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Monthly Archives: December 2010

Paint the Post!

There’s much talk going around, especially among the scholarly circles, of the search for the real Jesus. So much so that Lee Strobel thought is beneficial to do some interviewing and write his own book compiling his findings in The Case for the Real Jesus. I have noticed ,though, that it’s not just the “liberal” side who is in the business of reinventing Jesus. The other side may surprise you.

 

G.K. Chesterton spoke of revolution in his book, Orthodoxy, and said that “for the orthodox there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration…If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must always be painting it again; that is, you must always be having a revolution.” And this is what I intend to challenge the reader to do – repaint the post white. Revolution isn’t the introduction of novel ideas, it’s the overturning of the novel, a revolving things back to their original form. It’s a sort of turning things right side up again.

 

There is a group, comprised of God fearing men like Lee Strobel (people the church needs), who are working at repainting the post white. They are valiantly fighting the black grim and filth of liberal scholarship who would have us believe that Jesus was a charlatan, a homosexual, or insane – anything but The Christ, The Son of the living God. As I said, we need these men/women, but I believe they are only focusing on one side of the post. We must not forget to be painting the other side of the post white also for it is also in need of the same revolution. It is this other side that I would like to bring your attention to.

 

This group is the more (and sometimes the most) conservative side of Christianity. I’m not naming any particular denomination or movement as it’s the spirit of the group that defines them not a label. What they have done is, in the name of Jesus, created a Jesus that isn’t the real Jesus. They have superimposed their beliefs onto Him and, although most of the time well meaning, peddle their goods in His name.

Now there is an element of truth in what they say, but this is the case in every false teaching I know of, it starts right, but goes awry, which is why it’s false. This group takes things such as “don’t love the world” and they forget to let Jesus define what is worldly, or what way it is that we are not to love the world. They know that Jesus hated sin, but fail to ask Him what is sinful and what isn’t. More often than not, they call a thing sinful that they deem distasteful, and don’t blink an eye at many of the things Jesus actually condemned (such as not loving a brother, or forsaking the poor and fatherless, gluttony, arrogance, etc). They even occasionally throw in a side of dislocated Scripture verses in attempts to give it the aroma of authenticity.

Some may think I’m being too harsh, but I just called you to a revolution. Would you expect any less?but for the sake of clarity, I believe the majority of them mean well. I honestly think they don’t realize that the post is gray. They weren’t around when it was white and were introduced to the white post after it was in need of repainting. The never stopped to investigate if the color they were told was white was authentic, they just proceeded to tell the next generation that the gray post was white. So please understand that I don’t think the revolution requires an attack on these well meaning people, it requires us to repaint the post it’s original color (but we must remember that no matter how well meaning they are, gray is not white). This isn’t to say once the paint buckets come out that the mistaken group won’t put up a resistance – remember they truly believe gray is white. But we must continue the revolution if we are to show them what the white post really looks like.

 

I seek to enlist you all in this revolution, but it will involve risks. You will have to be willing to compare all your preconceived notions of white and only accept the one that matches the original. You will have to look at Jesus – the historical Jesus, the Jesus of Scripture, the Jesus handed down to us through the teachings of the apostles (not that there are three different Jesus’ but three ways of studying the One Jesus) and follow Him. There are times where He doesn’t act or speak like we expect Him to. It is precisely at these times we will be tempted to change the color a bit to suit our biases; but we should realize that it is precisely these times that expose the importance of revolution. It’s not just needed for the sake of the others, but for the sake of the revolutionaries themselves.

To look at black and call it white is a horrid thing, but so is to look at gray (or even almond) and proclaim it to be white. White is white, and all other colors are not white. It’s quite simple to understand, but quite difficult to implement. However, it is this difficult task that God calls us to as recorded in the book of Jude to contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints. In other words – Paint the post!

 

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2010 in Church, Culture, Jesus Christ, Legalism

 

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To Err is… to Err

There was a discussion on Facebook the past couple of days that included a topic that some Christians believe to be wrong and others believe to be perfectly acceptable. The particular topic is not of any consequence for this post as long as one knows it is not a thing that Scripture calls sin – such as adultery, theft, lying, etc. The issue I want to bring up is much more vital as it is at the root of the disagreement. See, both sides want to claim that they are living by Scripture, and both sides claim that the other side is not being biblical in their particular stance on whatever uncertain topic they may be addressing at the time.
As Scripture and church history are brought into the discussion, inevitably one side (and it’s always the same side) finally decides to change gears and opts for the “It’s better to err on the side of caution” that they typically couple with “What you enjoy in moderation your children will enjoy in excess.”  Seeing as they have forsaken Scripture in justifying their position on questionable issue “X” and have sought refuge in quaint sayings, I would like to examine the two common rebuttals that really mean “I have no biblical reason for my saying you are wrong.”

