Thursday, July 01, 2010

Even in a Sandbox while Playing With Frogs…

People who have known my wife and I during her many pregnancies find it fun to guess the name of the soon-to-be-arriving addition to our family. After our first two sons, Micah and Noah, people began to see a pattern and would have fun guessing names. Well one of the criteria that I would consider is what the name means or who has had the same name in the past. And when it came down to selecting Noah’s name, I was not primarily thinking about his name-sake’s building, populating, and sailing of the ark, but I was thinking about how Peter described Noah as “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet 2:5).

My one and only main hope for all of my children is that the Lord saves them. All of the other hopes of a father are there – health, safety, success in life – but that one is primary. And by the grace of God, both of my oldest boys have made positive professions of faith. Last year Micah and I witnessed to one of his little neighborhood friends. Micah was helpful and active in the conversation, and that was very encouraging. Today I was talking to my wife and she relayed a story that she learned about today but it must have occurred yesterday. Hannah (almost 3) relayed the story that Noah had gone up to a neighbor boy and said the following, “You believe in fake gods but you need to believe in Jesus.” Now this friend is a little Hindu boy, and during our Bible time in the evenings we’ve talked about many things – one of which is that some people and some of our friends don’t believe in the real God.

Upon hearing this, she checked it out with Noah and found that the story was, in fact, true. Stephanie then encouraged Noah to be direct, but ask his friend if he knew that Jesus could forgive his sins if he repented and believed in Him. Noah’s reacted by saying, “Okay, I’m going to do that right now!” He marched outside, went to the fence, and talked to his friend. Now his friend reacted like most people do and didn’t want to hear about Christ, and I was pleased to hear that Noah was not downcast at this rejection by his friend.

So – back to the name – I’ve always hoped and prayed that Noah would not only believe in Christ but that he too would be a preacher of righteousness. Not that I have a 30 year plan laid out for him to get him into a pulpit somewhere, but my desire is that he would be a preacher of righteousness wherever he is. Whether he ends up in working in a factory or sitting behind a desk of a large corporation or anything else; wherever he goes, my desire is that he be a preacher of righteousness while he’s there…even, and especially, in a sandbox while playing with frogs.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

“Lost” – I should not have been surprised

For the sake of online courtesy – this post contains spoilers - so if you, like one of my co-workers, haven’t yet watched the finale and still plan to…first of all, don’t, but secondly if you will – then don’t read this post.

I started to write a little commentary on the finale of Lost the day after it aired but I put off completing it because I wanted to get the pics shown below (screen shots saved as jpgs from when I DVRd the show) to go along with this post. And then, life and other things demanded my time, and so here…finally, I am completing my thoughts.

For about the last 5 years I have been a fan of the TV show Lost. I started watching it when the first season was re-run before the beginning of season 2 and thought it was captivating and entertaining. There has always been the theme of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, faith vs. reason present in the show, and so it was of no surprise that there were religious and philosophical themes that played out heavily in the show, even imbedded in the names of the characters. Many of the character’s names are associated with varying social, religious, or scientific historical figures: John Locke, Daniel Faraday (for Michael Faraday), Desmond Hume (for David Hume), Christian Shepherd (was a drunken philanderer), and Charlotte Lewis (for C.S. Lewis).

Also, as best as I can remember, the only explicitly religious (in the sense of organized religion) characters were Roman Catholic (Charlie was devout before drugs, Ecko pretended to be a priest, and Desmond had formerly been in a monastery). There are probably more, but these are the ones that I thought of off hand. And as far as religious themes go, several of the main characters had a significantly relevant history (back-story) with the Roman Catholic church. But aside from these nods (or jabs, depending on how you look at it) toward Christianity, nothing about the idea of faith in the show was really compatible with Christianity. And what I mean by that is that there was nothing Christ-focused about the faith of the show, and in this way I believe that the show was utterly hostile to true Christian faith.

Now, I was truly a fan of the show and liked the sci-fi themes and mystery, but I remember the first time that the characters found something from the Dharma Initiative that I groaned inside because I knew that dharma is a Hindu concept, and I was not excited to see Hindu themes in the show. But going forward, there were references to religion, faith, and destiny that were ambiguously tied to religion (if they were even connected that much). So when the finale ended with all of the main characters meeting in a church that has symbols from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other religions before Christian Shepherd opens the doors to the sanctuary for them to be enveloped in a bright white light I should not have been surprised. I think I can sum up my thoughts with the same words that I spoke to my wife just after the final scene. “Really… Really? So I’ve watched six seasons of Lost for an ‘all-roads-lead-to-the-light’ universalistic spiritual resolution?” My whole way of thinking about the show has been irrevocably tarnished by this blatantly anti-Christian conclusion to the story. My main problem now is a personal and introspective one: why did it take this slap-in-the-face of the finale to make me see (or at least to stop denying) how anti-Christian this show was?

