Wednesday, October 31, 2012

forgiveness


I thought Lisa Robinson's post on Do I Need To Ask God For Forgiveness? warrants some thought. I perceive this is one of those Biblical tensions and her commenters point that out. But I think she brings an oft overlooked perspective and therefore repost it here. While the difference is subtle, it seems to me that confessing our sin and aligning with God's truth in regard to that is the key rather than the asking for forgiveness.

I'm open to input. Here's Robinson's post:

That question sounds radical, I know. But bear with me and hear me out. For all of my Christian life, when I’ve sinned I’ve asked the Lord to forgive me. And observing the landscape I know I’m not alone. How many of you do that when you sin? Lord, please forgive me. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and examining this concept against the breadth of scripture and have come to the conclusion that maybe asking forgiveness is not the best approach.

Why do I say this? Consider these verses
“In Him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to his grace, which he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

“Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4)
As a believer, I am united to Christ through the Holy Spirit (cf 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). And if I am united to him, then Ephesians indicates that in Christ is the forgiveness of sins. Meaning, the forgiveness is already there. But here’s the passage that really got me to thinking about this;
“By this [Christ doing the will of the Father and offering himself as an atoning sacrifice for sins] we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all…for by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10,14)
So what this tells me is that the sacrifice that Christ made, he made for sin of all times. It is finished! Putting this together with the previous verses it communicates that forgiveness is already there in the atoning sacrifice and automatically applied and available to those united in Christ. If I have to ask for forgiveness, I’m essentially asking for something that is already there.

But there’s a problem. I sin. You sin. It throws us out of whack, fills us with shame and puts focus on the flesh. So what do we do with the forgiveness that is already there? Here’s where I think 1 John 1:9 comes into play
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”
Instead of asking for forgiveness, what I need to do is confess my sins. It is in the confession that forgiveness is applied from the sacrifice that was already made, which includes the forgiveness of sins. This is why I believe John is saying that the Father will forgive us. What I’ve realized is that if I ask for forgiveness as if it’s not already available, I’m essentially undermining the atoning sacrifice of Christ. The problem with my sin is not that I have not received forgiveness but that I am out of alignment with the forgiveness I have already received. This can have disastrous consequences if gone unattended because of the ensnaring tendencies of sin. Sin is a tough taskmaster and doesn’t care who it destroys.

Friends, this is where I think brutal honesty with God is necessary concerning our transgressions. I’m not talking about just naming sins, but looking them in the eye and identifying how they wooed you to do their bidding. There is a passivity of asking for forgiveness because it really does not force us to look at what we did only remove the shame associated with the transgression. And here’s where I think the transparent confession of sin should take us;

1) It should cause us to look at that transgression for what it is, the grievance against God. It will force us to identify with it and our complicity with it’s action. And that’s where you have to get honest. Tell God you did x or failed to do y because you are a rebel and you wanted your way. Own it. Identify with it. He knows anyway. 2) It should cause us to look at the remedy for sin. Where else to go after you’ve looked this ugly monster in the eye? The price that has already been paid, the forgiveness of sins that is there. That is what I believe repentance is – turning to Christ because of the transgressions. If not, then we’ll cower under the shame that sin produces.

3) It should cause us to remember the gospel and preach it to ourselves. Because it is in that confrontation that we’re reminded but for God’s reconciling work, there would be condemnation for these transgressions. But his grace we have received the gift of forgiveness. Will this not fuel a greater appreciation and love for the Lord?

3) It should cause us to seek help. So instead of asking for what you already have, it encourages us to ask for what we really need – help from the Holy Spirit. Because the flesh is weak and will fail. But we are risen with Christ. The Son sitting at the right hand of the Father means we can come boldly before his throne and ask for grace and help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Tell the Lord you cannot do this in your own strength.

So that is why I’m coming to the conclusion that asking for forgiveness may not be the best thing. Rather, it is alignment with the forgiveness that is already there and that comes through confession. It’s a radical concept I know. To be honest, ‘Lord please forgive me’ has been part of my vocabulary for so long that it just rolls off my lips. Hence the passivity. But I’ve been deliberate in shifting from the passivity of ‘Lord forgive me’ to the confrontation confession produces. And I’m thankful that though I fail, Christ’s sacrifice provides a lasting remedy for my transgressions.

sandy snaps

Stunning snaps of hurricane Sandy at the Big Picture ...


what to say

"When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less." ~ Paul Brown, US football coach & owner (1908 - 1991)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

prayer psychology

Prayer loaded with reverse psychology fools no one - especially not God ...

love the sinner

I've posted several times regarding the problem of the unbiblical "love the sinner, hate the sin" catch phrase (here and here) and specifically in context of the current GLBT agenda (here and here).

Now Tim Challies adds more wisdom regarding the matter in Beyond Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin:

Love the sinner, hate the sin.” That’s a well-worn Christian mantra, an expression of conviction that even while we stand firm on what constitutes right and wrong, we will continue to love those who do what is sinful. We use the expression to affirm love for others even while expressing that their sin is really, truly wrong.

The expression works in many contexts. I can love the alcoholic even while hating the alcoholism or, more rightly, hating the episodes of binging and acting out. “I love you. I really do. But I hate that you continue to indulge in these episodes of binge drinking and I hate the way you behave when you’re drunk.” This is the stuff of Intervention, the stuff of Dr. Phil. I can love the thief even while hating that he imperils his safety and freedom by taking what is not his. “I love you, but I hate that you keep stealing from people.” Non-Christians look at things much the same way, though they do not frame it with the word “sin.” We all know that there are times when we can disapprove of a person’s actions even while continuing to love and value that person.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” works in many contexts, but Christians are learning that there is one context, one very important context, in which it does not work quite so well. Some things that the Bible says are sin are very closely tied to a person’s identity, to their very understanding of who they are. There are not a lot of alcoholics who say, “I was born an alcoholic and will always be one. At heart, that’s who I am.” There are not a lot of thieves who declare that theft is an integral part of their identity and who celebrate it as the deepest part of their self-understanding. There are not parades to celebrate alcoholism and thievery. These are sins to be sure, but they are not the kinds of sins by which people identify themselves. Even those who do these things tend to acknowledge that they are wrong and try to clean themselves up by moving past them.

