I recently read an article from Bloomberg News concerning the "Audacity of Obama" and it tells a very telling tale on how our President views his presidential calling and purpose. I believe it also betrays how his warped view of the Bible and a skewed meaning of hope has led our country down a dead end road. (http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2015-06-28/the-audacity-of-obama)
The article points to Hebrews 11:1 as one of the driving forces directing his vision for America. The article states, "There's a passage in the Bible that has spoken to Barack Obama time and again, inspiring him, provoking him, haunting him, and goading him on. 'Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,' the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews, 'the evidence of things not seen.'
I find it funny how political leaders quote the Bible when it suits their purposes; but when it come to dictating morality and personal behavior it is seen merely as an irrelevant relic from the ancient past. Scripture has become the plastic fruit on grandma's kitchen table. In this case the President used Hebrews 11:1 to highlight, "the power of hope and belief in the face of gnawing doubt." The article also said this verse, "inspired Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention that paved his way to run for president, and it gave him the title for his 2006 memoir, The Audacity of Hope."
But what kind of hope does Hebrews 11:1 inspire? What exactly should 'we the people' be hoping for? The article answers those questions this way: "The Bible calls us to hope,” Obama said. “To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.”
What exactly are the things we are to hope for? The article goes on, "If what the scripture says on faith and hope fit what Obama wanted to say to make sense out of a massacre in Charleston that has united the nation, turned Southerners against the Confederate flag, and reignited a debate on guns, Hebrews 11:1 also seems to speak to Obama’s political fortunes and his ambitions for the end of his presidency.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, the health care expansion that was his signature domestic legislative achievement as he sought to make health insurance coverage a basic right for Americans. Then on Friday, the court ruled 5-4 to legalize gay marriage nationally, a cause Obama had come to cautiously but then embraced fully, taking it up in his second inaugural address and bringing it up again and again, culminating with the White House joining in the public celebration of the Supreme Court decision by bathing the mansion Friday night in lights that mimicked the rainbow flag of the gay-rights movement.
Obama explicitly linked the crusade for gay rights to that of people of color, invoking the 'Ripple of Hope' speech Senator Robert F. Kennedy delivered in Johannesburg in 1966 when South Africa's anti-apartheid movement was far from achieving its eventual success. 'What an extraordinary achievement,' Obama said. 'What a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. What a reminder of what Bobby Kennedy once said about how small actions can be like pebbles being thrown into a still lake, and ripples of hope cascade outwards and change the world.'"
To sum up the President's view on Hebrews 11:1, 'hope' becomes a catch-all word that refers to anything you darn well want it to. Anything that you desire, rub the bottle of faith, make a wish, and God the genie will pop out of the bottle to fulfill all your political priorities and pass all your legislative dreams. He will 'get er done' for you. Hope has become silly-putty in the hands of an 'avant garde' artist. Our President has shaped the scriptures to mean anything he wants them to, just as he continually does to the Constitution and the word 'marriage.' When you look closely, his hermeneutics has major holes in it!
So what then does Hebrews 11:1 refer to? According to an earlier passage in Hebrews 6:13-19 hope is directly tied to two things: (1) the clear revealed promises of God found in the word (2) and the fulfillment of those promises through Jesus Christ. Hope is directly tied to a relationship with Almighty God and his desire for you to live a moral life. Why doesn't he quote Hebrews 11:25 and ask Americans to avoid the 'enjoyment of fleeting pleasures of sin?" It wouldn't make for a good sound bite when you try to promote the new rainbow colored lights shining on the White House. Neither would Hebrews 12:3-4 for that matter.
In fact, as I kept reading the rest of Hebrews I am not sure if the President is familiar at all with it? Just take a gander at this little section:
* Hebrews 13:4-6, "Let marriage (man and woman only) be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Boy, if only the President would read that, then maybe, just maybe we could have hope in the direction he is taking us. If he took those three little verses to heart, goodbye Obamacare and goodbye gay-rights! But, just like to the rest of America, the Bible really isn't a book anyone reads and follows anymore, it is an ornamental piece of Victorian literature to find a nice quote here and there and then use it to invoke the Magic Genie to come do your bidding.
