08 December 2009

It's About People

Under former president Joe Chapman, a primary theme that formed a basis for NDSU operations was "It's About People."

It's About People

North Dakota State University exists as a human endeavor; a means to accomplish a greater good. It's About People, acknowledges the service we do for our fellow citizens, but also emphasizes the institutional commitment to the people of North Dakota State University and our desire to reward those whose efforts are serving the public's interests.

Aside from what that means for a secular institution, from a Christian worldview this phrase and attitude is something I'm learning to embrace. There was a time when I would have probably criticized this, instead arguing "It's About Christ" is best. Of course that is true, that the driving purpose for everything we do is to, for, and through Christ. But sooner or later that theology compels us to do something. Then what?

It's about people.

I don't say it's about people as opposed to being about Christ. I mean it's about people as opposed to being about stuff. Stuff like work, money, accomplishment and... stuff. Granted all those things tend for the "greater good" of people, but in the end it's just stuff. Stuff's purpose is to support people, not the other way around.

God made people. Sure, He made everything else. But He made Adam in His image, and the purpose of that is to be in relationship with Him. The sun, stars, and cucumbers sing His praises, but not like people do. He told Adam and Eve to fill the earth with people. It's not good to be alone. It's good to be with people. The Church is people. Christ came to interact with and die for people. It's about people!

I encourage you to focus on people. Encourage one another. Bear each other's burdens. Mourn together and laugh together. Live for Christ by serving people. And if there are no "each other"s in your life, something is wrong. Listen to me people, this is what life is about. People.

30 November 2009

Century 1 Suffering vs. Century 21 Prosperity

I'm gonna make a quiet return to blogging. To test the waters of my readership, I'd like some help from you, dear reader. Can you do me a hermeneutical favor, and suggest the implications of the New Testament being written mainly to believers suffering persecution, being literally murdered for the sake of Christ, versus how we read it today and attempt to apply it to our lives as we live in America with the comforts of the top 5% of wealth in the world?

I don't have an answer so I need your help here.

17 August 2009

Spurgeon: Am I Elect?

Charles Spurgeon, from the sermon The Death of Christ:

I pause once more; for I hear some timid soul say—"But, sir, I am afraid I am not elect, and if so, Christ did not die for me." Stop sir! Are you a sinner? Do you feel it? Has God, the Holy Spirit, made you feel that you are a lost sinner? Do you want salvation? If you do not want it it is no hardship that it is not provided for you; but if you really feel that you want it, you are God's elect. If you have a desire to be saved, a desire given you by the Holy Spirit, that desire is a token for good. If you have begun believingly to pray for salvation, you have therein a sure evidence that you are saved. Christ was punished for you. And if now you can say,

"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling."

you may be as sure you are God's elect as you are sure of your own existence; for this is the infallible proof of election—a sense of need and a thirst after Christ.

16 August 2009

Eternity in Ecclesiastes?

I've been wanting to blog about Ecclesiastes 3:11 and why the usual interpretation of "eternity in the hearts of men" just doesn't fit with the rest of the book. Fortunately, someone else has thought through it and came to a conclusion that I'm in favor of.

Eccl. 3:11 (NIV)
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

The paraphrase of how it could be translated:
God has made everything appropriate in its time. He has placed darkness in the human heart so that people cannot discover all God has done.

I encourage you to read the article, because this isn't just about a word translation. It speaks to our desire for an explanation for evil. Why do bad things happen? Why must there be a time to be born and a time to die? A time to weep and a time to laugh? A time for war and a time for peace?

The response is that this is simply what God has chosen to do and it isn't for us to question Him. Just trust God.

04 August 2009

When the Perfect Comes

Not long ago I asked the question: Was Paul wrong? I proposed that Paul was mistaken in assuming that Christ's return would be without-a-doubt in his own lifetime. After reading a debate on continuation versus cessation of supernatural gifts, I've thought of another implication of Paul's mistaken assumption.

This debate always centers around 1 Cor. 12-14. In my estimation, we can really boil the whole thing down to our interpretation of 1 Cor. 13:10a: "But when the perfect comes..."

For a little more context,

1Co 13:8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
1Co 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
1Co 13:10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
1Co 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1Co 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The cessationist argument is that "the perfect" means the completed Scriptures. Once God revealed to us everything he desired to through inspired written words, we would then no longer need supernatural prophecies, tongues, or knowledge. Everything we need is written down. If we follow this through the rest of the passage, it means the "now" referred to in vs. 12 and 13 is the time before finished Scripture, the time of Paul's writing. Once John finished writing the Revelation of Jesus Christ (the completion of God's written word), that must be when men became able to see "face to face." Follow me?

I've never been able to swallow that explanation. It's just way too manufactured. Isn't it obvious that seeing "face to face" means heaven? Why would "the perfect" mean the completion of Scripture, and not instead our state of eternal perfection after this life?

To back me up on this, I did some recruiting (by reading commentaries). Matthew Henry says "the perfect" means heaven. Charles Spurgeon says the same. John Calvin says the same. I figure that's enough.

What does this have to do with our proposed false assumption by Paul? Well, it's pretty simple. If Paul figured Christ's return would be any-day-now, why would he tell the Corinthians that a complete Bible is coming? What does that matter? Doesn't it make a whole lot more sense that "the perfect" means Christ's return? There's just no need for a complete written Word if the appointed time had grown so very short.

With this perspective instead, let's look back at the passage. "Now" of vs. 12 and 13 means this very present moment, since I am not yet glorified in heaven. Some will argue that in heaven there is no need for faith or hope. This is true. They then say that the abiding of faith, hope, and love can't possibly mean "the perfect" is in heaven. But remember, "now" means this very present moment. It's not that hard:

know and prophesy in partpartial passes away, know fully
as a childish understandingas a mature understanding
see in a mirror dimlysee face to face
faith, hope, and love abidelove never ends

Pretty interesting how Paul's assumption plays in to all this, huh?