Let’s take the second one first – “What you enjoy in moderation your children will enjoy in excess.” This is nothing short of a fear tactic. What is being admitted is that although there is no biblical reason why “X” should be avoided, you should avoid it because although “X” is permitted in moderation you can’t guarantee your children won’t go to seed on it and indulge thus exceeding the permissible bounds of Scripture. The problem with this is that they only seem to apply this quip to things they already don’t like. These people don’t place a prohibition on eating delectable food for fear that their children may become morbidly obese. These people don’t teach that we should abstain from engaging in pleasurable sporting events for fear that our children will make entertainment their god. These people don’t let all their material possession go to waste for fear that their children will become materialistic. No, what they do in these instances is what they should do concerning issue “X” – they teach their children biblical moderation…. Well, sometimes they don’t, I’ve seen quite a bit of morbidly obese children recently.
So although it is possible that one’s children will over indulge in something the parents enjoyed moderately, that is not due to the moderate enjoyment of the parent, but rather the lack of self control in the child. To hold to this quaint saying as gospel is the theological equivalent of Paul not preaching salvation by grace alone due to the fear (reality actually) of some who hear him thinking they can sin as much as they want and all is well with their souls. Gladly, this was not his chosen course of action.

Secondly, let’s look at the primary retort: “It’s better to err on the side of caution”. This is very true when it comes to double checking to make sure a gun isn’t loaded before you let your 6 year old hold it for the first time to teach him gun etiquette; it’s fine if you can’t remember how much air pressure your tires have and stop by the station to check/fill them up before a long trip. But we are talking living as Jesus lived. We’re talking about teaching other men the truth of the Christian life, showing them how to live as God intended men to live. For God to give a standard and a man to come along and not live according to it but rather live by his own standard is rebellion. But it is no less sinful for a man to come along and say the standard isn’t enough and add to it, thus creating his own standard to live by. This is what the “it’s better to err on the side of caution” camp does. To call something sinful that God has called good is to call God a liar right alongside the man who calls a thing good that God has called sinful. One tried to illustrate their position that since we are sinner and will always err then we should err on the side of caution by likening it to driving through a canyon with his family with the steep rock wall on one side and the drop off on the other. He said it was better to travel along scraping against the canyon wall (even breaking an axel) than to drop off the cliff. There are many problems with this illustration, but the primary one is that no one drives this way. The illustrator is assuming there are only two choices – wrong and more wrong – when there is also Truth. Jesus showed us how to traverse the canyon – actually He didn’t just show us the way, He is the way. Neither the traveler who drives off the cliff, nor the one who grinds his vehicle against the wall, is traveling on the road.

When it comes to the Christian life, banning a thing by saying “it’s better to err on the side of caution” is to admit that one is satisfied with the lesser of two evils.  It’s to say that one is willing to live in error as long as that error is on the side of caution. But the truth is, to err is to err. The man who has erred by throwing caution to the wind isn’t following Jesus, nor is the man who has made caution his Bible. Both erring individuals look at Jesus and decide that His path isn’t the wisest and they both go their own way, the only difference between them is how many bits and pieces of Jesus they absorb into their own standard of living. One may like a bit more of Jesus than the other, but neither wants all of Him.

May we follow Him with complete abandoned.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2010 in Christian Life, Legalism

 

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ENCORE!

I’ve been reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy and must say it is challengingly edifying. So much I would like to share, but I’ll just stick to one thought… for now.

 

He speaks of how children are so full of life that they never tire of the monotony of a thing. Those who have children can identify with this. My 5 year old hears a joke that he thinks is funny and he will continue to tell it until the hearers are contemplating beginning a search for a tall precipice from which to jump. Yet he is oblivious and laughs just as hard the 150th time he tells the joke as he did at the first. This is because he doesn’t cease to be humored at it as an adult does. We grow weary with things and begin to take things for granted. The longer we live in this world, the more we take amazing things for granted. We take each sunrise as if it’s owed us, just assuming the sun will gloriously rise as the day before because that’s what the sun does. But Chesterton says, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again!’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again!’ to the moon.” We begin to say things are the way they are out of necessity and cease to see the hand of God behind it all. But Chesterton challenges us by saying, “It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them.”