But other sins are very closely tied to identity. The Bible is clear that homosexuality is sin. As the designer of humanity, as the designer of gender, God has both the ability and the right to tell us what is consistent with his will and what is radically inconsistent. Homosexuality is inconsistent with his will and, therefore, sinful. Christians have long held this and have sought to hate the sin even while loving the sinner. Those words may help the Christian as he thinks about that particular sin, calling him to affirm the wrongness of the sin and at the same time to affirm the value of the person who commits that sin. But this phrase brings no comfort to the homosexual; because his sexuality is so closely tied to his identity, it is nearly impossible to believe that I can truly love him, even while I reject his sexuality. My words in effect say, “I love you; I hate you.”

A growing number of Christians are calling on us to understand that we’ve made this whole issue a little bit too simplistic. We’ve made it a little bit too neat and tidy and haven’t really pushed ourselves to look at homosexuality in light of culture’s celebration of it. They are by no means calling on us to abandon what we believe or to reject what the Bible says. Rather, they are helping us see it from a clearer, more realistic, more helpful perspective.

I am grateful for several recent books that address this issue well and from an insider’s perspective—from Christians who used to identify as homosexual or from Christians who in some way still do (even while they do not practice). With this issue so prevalent in society today, with the increasing juxtaposition between culture and the Bible, I think every Christian can benefit from reading at least one of them and making the effort to think about the issues. Here are a few suggestions.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield. Butterfield was living a good life. She had a tenured position at a large university in a field for which she cared deeply. She owned two homes with her partner and provided hospitality to students and activists. She was heavily involved in the community around her. She was well respected in the academy. And then, in the late 30’s, her world was turned completely upside down when she encountered the Bible and, through the Bible, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Today she is a homeschooling mother and the wife of a pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian Church. That is a story that just has to be told. Her book is little-known but very deep and very important and absolutely fascinating. Of particular importance are her thoughts on how the gay community is in some ways so much safer and more welcoming than the church community.

Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill. I have previously reviewed this book, so let me quote an excerpt of that review: “It may be that this book’s greatest strength is its ability to take us deep inside the struggle. Those of us who have never struggled with this sin have probably never considered all of the difficulties that come with it—all of the feelings of guilt and shame, remorse and hopelessness. 1 Corinthians tells us that when one member of Christ’s body suffers, all suffer together. This book invites us into the suffering experienced by some of our brothers and sisters. There are things I wish Hill had done better, times I think he could have addressed issues differently, but his book remains powerful, always looking to Scripture, always seeking God’s will.”

Out of a Far Country by Christopher & Angela Yuan. “Christopher Yuan, the son of Chinese immigrants, discovered at an early age that he was different. He was attracted to other boys. As he grew into adulthood, his mother, Angela, hoped to control the situation. Instead, she found that her son and her life were spiraling out of control. Years of heartbreak, confusion, and prayer followed before the Yuans found a place of complete surrender, which is God’s desire for all families. Their amazing story, told from the perspectives of both mother and son, offers hope for anyone affected by homosexuality. God calls all who are lost to come home to him. Casting a compelling vision for holy sexuality, Out of a Far Country speaks to prodigals, parents of prodigals, and those wanting to minister to the gay community.”

10 questions for pro-abortion candidates

Travin Wax posts the following:

Debate moderators and reporters love to ask pro-life candidates hard questions about abortion. Curiously, they don’t do the same for pro-choice candidates.

Here are 10 questions you never hear a pro-choice candidate asked by the media:

1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraception. Are there any restrictions you would approve of?

2. In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female?

3. In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?

4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?

5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?

6. Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her religious conscience by providing access to abortifacient drugs and contraception to employees?

7. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to the charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas with large numbers of minorities?

8. You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?

9. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?

10. If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence?

sinners speak


My friends, we are in exile. We are citizens of a great and mighty Kingdom living among those whom we were formerly like - i.e., citizens of the Kingdom of Darkness. Some of them will be redeemed. But be aware, we are not of this world.

I recently read Genesis 19 and verse 9 stood out to me:

But they [the residents of Sodom] said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge!

Wow! And we still hear that today, don't we? Epecially from proponents of the GLBT agenda. The acknowledgement that we are strangers in a strange land followed by the accusation of who are we to judge. Sound familiar?

Do not yield. God in Heaven is our King and we must not bow down to the current weltgeist.

Monday, October 29, 2012

glory dust


The following post by Toby J. Sumpter moved me.

We are inextricably embedded in this world, in the material world. The wind scrapes our faces as much as the branches of low hanging trees. Words and images ricochet through space and time like chisels swung against marble, chipping, shaping, creating, destroying. We are inescapably embodied. We are bodies that act and react as we are acted upon.

This means that all of life is already a ritual, already sacramental, already profoundly spiritual. This is because God made the world and upholds it by the Word of his power and by the breath of his Spirit. So where will you go from his presence? Will you hide in a cave, at the bottom of the sea, in outer space?

At the center of this magic world is the Magic Word which holds it all together and keeps it from flying back into the nothingness. That Word is incarnate forever as a Man who sits at the right hand of the Father and visits this world constantly through the person of his Spirit, and through the instruments of his Word and sacraments: testing, trying, cleansing, judging, comforting, killing. But this same Word penetrates the whole world; the glory of God fills the universe like an electrical charge.