24 July 2009

Simple Living According To Alcorn

After some of the things we've discussed here, both of you have probably thought I went off the deep end with the simple living stuff. Well, having just read chapter 16 of Randy Alcorn's Money Possessions and Eternity, I know I am not alone. He said exactly what I've been trying to say. He shows from scripture that the reason God grants us more resources than we need is so we can be generous with it, not so we can improve our own standard of living. At the same time he strikes the right balance by arguing that within a wartime lifestyle "there's nothing wrong with spending money for modest pleasures that renew and revive us, especially considering that our battle will last a lifetime."

I am tempted to quote the entire chapter. I will have to settle for less:

We might also call it a "strategic" lifestyle... If I'm devoted to "simple living," I might reject a computer because it's modern and nonessential. But if I live a wartime or strategic lifestyle, the computer may serve as a tool for kingdom purposes... Strategic living is kingdom centered.

We say, "There's nothing wrong with wanting to be rich." God says, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9). We say, "There's nothing wrong with being eager to get rich." God says, "One eager to get rich will not go unpunished" (Proverbs 28:20). We say, "The rich have made it." Jesus says, "It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:23).

Referring to 1 Timothy 6:17-19,

Who are these "rich," and how rich are they? Nearly everyone reading this book is rich, both by first-century standards and by global standards today... If you made only $1,500 last year, that's more than 80 percent of the people on earth."

[John Wesley] had just finished buying some pictures for his room when one of the chambermaids came to his door. It was a winter day and he noticed that she had only a thin linen gown to wear for protection against the cold. He reached into his pocket to give her some money for a coat, and found he had little left. It struck him that the Lord was not pleased with how he had spent his money. He asked himself: "Will Thy Master say, 'Well done, good and faithful steward?' Thou has adorned thy walls with the money that might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?"

Think about that as you consider that 58 inch plasma TV, the blood of the poor.

If you find yourself in a bookstore, go to chapter 16 and find the heading "Why Live More Simply?" Read it. (Or buy it.)

18 July 2009

Happy Birthday Nathan!

My little brother is a teenager today.

Nathan, even though the way your age is described has changed, that doesn't mean you have to change. Don't let the label of "teenager" define who you are or how you act.

And keep loving Mom.

Happy birthday!

16 July 2009

Was Paul Wrong?

Call me crazy, but I don't think the apostles would have ever imagined that 2000 years would pass by without Christ's return. Have you ever noticed how Paul seemed to expect Christ to return within his lifetime? If so, have you then ever wondered what he would have done differently had he not made this assumption?

Let's look at how it seems he assumed Christ's return to be in his lifetime.

1Th 4:15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.
1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.
1Th 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Notice how he says "we who are alive, who are left" as though he is assuming he will be counted among those still alive when this happens. Think I am making too much of this verse? Let's keep looking.

1Co 7:26 I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is.

1Co 7:29 This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none,
1Co 7:30 and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods,
1Co 7:31 and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.

Apparently he felt "the appointed time" had grown so very short that he advised people not to marry, as though "the present form of the world" would pass away within a lifetime. In other words, "You won't be around much longer, so don't be concerned with things like marriage."

Now if you aren't tracking with me yet, thinking to yourself that these passages teach us the doctrine of Christ's imminent return, that we and Christians for the past 2000 years ought to have lived expecting Christ to return "any moment now", then answer me this: Are you living as Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 7:29-31? I mean, really consider yourself; do you really buy as though you have no goods? Do you really live with your wife as though you had none?

Even if you don't buy anything I say, if you believe Paul is here teaching Christ's imminent return today, I encourage you to live as Paul advises. (And if you've read here before at all, I would suggest that this lifestyle looks a lot like simple living.)

For those of you that, like me, wonder if Paul was wrong in making an assumption, or if you would just humor me, what then are the implications? The danger, I feel, is to start doubting Paul's teachings. I mean, while it may be entirely true that a married man's interests are divided (1 Cor. 7:33-34), it is tempting to dismiss the advice in this passage because Paul based it upon a wrong assumption. This is why verse 25 is so important, "I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy." So Paul's advice here is just that--his own advice. And if I think he is wrong, then I am not calling into question the inerrancy of Scripture, but the inerrancy of Paul. So the implication of Paul being wrong is that we can doubt and disagree with the things he says are from him and not the Lord without casting doubt upon Scripture.

What other implications are there? Would Paul have lived differently? Have you ever wondered?

24 June 2009

Displaying My Genius

It has officially been one month since my last post, if you were wondering. And I'm okay with that.

Now I could try to write something really insightful. Or attempt to convince you of my views. All while giving my best to do grammar. But right now I'd rather offer someone else's words.

I just read a Spurgeon sermon. He said some things relating to my day job, so I thought it was interesting. You might not, but hey whatever. As it relates to this blog, my one month absence, and the slightly different tone of this post, Spurgeon said something descriptive of my engineering-kind, that we are driven "in order that they might have an opportunity of displaying their genius." And I fear that is what has driven me to blog. Not that I am a genius, but I pretend to be. In all things we ought to lift up our God, not ourselves. So will I change? Trying, I am. (And I hope that even this attempt at humility is not just more of the same.)

Spurgeon, from the sermon True Prayer--True Power!:

You do not go to work without knowing that there is something that you designed to make; how is it that you go to God without knowing what you design to have?

I believe there have been many great engineers, who have designed and constructed some of the most wonderful of human works, not because they would be renumerative, but simply from a love of showing their own power to accomplish wonders. To show the world what skill could do and what man could accomplish, they have tempted companies into speculations that could never remunerate apparently, so far as I could see, in order that they might have an opportunity of displaying their genius. O Christian men, and shall a great Engineer attempt great works and display his power, and will you who have a mightier power that ever was wielded by any man apart from his God—will you let that be still? Nay think of some great object, strain the sinews of your supplications for it. Let every vein of your heart be full to the brim with the rich blood of desire, and struggle, and wrestle, and tug and strive with God for it, using the promises and pleading the attributes, and see if God does not give you your heart's desire. I challenge you this day to exceed in prayer my Master's bounty. I throw down the gauntlet to you.