Forget about "Hope and Change", Obama's slogan should have been, "Let's Change Hope!"
"In your struggle against sin you have
not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood."
People are pretty incredible these days, they can accomplish most anything: climb mountains & skyscrapers without ropes, walk across the country on their hands, make a million dollars in a day. I have seen a man run as fast as a car, a teenager finish three doctorates before the age of 18 and a woman dunk a basketball. I have even been shown a picture of a man who climbed the statue of a 14 foot statue of a white stallion in front of PF Chang's. Now that's the 'Stuff of Legend!'
We are a nation of people who have "Been there and done that." Just try to go up to someone and talk about your latest trip to Cedar Point or Cabelas, "Oh, that's nothing. I just got done climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in bare feet and killed a Bengal Tiger with my sling-shot on the way down all the while texting my girlfriend. LOL." People are hard to impress these days - because they are quite impressed with themselves.
I don't know if this is because we have taken so many selfies; like Narcissus looking into the pool, we have fallen in love with our own image? Or maybe it's because of the horde of 30 year-olds who are living at home with mom are still having their crayon scribbles taped on the fridge? "Oh I am so proud of my son, he drew a stick portrait of me in Marigold orange and Caribbean green!"
Whatever the case, the more people that believe they have "been there done that", the less impressed they are with the wonders of God. While his grace fades into the background noise during a Sunday morning snooze at church; human effort, intellect, accomplishment and weirdness is now lauded as the truly significant instrument in the betterment and progress of man.
"Did you see the new IPhone? The apps are epic!" "Did you hear about the new book with the crazy cool title by the Christian guy who sees no use for the church and how he is more intimate with others because he is so real and raw and drinks beer like a fish? You got to get it, it will transform your life?" "Did you hear about the new bill being argued in Congress? Yeah, once they make a decision on it, we will all know if the transgender revolution is finally here to stay. And just think, more people taking estrogen and testosterone injections, while getting our Adam's apples shaved off and backsides boosted with Botox, will definitely be the spark we need to usher in a new age of Aquarius. The quantum leap of man. Dude, I can't wait!"
But there is something one man did that I still think is a bit more impressive than anything I have ever seen anybody do these days. Before you try to "one up" this guy, just listen and ask yourself, "Have you ever...?"
* Made a mud pie, placed it on the eyes of a blind guy, and then moments later he sees?
* Woke up in the middle of a storm, told it to shut up, and it obeyed you while you went back to sleep?
* Went to a funeral, touched the guy in the coffin, and he jumped up because he realized he missed his third hour college class?
Those things are kind of amazing, don't you think? But these "miraculous happenings" are just a preview of the real show. "Have you ever...?"
* Stared down into the mouth of God's wrath, full-force, and withstood it?
* Been publicly shamed and discredited in front of a whole city including your brothers, sisters, friends, enemies, uncles, aunts, and your mom - and yet you were totally innocent?
* Been spit in the face by the police, or had the local priest and mayor mock you, or had military privates strip you of your clothes and nail you to wood and then hung it up high so everyone could laugh?
* Been abandoned by the one parent who loves you the most? "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Jesus endured all of this. He did it all wide-out in the open for all to see. And it was intended to communicate three things:
(1) How much he loves us.
(2) How serious our offense against God is.
(3) What it really takes to satisfy him.
Can you do what Jesus did? If you think you are that impressive of a person, just try it...I'll bet you can't. And when you are done playing this fools game called "pride", run to Jesus.
Because he is alive... you know?
I know, I know...I can hear you yelling at me, "Where have you been?"
Well, for all of last week I attended the "Acton University" in downtown Grand Rapids for the "study of religion and liberty." It was a wonderful week of high octane learning. In truth, after all the classes were over, my brain temporarily shut down for three days. I felt like watching some old Sponge Bob episodes just so I wouldn't lose some of my precious irrationality that Acton successfully stripped away. (I didn't watch Sponge Bob, but maybe...The Walking Dead).
I still am in process of downloading all the information my tiny brain has absorbed in one short week. And to help with that I am going to take the next month or so of Wednesdays and call them "AI" blogs. "AI" stands for Acton Insights. I think the information I learned is vital for all of us to consider as we engage people around us. And I also was encouraged by the directors of Acton University to spread what we learned, not just selfishly keep it to ourselves.
