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Archive for the tag “Christianity”

The World Is Watching, And They See Our Inconsistencies…Please, for Christ’s Sake & God’s Glory, Represent Him Well

A friend of mine posed this question with his analysis of it on Facebook today:

If God is in charge of everything … and Mitt lost … why are so many Christians angry? It poses a paradox to me. Either you don’t believe that God is in charge, or you don’t like God’s path.

He followed up in the comments with this:

I’m not really saying the original post in a snarky manner either. I just want to reveal the logic flow or thought process of all these angry, vitriolic rants on Facebook from self-professed Christians. Help me understand how these points are reconciled, if they are. Or is it only God’s Will if it abides by your agenda? It just seems strange that so many people who would be celebrating “God’s Will” if a Republican were elected are now spewing venom because things didn’t go their way. Isn’t it still God’s Will? Or does that only apply when they get what they want?

This:

It’s just that the angriest posts I’ve seen come across the feed have been people railing about “nowhere in the Bible is gay marriage okay” and how Obama’s election is sending us straight to Hell and voters should be ashamed. Just real anger. I’m sure there are plenty of non-Christian Romney supporters. I just haven’t seen the specific citation of any sort of ethos in their rants. Mostly they’re railing about specific issues that they disagree with but no explanation as to why. My original post is aimed at a) getting people angrily citing the Bible to think about how they arrived to their anger and/or b) show that thought process out. Kind of like “I’m anti-abortion but pro-capital punishment.” Okay, explain… Both are killing, so how do you arrive at the conclusion that one is okay, the other is not? I’m not attacking anyone or their beliefs. I just want to see how they get from point A to point B, and it’s still consistent with the core belief.

And this:

So my question is kind of like, you say God is driving the bus. It turns left. Now you say the bus is headed to Hell. So if God is driving the bus, then why all the anger? Isn’t God driving and he knows best? But if you’re angry because YOU think you know best, then wouldn’t it stand to reason that you either don’t believe God is driving the bus or you think He doesn’t know what He’s doing? Which goes against the core belief. But you’re still angry.

I should not surprise me (& yet it did) that those outside of Christianity are so readily able to see how little many of us really understand our faith. This Facebook conversation (among other recent events) just solidifies the fact that those of us who are Christians need to dig deep & really strive to understand exactly what it is we believe. We need to take things to their logical conclusions & struggle with the hard things to ensure that we don’t mistakenly misrepresent our Savior & God. Heed the words of the apostle Peter:

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. [emphasis mine]”–1 Peter 3:15-17 (ESV)

For the record, here was my response on the thread (please feel free to respectfully critique it):

It has been said that “The greatest single cause of atheism [or, in my opinion, agnosticism, rejection of Christianity, etc.] in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Your insight above at least somewhat seems to confirm this.

If God is sovereign over all things (& I believe that he is), then even the outcome of this election was not outside of His control. That doesn’t mean Christians can’t have concerns over President Obama’s policies. And it doesn’t mean they can’t be disappointed that he won because of those concerns. But at the end of the day, if you believe in God’s sovereignty, you should accept Romans 13:1 which says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

Even if you believe President Obama is evil, you should recognize that God has used many evil rulers over the course of history to accomplish His purposes (this is extremely evident through the Old Testament).

Also, rather than spewing hateful words at the President & his supporters, Christians should heed the words of 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, PRAYERS, intercessions, and THANKSGIVINGS be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. [emphasis mine]”

I think it is also important that we keep in mind the full text of Romans 13. Do not forget that Paul wrote these words most likely while Rome was under the rule of Nero–not exactly a friend to Christianity!

As Christians in this country, we have a right & responsibility to stand against those things that are wrong, those things that go against God’s word, but we must do it with respect. We have a right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean we are obligated to express that right, especially in an angry & hateful manner. Meditate on Proverbs 13:3, 15:28,&  21:23; and on Ecclesiastes 5:2.

For some wise advice on how to respond to the outcome of this election, I recommend Christians, Let’s Honor the President by Russell Moore.

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Why Study the Psalms if I Don’t Get Them?