24 May 2009

Your Eternal Dream Home

I scaped some land yesterday (aka landscaping) for a friend. This is a different aspect of housework than was discussed last time, but can be glorifying to God all the same. It was an effort to bring order, function, and art to an unruly yard. It is subduing creation (Gen 1:28).

As I worked, I thought of John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."

So it seems that housework like this is glorifying to God in the sense that He is doing it too. I mean this in a much more literal sense than cleaning dishes. We could talk about how the Church is God's building as in Ephesians 2:10,20-22, or how our work in God's kingdom is like building as in 1 Cor. 3:9-10. For now I want to look at how God is literally in the house construction business.

I helped landscape so someone's house could be more pleasant. They wanted a "nice" home. There is some room for this, but in reality it is another form of nearsightedness, a lack of eternal perspective. Randy Alcorn writes in Money Possessions and Eternity,

When I was a pastor, a wonderful couple came to my office and told me they wanted to be able to give more money to the church and to missions, but they couldn't if they were going to keep saving to build their dream house. They said, "We've always had this dream for a beautiful home in the country, and we can't seem to shake it. Is that wrong?" I told them I thought their dream of a perfect home was from God. I think they were surprised to hear that. Then I said, "It's just that your dream can't be fulfilled here, in this world."

Our dream house is coming; we don't have to build it ourselves. In fact, we can't. Any dream house on earth will eventually be ravaged by time, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, carpenter ants, or freeway bypasses. Who would want to divert kingdom funds to build a dream house on earth if they understood that either it will leave them or they will leave it? Instead why not use our resources to send building materials ahead to the Carpenter, our Bridegroom, who this very moment is building our dream house in heaven?

He goes on to demonstrate from scripture how our heavenly dwellings and rewards are described as very tangible things. The magnitude of our reward then is proportional to our Kingdom work now on earth.

If we imagine that Jesus employs the angels in our heavenly building projects, we might envision asking them, "Why isn't my house larger than this?" To which they might reply, "We did the best we could with what you sent us."

Perhaps like me you sometimes enjoy driving through rich neighborhoods to admire the homes. But let's not set our sights so low. Let's not be jealous of those with a nice house but empty soul. Let's not make our lives about affluence but rather about obedience, knowing we will surely be rewarded after our work is done.

20 May 2009

Happy Conception Day

If Christians really believe in the sanctity of life, then why don't we celebrate birthdays as well as conception days? To make it easy we can just count back nine months from the birthday.

I'm serious.

02 May 2009

The Glory of Housework

Some say working around the house is drudgery. I for one certainly put off laundry and dishes as long as possible. Things just seem to keep getting dirty. Unfortunately they don't wash themselves.

So it is with me--I just keep getting dirty. I can't wash myself.

Recently as I finally got around to those dishes I communed with God in a very significant way. Just as I scrubbed a pot, I was reminded of my own filth and how God scrubs me. Sometimes I gotta scrub real hard. So does God. At those times it easy to focus on the difficulty of the situation, the momentary affliction, the struggle. But that dirty pot needs to understand that I need it clean. There is more use for it. And no doubt, I will get it clean. So it is with God.

As you go about those monotonous tasks, remember that God is in the cleaning business. You glorify Him as you exemplify His patience, grace, and sovereign determination even as you go about seemingly insignificant chores. This is the glory of housework.

Now for those dishes...

27 April 2009

The Snobbery of Etiquette

Recently as I was dining semi-formally someone noted that it is proper for the server to set down the plate from the left and to remove it from the right. Drinks however should be both served and removed from the right. And since there are multiple forks, you must start with the utensils furthest out and work inwards.

I get incredibly irritated by this stuff. Who cares from which side your plate comes? Do you really need multiple forks? Does it really matter?

It is certainly important to be polite and considerate when dining. But that's my whole point--being considerate.

Consider this boy: Ten years old, he lives in eastern India with his mother. His house has grass walls and a dirt floor. His father died. His mother does any labor she can to make money. They eat maize and rice. Do you think he cares if his plate is given him from the left? Do you think he wonders which fork to use?

So when someone insists upon adherence to some superficial pointless rules of etiquette, I take it as outright snobbery. Who are we trying to impress? Why do we want to act high-class? Lifting ourselves in this manner only pushes the lower class lower. Instead:

Rom. 12:16 Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

20 April 2009

Why Bad Things Happen

Why does God let bad things happen?

Short answer: Don't ask this question. God is God and we are but mere men. He is not obligated to explain Himself to us.

Slightly longer answer: Job 38-41.

Lame, unbiblical answer by people who need an explanation for everything: God gave us freedom. If he restrained evil, we wouldn't be truly free.

On a related note,

Rom 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?"
Rom 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"

18 April 2009

A Global World: Reality Is Real

In my signature style, I am going to finish a series I began over a month ago and have since put aside. We were talking about the nature of today's global world and postmodernism, particularly as it relates to communication. Out of that arose the issue of relativism, a distinguishing mark of postmodernism. This issue is critically relevant because we know each other, and most importantly we know God, through communication.

On this topic last time I 'rote:
I have a concept of something in my mind. I wish to establish that same concept in your mind. I am trying to do so with these words. This is basic communication. But to a postmodern reader, even if my words are 100% effective, the concept received by that reader can be whatever he wants it to be. He doesn't need to try to find the objective meaning to my words, since he has decided there is no objective meaning.

See the problem here? The obvious question becomes: What's the point of communication? This is where I'll start next time when I put the nail in the coffin on postmodern relativism.

And so I will now address this. My basic point is this: The existence of communication makes the existence of absolute truth self-evident. If there is no absolute truth to be known, there would be no reason to communicate--but since there is communication, there must be an absolute truth.

Someone once tried to convince me that everything is relative. Catch this: for him to make such a statement is to make a claim about reality. He tried to tell me how things really are. If you do that, obviously you imply that there is a certain way things really are. That's absolute truth, folks. So anytime a claim about reality is made absolute truth is necessary. To claim there really is no reality is just stupid.