Glory

This means that there is no such thing as "high" liturgy or "low" liturgy — although because of the sin of liturgical pretense, there are certainly those who think there are such things. Life in this universe, seen with true, evangelical faith, is always high liturgy, always bursting with meaning, bursting with the life of the triune God, bursting with power to shape, to break, to mold, to crush, to save. The world is shot through with the glory of God.

So how will we describe the difference between ceremony and informality? Is there no difference between the “high liturgy” of Easter Sunday worship and the “high liturgy” of a walk in the park? How does ceremony and form and awe relate to the rest of our life?

If the world is already in some sense high liturgy, ablaze with the life of the Trinity, then there is nothing but holy ground. The world is a sanctuary. The universe is a pinnacled cathedral. This necessitates the right kind of fear and panic. But because we are creatures made to laugh and play and sleep, we must find some way to pretend that everything is perfectly fine, natural, normal.

Asleep in the Sermon

Some people fall asleep during the sermon, and we make fun of them. But in some sense, we always fall asleep during the sermon; we do that every night. Psalm 19 says that the heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament is constantly preaching about God. So it is not as though we are ever safe. There is no place you can go to get out of the presence of God. The world is charged with the presence of the living God.

So how can we deal with this? How can you make love to your spouse in the presence of God? How can you play here, relax here, live here?

Humbled Awe

But this is part of the glory of it all. This is the meaning of grace. God made the world for us. He made it so that we would always walk with him, basking in the radiance of his glory, and somehow, at the same time, be perfectly at home with him. It’s sin that distorts this and makes it awkward and unnatural. It’s sin and death that creates the chasm between the awful and the ordinary. And the quest to put these two things back together, to marry heaven and earth is what salvation is all about. It’s about reconciling sinners to the Father, but more than that, the gospel is an invitation to men to open their eyes to see the world as it is.

How do we fall down on our faces and cry "Holy!" and yet sit down in the comfort of the Spirit, believing that we are somehow welcome, somehow we belong, somehow knowing and believing that this is what we were made for? How can we sit back and relax in the garden, knowing all along that it is simultaneously a sanctuary?

The Bible’s word for this is humility. James says, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble . . . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:6, 10). The world was created to be both home and sanctuary. The world was created to be both a place that radiates the splendor of the unending glory of God and a place where people could be at home with that glory, a place that would cause people to stop their mouths in shock and wonder, and a place where they might also drift off into a peaceful night’s sleep. The key is humility: the smaller you are, the bigger you are. The tinier and more insignificant you become, the easier it is to see and love both realities.

Ants Before Everest

When we have put on our best clothes, played our best music, and walked with our greatest dignity, we are still only human. We are still just people, just men and women and children, with arms and legs and belly buttons. God loves our worship; God loves our praise — provided we have not made an idol of it. But even at our best we are ants at the foot of Mt. Everest pantomiming how big our God is. We are tiny specks on a roller coaster swinging through the galaxies, surrounded by millions of stars. We are children with tongues stuck in our cheeks scrawling with crayons. We are so small.

And that is really what we are doing in our ceremonies, our liturgies. We are confessing that we are just people, just small, broken human beings. And yet we remember that the glorious, omnipotent God became one of us, stooped down for us, embraced us in His love. We are not merely microscopic organisms pounding the door of some ogre’s castle in hopes of mercy. We are the beloved children of God, made in his image, saved by his grace, washed in our Savior’s blood, redeemed forever and ever. We are small, and yet he has set his love on us. And so we take our smallness, our weakness, we take dust and ashes and, like the little children that we are, we draw on each other.

Glory Dust

We play in the dirt that Adam was made out of, and we try to draw the best thing we can imagine. And in this world, the best thing we can imagine is the cross of Jesus, where our weakness was lifted up and transfigured into glory. Where our failures and shame were lifted up and owned by the God of the universe; where our Father claimed us forever and ever as his beloved sons in his Beloved Son. This is folly; this is silly. We are only playing like little children in the dust. But it is this very folly that is the wisdom of God; it is this weakness that is the strength of God.

Our ceremonies and rituals are serious, formal plays where we remember how small we are, how weak we are, and how good our God is. And as we humble ourselves in this, we ought to find both realities growing around us: the haunting glory of the transcendent, numinous God drives us to build cathedrals, to kneel, to prostrate ourselves to the ground. It’s as though we are little children trying to show how big God is: “He’s this big,” we seem to say. And we guard the glory with ceremony and order and decorum, with clashing cymbals, high sounding brass, and the blaring, rumbling, roaring organ swelling high above, and the high, crafted melodies of choirs. But done rightly, received rightly, the ceremony ought not make us wooden or mechanical or awkward.

A “high” ceremony celebrating a Christian marriage rightly drives a couple to a holy bed to make a joyful ruckus, enjoying the earthy, ordinary goodness of sex. Understood rightly, glorious ceremony ought to drive us to the informality of drinks and brats on a smoky summer night, or the goodness of God who gives a man a lovely woman who curls herself into his chest on a couch in front of the television, or childish cheeks smeared with peanut butter and jelly and the wrestle mania that follows with dad and the kids: these moments and hours, these unceremonial “liturgies” of life ought to be enjoyed and celebrated for the grace that they are. They are holy and good and ought to be received as heavenly glories and nothing less than sacramental life for the world.

God Became Dust

God became a man, and embraced this world and made it holy again through his life, death, and resurrection. The incarnation means that the ordinary is lifted up. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return, but also remember that you in your dust have been lifted up to glory. And because of the goodness of creation, and its goodness restored in the resurrection, it is already lifted up. You are already ascended with Christ. And yet in some way, this ordinary glory (that is now lifted up to the Lord) drives us further up and further in, it still drives us to chase a glory we will never fully realize or comprehend.