I’ve been trying to work my way through the book of Psalms & spend some time on each one using a commentary because I’ve always had trouble “getting” the psalms. I understand the basic gist of the psalms (or think I do), but they are generally not the inspiration & comfort to me that they are to so many people. Part of it is the structure of them; because they are poetry, I have a hard time understanding them. Call me shallow, but I’ve always had more difficulty with poetry that doesn’t rhyme (& many times I even have difficulty with that). Add to that the fact that the psalms are translated out of a foreign language with structural compositions that I have a hard time following, & it makes me want to just breeze through them to get them over with & just hope that God will somehow bless my mere completing of the task.

The bigger reason, I think, that they don’t have the effect on me that others seem to experience is that God has chosen to spare me of significant trials & sorrows to this point in my life (&, yes, I need to spend some time considering the implications of that based on some New Testament passages). Take the first 2 verses of Psalm 18 for instance (where I’m currently at in reading through the psalms):

“I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Now, I can accede to all that in my mind, but there is no significant sense of comfort there for me because I have not experienced that overwhelming need for a refuge & stronghold from my enemies whoever or whatever they may be.

So, does this mean that I have no reason to study these Scriptures more deeply & try to get more out of them? Absolutely not! And here are a few of the benefits I can see of studying them more in depth even though I do not experience them the way others do (in no particular order):

1. I may be able to point someone else to particular ones in the time of their distress.

2. God may more readily bring them to my own mind for comfort when I do experience trials & sorrows.

3. I will gain a better understanding & appreciation of the various attributes of God especially love, mercy, & faithfulness.

4. I may better see how the Old Testament looks forward to Christ & see Him in the Psalms (because, to quote Sally Lloyd Jones, “every story whispers his name” [The Jesus Storybook Bible])

5. I may gain a better understanding of poetry in general & in particular in how it is used in the Bible.

Do All Religions Lead to God?

I originally posted these questions in May 2009 as part of a rather lengthy religious discussion I was involved with on Facebook with some of my friends. One of my friends had, in essence, argued that there are many paths to God even though she claimed to believe in the God of the Bible. The following was part of my response to her in an attempt to get her to think through the implications of her claim. I still think they are important things to consider if you are going to try to claim that all religions are equally valid.

1. If Christianity is equal to any other religion, why does the Bible repeatedly say there is only ONE God & ONE way to Him?

2. What about Satanic worship? Is it a legitimate religion? And if not, on what foundation can you make that claim?

3. What about polytheism (belief in many different gods)? How does it fit into the “many paths to God” belief?

4. Why are different religions contradictory to each other if they all lead to the same God?

5. Why would God create multiple religions when any one religion is essentially available to the whole world?

6. Is it illogical to think that God would punish those that choose to deny the way He set forth regardless of how “good” they are?

7. Are we trying to conform God to our finite understanding?

8. If Genesis 1:1 is true, is it not possible that the entire Bible is true?

9. If all religions are viable ways to God/heaven, who goes to hell? Does anyone go to hell? If some people go to hell, what is the standard for sending them there?

And finally (and I personally think this is the big one):

10. Why would Jesus willingly sacrifice Himself if there were other ways to God? Why would He even lower Himself and come to earth?

Was CfA Appreciation Day Worth It?

Ever since I first heard about Mike Huckabee’s Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, there was something about it that bothered me. On some level I didn’t like the idea, but I just wasn’t able to figure out exactly what it was.

I love CfA’s food & their customer service is probably the best of any company with which I’ve ever dealt. I agree with Dan Cathy’s statements, & I don’t think they were a surprise or in any way hateful. I despised the way the media created a story where (at least initially) there really wasn’t one (see here for a good explanation of this). I was only slightly surprised by the intolerance of those that claimed tolerance (Thomas Menino, Rahm Emanuel, etc.).

So why would I be suspect of CfA Appreciation Day?

Shouldn’t we show solidarity with those with whom we agree? Especially our Christian brothers & sisters? Isn’t it important to stand up for Free Speech & the Free Exercise of Religion?