Now why my revulsion hit a high point at this event and not at other ones during the series – I don’t know. Perhaps my reaction was more acute because this seemed to be the most blatantly obvious commentary by the writers on their religious worldview that they had for the show. Until the finale, the religious stuff was all background to the story, but in the finale it took center stage and became the story.

But even if the final scene of the finale (pictured above) wasn’t a Coexist love fest of ungodly spiritualism, the prevalence of ambiguous faith and mysticism should have been enough to have me tune out long ago. As captivating and fun as the show was, the philosophy communicated is at odds with everything that I stand for.

I was shocked and upset by the conclusion of Lost, but I am now more frustrated that I was shocked by it. I should have seen it coming, and I should have not subjected myself to the wasted hours of mind-numbing amusement (a = not; muse = think) over the past five years. This gives more weight to my thoughts of unplugging from TV and movies almost completely. There is very little that is positively worth-while, or at the very least harmless, that I can watch if I’ve actually thought about it before hand.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Imputed Righteousness and a Joyful Marriage

What would it be like if you lost the ability to filter your thoughts before they came out of your mouth? Anyone who knows me may wonder if I suffer from this at times because I choose to say what is on my mind…even if it is uncomfortable or unpopular. Those closest to me would tell you that when there’s an elephant in the room – it’s almost like I can’t not talk about it. And that is true enough.

Seriously though, what would it be like if that ability to filter our thoughts was lost and we said whatever flew into our brain? I was watching an episode of House this weekend where just such a thing was going on. The guy in the story was systematically driving his coworkers, family, and even his doctors away because he couldn’t filter the vile, mean, perverse thoughts he had. He couldn’t even sugar-coat what he was saying to make it seem better.

At one point near the end of the show, the man’s wife was in the room with him (she was a wreck after hearing scattered bits of his thoughts for the past few days) and was just asking him all of the questions that she could in order to hear all of the unfiltered and hurtful things that he would say. Her response to this was that she was hurt and felt betrayed. My response was to yell at the TV, frustrated with the woman because if the marriage was going to be ruined, it would be because of what he said and because she wouldn’t be patient and understand that even she has thoughts that would be hurtful to him.

The very next day after having watched this show, I began reading John Piper’s Counted Righteous in Christ which is one of the required books for my systematic theology class this summer. In the first few pages Dr. Piper made a very profound application of the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness.
What makes marriage almost impossible at times is that both partners feel so self-justified in their expectations that are not being fulfilled. There is a horrible emotional dead-end street in the words, “But it’s just plain wrong for you to act that way,” followed by, “that’s your perfectionistic perspective,” or “Do you think everything you do is right?,” or hopeless, resigned silence. The cycle of self-justified self-pity and anger seems unbreakable.

But what if one or both of the partners becomes overwhelmed with the truth of justification by faith alone, and with the particular truth that in Christ Jesus God credits me, for Christ’s sake, as fulfilling all his expectations? What would happen if this doctrine so mastered our souls that we began to bend it from the vertical to the horizontal? What if we applied it to our marriages?

In our own imperfect efforts in this regard, there have been breakthroughs that seemed at times impossible. It is possible, for Christ’s sake, to simply say, “I will no longer think merely in terms of whether my expectations are met in practice. I will, for Christ’s sake, regard my wife (or husband) the way God regards me – complete and accepted in Christ – and to be helped and blessed and nurtured and cherished, even if in practice there are shortcomings.” I know my own wife treats me this way. And surely this is part of what Paul was calling for when he said that we should forgive “one another…as God in Christ forgave you; (Eph 3:32, ESV). I believe there is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness than many of us have even begun to discover. (John Piper, Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness? P.27-28)

If you think that the person you love the most doesn’t have to filter out crazy random thoughts about…well, anything, you’re wrong. From anger to lust and more, all people have to filter their thoughts. The presence of horrible thoughts that come into your mind are not necessarily indicative of the person you are, it’s what you do with them (or how you get rid of them) that is more revealing. But as Dr. Piper brings out, even when your loved one speaks or acts in a way that is unfulfilling or hurtful, having a view of your own position in Christ before the Father will help you to love the other person in-spite of their practical shortcomings.

I echo Dr. Piper’s sentiment in that I am sure my wife treats me in this way and I hope she would say the same about me. I am very certain that even though I wouldn’t have put my finger on this doctrine as what contributes to my healthy and joyful marriage, I believe that it makes absolute sense.

We dare not abandon the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dr. Ergun Caner, Liberty, and Credibility

There has been quite a lot of back and forth surrounding Dr. Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Theological Seminary. If you haven’t heard of the issue (and that wouldn’t be overly surprising), here’s the basic issue: Dr. Ergun Caner has talked publicly, on many occasions, about his youth and how he grew up as a serious or devout Muslim, including wearing Muslim garb and other such details, before his conversion to Christ as a young teenager.

Why is this a problem?