When someone says, "The Bible has no absolute meaning--it can mean whatever I think it means," he is using words to communicate a concept, a concept he believes is true. So he is making a truth claim using words. That's exactly the Bible! The proper response in such a debate is, "So you mean the Bible has absolute meaning?"or "What did you say about my mother?!" If this person believes words don't necessarily communicate absolute meaning, then we don't need to take that person's words seriously either--we can take them to mean whatever we want.

Pretty silly, huh?

Relating this back to our global world, we must remember that the people we readily interact with may have very different experiences and perspectives than our own. Truth, however, is singular and absolute. Communication must be done with great care. Even as I 'rite this I don't know who you are reading it, yet I need to consider how you might receive these words. So I really hope you are with me.


09 April 2009

God's Hand in the Flood, Pt 2

The Red River Valley was settled because of its rich soil due to the spring water drainage through the region. This river seems made to flood. So are we destroying the beauty of the land by filling it with houses? In thinking about this I came across Ezekiel 36. It is a prophecy to the land of Israel. Yes, literally the land--the mountains and hills, ravines and valleys. God basically says, "Be patient, land. My people will soon return to live on you, to work the soil and build houses." See, not only is creation subjected to futility because of our sin, but creation's redemption comes through us, the redeemed in Christ (Rom. 8:19). (Yet sinful man's tendency is to abuse creation, so things like national parks are definitely good things.) And even if this weren't a fallen world, our purpose would still be to be fruitful and multiply (lots of houses) and subdue the earth (Gen. 1:28). So it is good that we dwell here.

If you have followed me here for a while you know that our lives as Christians ought to be lived in simplicity. One thing contrary to simple living is a luxurious house. In all the panic about the flood, it seems to always come down to one thing: people don't want to lose their house. I grant you that a house is a significant investment and many times a good one to make. Even a plain nothing-special house can require a lot of money. It is the biggest financial plunge most people make in life. So when people are concerned about their houses I understand.

But! As believers, Jesus calls us to simple living:

Mat 6:19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
Mat 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Mat 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Jesus could just as well added "floods" to the list of moth and rust. As this relates to simple living, I'm not saying buying a house is wrong. I'm saying that those who seek a simple life will have far less to worry about. Even if a house is lost, it was only stuff--not real treasure. As I see unbelievers in a panic, it makes sense. Christ's redeemed ought to be different. This also relates to the topic mentioned earlier about moving away to avoid natural disasters. I will acknowledge that there are certain places where disasters are less common than others. But again, as believers, is our goal in life to achieve the greatest comfort? Do we really need to find the easiest, most enjoyable place to live? Is not life more than this (Mat. 6:25)? Let's not seek these things, but rather His Kingdom and righteousness. Trust me--the new heavens and new earth will have plenty of good places to live.

It is interesting how revealing the flood has been. It has shown how superficial we can be. Suddenly our comfortable routines are threatened and we are forced to face the gravely serious reality. If it takes a natural disaster to get us to pray, then I say let's have one more often. As people are worried about their houses, their treasure, we can see where hearts are. As volunteers and home-owners work day and night to sandbag, we see where the treasure is. As I helped sandbag and witnessed the enormous effort so many people contributed to I couldn't help but think that Christians ought to be working this much and more for God's Kingdom. So much to save houses, yet so little to save the lost or sanctify the found. Where is your treasure? There is your heart--and your time and energy.

So what could be God's purpose in the flood? First, to His people. He wants us drawn ever closer to Himself. He's destroying our complacency. Second, to the lost around us. He is using this event to work through His people to deliver the truth of the real treasure. Scripture commonly portrays water as symbolic of cleansing. God is washing us. Finally, to display His glory. Whether hearts bow in submission or chests are beaten in defiance, God's power will be made known. For those called according to His purpose, even losing a house is made good.

As we fight this flood (and I'm all for fighting it) let's remember that it is by God's hand, and so

1Th 5:16 Rejoice always,
1Th 5:17 pray without ceasing,
1Th 5:18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

06 April 2009

God's Hand in the Flood, Pt 1

It's been some time since I last posted, and I know you are waiting for more on that postmodern relativism hogwash. But since then you may have noticed that Fargo had a flood to fight. My life's routine was shaken up. Some things just weren't all that important anymore. So I am going to pause to reflect on God's hand in the flood.

Pro 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Deu 8:17 Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.'
Deu 8:18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Deu 8:19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.

I have found these passages particularly relevant in the past months over the state of America's economy. Now it has hit closer to home. You see, just a few weeks prior to Fargo receiving an enormous amount of national news attention over this flood fight, there was a CNN story on how Fargo seemed to be immune to the nation's economic woes. (And the Bison were in the NCAA tourney.) So as we puffed up over our great local economy we failed to give eye to the swelling river. Now, I don't believe pride goes before a fall because that's just the way it works; it happens because that's just the way God works. Should we forget that it is Him who gives wealth then He will allow us to fall so that we will return to Him. He wants us to realize our dependence upon Him. He is always upholding and sustaining us. We just need reminders sometimes. (Just to be careful, the Deut. passage is God speaking to Israel and of His covenant with them. I present it not as directly connected to the flood, but as insight into how God operates.)

I heard on the national news coverage someone question why people live here if it just floods all the time, referring to the flood of 1997. It must be acknowledged that people here should have learned after '97 to better address the issue. Now people may very well move away because of this flood. So you have the choice of which natural disaster you prefer: earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, tsunamis, etc. This isn't mother nature we are talking about--it's God. You can't move away from Him.