Therefore, remember the God who became dust for us and remember how small you are. Remember that we are little kids in the sandbox of God’s universe. And then remember that you have a Father, a loving, faithful Father who has loved you with an everlasting love, and who has sent his only Son to die for you and by his death and resurrection frees you from all your sins. Remember the high calling of low humility. Remember and stand up big and tall, and remember that you are dust: glory dust.

animal big picture

If you like animal pictures, you'll like the Big Picture.



reformation day

Celebrate Reformation Day with the Reformation Polka!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

on women

Frank Viola writes Jesus & the War on Women. I'm a complementarian and I love women. I think Viola and God also do. Here's a snippet from Viola's post ...

Jesus is the greatest liberator in the universe. And freeing women to their God-given callings is one of the things He does best.
Among other things, this would include the following:
  • In the spirit of Mary Magdalene — the first woman to set eyes on the resurrected Christ – women are free to testify to the good news of Jesus and His resurrection.
  • In the spirit of Mary – the mother of Jesus – women are free to fulfill God’s will and calling, saying “be it unto me according to your Word.”
  • In the spirit of Mary of Bethany, women are free to worship Jesus Christ extravagantly. And they are free to sit at His feet as disciples, along with His male followers.
  • In the spirit of Anna, women are free to prophesy by the Holy Spirit. In this way, women are called to serve as spiritual priests along with men because they are part of the priesthood of all believers and they too possess the Spirit.
  • In the spirit of the Canaanite woman who persisted in her request for Jesus to heal her daughter, women are free to press into the Kingdom of God and wrestle with God until they receive His blessing.
  • In the spirit of the women who traveled with Jesus – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others – women are free to follow the Lord wherever He goes and serve Him out of their substance.
  • In the spirit of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at Jacob’s well, women are free to pioneer evangelism and church planting initiatives.
The call to follow Jesus as a full-fledged disciple and the call to serve God goes out to all women just as it does to all men.

race, sex, and marriage


Amy Hall demonstrates the faulty reasoning (I'm probably giving too much credit with reasoning) of Phil Snider's skit. Snider's skit was intended to cause one to think that opposition to same-sex marriage is likened to opposition to anti-slavery laws. Sadly, there's no real thinking in Snider's skit; his tact is one of preying on emotions. While Hall's argument doesn't prove same-sex marriage wrong (which it is), it demonstrates the sad reasoning proffered by some of its supporters.

Here is Hall's post:

You may have already seen Rev. Dr. Phil Snider’s two-minute speech to the Springfield City Council in support of adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the categories of protected people in the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.
Snider began by giving religious arguments against the ordinance. Then, in a surprising twist, he revealed that all of his comments were quotes from white preachers in the ‘50s and ‘60s; he had merely used the phrase “gay rights” instead of "racial integration." Snider closed by saying, “I hope you will not make the same mistake. I hope you will stand on the right side of history.”
 The video has been viewed over two million times and is being used to argue that opposing same-sex marriage is analogous to opposing interracial marriage. Tom Gilson of Thinking Christian had this to say about Snider’s video:
I wish he hadn’t called his skit an argument. It wasn’t one. It was a play, a set piece with a surprise ending that generated emotion where reason is called for; a drama play-acting as reasoned discussion. It had a powerful effect, but that’s a poor substitute for honest communication.
You can see the video of the speech (which Gilson calls “reason steamrolled by emotion”) and read Gilson’s full analysis of Snider’s argument and why it fails over at Thinking Christian.
But what about the charge that traditional marriage supporters are making the same mistake as the racial segregationists? In a Public Discourse article, Francis Beckwith explains why anti-miscegenation laws are not analogous to opposing same-sex marriage. In fact, he says, it’s the opposite. It’s the same-sex marriage advocates who are making the same mistake as the racial segregationists:
The overwhelming consensus among scholars is that the reason for these [anti-miscegenation] laws was to enforce racial purity, an idea that begins its cultural ascendancy with the commencement of race-based slavery of Africans in early 17th-century America and eventually receives the imprimatur of “science” when the eugenics movement comes of age in the late 19th and early 20th centuries….
Anti-miscegenation laws, therefore, were attempts to eradicate the legal status of real marriages by injecting a condition—sameness of race—that had no precedent in common law. For in the common law, a necessary condition for a legitimate marriage was male-female complementarity, a condition on which race has no bearing….
[T]he fact that a man and a woman from different races were biologically and metaphysically capable of marrying each other, building families, and living among the general population is precisely why the race purists wanted to forbid such unions by the force of law. And because this view of marriage and its gender-complementary nature was firmly in place and the only understanding found in common law, the Supreme Court in Loving knew that racial identity was not relevant to what marriage requires of its two opposite-gender members. By injecting race into the equation, anti-miscegenation supporters were very much like contemporary same-sex marriage proponents, for in both cases they introduced a criterion other than male-female complementarity in order to promote the goals of a utopian social movement: race purity or sexual egalitarianism.
This is why, in both cases, the advocates require state coercion to enforce their goals. Without the state’s cooperation and enforcement, there would have been no anti-miscegenation laws and there would be no same-sex marriage. The reason for this, writes libertarian economist Jennifer Roback Morse, is that “marriage between men and women is a pre-political, naturally emerging social institution. Men and women come together to create children, independently of any government.” Hence, this explains its standing as an uncontroversial common law liberty. “By contrast,” Morse goes on to write, “same-sex ‘marriage’ [and same-race-only marriage] is completely a creation of the state…” [emphases mine].
We don't have separate bathrooms for white people and black people. We do have separate bathrooms for men and women. This is because men and women are different in ways that are significant enough for society to acknowledge and take into account when those differences are relevant. And while differences in race are not relevant to marriage, differences in sex are relevant to creating and raising children. The important thing to note here is that the government is merely acknowledging an already-existing institution (one based on biological realities) when it recognizes male–female marriage. The public effect of the male–female union is unique, and therefore, the government is uniquely interested in it.

instagram in history

There's nothing new about Instagram.


mourdock - incomplete but right


The following is a great post by Justin Taylor addressing the lies propagated by the media, the Christian fooled by the pro-abortion agenda, and our burden to speak truth more clearly. I'm saddened by President Obama's position on abortion and his thinking that those not sharing his fallen worldview are "demeaning toward women".


