Friday, May 30, 2008

Love v. Law

Jesus is the perfect example of what the Christian life is to look like. He not only preached the things of God, He lived as the perfect representation of the Kingdom of God. While not forsaking His divinity, He lived the life of a man in perfect relationship with God. Jesus claimed of Himself to be the Way the Truth and the Life. He is the perfect personification of Truth.

There seems to be constant tension between the law and love where there should be none. Some feel that if they cease seeing sin through the law they will some how give it permissive license. However, Jesus knew full well the death produced by sin for He came suffer in our place for our sins though he committed none. Just the same Jesus was sent to, “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” He came to heal hearts and free and release those in bondage to darkness.

Only love can produce these results. Condemnation and invoking the law only serves to bring bondage not freedom. Every time Jesus refers to the Law and the Prophets he shows that they are fulfilled in love not abolished by love.

Consider the following passages.

Matthew 5: 17 –18 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

The Law and the Prophets are fulfilled by Love. So why is that people think that responding to sin with love creates permissiveness and violates God’s law? By no means, the law exists because of God’s love and is therefore fulfilled by His love. Love fulfills the law because when you enter into God’s love through Jesus you are freed from the bondage of sin which was illuminated by the law. Morality becomes a byproduct of knowing Christ and not false righteousness of adhering to moral laws.

When sin is seen through love it is far darker and more real than when it is seen through legalism and the religious spirit. I used to think that compassion for the sinner excused the sin whereas condemnation of sorts would break them out of the sin. I didn’t think this consciously, but rather subconsciously. When God gripped my heart for the outcast and the sinners and replaced my judgmentalism with His compassion and love-- I started to see sin for what it really is: a dark bondage that destroys a person. I began to grieve in my heart when I saw people entangled in its web and I was then motivated by love to reach out showing them the love of Christ and the freedom from this disease in which they are so deeply entangled.

Love sees sin worse then legalism sees sin. Love seeks to restore, help, free, release the sinner from their bondages. Legalism seeks to condemn and bind the person to their bondage. The more like Jesus we become the more we should desire the restoration of the broken, the freedom of the captives, the healing of the hurting, etc. All of this will come out of our relationship with Him otherwise it is simply the works of religion. Religion is about law and Jesus is about love. The more we know Him the more love should abound.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pluralistic Possibilities?

It appears to be a predominate way of thinking to denounce any truth claim that purports to be the only truth. The preponderance of pluralistic possibilities tends to lead to the simultaneous acceptance of contradictory truth claims. Or by chance a person does adhere to one truth claim and not to others they feel it to be arrogant to assume that the others are not true. The common adage presents itself in a new twist, “that it may be true for you, but not for me” or rather in the new adaptation “it may not be my truth, but it is still truth for you.”

C.S. Lewis in his masterfully written Screwtape letters commences his first letter in the series addressing this very issue. He discusses the dangers of not thinking in a true/false construct. In this fictional dialog the Senior devil is speaking to his junior devil, “Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. . . By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?”

In other words, C.S. Lewis is saying that the more a person thinks in the construct of true and false the more his thinking will line up with reality. For logic and reason are products of God given knowledge and understanding. We are unable to argue against logic and reason without employing them in the argument. It is advantageous for a person to become a critical thinker and not just swallow the multiplicity of truth claims as one continuum of truth that is all inclusive of reality. It cannot be so due to the stark contradictions between world religions and belief systems.

The plurality of truth claims should not be seen like the variety of options in a candy store, each alluring, and each a matter of opinion and personal preference. Truth is exclusive of non-truth. There is no avoiding that exclusivity in the name of tolerance. We can still love people who don’t accept Jesus as Truth for Jesus tells us we must love even our enemies. Therefore, knowing truth and being certain of Him who is Truth does not produce animosity towards people of other beliefs. When this kind of animosity is produced, I would posit that the person or group of people don’t really know Jesus Christ. Jesus said if you hate your brother, the truth is not in you. Thus, knowing the Truth (experientially) does not produce hate, but love. That is the measuring stick. Christians are to be identified by their love for one another and the world.

There is one standard of truth and that is the revelation and person of Jesus Christ. For as Paul wrote in Romans 1:16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” He wrote it again to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:18 "So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” There is power in the Gospel message for salvation and we must not be ashamed to testify about Jesus for He brings life to those who believe.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Normal Christianity

I work on the fourth floor of an office building with old elevators in continual need of repair. The elevator doors rush open with a loud bang and one of them closes extremely slowly while the other has a tendency to close on you as you enter. As it passes each floor there you feel a disconcerting lurch of sorts and when you reach your floor there is a sudden jolt and grind. For years this has been a daily experience.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I stayed at a newly remodeled hotel and our room was on the tenth floor. We entered the elevator and selected floor 10. About 60 seconds passed in quiet stillness and I told my husband that the elevator must not be working as we weren’t moving yet. He pointed out the counter at the top of the doors to show me we were indeed traveling upwards and were nearing our exit. I was amazed.

I was using the nearly broken elevators as a standard instead of an elevator in working order. Therefore, I was amazed by something that should be normal.

Does this not happen with the Christian life? Do we not take what we have always known as a standard instead of using Christ as our standard?

I’ve observed that the common response regarding leading a supernatural life to be that it is something that’s not for everybody – it’s not normal Christianity. People see it as a lifestyle that is amazing, but not the standard. The standard has become what we see everyday and not what Jesus modeled it to be. We are to be imitators of Christ, are we not?

