stark contrast to the flow of morality in the 21st century. Yet, is it not a valid point of view that I am “entitled” to maintain without being branded a “simple-minded” angry hater? After 2000 plus years why is the Judeo-Christian view fully and freely assaulted (hatefully so at times) in the name of “tolerance”?

I believe, in part, I know the response. It would go something like this. “You have no right to judge. Why don’t you just leave it alone, we’re not hurting anybody.”

Let me respond this way. It is like a lifeboat of morality, culture or society which is floating on the sea of consequence and all the occupants are sitting low in an effort to keep the boat from capsizing in the surf, yet one asserts his “right” to stand up, and maintains that right to do so as it is not hurting anybody else. Still, in reality, the rest are affected as the center of gravity is altered, and the boat becomes unstable.

Just an alert to those who hold a view contrary to the biblical definition of marriage – Christians feel “the boat” (our culture, society, our traditional values, and our nation) is unbalanced and on the verge of capsizing if it hasn’t already done so; same-sex marriages and sexual engagement contrary to biblical mandate are not the only causes but they are two of the big ones. That is part of the reason we make such a loud cry for obedience to God and His Word. The actions of the few affect the journey of the many.

The Supreme Court has made many blunders along the way and yet, in doing so has in no way eroded the morals and verdicts of the true Supreme rule of God.

Cathedral bells are not just rung in celebration but also in mourning, announcing death and sadness. The tones that were “heard by God” on Wednesday the 26th were such as this, a dirge, a lament which broke the heart of a loving God who indeed has standards to be met which indeed have been violated.

The Christian objective is not to spread hate but truth. Our purpose is not to bring judgment but light. Our goal is not to bring division but the love of God the Father to the world in which we live, which brings about relationship with God. Unfortunately, that poorly expressed zeal at times comes across as hatred, judgment, or religious fanaticism for which I am sorry.

God’s kingdom is made up of imperfect souls, souls however, which are saved by trusting in, by following Christ as Lord and Savior. I am one of those imperfect souls but I seek to abide by the truth held in the Holy Scriptures.

The consequences of following Him, or not following Him, are eternal!

While Integrity Slept

 

“If a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody around to hear it, did it make a sound?” This silly question of a metaphysical conundrum has plagued the pretentious philosophers for years, yet at the heart is the idea of reality and truth.

Both the difficulty of the question, and the answer itself lies in how a person elects to define “sound.” Is sound the reception of waves upon the tympanic membranes of the receivers? Or, is sound better understood to be the transmission, the production of those sound-waves from the point of origin? Simply, is sound defined from the point of occurrence, or the point of recognition?

Let’s add to our original “equation,” if a man is standing in the midst of this hypothetical forest next to the fallen tree and yet he is deaf, would that negate the fact that a sound had emanated?

Third scenario. Standing next to our deaf friend is a man who is not hearing-impaired, and the sound is clearly received by him. So, was there sound for one and not the other?

The rational answer is clearly – the sound did take place. It was projected. That is the undeniable absolute truth. It simply was not perceived “typanically” by the deaf individual. This did not mean that the sound waves did not pulsate his body nor that other parts of his body were not enveloped in the ensuing effects of that energy, i.e. wind or perhaps movement of the ground-vibrations.

Yet in our culture we see people clearly defining “Truth” in this very same way, in light of their own “experience.” I would contend that there is truth which transcends the individual regardless of personal experience. To “relativize” truth to a mere experience or belief is to negate the whole idea of truth. Wikipedia says that truth is “being in accord with fact or reality.” That implies that there is a corpus of truth which is not tied to one’s personal subjective experiential realm.

I don’t know if it happened during the Great Enlightenment or what, but somewhere along the way while the integrity slept, the idea of “truth” has morphed into nothing more than subjectively held tenets of understanding or desire.

Truth is not a color which fades through different shades of grey. Truth is absolute. Now, I am not saying that our margins of demarcation regarding truth are not at times amorphous, but the absence of those clear lines are depictive of our limitations, not a sogginess about truth itself.

Yet modernity promotes, “Hey, if it works for you then cool, but I don’t believe that.” In other words, “I give you permission to live in your delusion, as long as you allow me to live in mine.”

Extending this question of truth to the spiritual realm would be, “Is there a God?” Or, “If God exists yet no one is acknowledging that he exists, does he fail to exist?” It seems the growing attitude is, “Look everybody has a right to believe what they want.” But again, belief is not the same as truth, and truth has consequences. The truth points to somewhere. Bottom line is that it points to responsibility to do something, or behave a certain way. So that responsibility is the reason people seek to discount truth!

Isaiah 5:18, 20-21 says, “Woe to those who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, And sin as if with cart ropes; Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!”