Rick Warren has said emphatically that natural disasters are not "God's will." Hmm...not sure what "Bible" that came from. I would agree that if this were not a fallen world there wouldn't be such disasters--creation was subjected to futility because of man's sin (Rom. 8:20-21, Gen. 3:18). So if we are talking about sin being contrary to God's will, I agree. But the Bible clearly communicates that all the weather is actively controlled by God, so I should certainly think it is God's will. There's not much you can argue given Amos 3:6b, "Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?" Of course not. For that reason, I love the phenomenon of weather. It is such an awesome way that God displays His power and reminds us of our weakness. While I am sympathetic to those whose lives were thrown in disarray by the flood, I've been overcome with excitement since the whole thing started. Read Job 37 and Psalm 104 for an example of what I mean. Here's a taste:

Job 37:9 From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds.
Job 37:10 By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.
Job 37:11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.
Job 37:12 They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.
Job 37:13 Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

So I say

Psa 104:31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works,
Psa 104:32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!
Psa 104:33 I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
Psa 104:34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Psa 104:35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!

To be continued...

17 March 2009

A Global World: Postmodern

There are people today that will say they are followers of Christ but will not call themselves Christians. That seems strange since the word "Christian" means by definition follower of Christ. However, words do not have meaning in themselves. A culture gives words meaning (like using "google" as a verb). A dictionary assigns words to concepts according to the culture. The purpose of words is to communicate. So the issue here is not the basic meaning of a word, like "Christian"; rather, it is an issue of the concept communicated when that word is used.

We must consider that when someone hears the name "Christian" it may be synonymous in their mind to "arrogant westerner". My vocabulary may work in my little world, but it doesn't in a global world.

Colossians 4:3 At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison—
4 that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

I do not see the internet as an open door for the gospel; I see it as mansion of a million doors ready to open. And when God opens one, the great challenge is to make the message clear. (Is your use of Facebook "the best use of the time"? It can be if you are wise.) I may venture to say that someone who can clearly communicate over the internet, anticipating how a reader will receive the words, has a gift of tongues.

Now, what about postmodernism? According to Al Mohler, "According to postmodern theory, truth is not universal, is not objective or absolute, and cannot be determined by a commonly accepted method. Instead, postmodernists argue that truth is socially constructed, plural, and inaccessible to universal reason." So while I have acknowledged that words are socially constructed, postmodernism takes it a step further and argues that even the meaning behind the words is socially constructed. That is, truth is relative; truth is what you want it to be.

I have a concept of something in my mind. I wish to establish that same concept in your mind. I am trying to do so with these words. This is basic communication. But to a postmodern reader, even if my words are 100% effective, the concept received by that reader can be whatever he wants it to be. He doesn't need to try to find the objective meaning to my words, since he has decided there is no objective meaning.

See the problem here? The obvious question becomes: What's the point of communication? This is where I'll start next time when I put the nail in the coffin on postmodern relativism.

Not only does the global world bring a challenge to communication from the subjective, relative nature of words, but we also have to deal with the global world's postmodern belief in subjective, relative truth. Clearly that doesn't bode well for attempting to communicate objective, absolute truth about God. So what happens in the global postmodern world to the Bible?

15 March 2009

Things We Ought to Know #5: Ignoring a Call

Today I witnessed someone pull a cell phone from his pocket, decide to ignore the call, and proceed to put it back in said pocket without stopping the vibration.

I had a professor once receive a call during class. The ringer was audible. He took out the cell phone, decided to keep teaching, and put it back...with the ringer still audible.

We really ought to know this. When a cell phone rings and/or vibrates and you wish to ignore it, there is a button on it that will make it stop ringing and/or vibrating. Most phones it doesn't matter the button -- just push any button and it will stop. Easy.

12 March 2009

A Global World: The Noise

The world has gone global. Ironical, isn't it?

What I mean is, instead of isolation between peoples on the opposite sides of the world there is now direct connection. It was not so just twenty years ago. Now it's truly a world-wide web.

Remember that political stance of isolationism, when the U.S. tried to just stay out of the world's problems? Some say we need to return to that policy. But I say it's just not feasible in a global world.

Hear all the terrible things in the news lately? It would seem things just keep getting worse and worse, right? Well, remember that we didn't always get world news at the press of a button. Perhaps the world has always been this ill. A global world just made it more evident.

How else does a global world change things? The main idea I want to get at is communication. The internet connects people around the world because of the ease of communication. It's all about communication.

So that you stay with me here, I'm going to give you the point of this discussion up front: It is about God. It is about our understanding of God; or in a word, theology. Our objective understanding of God comes from the Bible. The Bible is words. The purpose of words is to communicate concepts. Our conception of God is communicated to us by God through His Word. Got it?

Now, what's this have to do with our global world? How does that change anything?

The problem with the global world's ease of communication is that we think communication is easy. We think we are communicating, when in fact we may only be exchanging words. The concepts the words are intended to convey may not be getting received. Two people on opposite sides of the world, shaped by completely different cultures, can meet in their living rooms. Millions of people are doing this. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Blogspot. Blogs, blogs, blogs! Words, words, words! Are we really communicating? Or is it just noise? Can people separated by such great physical distances and cultural backgrounds really have mutual understanding on the meaning of every word?

Add to this mix postmodernism. What do you get?

We'll pick this up again later. For now, I hope you and I are successfully communicating.

02 March 2009

Skipping To the End

From the very end of a certain fiction book:

And tales and rumours arose along the shores of the sea concerning mariners and men forlorn upon the water who, by some fate or grace or favour of the Valar, had entered in upon the Straight Way and seen the face of the world sink below them, and so had come to the lamplit quays of Avallone, or verily to the last beaches on the margin of Aman, and there had looked upon the White Mountain, dreadful and beautiful, before they died.

Makes perfect sense to you, right? Maybe the previous hundreds of pages from that book would help.

So it is when attempting to understand Revelation without knowing the rest of the Book.

25 February 2009

God's Literal Promises

Gen 17:3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him...

Gen 17:8 I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God."

Those silly Jews think God was being literal when He spoke of an "everlasting possession." He didn't try to mislead Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob into thinking this promised land was a physical place, they just took it that way. Obviously God was being figurative. Right?

1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
1Th 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Of course God's Word through Paul is literal. What's to be figurative about this?