Well the problem has been catalogued by Dr. James R. White on his blog (also an important post was made by a blog contributor, Turretinfan, to this whole discussion). Dr. White’s contends (and I agree) that he can show factually that Dr. Ergun Caner has lied about his story – where he grew up, what he was like, how devout of a Muslim he was, and other things. Similarly, he has lied about who he’s debated in the Muslim community as well as other issues showing an apparent lack of proficiency in understanding the Islamic religion enough to debate it. This is also a problem because Drs. Ergun and Emir Caner have risen to some prominence since 9/11 because of their reputation as Islamic apologists and former Muslims. The primary concern of Dr. White (and myself) is that if Dr. Ergun Caner is exaggerating (at best) or blatantly lying during his public speaking (for whatever his reason may be) and ties that in with his gospel presentation, that it sullies the gospel and calls into question everything he says. Christians or other westerners who are ignorant of Islamic teaching or who are unaware of Dr. Caner’s history may be unaffected entirely by this problem. But the Muslims who are aware of their own religion and come to understand that the details of Dr. Caner’s life have been altered – for whatever reason – will understandably call all of what he says into question.

But this is not the primary point of my comments here. Again, I think there are serious issues that need to be addressed by Dr. Caner & Liberty Theological Seminary. In fact Liberty is investigating, now, Dr. Caner’s comments as they indicated in a public statement here. But it is the final comments from their chancellor that concern me:
“Liberty does not initiate personnel evaluations based upon accusations from Internet blogs,” Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. said. “However, In light of the fact that several newspapers have raised questions, we felt it necessary to initiate a formal inquiry.”

You don’t have to be part of the bloggosphere for long to know that there is a ton of garbage out there. And there are all sorts of unfounded attacks on persons, institutions, traditions, or whatever that deserves nothing more than to be ignored. And that is what seems to be the vibe from the chancellor’s comments. Now I’ve seen and heard the instances that Dr. White has brought up and what he’s put on his blog, and it is anything but crazy, fictional and wild-eyed ranting. Why should Liberty have waited until the secular media got their hands on this story before investigating when Christians have sought these answers for far longer? Why should it take a media event to get Christians to examine one of our own if there are actual issues that are raised with facts to support them?

Whatever the outcome of the investigation by Liberty, I fear that much damage has been done to the body of Christ. Many will blame men like Dr. White for being relentless in his demanding truth from Dr. Caner. But why should truth be so hard to mine from a Christian, much less a Christian leader, much less the president of a theological seminary.

I hope and pray that the truth comes out, and that the parties (whomever they may be) who have sinned in connection with this will be open, honest, and repentant so that the gospel may be magnified.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Woodland Hills Church Has A Different Gospel

On 4/25/10, Dr. Greg Boyd (senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church) contrasted the gospel as he understands it with the gospel that “is probably the most prevalent version in America.”1 Now even though his articulation of the gospel which focuses on the penal substitution understanding of the cross of Christ was presented with a straw-man setup, he was clearly distancing himself from it.

What straw-man did he use? Briefly: his characterization of God the Father as only angry, his comparison to being put in the garden as putting a cookie in front of a child and telling them not to eat it” 2 , that the nation of Israel was an attempt to “try to fix the problem” by “giving them a bunch of rules” but this plan failed3 , and that Christ coming and dying to appease the wrath of the Father was “plan b”. 4 Now this may be how open theists who reject penal substitution articulate the gospel, but it is not a gospel summary that not many other than the most flippant of relevant church type pastors would characterize in this way.

Dr. Boyd then went on to say, “I submit to you that while that version of the gospel I just gave you bears some resemblance to the true gospel, it’s actually a rather gross distortion.” 5 What is missing, or what is wrong, with the gospel that Dr. Boyd opposes so greatly? He begins to explain it by saying that the fall of Adam is all about changing our worldview from a covenant worldview to a contract worldview. Boyd sees the covenant worldview as one of an undifferentiated universal love and the contract worldview as a quid pro quo worldview that is concerned about rule breaking. He then summarizes the problem inherent with the theology of penal substitution in this way,

“[In the version of the gospel that I reject] we make God out to be the accuser…so we cannot see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ because we’re seeing God as the accuser. Which means that we’re seeing the accuser as God. And who is the accuser? It’s Satan, and that’s been his plan all along – he wants to be God. So if he can get these miserable subjects to think that he is God, then he’s accomplished that.” 6

As best as I can tell from listening and re-listening to this sermon, at best Dr. Boyd just said that I (because I believe in penal substitution) worship a satanic image of God. At worst, he says that I actually worship Satan. Either way would put Dr. Boyd and me on different sides of the Galatians 1 divide.

Disagreeing with Greg Boyd is not and cannot be seen as an intramural disagreement among Christians. Greg Boyd says the gospel I believe in and proclaim is a gross distortion of the true gospel. Either Greg is a heretic or I am – there are no two ways about it.

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! 10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:6-10)

Soli Deo Gloria.