Well, yes but…

The first article to capture what I was struggling with but unable to express was at Deep Roots Library. There are lots of things I could quote from the post because I generally agree with the entire thing, but, basically, I had reservations over CfA Appreciation Day because “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation”. Standing in line for hours to eat chicken (delicious though it may be) in support of a man’s biblical views is decidedly NOT the Gospel. In case you’re unaware, the Gospel is the good news that even though we have each committed treason against the Almighty Creator of the universe (also known as “sin”) & deserve eternal punishment (b/c that treason was against an eternal God), God in His mercy & grace has provided a way for us to be forgiven & reconciled to Him if we would only believe on Jesus Christ (his life, death, & resurrection) & repent of our sins (turn away from those sins & turn to Jesus).

God has called His people to go preach the Gospel & make disciples. He has not called us to fight the Great Liberal Left Enemy. He has not called us to take easy stands against a progressive agenda by doing something that we love to do anyway (i.e.-eat delicious chicken sandwiches, waffle fries, hand-spun shakes, etc.). He has called us to proclaim His good news, & that good news will be offensive to many & will cause us to be hated & persecuted; that is a promise from God! We are told that we will be hated for Jesus’ sake, but we are not told that we should go forth & try to make people hate us. In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us to live in harmony with one another, to not repay evil with evil, & to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:14-21).

By reacting in this way, are we acting in a loving manner & turning the other cheek? Or are we fighting fire with fire (by doing what amounts to anti-boycotting a boycott)? If so, is that the Christ-like way to respond? When we do such things, I’m concerned that it harms our testimony to the Gospel. I think this is similar to an article on poor tipping that I linked to on my Facebook page a week or two ago; when we tip poorly or react to something negative in kind manner, we may be failing to demonstrate the love, mercy, & generosity that Christ has shown to us. When we fail (& we all do & will sometimes) at these things, it demonstrates to the world that we are no different from from the world. What Christ did & what He taught was radically different from what the world taught & continues to teach.

I don’t think it was necessarily wrong to support CfA Appreciation Day, but we each, on an individual level, should examine our hearts closely before doing these kinds of things to ensure that we are doing it out of love rather than merely in a reactionary way or out of spite. And we should be aware of how those that we might hope to win to Christ may view our actions.

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”(John 13:35) And, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”(Matt 22:39)

I just wonder if this is what was demonstrated last Wednesday or not. I wonder if there were not better ways to stand up for the 1st Amendment, &, even more so, were there not better ways to demonstrate God’s love, grace, mercy, & forgiveness without compromising our beliefs.

Here are some other posts that I found helpful:

Why the Chick-fil-A Boycott is Really about Jesus

Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day: A bold mistake

A response to my Critics

Labor In the Little Things or Go Big For God

The other day, my friend & I were discussing (among other things) what the local church should be like & how it should exude the Gospel in all aspects of ministry both corporately & individually. He made a statement during our discussion to the effect of him tending to think big about this things with the implication (in my mind, anyway) that this could be, at least partially, a negative thing.

So on Wednesday evening I tweeted the following quote from DL Moody:

A good many are kept out of the service of Christ, deprived of the luxury of working for God because they are trying to do some great thing. Let us be willing to do little things. And let us remember that nothing is small in which God is the source.

Now, I must confess, I was thinking of my friend when I tweeted this, but when I came across this quote, I really liked it & would have probably tweeted it anyway.

Well, the next day my friend tweeted this quote from JD Greear (which I think he had mentioned to me during our conversation but I had forgotten):

The gospel fills us with audacious faith, making us expect great things of God and then attempt great things for God.

After reading that, I thought, “Wow! That’s a great quote; maybe Moody has it wrong.” But the more I consider these two ideas, the more I’m beginning to think they’re not mutually exclusive, and I wonder if they can’t be reconciled this way:

Be faithful in the little things, but expect God to do great things.

Or maybe:

Don’t attempt great things for God unless you are willing to do the little things.

I’m not sure that either of my ideas are correct, but I’m relatively convinced that both Moody & Greear are correct.

What do you think? I’d love to hear others’ ideas.