If we are going to change the landscape of our culture it must start with us. So here I go...
Today's insight will be small since this is an introductory post, but it is profound. Dr. Samuel Gregg spoke the first night on "Truth, Reason, and the Quest for Equality." I will share my notes and extrapolations: He began his lecture stating that the Universities of our country were originally founded to be places that searched for truth. Harvard's motto of "Veritas" spoke to this pursuit. Truth was assumed to be the property of God and it was found through reason. So in short, by studying both General Revelation (God's Book of the World) and Special Revelation (God's Book of his Word, 'Logos') man was on a search for knowing God.
But that is not the case anymore. Dr. Gregg argued that the search for God has been replaced with "Sentimental Humanitarianism." Two big words, which mean one thing: We now just want to make people feel better, mostly about themselves. The problem he says with this, is that "truth" often is an enemy to Sentimental Humanitarianism. So instead of reason and rational argument, public discourse has taken on three troubling positions:
(1) Most Debates are Centered on Feeling: When emotions under gird argument two groups will usually win: the person who cries and the person who feels offended. It was at this point in the lecture he threw out his most brilliant gem of thought, "We must always remember, there is nothing virtuous about being offended!" Wow, boy do people need to hear this. Proverbs 12:16 agrees with this, "A fool's displeasure is known at once, but whoever ignores an insult is sensible." Therein lies the problem, public debate is rarely sensible anymore.
(2) Sentimental Humanitarianism Necessitates Naivety: Just because a person can cry doesn't mean they are good or right. Our society, however, has been conditioned to believe differently. We are told by the societal elites (these are the people who think they care about others more than you do) to look past motive and reality, and assume always the best of intentions. So when it comes to ISIS, what does Sentimental Humanitarianism want us to believe about their blatant display of evil? We must project some social trouble that made them that way. Maybe they couldn't find a good job so the only option left was slitting throats? Who can blame them? Everyone is intrinsically good...right?
(3) Refusal to take Reason Seriously: If truth takes you to a conclusion that might make someone feel bad, there must be something wrong with the truth? If raising children with no father and a mom who ships their kids off to daycare produces less mature and well adjusted children, the research must be faulty because "Single moms wont like it." Try telling the world that Government subsidies lead to dependence which leads to apathy. Oh boy, that will not play well on TV. So instead of direct truth, we need soft-sell narratives, culturally shared stories and celebrities to suppress the truth while shouting down those cold-hearted rationalists.
This was how the Acton experience started off for me. It is just a nibble, so I hope you will join me on Wednesdays to eat some more?
Remember, just because you cry, or feel offended, doesn't mean you are right.
Oscar Wilde, the 19th Century playwright and aesthetic philosopher, is known for his outspoken belief that, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life". Oscar and his contemporaries really believed that artists, poets, painters and playwrights had the ability to create a new reality and assign meaning where it never was before. Listen to one of his more famous quotes, "Although there has been fog in London for centuries, one notices the beauty and wonder of the fog because poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects...They did not exist till Art had invented them."
This way of viewing reality is the natural result of humanistic thinking where "man has become the measure of all things." When God is not included in the equation of meaning, man in his arrogance gladly takes over his Sovereign control.
Before humanism took the reins away from God; European and early American culture was heavily influenced by Christianity and the Reformation. In the Judaeo-Christian paradigm, Art was meant to reflect the wonder of God's creation. The Artist's aim was to display the Father's genius. In other words, Art was merely a servant to the Creator, never to become the Creator himself. The majority once believed that God was the source from whom all good things flow, and it was proper for praise and honor to flow back to him.
You could say art was both a theology (teaching of God) and doxology (praise of God) visibly on display.
But not any more - - Artist's have become the new creators, they now assign meaning and beauty. And in their self-proclaimed sovereignty, they are not to be questioned. As modern philosophy has taught us, "truth is relative." So the goal of Art is no longer to reflect and magnify God's glory; but to be different, unique, novel and even shocking. Notice the difference between a painting by Rembrandt and Picasso? Or Rubens and Dali? Great artists are now considered geniuses based on their ability to change reality and get us to think different.