1 Quote begain around 10:12 into his sermon
2 10:20
3 10:39
4 10:50
5 11:00
6 26:25

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Agreeing with Dr. Boyd - Well, Sort of...

“If you get that God is love then you will realize why it is impossible – impossible, metaphysically impossible – for God to stop loving you on the basis of something you did or on the basis of something you’re doing or on the basis of that deep dark vile secret that you’ve got that no one knows about.” Greg Boyd, "God is Love" preached 4/18/2010

I whole-heartedly agree with this statement by Dr. Greg Boyd! This is a very important statement for me, because in the past I have been very critical of Dr. Boyd and his views. So to make absolutely clear what I mean, let me say a few more words. I completely agree that the Christian, the one who has been regenerated and saved by grace through faith in Christ, is totally secure in the love of God and there is no possibility of God stopping His love for this person on the basis of anything that is done or said.

But, Greg Boyd was not saying this. He was saying that God is disposed to all people (Christians and non-Christians, friends and enemies of God) of all time in this way. The paradigms of eternal reward for those counted righteous in Christ and eternal conscious torment for those who maintain their own righteousness are thrown out as unbiblical and atrocious. There is no eternal punishment for the wicked. You see, as far as Dr. Boyd is concerned, there is no more twisted view of a God of love than the one who eternally sets people on fire.

(Oops, I guess I don’t agree with Dr. Boyd after all. Or perhaps, I agree with Dr. Boyd’s statement the way that Dr. Boyd agrees with any statement in the Bible – ripped out of its context….)

But doesn’t God hate the sin in your life? Dr. Boyd would say that He does, “but if He hates all of that, and He does, it’s because He loves you.” Remember, Dr. Boyd is saying that this is true both for the rebel and for the friend of God. Becoming a friend of God will not change how much He loves you, but you will start to “have some benefit in your life.” In his elaboration on this topic, Dr. Boyd refers to the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary and says that He died for us while we were “lost” but doesn’t define (in this sermon or any I’ve heard, anyway) who the lost are or what it means to be “lost”.

In the historical sense, and I would argue that it is the Biblical sense as well, this word has referred to those people who were dead in their sins and under the impending condemnation of God (think “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” by Edwards). But this cannot be the meaning for Dr. Boyd since there is no impending condemnation for anyone. I didn’t know that Dr. Boyd had slipped further off of orthodoxy than his view of God’s openness. But leaving the issue of Open Theism aside for the moment, Dr. Boyd seems to be referring to a modern form of the heresy of universalism. This view is called the “wider mercy” view of God and His salvation.

I hope I’m wrong about this – but this heretical view would fit right in with other modern “evangelicals” like Tony Campolo and Rob Bell.

To My Friends:

Please – if you attend Dr. Boyd’s church please hear me; you must leave. I beg you.

Whatever good Dr. Boyd does, says, or encourages know that his theology is toxic and it is not Biblical. This is no small division as one over speaking in tongues today or on issues that good Christian theologians can disagree. This stance (again – I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am) takes Dr. Boyd out of the true Christianity and puts his “gospel” on the level of any other false and non-saving religious message.

6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another ; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Gal 1:6-9)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Falling Out of a Tree & Comfort from Above

Last night my four-year-old was exuberantly climbing a tree in our yard. He was so excited to show me how high he could go and he really wanted me to be proud of him for his accomplishment – and his expectation wasn’t disappointed. I think all fathers who love their children are excited when the children are excited about newfound skills, talents, or knowledge.

Well, getting down was a cinch…the first time. The second time he climbed up and then got down, he slid a bit too fast and received one long thin scrape on his inner forearm. This scrape set the next hour (or so) in motion. The initial crying in pain, the terrified sobbing at not wanting to have the scrape properly washed, the crying in (somewhat) imagined pain at the ever-so-gentle washing of the scrape, and the unstoppable sobbing for now real reason afterward.

It was very difficult to see my son go from excitement and joy to pain and fear. I know from experience that tree-climbing cuts are plentiful and a bit painful, but nothing serious enough to warrant the awe inspiring display that they usually do. I know that the cut hurts, and when you’re a child with a cut – the world seems to come to an end because this is the worst thing that could happen at this time. But I also know that he’ll be okay, that I am here to make sure the cut is properly taken care of, and that this is such a small thing in the scope of his life that to become overly exercised about it is unnecessary.

In the above experience, I was the father and I was able to calm my child because of who I am and because my son loves me, listens to me, and believes in me.

However, I’ve been dealing with my own scrape on the arm, as it were, and I am no less extreme in my reaction to it. The world seems to be closing in and this scrape is causing an internal, yet still somewhat of an all-consuming and hysterical, reaction of stress and anxiety. My heavenly Father has sent His Spirit into the world, and His ministry is present in times like this. Among other things, the Spirit is here to comfort the believer in times of trouble – even when the trouble may be imagined or accentuated because of my own imperfect and sinful response.