I think Chesterton makes an extremely valid point. We have definitely lost our sense of awe at God’s work around us. We take things such as seasons, child birth, sun rises, solar eclipses, and all of the happenings of creation around us and we have reduced it to a cause and effect sequence. It may very well be true that the sun has always risen in the east and has always set in the west, but that is no guarantee that it will not reverse direction tomorrow. Yes, all daisies produce daisies, but why?! We say, that’s the way it is, but why? Why is it not some other way? Why such consistency? We must not lose the wonder we had at childhood upon first seeing these miracles, and remember that it is truly God that holds all things together and by Him all things exist.

“The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical ENCORE.” May we never cease to rise in praise to God as we behold His works and cry “ENCORE!”

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2010 in Devotion, God

 

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Imitation Tuesdays

   Beginning the new year, I intend to institute “Imitation Tuesdays”. Every Tuesday I will post a section from “The Imitation of Christ”. This nearly 600 year old work is attributed to Thomas a’ Kempis (ca. 1380 – 25 July 1471), a Catholic monk affiliated with “The Brothers of the Common Life”. I say “attributed” as the oldest manuscript of The Imitation doesn’t bear the name of any author. Through the years about 25 different “authors”have been attached to the The Imitation, but Thomas wins out due to the literary style, Dutch idioms, and the preponderance of the modern devotion that was so apparent to The Brotherhood of the Common Life that the work contains.

The version I will be using is a translation from Latin to English by Richord Whitford in 1530 that has been edited by Harold C Gardiner, S.J. – copyright 1955.

This monk, venerated by the Church of England and yet to be declared a Saint by the Roman Catholic Chruch, displayed a passion for The LORD that we should all desire to be consumed with. May these “Imitation Tuesdays” be a challenge to us and may God use it to draw us closer to Himself.

 

 

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My Post-Christmas Post

Well, Christmas time has come and gone, as far as American celebrations are concerned. Now we can spend our evenings in the never-ending return lines at Walmart exchanging the things we received (but didn’t really want) for gift cards so we can purchase what we really wanted, or perhaps really needed. While you’re in those lines, or lucky enough to avoid those lines, remember that this past Saturday, we just celebrated the birth of The Redeemer King. The LORD of Glory made flesh and dwelt among us. Who through death conqured death, hell, sin, and the grave rising victorious and ever reigning at the right hand of The Father! That is pact with life changing truth (there aren’t enough books to unpack it), but the one thing I would remind you of is that this Jesus we celebrated on Saturday is still alive today – so live like it.

  Every gift you see being exchaged can remind you of how humanity has been given The Gift of God and we we consistently exchange it for the empty boxes of lies. Not to be judgemental toward non-believers, but to stir us with compassion that they need to know the joy of knowing and loving their King. Every gift you see that is being enjoyed by the receiver should remind us of the true joy The Messiah has brought and continues to bring to those who receive Him. I could go on, but in short, my we see illustrations of Jesus all around us and continue to tell others of the Joy of Christmas. Retailers will have their Christmas decor down by now, don’t mentally follow their lead. So often we go about our “Merry” way and begin to prepare to ring in the New Year swearing to ourselves to work of the 25lbs we packed on during all those Christmas parties. I’m encouraging you to be resolved today to live in the light of the Messiah we just celebrated. And then renew that reolve tomorrow and each day following.

I’ll end with a well know Christmas carol, and notice it’s implications aren’t seasonal as the effects of His coming are eternal.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Christian Life

 

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Missing Pieces

I was helping put a puzzle together with my two oldest boys. When we reached the end we discovered we were missing two pieces. Interestingly enough, neither boy suggested that there were actually no missing pieces, or that one of the other pieces was in the wrong place, or that the puzzle didn’t exist, or that we couldn’t really know if anything in the puzzle was right, or that there was no puzzle manufacturer. All of these option are obviously erroneous as one can see the puzzle is there, one can see all the other pieces fit together (which is one way the missing pieces are apparent.)

 

But this is the response of sinful man. Romans 1 (read it sometime) tells us that man supresses the truth that God has revealed. Those who don’t wish to believe God’s truth are looking for reasons to reject it. They behold a missing piece (such as the problem of evil in the world) and based on the missing puzzle piece try to deny the existence of the puzzle, puzzle maker, or any absolute knowledge about either. The odd thing is that if there were no puzzle maker or puzzle then there would be no knowledge of any missing piece… would there?

 

Just some food for thought.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2010 in God

 

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Holiness and Entertainment – Part 2

[Here is the second half of Mitchell’s post. Note: the last five points of his essay being “1.” each time is my error. apparently I can’t use the editor on this as I should and I can’t correct it. My apologies to the author and the reader.]