As one Art expert has said, "The old definitions of art have become obsolete. Today, art is an evolving and global concept, open to new interpretation, too fluid to be pinned down. The 20th century was a turning point in our conception of art, which is mainly why contemporary artists frequently reach for new concepts, break with tradition and reject classic notions of beauty. The artist no longer tries to reflect reality, but rather tries to give expression to their inner world and feelings."
Well guess what, this new way to view Art is now being applied to how we view and live our everyday lives. Instead of seeing your body, sexual orientation, family structure, and place in society as something designed by God; we now are to believe, like the modern artist, that we can create a new reality. Oscar Wilde was right, "Life is imitating Art." The old definitions are obsolete, we are now free to create as we choose. And just like Art, people are now trying to be different, unique, novel and even shocking in the choices they make. Here are some examples:
* Bruce Jenner wants us to admit he has been a woman in a man's body. And mind you, his male body was very masculine! He won the decathlon for crying out-loud! And now with the help of plastic surgery, hormone therapy, Photoshop, and social media, he is able to twist, bend and turn reality into any shape and size he wants. And you and I are only to sit back and admire the new work of Art. Don't question it, just admire like you do when you look at Salvador Dali's melting clocks!
* Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who wants us to believe she is black, has told the public that her real father was black, while her real father, who is white, denies that reality. But it is her realty, let her create it as she wishes! And if she wants to join in the civil rights struggle claiming it as her own, we must let her paint it her way..
* David, a man who will not release his real name, wants one of his legs amputated for the sheer reason that, "It feels like my soul doesn't extend into it." He even claims that every waking moment he longs for freedom from his leg, begging doctors to amputate. Psychologists, the true Art connoisseurs of life, were quick to jump to his side claiming there is a very normal community of people wanting similar relief. There is even a term for this, "Body Identity Integrity Disorder. (BIID)"
Before you think these stories are abnormal, remember in our modern and post-modern world, there is no normal. No one knows what reality is meant to look like or designed to be. As all the cool atheists have told us, God is dead, remember?
Well it is too bad because it is looking more and more like Picasso wasn't just painting abstractly. His pictures of deformed faces and fragmented reality is taking shape before our very eyes. He was painting what reality was soon to become. Now the weird, twisted, and distorted has become the new normal. Life imitating Art!
When God and his word no longer determine meaning, we are left with non-sense as our god.
For the first 23 years of my life, I had a stiff and formal relationship with God.
I called him "Father." For me, "Father" was a word that inferred a wide gulf of separation between my regular mundane world and his mysterious heaven. I would pray the decalogue of the rosary, and when I got to the "Our Fathers" they were chanted with a quiet and serious solemnity: "Our Father who art in heaven, HALLOWED be thy name." What does hallowed mean? As a kid I thought it referred to some old sterile Cathedral where your voice echoed off stone walls while grandmas prayed silently in the pews.
Come to think of it, I never said "Thy" to my own dad? My relationship with him was too personal to use such lofty language. God, however, was different than my dad; as the "Father" he was other. He dwelled in an untouchable land; and I thought the word "Thy" was the only title that could actually reach him there.
As a result of this distance, I rarely thought about him when I played baseball on a hot summer day, was throwing a stick to my dog by the lake, or was watching a cheesy 1970's sit-com. God didn't enter that world.
But my dad was there.
I could talk to him on a cloudy Saturday while we ate peanuts, or I could ask him questions as we shot baskets on our driveway, he even watched some sit-coms with me and laughed at the "Fonz" just like I did. My dad was my friend, confidant and mentor. He was close by.
As I grew so did my interest in my relationship with the "Father." I began to read his word and soon realized he wanted to enter my regular mundane world. He was the one who longed for intimacy with me, so he initiated a solution to bridge the wide gulf in our relationship.
He sent Jesus: A man fashioned like me, speaking my language, feeling my emotions, and walking on the same green grass as I did. I fell in love with Jesus; driven to him by trials and learning about his love in the valley of the shadow. His cross was my invitation to have the "Father" become "Dad." Over a couple years of personal discovery, I decided to truly became his follower...a disciple.