I can praise God today for the lesson that He is teaching me in this juxtaposition of my internal struggle and the minor scrape that my son received on his arm. Also, if nothing else, the scrape that my beloved son suffered last night has been used by God for my good and His glory (Rom 8:28) as it is helping to cause my eyes to focus heavenward. My son may never know how his scrape was the event that God used to correct his father’s heart. But the fact that he is unaware of how his painful situation has caused me to praise God and how it has influenced my teaching and leading of him is yet another lesson to me. These lessons are both all the more important as I deal with my own scrapes and cuts as I journey through this life.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm a Christian and I'm Not Sorry

As part of the facebook world I am privy to the random thoughts and life updates of over 400 of my closest friends. This morning, I saw a video posted of a young man reciting a poem with the title, “I’m a Christian and I’m sorry”.

I listened to it, and I must say that as shocking as it was to hear the f-bomb twice, I was more shocked at hearing the same Christian bashing lines of thought that you hear anywhere else.

You can find the video on youtube, but I transcribed (as best as I could) the words of the poem so that I could better interact with it (transcript is below). I felt compelled to respond, so I have written this post (not even close to poetry) called, “I’m a Christian, and I’m not sorry” and it is below the transcript the poem.

I am a Christian.
I’m sorry

I’m sorry for the way that I come across
So fair and fake friendly and full on my self so judging your spiritual health by the words that you say and the way that you dress and the things that you do
Or maybe just judging you

I’m sorry for the way I live my life.
So confident of my own beliefs that I would never think to think about thinking about yours

I’m sorry for the wars
Iron clad crusaders mounting steeds and drawing swords with such spirit but the spirit…
[something about the spirit being out and the sword of the spirit was the word]
…but the word was with God and the word was God and they preached this as they marched on the holy land.
Singing and praying
And killing and slaying.
And preaching and healing
And raping and stealing.
It’s ironic that they lined their pockets in the name of God
Just like the priests who lined their pockets in the name of God.
Just like the people you can’t stand because they always raise their hand and spread their faith and hate and judgment in the name of God.
I’m sorry that I take the name of God in vain – or rather I’m sorry that I stain the name of God. Defending my selfish actions and selfless actions pertaining to the will of God.

I’m sorry for being intolerant.
For trying to talk down to you, for trying to talk over you, for not letting you talk.

I’m sorry for not walking the walk. For being a hypocritical critical Christian. Criticizing your lifestyle while my own lifestyle styles itself like the televangelist’s hair. All slick and sly and slippery…(something about a syllable sliding into your ear)…but that’s my greatest fear.
That the steps I take won’t match the words I speak so when I speak all you hear of me is a weak hypocritical critical Christian. Doing one thing and saying another. Loving my friend but hating my brother – it’s a show.

I’m sorry I get drunk on Saturday’s and go to church on Sunday’s to pray for my friends who get drunk on Saturday’s.
And on that note I’m sorry for making the church about the pews and the cross and the steeple, because the building is not the church; the church is the people.

I’m sorry that I hate you because you are gay.
I’m sorry I condemn you to hell because you’re gay instead of loving I junp to hatred. Mouth open and tongue preaching, eyes open but not seeing that you are the same as me just a F****** human being.

I’m sorry that I only hang out with Christian friends and we only do nice Christian things like pot luck dinners and board game nights. While in the night a man beats his girlfriend again. Another homeless man dies again. Is this the that my own pride has been but here I am with my same friends again but see what I always forget is that Jesus didn’t come to hang out with the priests and the lords, no. He hung out with cripples and beggars and whores.


I’m sorry for history. For native tribes wiped out in the name of the church. Lodges burning. Stomachs churning and yearning for justice as mothers, screaming and bleeding, pleading for their young ones are dragged away to church schools where they were abused.

I’m sorry for the way that I refuse to learn your culture, instead I just came to spread the gospel - and the plague.

I’m sorry that I stand at the front doors of abortion clinics screaming at fifteen-year-old girls as they enter instead of waiting at the back door to hug them as they leave.

I’m sorry for taking my wars and my faith to your lands when historically your lands is where my faith was born. And in the face of the storm I realize that if God is Allah and Allah is God then why are we shooting instead of sharing? Why are we launching instead of learning? Why are we warring instead of walking together? Why are we taking instead of talking together? Why are we bombing instead of breaking bread together? You see I think looks down and He’s sad. And from His right hand throne above, Jesus asks “where is the love?” And if it takes Wil.I.Am and Justin Timberlake asking the same question for us to start asking the same question then where the f*** are we headed?

So I will take this stage to be my chapel and this mic to be my confessional, and in the presence of God and of you, the blessed, I confess I am a Christian. I’m sorry.

- A poem by Chris Tse

I’m a Christian and I’m not sorry.

I’m a Christian and I’m not sorry.

I’m not sorry for the way I come across. When I’m being friendly, I’m not fake – I’m genuine. If you think its fake, I’m sorry, but it’s not.