I assume by now that most readers are aware of the controversy regarding comments by candidate Richard Mourdock, who is running for Senate, regarding rape not being an exception for abortion. In a recent debate, when asked about the issue, he responded:
This is that issue that every candidate for federal, or even state, office faces, and I too stand for life. I know there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view and I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have [for abortion] is in that case [where] the life of the mother [is threatened]. I struggled with it for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.
President Obama, through a spokesperson, “felt those comments were outrageous and demeaning to women.”

There are many angles to this story, including media ignorance, media malfeasance, political clumsiness, bioethics, and Christian witness.

Many members of the media pounced on the story, reporting that Mr. Murdock said that rapes were intended by God. Al Mohler has an important commentary on this today. He writes:
The controversy over his statements reveals the irresponsibility of so many in the media and the political arena. The characterizations and willful distortions of Mourdock’s words amount to nothing less than lies.
A couple of liberal writers have recognized the same. See, for example, Kevin Drum’s “Richard Mourdock Gets in Trouble for His Extremely Conventional Religious Beliefs” and Amy Sullivan’s “Why Liberals Are Misreading Mourdock.”

But most seemed to be twisting the candidate’s words and also baffled by the worldview. Get Religion‘s Mollie Hemingway offered some advice to fellow journalists:
If you do these two things — bone up on just the very lowest level basics of Christian teaching on theodicy and meet a pro-lifer and find out what they really think — you might not lead your newscasts with a mangling of the news that some pro-lifers really believe (gasp!) that the circumstances of your conception and birth do not determine your worth and that every single child in the world is created and loved by God. You might learn about this newfangled ancient teaching that God causes good to result from evil.
But Mohler does not think the media, while certainly culpable, is entirely to blame:
At the same time, Mr. Mourdock is responsible for giving the media and his political enemies the very ammunition for their distortions. . . . The debate question did not force Mourdock to garble his argument. The cause of defending the unborn is harmed when the argument for that defense is expressed badly and recklessly, and Mourdock’s answer was both reckless and catastrophically incomplete.
Mohler is right: we must speak with precision, clarity, and compassion on this issue. We must put the question in perspective:
Any reference to rape must start with a clear affirmation of the horrifying evil of rape and an equal affirmation of concern for any woman or girl victimized by a rapist. At this point, the defender of the unborn should point to the fact that every single human life is sacred at every point of its development and without regard to the context of that life’s conception. No one would deny that this is true of a six-year-old child conceived in the horror of a rape. Those who defend the unborn know that it was equally true when that child was in the womb.
Mohler also looks at the broader issue of exceptions:
One truth must be transparently clear — a consistent defense of all human life means that there is no acceptable exception that would allow an intentional abortion. If every life is sacred, there is no exception.

The three exceptions most often proposed call for abortion to be allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. These are the exceptions currently affirmed by Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign. What should we think of these?
Mohler gives his answer:
First, when speaking of saving the life of the mother, we should be clear that the abortion of her unborn child cannot be the intentional result. There can be no active intention to kill the baby. This does not mean that a mother might, in very rare and always tragic circumstances, require a medical procedure or treatment to save her life that would, as a secondary effect, terminate the life of her unborn child. This is clearly established in moral theory, and we must be thankful that such cases are very rare.

Next, when speaking of cases involving rape and incest, we must affirm the sinful tragedy of such acts and sympathize without reservation with the victims. We must then make the argument that the unborn child that has resulted from such a heinous act should not be added to the list of victims. That child possesses no less dignity than a child conceived in any other context.
What does this look like practically, in everyday conversations?

Scott Klusendorf points out that there are two types of people who ask about rape and abortion: the learner and the crusader. It’s helpful to know who you are dealing with. ” The learner is genuinely trying to work through the issue and resolve it rationally. The crusader just wants to make you, the pro-lifer, look bad.” In both cases, Klusendorf points out, “it’s our job to demonstrate wisdom and sensitivity.”

So when someone says that a child conceived by rape will remind the woman of this heinous crime forever, Klusendorf responds:
That’s an important question and you are absolutely right: She may indeed suffer painful memories when she looks at the child and it’s foolish to think she never will. I don’t understand people who say that if she’ll just give birth, everything will be okay. That’s easy for them to say. They should try looking at it from her perspective before saying that. Even if her attacker is punished to the fullest extent of the law—which he should be—her road to recovery will be tough.
He then delicately and gently asks one primary follow-up question:
Given we both agree the child may provoke unpleasant memories, how do you think a civil society should treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event? . . . Is it okay to kill them so we can feel better?
In the course of the conversation, he is trying to get them to see the following:
If the unborn are human, killing them so others can feel better is wrong. Hardship doesn’t justify homicide.