I'm mocking you. I'll stop now. My point is that Abraham and all his offspring understood God's promise. Now Christians say they are wrong. If that's the case, how do we as Christians know that our understanding of God's promises aren't also wrong? What if a new sect arises telling us, "Silly Christians! That's figurative!"

Rom 11:18 Do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.

Rom 11:22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Wouldn't it be a whole lot more consistent and logical to say that nothing is figurative? That God always means what He says?

21 February 2009

Religion of Reason

Atheists or agnostics often (if not in every case) believe as such because of reason. They think they've escaped from the influences of a religious society to think freely. Freethinking then inevitably results in atheism or agnosticism, since that's the logical result the reason must give. According to them anyway.

Look closely, and it becomes evident that their faith is in the logic. Logic is their god. It is considered infallible. Instead of being without religion, their religion is reason.

I love this quote by Lewis Carroll Epstein:

Physics is actually a religion. A religion based on articles of unproved faith. In physics the articles of unproved faith are: "There always has to be a reason" and "The body of reasons has no self (internal) contradictions." If past experience had not contradicted these articles, that in itself could not assure continued compliance. But past experience has not confirmed the two articles. At any time, past or present, there are always things for which reasons have not been invented and things haunted by internal contradictions. Thus, belief in the articles is unproved faith.

To put this another way, we could say the first basic tenets, the dogmas, of the religion of reason are:
  1. For everything there is a reason.
  2. The body of reasons is entirely self-consistent.
  3. Logic and all laws of the universe do not change with time.
I have been thinking of the significance of tenet #3 lately. It would be a very sad discipline if all the work you did today was worthless tomorrow. So clearly no scientist wants to believe that the laws of the universe might change tomorrow. But this is why most atheistic scientists are also skeptics. Being skeptical is an attempt to justify tenet #3 without calling it faith. Skepticism says, "It has been this way in the past, and unless there is a reason for it to change, it will stay that way." (No, this isn't Newton's first law -- atheistic scientists perhaps have unjustly extrapolated the concept of inertia to their philosophy.) There's really no conclusive proof to this stance. It is only a matter of probably's. That's why the atheist/agnostic arguments have reduced to little more than that as recently displayed as advertisements on London public buses:

“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Probably? That's compelling logic. As I've pointed out before, science is all about theories, and theories are never proven. It is all probably's.

I once got irritated when a professor of mine said in class that the physical equation being studied was true in the past but might be wrong today. I thought he was an idiot. Now I realize it is truly something we take for granted, taken on faith. As a Christian, I have good reason to believe that how the world works tomorrow will be the same as today. It is because of God's nature to be unchanging and ever faithful. Should He desire the laws of the universe to change, He certainly can do so. But because they have not changed yet, I attribute it to His goodness. It is a reason to thank Him every day.

So even as I have used reason in this very discussion, my premise is upon the nature of God. The use of logic stands on this firm foundation. Reason and faith in God are not opposites. Without God, logic's feet are gone, so to use logic requires faith in logic itself.

Reason this, will you?

12 February 2009

Rather 'Ronged

1Co 6:7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?

To be sure, this passage is talking about believers having civil lawsuits with other believers (read verses 1-8 for context). But we'd make a mistake to say it's no deeper than that. Verse seven tells us there's a heart issue here. "Already a defeat for you" is like saying "the lawsuit is a symptom far beyond the core problem."I suggest that the core problem is selfishness, the failure to obey the law of love towards neighbor.

"Why not rather suffer wrong?" Rather than what? Should we rather suffer wrong than not suffer wrong? Knowing that any given wrong is evidence of sin, we should all desire no wrongs towards one another at all. If that's not it, let's try again: suffer wrong rather than what? Let's look at verse 8:

1Co 6:8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers!

This suggests that the opposite of suffering wrongs is doing wrongs. So, verse 7 is saying we should rather be at the receiving end of a wrong than the giving end. As I said, we should ultimately rather there be no wrongs at all. But our sinful tendency is to be selfish, so it is a given that, even amongst Christians, there will be wrongers and wrongees. Until we are glorified, that's just the way it is. So given this situation, why not rather be wronged?

I sometimes think I should begin every day expecting to be wronged by someone, because it will probably happen anyway. Then when someone crosses me, instead of getting angry because my "rights" have been violated, I can I know my blessing that instead of being the wronger I was the wrongee. And it gives an opportunity to display grace. Even further from getting angry, I can pray that the wronger might know God's grace. I cannot presume to know all that a wronger is going through in life, to say that a little offense against me is worth fighting about.

Consider thinking this way every time you get behind the wheel of a car. You just know someone out there will cross you. Why not rather be cut off?

Mat 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

May we be a people overflowing with grace and forgiveness for one another and for those outside even as grace and forgiveness has abounded unto us.

09 February 2009

Foundation or Scaffold

I don't know who decided gold is valuable. But apparently it is. At one time, the American economy was based on gold as currency. It is rather inconvenient to carry gold around with you, so we printed paper money to represent the gold. Today we no longer use a "gold standard" system, but instead our money has worth because the government says so.

This is very similar in my mind to scaffolding:

scaf⋅fold –noun
1. a temporary structure for holding workers and materials during the erection, repair, or decoration of a building.

Once a building is complete, the scaffolding is removed. If that means nothing to you, think instead of training wheels. Once I could ride a bicycle unassisted, my dad removed the training wheels.

What's my point? I think it is the same with America's Christian/moral heritage. Some argue that since America was built with Christian morality that America will collapse without it. But this argument falls logically short. Is Christian morality America's foundation or is it merely scaffolding? Is it a wheel or a training wheel? See, you can argue all you want about how America started, but it does not logically follow that America must be the same way today.

If money has worth because the government says so, cannot also America exist simply because the government says so? The analogy with currency is particularly interesting given the current economic situation. It has been suggested by some that we return to a gold standard to solve the problem. If that's the case, it would be an example of mistaking the foundation for the scaffolding and the consequences coming to haunt us. And it seems probable we'll make the same mistake with morality.

Even so, my first allegiance lies with a King and his kingdom, not America.