I’m not sorry that the way you speak communicates something about who you are to anyone who is paying attention. I don’t judge your spiritual health by the way that you dress, but the things that you do and the things that you say communicate a lot about you in the same way that what I do and say tells you a lot about me.

I’m not sorry for the way I live my life or for the tenacity with which I hold my worldview. I’m so confident in my beliefs that I will try to understand the beliefs of others in order to show their deficiency. But more than that I want to tell you of the Perfect Savior and the Holy God who is present nowhere else than the very gospel that other worldviews do not have.

I’m not sorry for Christians in the middle ages. I’ve read Foxes Book of Martyrs and I know how the Christians – the true Christians – were treated by the same Roman system that is responsible for all kinds of evils. I’m just sorry more people either aren’t willing or aren’t able to separate Christians and Christianity from the Roman Catholic Church, the associated monarchical system, and the abuses, perversions, and heresies that were hand in hand with that union.

I’m not sorry for being intolerant…because I’m not. Intolerance doesn’t allow others to speak. And unless I’m living in a parallel universe, those who oppose Christ and Christians have the primary positions on TV, Radio, Hollywood, Broadway, newspapers, and other forms of communication. I don’t seek to shut others down from saying what they believe; I just want the ability to do the same.

I’m not sorry for trying to live and be as Christ wants me to be while failing every day. That is how the Christian life is described in the Scriptures. And there are a great host of Christians who were the same type of “hypocrites” that I am. Look at Paul – he didn’t do what he wanted to do and longed to be free of the body of this death – but he was a true and genuine Christian. I, a Christian, don’t revel in nor seek to not repeat my failures, but I do not deny them or cover them up either.

I’m not sorry about greasy televangelists – I’m righteously angry toward them. They pervert the name of Jesus to line their pockets. I pray that God would have mercy on their souls now so that they can repent of their ill gotten gains, their filthy luker, and their hell-wrought theology. Otherwise they will be judged and condemned by God after they’ve enjoyed their short time on earth.

I’m not sorry that I don’t get drunk. I feel bad for non-Christians who drown themselves in alcohol, and I love and pity them and want them to be set free in Christ from their bondage. I am sorry for people who claim to be Christians but are in an unrepentant cycle of willful sin and very well may truly be non-Christians who are deceived into thinking that they have been forgiven.

I’m not sorry for seeing the importance of gathering together with other believers to hear the Word preached, to worship the Lord in singing, and to find ways to serve one another and others. And I’m not sorry to do that in a building that we try to keep clean and in good repair.

I’m not sorry for telling people that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” nor those enslaved to “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9 & Gal 5:19-21). All sinners are human beings, and all human beings are sinners, except Jesus Christ the righteous. And all human beings are wicked and are sure to be condemned by God unless Christ saves them through the power of His gospel. And as much as I don’t like it when what I say makes people upset or frustrated – I’m not sorry if this offends you.

I’m not sorry that I am pro-life and want to stop women from paying others to kill their children. I’m not sorry that I know and love women who have had abortions. I’m not sorry that my church reaches out to women in situations like this to love them and to share the gospel with them.

I’m not sorry for sending missionaries out into the world to spread the gospel. I’m not sorry that Christians are going into hostile lands where men, women, boys, and girls are killed, beat up, abused, and persecuted for the sake of the gospel.

I’m not sorry for distinguishing between the Allah of Islam and the God of the Bible. They are not the same. Believing in one is not believing in the other. I’m not sorry for being clear where the Bible is clear.

I’m a Christian and I’m not sorry.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Greg Boyd makes my logic hurt

Apparently I must have had the need for some sort of self flagellation because I found myself listening to recent podcasts from Woodland Hills Church. I was listening to Dr. Boyd’s recent sermons because, I must confess, I’m awfully curious to find out how he deals with the Crucifixion of Christ and the doctrine of justification when he comes to that part of Luke’s gospel. I also read Dr. Boyd’s blog or listen to his sermons to keep some tabs on one of the twin cities emergent-style leaders as well as for a quick reference to all things open-theistic. One of my most recent encounter with a wacky view of Dr. Boyd’s was when he articulated something that I called “The reverse psychology of Greg Boyd”. No, I’m not kidding. (link)

The messages that I listened to today were, if nothing else, what I have come to expect from Dr. Boyd’s preaching and theology. However, my point of logic-ache is not primarily directed at his poor treatment of “so that the Scripture would be fulfilled” references in the gospels or his Kingdom, open theism, or Christus victor Theologies. In his sermon about Judas Christianity, Dr. Boyd used a personal illustration to articulate his point. A few years back, an organization was requesting that pastors sign a petition to send to President Bush to oppose a two-state solution to the problems in Israel and Palestine. Boyd understood the petition as coming from those Christians who believe that the nation of Israel will have a future roll to play before Christ returns. Boyd then articulated his response to that petition with the following statements,