Admittedly, I don’t like the way my answer feels because I know the mother may suffer consequences for doing the right thing. But sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the easy thing to do.
Here are two thought experiments that might help:
Suppose I have a two-year-old up here with me. His father is a rapist and his mother is on anti-depressant drugs. At least once a day, the sight of the child sends her back into depression. Would it be okay to kill the toddler if doing so makes the mother feel better?
And:
Suppose I’m an American commander in Iraq and terrorists capture my unit. My captors inform me that in 10 minutes, they’ll begin torturing me and my men to get intelligence information out of us. However, they are willing to make me an offer. If I will help them torture and interrogate my own men, they won’t torture and interrogate me. I’ll get by with no pain. Can I take that deal? There’s no way. I’ll suffer evil rather than inflict it.

Again, I don’t like how the answer feels, but it’s the right one. Thankfully, the woman who is raped does not need to suffer alone. Pro-life crisis pregnancy centers are standing by to help get her through this. We should help, too.
Back to how politicians should answer this. Here is Doug Wilson’s suggestion to pro-life candidates:
When a rape results in a pregnancy, this means that we are now dealing with three people instead of two. Two of those three are innocent, and one of them is guilty. Take a case of violent rape. The pro-choice ghouls want to do two things—first, they want to go easy on the guilty one, refusing to execute him, while executing one of the innocent parties for something his father did, and secondly, they want to make out anyone who objects to this arrangement as the callused one.

In the future (as if any of these guys are taking my counsel), pro-life candidates for office need to answer the question in this way: “That is an excellent question, but we have to settle certain things first before we answer it. When a rape results in a pregnancy, are we dealing with three people or two?” And then he should refuse to answer the question until the reporter tells him “three or two,” along with the reasons why. This is how the Lord handled this sort of question.
See also Trevin Wax’s post on what pro-life politicians should say about abortion and rape (as well as his post on the 10 questions you never hear a pro-abortion-rights candidate asked).

But the foregoing doesn’t answer the question about legislation and how to think about these issues in light of our current cultural and political context. It’s here where Mohler’s perspective could get more controversial, especially for those who do not recognize the role of prudence in cultural change and the reality of governance:
We must contend for the full dignity and humanity of every single human life at every point of development and life from conception until natural death, and we cannot rest from this cause so long as the threat to the dignity and sanctity of any life remains.

In the meantime, we are informed by the fact that, as the Gallup organization affirmed just months ago, the vast majority of Americans are willing to support increased restrictions on abortion so long as those exceptions are allowed. We should gladly accept and eagerly support such laws and the candidates who support them, knowing that such a law would save the life of over a million unborn children in the nation each year.

Can we be satisfied with such a law? Of course not, and we cannot be disingenuous in our public statements. But we can eagerly support a law that would save the vast majority of unborn children now threatened by abortion, even as we seek to convince our fellow Americans that this is not enough.

We must argue for the dignity, humanity, and right to life of every unborn child, regardless of the context of its conception, but we must argue well and make our arguments carefully. The use and deliberate abuse of Richard Mourdock’s comments should underline the risk of falling short in that task.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

peace


My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62:1

This is my wife’s life-verse. What might that say about living with me? In any case, it’s a great life-verse. The only rest our souls will ever find is in God alone. And the peace he gives no one can take away.

David wrote this while under attack (Psalm 62:3-4). Many reading this post have been attacked, betrayed, cheated, slandered, robbed, divorced, molested, abandoned, lied to, and more. Our souls have been shaken to the core, as David’s was. He was a spirited man. Rest in God alone did not come naturally to him. But he got there. We can too.

We might think God’s remedy is for our attacker to have a change of heart, apologize and make everything better again. That rarely happens. The offender usually finds a way to justify it. They have to, to live with their conscience. So they add the further sin of blaming the one whom they wronged. You were mistreated, and it’s your own fault. Or so they say. Saul did this, projecting his own hostility onto David (1 Samuel 22:13).

But what if the offender did own up? Would it really make everything better? It could make some difference (Luke 19:8). But don’t count on getting your former life back. We sinners aren’t capable of restoring what our misbehavior takes away. We are greatly capable of destruction, but little capable of restoration. This is our solemn dignity as moral agents in God’s universe. Therefore, we must be very, very cautious in how we treat one another. Whatever we take away is probably gone for good. This being so, our souls will find no rest in anything people can do (Psalm 62:9). Our souls will find rest in God alone. Let’s look to God alone.

God’s peace is for real people living real lives in this real world. That’s what Psalm 62 is all about – a peace for life in this world that comes from far beyond this world. It is God’s own presence, given freely through Christ to anyone who will stake everything on the refuge he alone offers and is.

When under attack, go to God, and hang on.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:8

learning communities


David Wells reflects on the fact that apostolic Christianity was shaped into a set of clear teachings and doctrines:
“Christianity, in these and texts like them, is described as the faith, the truth, the pattern of sound words, the traditions, the sound doctrine, and what was delivered in the beginning. This is what the apostles taught, it is what they believed, it is what they “delivered” to the church, it is what is “entrusted” to the church. Christians are those who “believe” this teaching, who “know” it, who “have” it, who “stand” in it, and who are “established” in it. The New Testament letters were written to remind believers about their responsibilities in relation to this teaching, this faith that has been delivered to the church in its final and completed form. The apostles, we read, write to “remind” them of it, urge them to “pay close attention” to it, to “stand firm” in it, to “follow” it, to “hold” onto it, to “guard” it as one might a precious jewel, and to contend earnestly for this truth.

Can we see the most basic point here? It is that the church in its earliest days was a learning community. What it was learning was the ways of God, his character, his acts, through the truth he had given and was giving them. This they knew was indispensable for a life of obedience in this world.