The “woe” spoken of is separation from God. Failure to obey truth, attempts to qualify it, or even relativize it will not absolve any individual from accountability. Redefining truth, or refusing to acknowledge that it exists altogether does not pardon a person from its consequences. The “woe” carries some very serious repercussions. In fact, in a world of true integrity those actions, refusing to identify truth, are called delusion, not “enlightenment.” Someday those airs of enlightenment will slap us across the face with a fresh dose of reality.

And this understanding of truth is not limited to intelligence. It is purported that Albert Einstein, who struggled with the truth of God asked, “Does the moon exist even when someone is not looking at it?” Come on Al! The response is in no way philosophical. The response is “yes!” And God too is very real, even when no one is willing to face him. The consequences of denying him are very real as well.

The best one can do is seek, discover, accept and abide in the truth. It is only then that we can be set free from that which seeks to destroy us.

John 8:32 reveals “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” That means that separation from God as a result of sin is no more. Sin as a master no longer has ownership of us. It is only the work of Christ that brings to us that reality of freedom.

The tree is lying on the ground next to you. It made a sound.

We have to choose to serve God’s truth, or man’s delusion.

And, by the way, not making a choice is a choice in and of itself.

Reality Distortion Field

A term was coined in the early eighties to describe a particular leaders’ ability to spin his “mojo” and convince people that something deemed “impossible” could actually be believed and accomplished against all odds – essentially that the laws of logic and common sense could be suspended long enough to do something previously regarded as “undoable.” This phenomenon was termed a “Reality Distortion Field.” It actually may have allowed some crazy good things to be done, as people could “suspend” reality long enough to figure a way out of a seemingly insurmountable problem. Perhaps, it merely anesthetized “fear” long enough to press on through the monumental barriers. I would imagine those leaders (coaches) in sports do this all the time in the pre-game and half-time talks in order to ensure a victory over a looming opponent.

Sometimes leaders perform this maneuver upon themselves, temporarily suspending the laws of logic and personal conception in order to initiate this process, sort of a The Emperor has no clothes sort of thing – but in a constructive way. Continue reading “Reality Distortion Field”

Tripping Hazards

Often, while in Southern California, I visit a nearby ‘seminary’ to work in their library. It once was an institute designed to study and understand the immeasurable, infinite all-wise triune God, YHWH, but now, how things have changed.

The grounds, once a beautiful testament to architecture and doctrine, now have foundations, which are cracked; roots of the environment have compromised the concrete, creating tripping hazards, multiple tripping hazards. Pieces of loose concrete dot the landscape. Doors on site are difficult to open. Buildings have settled into the soft unstable miry earth of a post-modern society. Sloppy attempts at patches and repairs have been futile, and continue to fail. Weeds push through. In fact, weeds, vastly unabated, thrive over the neglected grounds. Continue reading “Tripping Hazards”

A Lotta ‘Splaynin’ To Do

Perhaps I am dating myself but these are the words that would be issued by Ricky Ricardo after he had returned home to find the remnants of his wife Lucy’s shenanigans. The show was “I Love Lucy” and she would find herself in all kinds of situations which defied rational explanation. The reason is that there was no “reasonable explanation.” No explanation why flour was all over the kitchen, or why she was wearing a goofy disguise or outfit. Ricky would come into the home, roll his eyes and cry out, “Lucy, you got a lotta splaynin’ to do!” After which she would burst into tears, and the credits would roll. Continue reading “A Lotta ‘Splaynin’ To Do”

You Are Wrong!

Of all the phrases in the English language, perhaps the most offensive to us is the phrase, “You are wrong!” Upon having this proclamation made over us we immediately recoil like a snake ready to defend our position no matter how errant it may be. The reason we respond this way is that this is an attack on our positions, and our positions are the bedrock of who we are, our identity; minimally an attack upon what we want to do, or what we want to believe. It makes no difference whether it is within the walls of the Church or not, these words are not easily received.

For the most part, as a result, we live in a world of permissibility. Everybody is “tolerant” of others positions as long as that assures that their own personal positions and beliefs will be tolerated as well. The final result is a world where “everyone does what is right in his own eyes.” Many people live in his or her own personal world of deadly delusional “truth.” Continue reading “You Are Wrong!”

True Church

I am sure we would be surprised to find out exactly why people actually attend church, or a particular church. Among the multitude of reasons that would be cited would be a nice building, a good youth program, an avid sports ministry, the use of visuals during the sermon, great music, perhaps it would be that person has “always” gone to that particular church or even that their parents had always gone there. Some may even attend, as strange as it may sound, for no other reason than the word “church” is in the name on the sign out front. And maybe, just maybe it is solely that particular church’s affiliation with a particular denomination which draws a person.