As I matured, so did my walk with God. I can remember very vividly a contentious argument I had with my earthly dad about faith. We did not see eye to eye on an issue of doctrine and religious practice. My dad was angry with me: as a compliant son, this was a moment of relational crisis for me. But instead of causing me to cower and agree with my dad's opinion, I was driven to God the "Father" to find answers. In this time of prayer and meditation, the "Father" really became my "Dad."
I don't know how to explain it, but I needed that event to happen because it showed me that my walk with Jesus and God the Father, my Dad, was now mine. I was no longer riding the coattails of my parent's faith; I now owned my relationship with God.
The "Father" not only entered my world as my "Dad", but he became my friend, confidant and mentor.
The beautiful thing that happened was that this experience also allowed me to have real mercy on my earthly father. Because I could go to my "Dad" in heaven with my problems; I could more easily love my dad on earth. He didn't need to be my Savior or my source of knowledge and wisdom. I saw him as a man with flaws, a sinner like me, and I could forgive him because I knew God forgave him.
I could rest in God's certain perfection; while knowing the rest of us are flawed humans, even my parents.
I find many people in church have never made God their "Dad." As a result their parents are always dictating the parameters of their faith. When their parents fail or act hypocritical, they often feel betrayed and some will even abandon faith in God. If God is only your "Father", faith becomes a sterile religious duty. You will always be trying to appease a mysterious figure looming large in the far away heavens. But when God becomes your "Dad" he enters your world. He walks with you, he laughs at your triumphs and picks you up when you fall.
Who is God to you? Your "Father" or your "Dad."
You don't need money, don't take fame
Don't need no credit card to ride this train
It's strong and it's sudden and it's cruel sometimes
But it might just save your life
I attended High School in the greatest decade of popular American music ever; the sensational 1980's. There will never be another time like it. Musical geniuses of the highest caliber could be found everywhere, it was raining melodic bounty. Devo, Flock of Seagulls, Boy George, Men Without Hats, Duran Duran and of course Baltimora with the song "Tarzan Boy."
But one artist in particular had more than a just a good voice, he was also a spiritual luminary. This person is none other than Huey Lewis. He had many chart topping hits like: "The Heart of Rock and Roll", "Hip to be Square", Back in Time", and his most famous song was "The Power of Love." It is this last song that contains the answer every pastor, parent, teacher, psychologist is looking for to change the world. It is sheer brilliance!
Just let the mastery of thought sink in a second...
The power of love is a curious thing
Make a one man weep, make another man sing
Change a hawk to a little white dove
More than a feeling that's the power of love
This past month I have been preaching on the book of Galatians and the major theme is that "Grace alone saves." Leaning on religion and human effort to curry favor with God is useless. If you try to impress the Lord on High with your hard-work and blameless living, Paul says you are perverting the gospel.
The gospel is simple: Jesus did everything for you by dying on the cross and rising again. His death is a gift, and you are to receive it by faith. That is it. However, if you try to add his work by religious duty and piety, it will not impress God in the least. You are inadvertently saying, "Jesus didn't do enough. I have to help him out." Who are you to think you can improve upon perfection?
Are you better than Jesus? Can you offer more that will impress God?
Now here is the struggle for many people: "If all I have to do is receive Christ's payment on the cross by faith, then I don't have to do anything else. What then will happen to tithing and getting volunteers to run all the programs at church? Who will come and listen to the pastor? Who will stack chairs?
Many church people, especially deacons and pastors, fear that the message of Grace will make for lazy, no good, apathetic bums in the church. If we don't motivate by guilt, shame, anger and loudly express our disappointment then nothing will get done. Grace turns people into couch potatoes. Or does it?
This is where the power of love comes in. Huey is right, love makes one man weep, another man sing. When you understand what has been done for you by Jesus, he finished everything you need to do, love starts bubbling up inside of you. We love because he first loved us. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We do good works because we have been saved by grace through faith.
Grace makes you "want to" and "get to" participate in the life of the church. Love responds to needs. Love perseveres. Love washes feet.