27 January 2009

Things We Ought To Know #4: Successful Prayer

Since we'd all like our prayers to come true, we ought to know how to pray "in Jesus' name". To that end, here is a possible rendering of "Jesus" in Elvish: Eruedraith (Air-oo-ehd-rithe; literally means "God saves").


Just OK - Groaning

Often when people ask me, "How are you?" I respond in honesty with, "Okay." The inevitable response to this by people who actually care is, "Just okay?" and I say, "Yes, just okay."

From there it is usually hard for me to describe why I feel this way. Having said so much on simple living, I think we are at a position that most adequately communicates my feeling. Here it is: I am not satisfied. I am "just okay" because I am just not satisfied. As I said before, "happily ever after" begins at death. I will not be satisfied until I eat of the fruit that yields of the tree nourished by the river flowing from the throne of God.

Perhaps a more Biblical term for this dissatisfaction is groaning. Paul Tripp's words ring true on this in A Quest for More where he describes the conflict in us between gratitude and groaning:

Big kingdom living is lived in the tension between deep gratitude and daily groaning. I am thankful because I have been rescued and am being progressively freed from my bondage to the unfulfilled promises of physical earth. I am thankful because I am learning to keep creation in its proper place. Yes, I am thankful for gorgeous flowers, sweet aromas, and the delicate taste of well-prepared food. I am thankful for the many people in my life, for sunsets and rivers, for mountains and animals. And I am thankful for how each of these things in some way reflects the glory of God. But most of all I am thankful that God has broken the power of these things over me and is teaching me not to look to them for the satisfaction of my soul.

At the same time I groan. I groan because this world is a broken place. There is nowhere I look where this brokenness cannot be seen. I groan because I am not yet all that God’s grace can enable me to be. I groan because I long for God’s kingdom to come. I groan because I have tasted the pleasures of this earth and they do not satisfy. Because of these things there is never a day when it is not right for me to groan.

Notice the logic of [Romans 8:22-25]. We are supposed to groan because there are things that we have been promised but do not yet have. We are supposed to groan because the full expression of God’s kingdom has not yet come. We are supposed to groan because we are not yet all that God shed the blood of his son for us to become. We are supposed to groan because the temporary pleasures of this physical world do not satisfy us; they always leave a void in our hearts. We are supposed to groan because in every situation and circumstance we see the damage that sin has done and is doing. We are supposed to groan because we recognize how we each give in to the temptation to seek in the physical world what we can only find in the Lord and what will only be fulfilled in eternity. This side of eternity, groaning is meant to be the default language of the big kingdom. When we groan for these reasons we get it right.

How are you? Just peachy? If you don't groan, consider if you are more satisfied in this life than you should be.

22 January 2009

Can We Have Nice Things?

In the fear that Why We Can't Have Nice Things could be taken to extremes, I must make some clarifications. This will require a little review of where we've been.

Back on the post Luxury, Comfort and Simple Living I 'rote:
I don't wish to say right now that having "stuff" is bad in itself. The danger is losing a sense of gratitude for all that you are given. Yes, it is given, not earned. I am contending that those who continually harbor that thankfulness and a remembrance of people with less will be compelled to help those people. Then the luxuries become sour and the "sacrifices of love" become sweet.

Then in the next post I quoted 1 Tim. 6:17-19 and said:
Last time I said I shouldn't be arrogant in my desire for comfort, but thankful instead. "Haughty" in verse 17 could be translated "arrogant." Then I said thankfulness should lead to good works, as in verse 18. This passage also never condemns "stuff" in itself, but condemns putting our hope in our stuff.

So, again, I find the Scriptures never condemn having stuff. It does not say we CANNOT have nice things. So in that sense the phrase could be confusing.

The foundation for all of this is love for God and love for neighbor. Remember this.

There seem to be certain temporary pleasures God has granted to exist for us here in order to hold us over until we cross Jordan and enter the promised land. I must acknowledge that the song I mentioned last time used examples of marriage and having children, things which we can only experience in this life. So these are temporary pleasures. Does that mean we must seek them or else we will miss out on life? NO. I think they are to hold us over. They are good, but there is better. Instead, focus on seeking His kingdom. Work! It is urgent!

This issue is difficult in my mind and has yet to be reconciled: The promise to the children of Israel is specifically earthly. It was a promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. (Also note the lack of afterlife references in the Old Testament). The promise to Gentile believers is specifically heavenly. Our "promised land" is in heaven. So how are Christians to live in the interim? Are we to seek temporal blessings as though the promises to Israel are to be applied to us literally? I don't believe so. How we are to live is complicated. That's been the whole point of all this. Again, it comes down to love for God and love for neighbor. I've been trying to say that people such as I are far too comfortable; that we need to be shaken from our comforts and luxuries in nice things to remember our neighbors; that we need to stop believing the lies of the world and hope in God.

Now, consider a hypothetical Christian that loves God and is earnestly seeking to live for Christ. He spends significant time helping at a homeless shelter. He has grown up in a low-income family and has never known luxury. One day he wins a contest for a brand new high-def plasma 58 inch TV. So at this juncture I do not say that having a TV in itself is wrong. But I CANNOT conceive of this person being excited at winning a TV if his love for his neighbor runs deep. Is he feeding that homeless guy, just itching to get home and sit back in his chair to watch The Office? Is that love for his neighbor? Is there no guilt there? Again, if he has never known luxury, to get excited at having such a TV means he has bought in to the world's lie that a TV is better, like he's been oppressed and has suddenly tasted some freedom. But would it really make his life better? Sure, he can be thankful to God for the TV as a temporary pleasure or a means to relax, but will he continue to seek God as his means to refuel or will he waste away hours watching movies? As I said before, I should think that one whose love runs deep will find luxuries becoming sour. And I don't think this is specific to the telly -- it is always stuff that gets in the way:

Mat 19:21 Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
Mat 19:22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Mat 19:23 And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."