Of all the options, I think the more appropriate concern should be, “Is this Church demonstrating that which it was intended to be?” Continue reading “True Church”

The Moral Cliff

Much concern has been drawing the attention and ire of politicians and the American public in recent weeks – it is the fiscal cliff. It is the very possible prospect of “not being able to pay our bills,” and recognizing that on a national level (Can you say, “Hello austerity measures and the European economy?”). The implication is that once we go over the edge there is no point of return. We sail to the bottom only to be dashed on the rocky landscape of failure below.

While this looming scenario is dire, it is only one of the threats to our society, as we know it. We have seen an unprecedented erosion of ethics, economics, spirituality, accountability and financial responsibility in recent years. It has been a mad dash to see who could bankrupt their cache of inalienable rights the fastest as though insolvency, economic or otherwise was the noble ideal. Continue reading “The Moral Cliff”

War is Not the Answer?

“War is not the answer.” It is that little sign I have seen around town, on a bumper sticker, or as a banner. It has been around for years, and though I am not sure what it means. I do know that, respectfully, very respectfully, I don’t agree with it. I am not even sure I remember the question being asked. What is of particular amusement to me is that, absent the employment of the institution of war, that sign would have had to read, “Krieg ist nicht die Antwort,” and I doubt the Third Reich would have approved that message. Nothing short of outright war was going to stop the Blitzkrieg upon the free world. If not for war we would all be speaking German here in America, England and France. War is at times a necessary part of life in the fallen world in which we live. Continue reading “War is Not the Answer?”

9/11 Revisited

(This is an article which I wrote to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the event – 2011).

It is a date indelibly etched into the vaults of our minds. Anyone who is twenty and above surely remembers where they were and what they were doing as they heard or saw the news of jets careening into the World Trade Center Towers, an occurrence so profound upon the landscape of U.S. history that the nation drew a corporate national gasp as we lapsed into fear and mourning. We had been assaulted on a level never heard of on our own soil; the core of our foundation had been compromised.

In the days and weeks which followed flags sold in record numbers and patriotism flourished on a level seldom ever seen, and churches, yes, churches, forgotten churches, long since abandoned churches, were packed as fearful and confused nationalists sought comfort in the midst of a higher power. For months the resurgence of national pride paralleled renewed interest in the sanctuary of God, as perhaps, only perhaps, we sought to court the favors of the Almighty and once again be a nation, “Under God.”

But such were the hopes of dreams and fairytales; it was not to be. Continue reading “9/11 Revisited”

“Bobble-Head” Christians

It seems somewhere along the way, that the prevalent worldview of the last 2 thousand years has taken a hit, especially over the last 150 years. Time was when the dominant respecters of higher education were those who embraced the Christian faith. Did you know that Princeton (1812), Harvard (1636) and Yale (1701) all began as Christian seminaries? Those that were champions of higher education were those who embraced the Bible. Wow! Where have those days gone? Today, in the arena of higher education, Christians are often viewed as the naïve, simpletons, bobble heads on campus, merely nodding in agreement to a “ridiculous” way of understanding. Now, Christians are ridiculed for holding to a worldview many believe is irrational and illogical. Today we are judged to be intellectually inferior. So much for “tolerance”! Continue reading ““Bobble-Head” Christians”

Grunion, Unicorn, and the Non-Argumentation of Proof Against the Existence of God

As a child many times I went out in search of the intrepid grunion. The legendary fish was said to come into shore at mysterious hours of the night to spawn whereupon they could be grasped with the mere hand. But if there was any light or disturbance they would postpone their arrival or relocate to another venue. Many times I waited in a sleeping bag with a bucket for the time when they would arrive in the wee morning hours for their mating dance, but alas, they did not. I began to think they could just be a myth in the same caliber as the fabled unicorn, but the best I could say was that they were not real to me each of those nights.

Here’s my point. I was told they existed but had never actually observed them in reality. Could I conclusively insist that they did not exist anywhere? No, of course not. I could only assert that in my geographic sphere, they were not observably factual to me. They were not a part of my perceived reality. Back to the unicorn, actually I cannot offer empirical evidence to you that all unicorn do not exist; in order for me to do that I would have to track down every single unicorn everywhere which does not exist and show them to you, which as you can understand is logically impossible. (Yes, that does make sense.)

After all, it could be that as I was tracking down a unicorn that he strategically kept himself at bay, on the other side of world, or minimally out of my sight. Because I cannot be simultaneously in every place assuring myself that all places were absent of a unicorn, I could not be certain that unicorns do not exist nor could I categorically prove they were a myth. Continue reading “Grunion, Unicorn, and the Non-Argumentation of Proof Against the Existence of God”