“We who are called to be peace makers in the name of the Peace Maker are preventing peace from happening. Two problems with that at least. One is that it is never good to set political policy on the basis of your interpretation of the Bible. Secondly, if it was prophesied and fated [that Israel would return to the land in the course of events related to the 2nd coming of Christ], then God really doesn’t need your help now, does He? So if God wants to take care of it, let God take care of it – stay out of His business [responded to with loud applause from the congregation].” (WHC – Lessons from the Betrayer, 2/7/10, comment ends @ 39:19)
Once again, my contention in this article is not with his theological stances that I object to, it is primarily with the statement, “that it is never good to set political policy on the basis of your interpretation of the Bible.” I’m sorry…what? Now I am not in favor of creating a Christian government or monarchy as in the kingdom of old, so don’t mistake me. The only way that laws will be changed for the better is if the hearts and minds of the voters are changed and renewed, not the other way around. But, Dr. Boyd, upon what basis ought Christians make decisions, political or otherwise? Should my decision on whether to support or oppose legislation be based on everything except my understanding of the Bible? Do you do that with “justice” issues? Do you, or would you, leave your doctrine at the door when it comes to voting or making decisions about taxation, racism, murder, or theft? Do you really want Christians to check their theology at the door and vote? Really? Wasn’t your rejection, Dr. Boyd, of the very petition you referred to in your illustration based in your theological conclusions of what the Bible says about love, peace, and eschatology?

If anyone objects to my criticism as being too harsh or that I’ve taken Dr. Boyd’s statement out of context, I think you’d be wrong. Dr. Boyd’s comment was in the context of rejecting a political petition that was by individuals who I can only assume were pre-millennialists. And Dr. Boyd’s own eschatology is, roughly (as I understand it) that the kingdom needs to come to earth through a peace and love, but regardless his eschatology is not the same as pre-millennialists. That means that Dr. Boyd did the very thing he urged others not to do – he took a political stance based on his theological convictions which are based on his understanding of the Bible.

Simply put – it is ridiculously non-Christian to urge Christians to refrain from making political decisions based on how they understand the Bible. The only sure guide we have to make decisions – whether they are, political, moral, social, economical, or relational – is Scripture. And in order to use Scripture, we must interpret it. Therefore, it is always the best idea to base your decision and your input into a political policy on your interpretation of Scripture. That does not mean that every single individual will have the same conclusions. This just means that interpreters are fallible but it doesn’t invalidate the principle of using the infallible guide.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Did something change with broadcast TV standards when I wasn’t looking?

I try not to watch too much TV, but honestly I watch way too much for all that I’ve got to do on a daily basis. But be that is it may, did I miss something? I had the Superbaal on yesterday while my family and I were cooped up in the house but I noticed that the 3rd Matrix movie was on at the same time. Now, I’ve never seen that movie before. I saw the first one in the theater and may have been the only one that I know who found it unentertaining and I was very thoroughly unimpressed. Well, I don’t know why, but my wife and I ended up getting the 2nd movie on DVD. We watched it once – and only once – and it was worse than the first one. It was at that point that I told my wife that I was not going to waste money to get the third when it came out even though there was a small part of me that wanted to see how the story ends (I’m usually a sucker for sagas). So when I saw that the local Ion Television channel was running this movie during the weekend, I decided to set my PVR to record it and watch it. Hey, it’s free, so I’m not out any money, right?

The movie was horrible, absolutely horrible. I didn’t know if I could like it less than the first two, but I most definitely did. I fast-forwarded through the emotional (anti) climactic scenes of the movie because they were just…unbearable. The death of Neo’s girlfriend, the final stand of the man-robot-guys (seriously…seriously?), and the triple or quadruple fake ending of the final duel between Smith and Neo were so over done and tiring that I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

But my primary concern is not over the worthlessness of the movie, and it was most definitely worthless, or over the fact that it was an absolute life-draining waste of time even though I fast forwarded through some of it. My primary concern was the many times that I heard hard profanity and blasphemy on broadcast TV. I must admit, to my shame, that much of the casual and ordinary blasphemy that so dominates TV and other media now hits a callous point in my mind and heart when it should disturb me greatly enough to turn off whatever program I’m watching. So that is a different issue that I’ve got to look into, but I was totally shocked to hear compound blasphemous swearing on broadcast TV.

In case my terminology befuddles you, a compound blasphemy would be any curse or exclamation that uses the name of God along with another course or curse word. The last time I checked, I thought that these phrases were not allowed on broadcast TV. Whether or not that has changed in the TV standard books, I don’t know, but I was unaware that I would be hearing what I did. I know that cable channels have different standards, but I thought there were still some restrictions on broadcast TV.