Mar 4:18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,
Mar 4:19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Is it not the poor that are truly blessed by God? For they are blessed in spirit having a lack of blessings in the flesh. Those such as me blessed in the flesh have a difficult time surrendering my hope in things to hope in God.

Ultimately in your life if you understand yourself to be in right standing before God in your love towards Him and your neighbor while having stuff, I am not to judge that.

By the way, I promise I won't become cross when you cross me.

In Jesus' Veins, Amen

Does God hear all prayers? If not, on what basis will He hear a prayer?

I am reminded of the movie "Angels In the Outfield" where the boy prays something like, "God, if you are out there, please may the Angels win the pennant this year." Then of course angels appear during games to help the California Angels baseball team win. So it seems to suggest that God would hear such a prayer. According to Hollywood anyway.

This issue arises out of all the commotion going on about those prayers surrounding the Presidential inauguration. Gay "Bishop" Robinson prayed to the "God of our many understandings." Such an approach to prayer is an attempt to include all those listening, so that if you have a different god than me you can still listen and agree with me in my words as you direct them towards your god. Isn't that nice. This says that tolerance is desirable even at the cost of promoting the worship of false gods. I dare say that a prayer as this is received by God as noise in His ears and a foul stench in His nostrils. That is, it is not received at all.

Hear the words of God through Isaiah:

Isa 59:1 Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
Isa 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

And Zechariah:

Zec 7:13 "As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear," says the LORD of hosts.

I often get the feeling that at the end of a prayer "in Jesus' name" is included merely out of habit or because we think it is a magical phrase. At the inauguration Rick Warren closed with, "I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Isa, Jesús, Jesus." Now I thought I heard people saying he didn't pray "in Jesus' name" but it sure appears that way to me. In fact he pointed out something important, that the name of Jesus has various pronunciations across the world. Therefore the magical phrase theory is debunked (and anyway, if it were like a spell, we should probably be saying "Jesus" in Elvish) .

As the verses above suggest, anyone in sin and rebellion before God will not be heard by God. But Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son," John 14:13. This means that in Jesus the sin problem that kept us from God is washed away. We pray in Jesus' name in the sense that he is the mediator between us and God. We would still be in sin and God would not hear our prayers if not for the blood of Jesus.

Heb 10:19b we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
Heb 10:20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh

So to emphasize this concept and to stick the habitual trend of saying "in Jesus' name" I suggest trying something that sounds similar but alludes to the atoning blood of Jesus:

"In Jesus' veins, amen."

So you can Read more and I can 'Rite less:

Matthew Henry's commentary on John 14:13 states:
To ask in Christ's name is, (1.) To plead his merit and intercession, and to depend upon that plea. (2.) It is to aim at his glory and to seek this as our highest end in all our prayers.

Johnny Mac, as I like to call him, has an interesting list of 15 reasons why a prayer is not heard.

15 January 2009

Why We Can't Have Nice Things

I'm not exactly certain where the phrase "this is why we can't have nice things" has come from, but it seems to have gained sudden popularity as a jest. I am led to believe that the original usage would be from a mother spoken to her reckless child that has just broken something. "We can't have nice things" because if we did they would just get broken anyway, thus ceasing to be nice. Now it has become a fun phrase to use to mock your friend that just made a "smooth move."

But leave it to me to take a fun phrase and make something serious of it.

The phrase has been helpful to me when I notice other people with "nice things." It forces me to remind myself "why I can't have nice things." And it isn't because I tend to break them. It's because I do not have a goal in life to attain nice things. You see, I equate having nice things with a comfortable life, and a comfortable life is not the life of a Christian.

Imagine a mother using such a phrase towards her child. It implies that what things she currently has are not nice, so already such an attitude displays a lack of thankfulness for her possessions (not to mention for her child). Next it implies that she is under some kind of oppression, as though there is an active force keeping her from unbridled happiness in niceties. This buys in to the lie that having stuff brings happiness. It is selfish, foolish, and nearsighted.

I think we've discussed the selfish and foolish parts of luxurious living before, so let me explain the nearsighted aspect. What I mean is that a desire for happiness in stuff in this life does not reflect an eternal perspective. It only sees this life, but a vapor, as the opportunity for happiness. It is nearsighted to forget the unseen, unheard of, and unimaginable happiness to be found after this life.

I heard a song on "Christian" radio today that disappointed me. You may know it; the chorus says:

You only get just one time around
You only get one shot at this
One chance to find out
The one thing that you don't wanna miss

Now you'd maybe think the answer to "the one thing you don't wanna miss" is a relationship with Jesus. Nope! The song implies that for a certain man the "one thing" is spending time with his wife. For a certain woman it's caring for and loving her child. This song says you've only got one life, so be sure to love it! Severely nearsighted.

Christian, be thankful for your life and do not take for granted the good things God has given you, but do not love your life. Lose your life for the sake of Christ, and you will save it. The fields are white for harvest. The world is in pain, including your neighbor. Our Lord's return is imminent. Work! Get exhausted! Do not get comfortable. Your relaxation is in the next life. Store up your treasures there.

This is why we can't have nice things!

11 January 2009

Ron Cherry: Referee and Human

While watching the college football national championship game, I noted the announcer say that the referee, Ron Cherry, was the first African-American to referee the national championship game.

Yes, I think that is a good thing.

But when we stop keeping records of such things based on someone's skin -- then I'll get excited.

01 January 2009

Laws Meant To Be Broken

Check here if you have read and agree to the Terms and Conditions.

Since you are reading this blog, I will assume you are savvy with computers and the interweb. Likewise, you have probably read many terms and conditions agreements or skipped them and just put a check in the box.

My question: Is it dishonest or wrong in any way to check the box affirming you have read it when in fact you skipped it?

Or how about laws that are made to be broken? For example, the interstate speed limit. Lawmakers know that people will always drive 5-10 mph faster than the limit. There's really little purpose for police to stop every vehicle going 5 mph over (although I have heard of "zero tolerance" policies). Thus if the intentioned limit is 85, the law will be made at 75. So am I really breaking the law if I go 80?

What do you say?