Putting into Practice Scriptural Principles for Entertainment

How then are we to approach entertainment? Should we have no qualms about going to see the latest film from Hollywood regardless of rating or content? Should there be no boundaries to what is and what is not acceptable for a Christian? After much intensive study, I see that there are no passages that speak directly about movies in the Bible. We cannot find an instance where Barnabas instructed John Mark what television series were acceptable and what were not. Should we then be silent about cinema?

I believe that there are certain principles in a proper interpretation of Scripture that we can apply to this situation. In fact, when we understand these principles, many answers appear for other activities as well. Let’s look at the principles that can be found in James 1:13-16.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.”

  1. Where does sin originate?

This passage in James deals with the process of sin, that is, how sin develops in a believer’s life. James makes it clear that we are not drawn by God into sin. He then stipulates what does cause us to sin. “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” Notice what is said here. He does not say that temptation is the origin of sin. He says we suffer temptation when we are drawn by our own lust. The only reason that temptation is effective in my life is because it takes advantage of the desire that is already in my heart. If I steal, it is not because the keys were left in the ignition of an unlocked car. I steal because there was already covetousness in my heart looking for an opportunity to manifest itself. This is the same thought that Jesus gave in Matthew 15:17-20 when He told the Pharisees that out of the heart comes “adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies.” I do not sin because I see a picture of an immodestly dressed and attractive woman. I sin because I lust after that woman in the picture.

Take this principle further to our entertainment. I do not sin when I hear profanity, see violence, or view immorality. However, make no mistake that these things can very well be the opportunity that our flesh takes to commit that sin. These can be the catalyst that entices us to give in to the lust in our heart and commit sin. Do not think that I am encouraging a believer to view any and all things that are available. What I am addressing is the idea that we sin because of the movies we watch, the books we read, or the music we listen to. This is not true. We sin because that sin is already in our heart. These things would have no power over us if sinful desires did not already exist within us.

  1. What does not solve the problem?

If we understand the Scriptural principle that sin dwells within us, then we also must understand that simply avoiding temptation will not address the root problem. Our root problem is the sinfulness of our flesh and the power that it continues to have inside of us. We can avoid all secular movies, television, and books and still have a heart full of ungodliness. Do not think that you are holy simply because you have eradicated “worldly influences” from your life. Holiness is not simply about what you do or not do, but is much more about what you do or do not think.

  1. What then should I or should I not watch?

If we accept and believe these principles, then what is acceptable and unacceptable to watch? We must take a deep and honest look at ourselves. What sins do you struggle with? Do you find there is often a weakness to lust? If this is the case, then it is very wise to avoid movies that would encourage this. Do you sometimes find yourself using God’s name inappropriately, then avoid those movies that exacerbate the problem. Yet, we cannot merely think of the “big” sins. Do you often covet? Pass on the movies that encourage greed. Do you find yourself becoming discontent with your spouse? Stay away from the movies that make you think “Why couldn’t I have him/her? He/she is SO perfect.” Perhaps you find a voyeur’s delight in viewing other’s sin. By this, I mean the depicted sin is what entertains you rather than the story that is told. This is again evidence that there is a problem inside of you.

This whole process requires one to be very honest and very concerned about his walk with God. We must be observant about our heart and take note about how things affect us. This principle is not for those who think “What can I get away with?” but rather is for those who will be honest with themselves.

  1. Does everyone have the same kind of lusts?

Another principle that we should understand is that not everyone suffers the same kinds of internal lusts. In James 1:14, the phrase “his own lust” means “his own peculiar lust” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown). Everyone has his own kinds of weaknesses in his flesh. Some may struggle with lust, others with pride, and others with insecurity. Each has his own kinds of weaknesses. Some may be able to view things that we cannot, and we may be able to view things that they cannot. This is a matter of Christian liberty. It should be a far greater concern that our brother does not display the fruit of the Spirit than that he does not keep to our pre-approved list of movies.

  1. What is my responsibility to my brother?

Lastly, we will briefly consider how these principles should affect our relationship with our Christian family. Since we see that not everyone has the same types of lust, we should be very careful what we encourage our Christian friends to take part in. Encourage them to be open about their struggles and do not pressure them into viewing something with which they are not comfortable. Likewise, be open with other believers and explain why you have chosen to stay away from a particular movie. We all have weaknesses, and we should all bear each other up that each of us can live a life well pleasing unto the Lord.

Much more could be said regarding entertainment. For instance, we could pursue how a Christian should watch a movie, what we should do with errant worldviews, how to use cinema as an opportunity for Christian growth and evangelism, among many other topics. However, for now let us simply think about how we choose our movies and how we treat Christians who make different choices than we do. Above all, consecrate yourself to the Lord’s purpose in this world and encourage this in your Christian brother as well. Only then can you truly be a holy Christian.

 

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