By contrast, all of this is conspicuous by its absence in much of the contemporary evangelical church. Knowledge of the Bible ranks low in how the born-again judge themselves. And the preaching of the Bible’s truth has all but disappeared from many churches. We are today walking away from what we see modelled for us in the book of Acts as God’s will for the church.”
- David Wells The Courage to Be Protestant , 84-85

(HT)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

saltiness


You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ~ Jesus (Mt 5.13-16)

Whether the salt reference is about the flavor salt brings or about its preserving power, two things about salt; maximum potential is reached when it has high potency and in close proximity to that which it is to affect.

When we think about being the salt of the earth, we can think:

HP + CP + CC = MI

Where:

HP = high potency, i.e., filled with the Holy Spirit
CP = close proximity, i.e., living among those the Father is calling
CC = clear communication, i.e., able to articulate the truth of the Gospel
MI = maximum impact

And note also, we are to do good works for others to see. This is not dead works, but rather the works of righteousness which He has created for us and is faithful to complete for His name's sake (Eph 2.10; Phil 1.6; 1 Pet 2.12).

marks of a healthy group


From Rick Warren; seven marks of a healthy small group based on Acts 2:42-47 (NIV):

1. Healthy small groups study the Bible. Small groups in the New Testament studied the Bible together. Acts 2:42 says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” Of course, we know the teaching of the apostles is what we call the New Testament today. They lived in an oral culture, but they were still studying lessons from the apostles. ...

2. Healthy small groups share life together. The Book of Acts says the early believers were devoted to fellowship (Acts 2:42). This means they were serious about their friendships. Notice the Bible says they were devoted to the fellowship, not just to fellowship. In other words, fellowship is not just something the church does; we are the fellowship.

Jesus calls us to be committed to one another, and it is through small groups that we learn the skills of relationship. Small groups are laboratories of love, where we learn to obey the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as you love yourself.

3. Healthy small groups remember Jesus together. The Bible says the early believers devoted themselves “to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). The “breaking of bread” in this passage specifically refers to Communion (or the Lord’s Supper). In the early Church, they did not take Communion in a large worship setting. They served it in small groups.

4. Healthy small groups pray together. The Bible says the early believers devoted themselves to prayer (Acts 2:42). Jesus taught that there is a power to prayers spoken aloud for each other, and he made an incredible promise about small groups of believers: “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20 NASB). In the intimacy and confidentiality of small groups, we can pray for each other as we share our hurts, reveal our feelings, confess our failures, disclose our doubts, admit our fears, acknowledge our weaknesses, and ask for help.

5. Healthy small groups are generous. The Bible says these small groups gave “to anyone who had need” (Acts 2:45 NIV). Small groups allow us to help each other with practical needs. Can I loan you a car? Can I provide you with some meals when you are sick?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

debate lines


While focussed on the political climate of these days, this post by Kevin DeYoung is instructive for all leaders and Christians.

In anticipation of tonight’s Vice-Presidential debate, and the two Presidential debates to come, I’ve been thinking of some lines I’d like to hear, but probably won’t:

  • “I’m glad you brought that up, because I shouldn’t have said what I did. It was a mistake and here’s why.”
  • “There’s a simple explanation for the inconsistency: I changed my mind. I think a good leader changes his mind sometimes. Let me tell you why I’ve changed mine.”
  • “I’m not going to promise that because, frankly, there are a lot of things I can’t control. But I’ll do my best.”
  • “I know this is an unpopular position, but let me explain why I hold it.”
  • “There are many problems government can’t fix and many problems politicians shouldn’t try to fix. That doesn’t mean we don’t care. It means we’re not gods and you shouldn’t expect us to be.”
  • “You raise a really tough issue. There’s no clear cut answer. I can see why my opponent thinks the way he does, but let me try to explain the tradeoffs and why my position makes more sense.”
  • “It’s possible for me to disagree with their decisions, their ideas, and even their religion without despising them. Just because I don’t think everyone is doing what is best doesn’t mean I don’t want what is best for everyone.”
  • “I’m not smart enough or virtuous enough to figure out everyone’s fair share.”
  • “I don’t pretend to understand the needs of every American or feel every hurt.”
  • “I may not be able to find a job for everyone, but I will do my best to defend this country, defend the constitution, defend your liberty, and defend the rights granted to us by God.”
  • “There is no reason a President needs to give his opinion on that or even have an opinion on that.” “I don’t know.”

The irony is, despite all the potential “gaffes” in these statements, I think most voters would find this candor refreshing and appealing.

not comfort


Excellent post by Mark Altrogge:
Any time we find ourselves in difficulty or trial, it is easy to think we have been forgotten or rejected by God. This is because we do not understand the present process. God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth. At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us. –Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp, How People Change
“God is not working for our comfort and ease; he is working on our growth.”

When I became a Christian I heard someone say, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for for life.” Which is true. Only I thought his wonderful plan for my life was to continuously bless me with good things. Which is true. Except my definition of good things and God’s definition of good things are often different.

Gods wonderful plan for my life is to conform me to Christ, not give me everything I want. Sometimes being conformed to Christ is painful. Sometimes God conforms me to Christ by NOT giving me what I desire. Sometimes he conforms to Christ by sending people into my life who sin against me. Sometimes he uses pressure and suffering. He’s got all kinds of wonderful tools to chisel, chip, shape, sand and smooth.

God in his infinite wisdom knows exactly what we need to make us more like Jesus. Because Jesus was humble, God needs to bring things into our lives to humble us. Because Jesus was patient and forbearing with others, God brings people into our lives that require patience and forbearance. Because Jesus trusted God when mistreated by others God sometimes takes us through that challenge.

“At the very moment we are tempted to question his faithfulness, he is fulfilling his redemptive promises to us.”

If only we could always remember this. God is CONTINUALLY working to make us like his Son. Every single thing that happens to us is part of this plan for our lives. Nothing happens by accident. Every single thing is focused on this one goal of conforming us to the likeness of Christ.