So what if you are a no good, lazy bum, and don't do anything at church? What if you isolate yourself from people? What if you become a spiritual couch potato? What if you nonchalantly walk by people stacking chairs without lending a hand? Three things may be happening:
(1) Maybe you have misunderstood purpose? You are not saved simply to be saved, buy you are saved to shine. Jesus saved you to display him. Jesus saved you to bring truth to the lies that are killing those we love. Jesus saved you to set you free from the bondage of sin. Walking up to the alter to accept Christ is not the finish line, it is the starting blocks. You now get to run for team Jesus.
(2) Maybe you are feeding your flesh more than your spirit? What do you watch, listen to, read, and who do you hang out with? Bad company does corrupt good character. In other words, you need to give fuel for the fire of love to burn hot. In Revelation Jesus told the church at Ephesus, "You are a great bunch of people, but I have one thing against you, you have lost your first love." We need to keep stoking to keep the fire burning. (Oh, that is another good 80's song by Reo Speedwagon!)
(3) Maybe you don't have love in your heart? Have you received Christ's payment by faith? The most religious people are often the most lost because they have never rested in Christ's final work. But when you believe in Jesus by faith, the reality that Whitesnake talks about starts coming true in your life: "I can't stop the feeling, I've been this way before, But, with you I've found the key, To open any door." When you really believe, you really know!
So, my suggestion, stop trying so hard and believe. Love will then start moving you and you wont be able to stop it. Take the band "Tears for Fears" advice....
Shout, shout, let it all out
These are the things I can do without
Come on, I'm talking to you, come on
What a week! Bruce wants us to call him Caitlin, Brittney and Glory are expecting their first child right after they slug each other in the face, the goody-two-shoes Josh Duggar is found to be not so goody-goody, and Blake Griffin is called Lindsey Lohan freckled face on Jimmy Kimmel.
What are we coming too? And should we even care?
Why don't we all just stop judging one another? Live and let live, right? Keep your nose out of other people's business -- it will all work out well in the end for everyone. Won't it?
Somehow our culture has been "taught" and has "caught" that we should never...ever...under any circumstance... "judge others." That is the modern day mantra, the cultural code; don't be an intolerant hate monger. Let people be.
It can be argued that even the bible preaches this message. Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge..." Seems pretty plain to me. Some may point out that I left out the rest of the verse and chose not to include Jesus' whole argument found in verses 2-5 that tells us pretty clearly, "take out the plank in your own eye and then you can remove the speck in your brother's eye." But let's not nit-pick, it is clear, the first three words say, "Do not judge."
Even Paul, the bombastic apostle, tells us not to judge. Listen to 1 Corinthians 4:3-4, "I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear..." See how clear that is? So lets stop caring about what other people do - - Paul says, "it's all good!" Doesn't he?
STOP THE FOOLISHNESS
Alright, alright, let's not get carried away. We have to treat the bible right - - you can't just make it say anything you want it to say. As 2 Peter 3:16 warns, distorting the word will always work towards your own destruction. So we need to place it in context, and I want you to notice three things about what Paul is saying:
(1) He is concerned with us acting as true servants of God, and the goal is to "be found faithful." If you have been given understanding of the gospel, you have a responsibility to share it and live it.This passage isn't about doing anything you want without getting judged, it is about serving Christ with your whole life because you have been entrusted with, "The secret things of God." What an honor! If you are a Christian, your body is a "temple of the Holy Spirit," and you have to be careful because you will "reap what you sow." You are to display honor, integrity and dignity in your everyday life. That means you are not to be a slave to your passions and desires. Act like an adult made in the image of God. Your are not a dog!
(2) Paul doesn't judge primarily because he is admitting that as a human he doesn't have exhaustive knowledge nor insight to make an accurate judgement. And this judgement is in regards to himself!. At the end of verse 4, he says even though his conscious is clear, "that does not make him innocent." That is a profound statement coming from the mouth of an apostle. Even though he thinks he is living right, he may not be after-all. We buy into the non-sense of "follow your heart", thinking emotion, feeling and the conscience will always point us down true and righteous paths. Paul says, don't be so sure. We think it is o.k. when a man tell us they want to be a woman simply because they feel like a woman. Paul counters this idea by saying, "even when I think I am doing everything right, that doesn't make it right."