Those who know me know that my wife and I very vigilantly monitor the programming that my children watch because we’re very aware of much of the corrosive and cancerous effect that TV (or other) garbage has on the mind and heart, and we desperately want to reduce that whenever possible when it comes to our children. But now, I am seriously reconsidering the radical notion of completely dropping TV. I’ve often wondered about what men did 100 years ago when they were trying to calm a screaming baby? I sit in my comfy chair in front of the tube, turn on something for the light and noise in hopes that it will lull my little guy to sleep, and that’s that. What did they do? I don’t know, but I bet I could tell you what I’d end up doing. A fair more amount of praying for my family and other things, singing to my son more, or so many more things. Sure, I’d probably have to work on my patience during those times, but seriously…what am I giving up and missing out on because of the convenience and seduction of TV?

If I decide to get rid of TV, it wouldn’t be a financial motive because I don’t pay $50 - $100 per month for TV now. It would be a health issue because I don’t want to be more calloused to important things than I already am and I don’t want to miss out on the opportunities for really important things.

I don’t pipe sewer water into my home because I like the feel of cool liquid at times, so why do I bring the TV in? I’m really starting to seriously ask that question again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti, the economy, and the grace of God.

I cannot imagine the reality of the horrendous devastation, tragedy, and horror for the many people on the ground in Haiti. Even from the little coverage that I have seen and read, the situation is truly one that does not remind me so much of Katrina, but of the Boxing Day Tsunami. I am thankful that I have been emotionally spared from the actual individual stories of survivors who lost their families. I only have to think about what a ruined state I would be propelled into if my wife and children were suddenly and violently taken away from me in order to emotionally identify with those who are actually experiencing this nightmare.

Domestically there are many individuals and families who are in the throws of financial and economic distress. Some people are suffering because of poor choices that they have made (or are continuing to make), some are suffering because of the loss of work, but regardless of the reasons why people are in financial peril, their individual fears and problems are no less real. And even though I have not personally experienced the loss of employment, of savings, of a home, or of other related things, I can easily see how difficult and stressful that situation would be for anyone – much less for a guy who has a wife and four children.

So how does the grace of God relate to these situations? To me?

Personally, I have been spared from these problems. Sure I feel some of the residual effects of them – especially the financial woes of the economy (who doesn’t?), but I have not been directly hit by either of these two things at this time. So for me, personally, God’s grace may well be in play in the fact that I have been spared. But I think God has been even more powerfully gracious to me than simply by keeping me from those problems.

Trying to be a good husband and father I regularly examine my families finances, spending habits, saving habits, and giving habits. I had noticed several months ago that spending had to be dealt with, and so my wife and I really have buckled down and became much more spending conscious. Well, it was in one of these regular self-examinations that I saw all of the same information that I’d been examining for years in a relatively new light. The numbers and percentages were basically the same as the ones that I had been looking at for a long time, but something was different in the way that I was seeing them…and let me tell you, it was not a pleasant view. This realization sent me into a minor tail-spin of calculating, re-calculating, brainstorming, and general stressing out that lasted for about 12 hours. I had (and still have) no answer for some of the dilemmas that I now see, but God is gracious….

By the time it was time to put my children to bed, I asked my four year-old to grab the Bible that we use for our Bible time and give it to my six year-old to find Proverbs 30. Once he found it, my blessed wife, assuming what I wanted to talk to the children about, encouraged him to read the underlined verses. This is what he read,

7 Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die : 8 Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches ; Feed me with the food that is my portion, 9 That I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God.” (Prov 30:7-9)

God’s grace is evident by helping me to see the instability of the financial towers made by men and to realize that my trust (to any extent) in them is futile and ultimately a form of idolatry. My little wake-up call helped me to see where I have placed my trust in things and now I am allowed me an opportunity to deal with the heart of the matter – my misplaced faith. I can, and need to, totally trust the LORD in all things as it relates to money, health, natural disasters, or whatever. God’s grace to me in this situation is showing me an area of sin that needs to be dealt with, and then being present to help in my mortifying of it.

God’s grace is also evident in the Haiti earthquake or the financial problems for those who have been most drastically and hardest hit, both for those who are Christians and those who are not. Unless a person’s life has been taken by God’s hand in the disaster in Haiti, this is a time where His grace is being displayed to all. It is not only a display of God’s grace when He spared all those who were not killed in Haiti or that He spared from being crushed by the financial crisis. It is God’s gracious act toward those who have lost homes, loved ones, or livelihoods because God has brought them to a place where they are stripped of all things that they cling to for security and hope and shown them the utter weakness of those things. And a brush with your own mortality (even if you come by it vicariously over the TV) is a gracious act of God. When we contemplate our very existence, we are brought straight back to the questions that the Bible specifically addresses.
"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” (Matthew 10:29)

Whether it is the crashing of your bank account or the crashing of the building you’re standing in, nothing happens apart from the plan and will of God. For those who die without Christ, it is an act of judgment. For those who survive without Christ, it is a display of God’s grace. For those in Christ, whether they survive or perish, we know that God works all things together for our good and His glory.

Soli Deo Gloria

Copyright © 2005-2010 Eric Johnson