Why Requiring Employers (Insurers) to Cover Contraceptives is Wrong

Nearly 3 weeks ago, I published a post in response to the President’s decision that religious-affiliated employers will be required to cover birth-control pills including abortifacents. I asked (in essence), “how should Christians respond when the government goes too far?” And specifically, I asked, “How do you oppose the President & his policy & still adhere to Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, & 1 Peter 2:13-17?” Well, I got no response, and I’m really no closer to knowing exactly what the right response should be (or even if there is one right response), but here are some links on why this issue is so important (even if you’re not opposed to birth-control), what some Christian leaders are advocating in response, & a couple of other links on abortion & Planned Parenthood.

The FAQs: The Contraceptive-Abortifacient Mandate – The Gospel Coalition Blog. Here is why this controversy is so important: “If the mandate is allowed to stand it will set a precedent that the government can not only force citizens to violate their most deeply held beliefs but that we can be sanctioned for refusing to do so.”

“Please get the federal government out of our consciences”. From the testimony of the President of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church before the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

Christian Civil Disobedience against the U. S. Government? – Justin Taylor. Here is what Rick Warren, Chuck Colson, & Timothy George have to say.

On my mind and heart… « A Work in Progress. A passionate plea for Christians not to try to justify (even in part) the supposed good things that Planned Parenthood does.

More bullying from Planned Parenthood. Just one more reason I have no respect whatsoever for Planned Parenthood.

Some links I’ve been meaning to post…

I’ve been fighting a cold & sinus infection for more than 2 weeks (I think I’m finally almost over it) so I’m I little behind on posting these.

What Is Essential to Being a Christian? – Desiring God.

Death as a solution to life vs. life as a solution to death | Cranach: The Blog of Veith. –“The message is…welcome!”

The rise of American emotionalism | Cranach: The Blog of Veith.

Newsletter – redeemer.com–Statement on NYC School’s Decision to Ban Churches

It’s Not Saving If You Don’t Need It | Entreprelife. –Good advice that we probably all know but ignore: “Buying something you don’t need because it’s “on sale” isn’t the same as saving money.

Sixth Circuit Victory In Counseling Student Conscience Rights Case!!! |.

While I’m on the subject… « A Work in Progress. –Planned Parenthood is not who they would have you believe that they are.

Pastor Megadeth | Cranach: The Blog of Veith. –The former bassist for Megadeath is studying to become a Lutheran pastor…

These last two are on forgiveness & are written by 2 very different men. While Challies post is from from 4 years ago, he happened to post a link to it on the same day that Pastor Matt posted his.

Is Forgiveness Conditional or Unconditional? | Challies Dot Com.

Does Forgiveness Demand Reconciliation? | Pastor Matt.

What are we missing in many of our churches today?

Just some things that have been going through my mind today/recently:

I wonder if we’re missing something in the church today. It’s easy for us to say that the church is the people not the building, but I think it’s hard for most of us to really live that out. We have so identified ourselves with the place in which & the people with whom we worship that it’s hard to remember that we are parts of a body. And that body is to be active. In Ephesians, Paul tells us that certain people (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds & teachers) are given to the church to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”(Ephesians 4:11-12). So what is this “work of the ministry”? Well, it seems that it is doing service since the word translated “ministry” in the ESV is the Greek word diakonia, & to be sure some other translations do use the word service here. What does this term diakonia imply? Well, preceptaustin.org has it defined as

the rendering of assistance or help by performing certain duties, often of a humble or menial nature, including such  mundane activities as waiting on tables or caring for household needs—activities that in men’s eyes (but not God’s!) are without apparent dignity.

In other words, we who are Christians need to be serving others. And I think God’s Word is pretty clear on this (see the parable of the good Samaritan, John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13-14, 1 Peter 4:10), but we seem to ignore this a lot in the church (& I am chief among you!).

We think that if we go to church, sing songs, pray, be nice to the other people there, etc., we are fine; there’s nothing else to it. But doing those things does not demonstrate that we belong to Christ (i.e.-claiming the name Christian).

How do we demonstrate that we are Christ’s?

By loving one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35).

And how has Christ loved us?