We have become over-confident about our own and other's ability to discern what is right and what is wrong. This is a fatal delusion because Jeremiah says our heart "lies to us everyday!" (Jeremiah 17:9)
Society teaches our kids to just do whatever feels right. However, if our kids make choices simply on "strong feelings" they could be forever altering their lives and the lives of others. Many of those choices are tragically irreversible. While tolerance tells us "not to say anything" because "you can't judge the emotional tugging on a human heart"; Paul says, "be very careful if you think you are standing firm, you may be about to fall flat on your face." (1 Corinthians 10:12)
(3) Even though we aren't to judge, God still maintains to right to do so. The reason Paul doesn't judge others is because he knows he is not God. Look at how 1 Corinthians 4:4-5 reads, "My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God."
I don't know about you, but this scares the devil right out of me. God still has standards, he still is taking out his moral yard-stick and measuring our actions, he is still on the throne. That is scary. (If you don't think it is read Psalm 11). As Christians we are not given the right to fill our souls with hate and throw out condemnation at the actions we disapprove of. God will judge.
However, we still must warn. If you see that someone is about to drive his car off a cliff you need to say something. Even if he flips you the bird and tells you to mind your own business; you may save his life by trying to persuade him to stop. According to John 12:48-50 everyone is going to be weighed and measured against the word of God. Scripture is the yard-stick. If a woman wants to marry another woman, we must say "God forbids it." Sure we will be ridiculed and mocked. The world will think we are fools, or even worse, haters. Don't stop loving and warning...do stop condemning.
They may even argue with passion and tell you that they are basing their decision on "the genuine love of two consenting adults" that does not make them innocent.
Never forget, with everything in life, it is the Lord who judges. That is both a comforting and terrifying thought. And Gandalf was wrong, when in doubt don't follow your nose... follow the word.
What if ... you got married to a gorgeous woman?
What if ... you had three wonderful children with her?
What if ... one day you came home from work and found a note on the refrigerator that said she left you because she needed some space? What if she demanded her freedom?
What if ... you discovered she rented an apartment for herself downtown so she could go clubbing with her friends?
What if ... you followed her and watched her throw herself at every eligible bachelor in the bars and nightclubs her and her gal pals were frequenting?
What if ... you saw her get picked up by a sleazy rich dude?
What if ... he drove her back to his place?
What if ... you knocked on the door to bring her back home and they both laughed at you, and then slammed the door in your face?
What if ... she moved in with him?
What if ... through one of her friends, you found out she was being abused by the man and used as an escort for other men?
What if... you went to bring her home and she refused to come? Noticing her sad condition, what if out of love for her, you gave the man a lot money too help take care of her?
What if ... she thanked the man for the nice things he bought her with the money you gave him?
What if ... after a couple years of using her for sex, and renting her services out to other well paying rich businessmen, the guy threw her out on the street because he was tired of her?
What if ... you found her, lost and alone in a seedy bar still selling favors for money?
Would you still love her? Would you take her back home? Would you allow her back in?
God would and God did! And this act of love was directed to you and to me. Have you not read the book of Hosea? "Go show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves his people, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes of idolatry." (Hosea 3:1)
Have you not read Romans? "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
All we have is from God. The sun, the trees, the rivers, the fish, the ale, the birds, the bread - - it is all from him. But too often we give thanks to those things which did not provide that which we have. We give credit and praise to our own hands, our jobs, our money, our own good sense, or our intelligence. God gave those things to us because he sees our need, and he loves us dearly.
This kind of love is what is known as "In Spite Of" love. He doesn't love us because we are great, wonderful, beautiful and deserving. He doesn't love us because we go to church, or give money to the poor, or sing songs well. He doesn't hold back his love either because we failed again. He loves us "in spite of" what we have done or didn't do.
He loves Bruce Jenner. And what is more outrageous than that, he loves even me. A good friend reminded me of this yesterday - - we need to be above the bashing of people who make decisions we don't agree with. We need to offer hope to people who are confused and even vile. We need to be kind, because Jesus was kind to us. Even when we were his enemies (Romans 5:10).