And won’t it be worth it? When we get to heaven and see the glory of Jesus shining through each of us we’ll rejoice and thank God for every painful thing God did in our lives to produce Christ in us. Remember, our afflictions, in comparison with this wonderful goal, are momentary and light. If we take our eyes off this goal, they seem heavy and long.

So let us be like Jesus, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. Keep your eyes on the joy – seeing Jesus’ face and enjoying him forever completely conformed to his likeness.

Friday, October 12, 2012

christian mistakes

Matt Dabbs proffers 10 Big Mistakes in Christianity Today ...

  1. Breeding consumers
  2. Pushing edginess even to the compromise of doctrine
  3. Fostering a celebrity culture among popular preachers
  4. Pushing for social justice while not recognizing the urgency of reaching lost people (used to be the other way around. We need both)
  5. Using systematic theology to trump good exegesis.
  6. Creating great information delivery systems with no visible/obvious ways to put that information into practice outside of infrequent, large-scale events
  7. Making the simple Gospel overly complicated and foggy.
  8. Relying on big events, elaborate worship, and professionally delivered sermons to transform people.
  9. Always wanting something new rather than seeking for something old
  10. Too much talk, not enough action (5 ways of studying the Bible each week but no outreach is happening) when that approach is not what Jesus modeled for us.


big picture autumn

These are beautiful! I need to get out this weekend and take some snaps.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sunday, October 07, 2012

ethnically different

John Piper, in Bloodlines, states the point of Lk 4.16-30 is:
The kingdom I am bringing, Jesus says, is ethnically different from what you think. Your chosen place as Israel has not produced humility and compassion, but pride and scorn. Jesus is the end of ethnocentrism. Look to me, he says. Learn from me. I have come to redeem a people from every ethnic group, not just one, or a few. Woe to you for your failure to see, in the justice and mercy of God, his zeal to gather from all the peoples a kingdom of priests and friends.
While I like sounds of that, I don't think that's what the point is. I'll let Piper elaborate first:
The story is found in Luke 4:16–30. Here is a local young man coming back to his hometown, Nazareth, after making a name for himself in Capernaum. He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath, and a crowd comes to hear him. What he does in this message is almost incredible. He virtually incites a riot. And he does it intentionally. First, they give him the scroll of Isaiah the prophet to read from, and he chooses chapter 61. It’s about the coming redeemer who will set free the oppressed and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (vv. 18–19)—and he claims that it is being fulfilled in their hearing. Luke 4:21: “And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” 
Now that was astonishing. Headline: “Homegrown boy claims to be the Messiah.” But this did not cause the riot. So far they were positive: “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” (v. 22). So far, so good. 
But what he says next is utterly unexpected. Inexplicable, it seems, if what you want is a following. Inexplicable if you only want “church growth.” He chooses to tell two stories from the Old Testament that fly right in the face of the ethnocentrism of his own hometown. He could hardly have been more offensive. 
He knows what their response is going to be, because he says in verse 24, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” This is beforethey get riled up. In other words, Yes, you are speaking well of me now (v. 22) while you have your own conception of what the Messiah will do, and what his kingdom will be like. But wait till I tell you what I am about to do and what my kingdom will be like. 
TWO STORIES OUT OF THE BLUE—AND IN YOUR FACE 
Then he tells story number one. Verses 25–26 are taken from 1 Kings 17: “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon [Phoenicia], to a woman who was a widow.” 
Out of the blue, he tells a story about God’s passing over all the ethnic Jews to bring a miraculous blessing to an ethnic and political foreigner—a Gen ile from the land of Sidon (Phoenicia). And he does this blatantly and forcefully and without softening or explanation: There were many widows in Israel, and God blessed a foreigner. That’s what he said. 
And if that were not enough, he tells a second story in Luke 4:27 from 2 Kings 5: “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Again the point is: of all the people that God might have chosen to heal of leprosy, he chose a foreigner—a Syrian, not a Jew. These two stories were not lost on the ethnocentrism of Nazareth. Luke 4:28–29: “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” They got it, and they didn’t like it.
I don't know if Jesus was really announcing the end to ethnocentrism as Piper posits or not. Either way, I thank Piper for linking these passages together. But, more than commenting on ethnocentrism, I think Jesus was saying, my Father chooses whom He wants. He does not choose all and those He chooses, well, they are not likely those you would choose. I think this is what incited the hearers then just as it incites many today ... interesting ...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

wilson's indicatives

I've posted a number of times on indicatives v. imperatives. Here's a simple explanation of the terms by Doug Wilson.

“There is a basic difference between the indicative and the imperative. The indicative is simply a statement of fact. the imperative is a command. The indicative states, “The book is on the table.” The imperative commands, “Put the book on the table.” The former states what is; the latter attempts to control what will be.

Many Christians mishandle the Scripture because they do not properly distinguish between the two. The central example of this is the turning of indicatives into imperatives. The Bible tells us that something is so, and we attempt to change it into a command to make something so.

The imperatives of the Bible tell me what I must do . The indicatives of the Bible tell me what has been done . When I take the message of what has been done and turn it into something that I must do, I am twisting Scripture.

It is easy to see this confusion when others are guilty of it. For example, many non-Christians cannot understand the gospel. The gospel is simply the message of what has been done for us in Christ. Non-Christians tend to make the gospel into something we have to do. “Good teacher, tell me what I must do to inherit eternal life.” The gospel is the Grand Indicative. It is the message of what has been done. The imperatives that accompany the gospel are based on a proper understanding of it. Once I understand the gospel I am told to love my wife or pray without ceasing. These are imperatives.”

reftagger