When we were still His enemies, He died for us! (Romans 5:8) That, my friends, is the ultimate act of service! He died (& was raised) so that we might have life (Mark 10:45)!

Jesus’ entire life was an act of humble service (Hebrews 2:9); He gave up all the glory & honor that He had in heaven with the Father, to be “made lower than the angels” in service to us.

He even demonstrated service to others through His actions, most notably at supper with His disciples when he performed the most menial of acts of his day (John 13:1-17). During this demonstration of service Jesus said,

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15 ESV)”

Don’t be deceived into thinking this is a call to literally wash one another’s feet, but rather, it is a call to humbly serve one another (see Jamison, Fausset, & Brown and I’m sure other commentaries).

So let each of us be active members of Christ’s body, serving one another & serving others so that “[b]y this all people will know that [we] are [Jesus’] disciples” (John 13:35).

MLK, Racial Harmony, Healthy Sexuality, & Tebow

Letter from Birmingham Jail – Justin Taylor. “If you read one thing today on Martin Luther King Day, make it his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.'”

Download Bloodlines for Free – Desiring God. I’ve almost finished listening to the audiobook version of this book from John Piper dealing with racial harmony, and I highly recommend it.

Healthy Sexuality | Challies Dot Com. In light of the current controversy regarding Mark Driscoll’s new book, here are some good resources on sex & marriage.

Does God Care Whether Tim Tebow Wins on Saturday? – Owen Strachan – Entertainment – The Atlantic. I just got around to reading this yesterday (it’s from a few days ago), & it would have been an excellent article before today; however, I think it’s even more poignant now given the outcome of the Denver game over the weekend.

Why I shouldn’t listen to radio programs that I’m unfamiliar with…

I was in the car the other evening listening to a Christian call-in radio show when one of the callers began to ask a question about the resurgence of Calvinism in the Church today. (I say “began to ask” b/c the host didn’t actually give the caller a chance to ask his question whatever it may have been). The host turned things over to a guest to answer, and, I’ll be honest, his response angered me a bit. (I say in all seriousness that I have repented & asked that God forgive me of my anger because I don’t think my anger was righteous anger) But let me try to explain my frustration.

First, let me say I am what one would consider a Calvinist. I did not start out that way, & I have no desire to debate Calvinism & Arminianism on here. I have believed on the Lord Jesus and am saved (Acts 16:31), & as Spurgeon has said, “I wish to be called nothing but a Christian.”

“There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer – I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.” (C. H. Spurgeon, a Defense of Calvinism)

So here’s the gist of my frustration: The guest stated that he feared the “neo-Calvinist movement”, as he called it, because it wasn’t biblical; that it was hyper-Calvinism & led to pride & not sharing the Gospel. He went on to make some statements that weren’t true of the people I know who would be considered Calvinists & to quote scriptures that were not mutually exclusive of the points he was trying to make. He then referred the caller to a paper the guest had written on free will versus Calvinism. Out of curiosity, I looked up his paper & saw in print more of the things I had heard during the program. My problem with all this is not that he disagrees with Calvinism because I once did too, & it was a long, difficult process through which my mind was changed. My problem was the attitude of this gentleman, the fear of Calvinistic beliefs, & the general disdain he seemed to have for anyone who would dare to believe this way.

As I think I have indicated, I believe the 5 points of Calvinism, but that does not mean that I despise those that would be considered Arminian in their beliefs because I understand where they are coming from. I don’t even feel I need to debate them; I can really only see myself discussing it face-to-face, cordially with a friend where I knew neither one of us would say or do anything to offend the other. I desire only that even with our differences that we live in brotherly Christian love with one another.

Of course there are beliefs that I hold with a closed fist, but this would be a scenario where I would hold these beliefs with an open hand.

“Many there are who cannot see these truths [the doctrines of God’s sovereignty], who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yea many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. . . . In reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion” –Charles Simeon

As with any of my posts, I welcome feedback as long as it is respectful. I hope this post fits the theme of this blog, & if it doesn’t, please let me know. And I desire to know if I have erred in any way, but as I stated above I have no desire to debate Calvinism & Arminianism in this medium.

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