God loves Bruce Jenner "In Spite Of" the Vanity Fair cover shoot. God loves the Islamic Terrorist "In Spite Of" the be-headings. God loves Chris Weeks "In Spite Of" his cynical heart. "Oh, What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
"Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Who loved me and gave himself for me.
I was reading a rather cool and snarky blog post that was entitled, "21 Brilliant Analogies." A couple of them were really good:
"Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."
Or this one,
"Cats are like dogs for lazy people."
And then I stumbled across one that really caught my attention. It is crass, but I think it reveals an opinion a lot people have towards Christians and Christianity. Here it is:
It's point is this: People who are nice Christians are probably just trying to fool God with false kindness to steal eternal bliss from him. I really think a lot of cynics believe this statement to be true; that is why this quote is deemed to be brilliant. "Those hypocrites aren't going to fool me! They are all a bunch of plastic tea-totaling, Stepford living, tie-wearing people who are trying to appease an angry adolescent God." I am sure many people living in our predominantly secular culture think Christians are only acting a part.
But if you honestly were to stop and think about it, this analogy reveals four horrible misconceptions the secularist believes about Christian teaching. Each one of them is categorically false:
(1) Misconception One: God can be fooled.
Jesus says, "The problem with most people is that they don't know the scriptures nor the power of God." And scripture is very clear on the nature of God: He searches the hearts (hidden motives & true desires) of all people and knows them intimately. You can't fool him, lie to him, mock him, or get away with flattery or false devotion. And there is no one who is more irritating to God than the hypocrite. If they make you angry, just think of how God feels toward the person that claims Jesus as their own and is just putting on an act! Truth One: God will not be mocked!
(2) Misconception Two: Kindness can be produced by an act of the will.
Jesus says, "You will know a tree by it's fruit." An apple tree will eventually produce apples, a peach tree, peaches, and a cherry tree, cherries. You can tie peaches on an apple tree for a while, but an abundance of apples will eventually appear on the branches overwhelming the peaches. In Galatians 5:19-23 the apostle Paul points out the kind of fruit that is produced by the flesh and by the Spirit of God. Overtime, a person from his own reservoir of self-determination, will only produce "acts of the flesh" which include hatred, discord, jealousy and selfishness. Sure a person can be kind, but selfish fruit will be predominant in their lives. Only the Spirit of God can consistently produce "kindness, goodness and gentleness" which are the ingredients to genuine niceness. And Christian niceness isn't trying to earn that which it already has.Truth Two: Bona Fide kindness is only produced by true Christians.
(3) Misconception Three: People can sustain a lifetime of hypocrisy.
This is the further outworking of the previous misconception. Overtime your true self will ALWAYS be revealed. It is impossible to fake something for 70 years. I can fake a lot of things, but I can't sustain any of them for a long time. I can tell you I like fishing, but after three fishing trips I am done. I can tell you I like the Detroit Tigers, but after three games I am done. I can tell you I like to listen to pop music, and after one song by Taylor Swift I am done! You can't sustain what is NOT in you, and a non-Christian cannot be nice for a life-time, let alone for a week. Truth Three: Who you are will always come out, and if you are not a Christian, crankiness, anger and selfishness will mark your life.
(4) Misconception Four: Niceness is the primary element needed for procuring salvation.
C'mon, whoever believes this lie must have never cracked open the pages of scripture? Perfection is the real requirement to make it through the pearly gates. Other words are used for perfection: Holiness, Righteousness, Glory of God and Absolute Sinlessness. If you want to make it to heaven by effort, good luck trying to be perfect. . . you can't do it.
Niceness is nothing like perfection. You need niceness to impress the average girl in high school; but it requires perfection to win the super-model. God is not average. He is holy, and you can not win his favor by being average. You have to be perfect. Truth Four: Jesus is the only one who was perfect, you sin everyday - that is why you need him!
Maybe I am over-reacting to a funny quote, but I think insightful humor often reveals how people really think. An if this is truly how they think, it shows how out of touch people are with true biblical teaching. It reminds me of Chesterton's favorite quote:
"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."
Have you tried it, or are you only a mocker! Be very careful, Truth One is still in play!!!