When I first starting learning about healings, miracles, and the like as being a part of normal Christianity, I resisted the idea because I thought those who lived that way had something special – something abnormal and I took aversion to being told that it should be normal in my life. I had grown up in the church; I knew what normal Christianity was all about. Or did I? Could it be that my standard was my experiences and not Jesus?

Just like the elevator story, I was measuring normalcy by the wrong standard. The standard should have been an elevator in good working order and not one that is constantly inept.

Jesus said to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse lepers. Does that mean that He isn’t pleased with me because I don’t do that? No, absolutely not. I am made righteous by Him, not by the works that I do. But if I readjust my standard to be Him, He can enable me to do these and greater things because it is He that does them through me. If my eyes are on Him and I am seeking His Kingdom, I will begin to see the things He spoke of happening in my life. I will then be about my Father’s business. I will hear and see what He wants to do in people for my eyes are set on Him.

When Jesus approached the disciples’ boat walking on the water he called Peter to walk out to Him. Peter fixed his eyes on Christ and walked upon the water for His standard was not that everyone knows this is impossible, but His eyes were joined with Christ’s eyes. However, when he took His eyes off Christ he began to falter and sink, but he quickly fixed them back on Jesus.

Jesus has to be our standard. We can’t look at what everyone says is possible or impossible. It is written in Philippians 3:16 that, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Don't Exercise Only One Arm

In M. Night Shyamalan’s film “The Lady In The Water,” one of the characters exercises only one arm. Naturally, the one arm grows in strength while the other hangs limp in comparison. Often times as Christians we only, metaphorically speaking, exercise one arm. We either exercise our mental strength thereby feeding our intellectual desires or we exercise our spiritual strength feeding our supernatural hunger. Rarely is there a modern example of balance in this area. One is usually overtly strong in one area and sadly weak in the other. We need to remember that we need to exercise both aspects of our faith. The Apostle Paul was resolute in ability to share the Gospel engaging the culture of his time while at the same time being enabled by the Spirit of God to preach with power. He had to sow into intellectual knowledge and spiritual empowerment through God's enabling power in order to reap the ability to have such a dynamic ministry.

I often sow more into intellectual studies with my desire to be equipped in apologetics. However, if I neglect my spiritual needs in the process by not seeking after the fullness of the Kingdom of God by spending time with Him and nurturing my heart as well as my head, I will not have anything to offer. To truly give an answer to those who ask the reason for the hope that I have in Christ Jesus, I must rest on Christ and not on intellect. It is by Christ that I can know anything at all and if I forsake that relationship I have no hope to offer. All wisdom comes from Him and without Him all is foolishness.

Conversely, we cannot ignore our minds as Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).

Spiritual Desire?

“I had always believed that the world involved magic: now I thought that perhaps it involved a magician . . . I had always felt life first as a story; and if there is a story there is a story teller.” G.K. Chesterton

Naturalism never explains the mysteries of life. If truth is only what we can determine scientifically then there would be no mysterious unknown. The supernatural world exists. We see evidence of it daily. Millions of people worship in some form or fashion. Why? Why the innate desire to worship? Why is spirituality hardwired to our being if there is no spiritual world? Evolution cannot explain it.

Why do we cry out to the living God when we are in deep need? George MacDonald wrote, “I don’t think you could dream anything that hadn’t something real like it somewhere.” If we have this desire there must be a fulfillment somewhere as C.S. Lewis comments, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Our hearts cry out to worship because there is a God who created us to worship. We desire spirituality because the spiritual world exists. Some seek spirituality and settle for a counterfeit of the real and become involved in things that are not of God. But for a counterfeit to exist there must also be a real in which it is counterfeiting. Press on toward the truth and you will find life more abundantly.

We are all a part of one grand story and its omniscient Author has a purpose for you in His story. The question is will you submit your story to His authorship.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Truth Claims

Everyone makes truth claims. Even one who claims there is no truth, makes a truth claim. The one who claims there are a multiplicity of truths, makes a definitive truth claim that truth is pluralistic. Someone who maintains that truth is subjective to the individual or the community also makes a truth claim about truth itself.

Why is it then that the person who posits the existence of ultimate Truth that corresponds accurately with reality is branded intolerant and arrogant?

Some advocate a both/and type of reasoning to avoid exclusivity of truth. Whereas logic dictates an either/or reasoning (the law of non-contradiction). Truth by its very nature is exclusive of all non-truth. If it is true that God exist, then it cannot be equally true that He does not exist. This is impossible. If the Christian God exists, then it cannot be equally true that all world religions are also true for they are contradictory to the former. Just take the three main world theistic beliefs of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and you see major differences. No honest follower of either of these beliefs would posit that the other belief system can co-exist logically (the same person cannot believe all three belief-systems at the same time without living a contradiction).

The both/and advocate says truth must be “both/and” or nothing else. It cannot be either/or. Even the both/and proponent cannot get free from the “either/or” logic.

The problem of knowing truth isn’t one of the truth, but one of what the knower does with the truth. If the knower forces it upon those who don’t know or don’t believe by violence or manipulation then they have created an injustice. Jesus said that if a person says he loves God, but hates his brother, the truth is not in him. Jesus also said that if you know the Truth the truth will set you free, therefore it does not create oppression, but freedom. If one feels burdened by a truth claim it may not be truth, or the spirit in which it was relayed may have been false.

Moreover, in Christianity knowing the one who is the Truth enables one to live a life of truth and love.

We must understand that the existence of one truth is not an outlandish idea. However, what one does with the truth they profess is of enormous importance. Truth is more than a philosophical construct. It is also an experiential reality.

Don’t be fearful of looking for one coherent worldview. Truth is knowable and He wants to be known.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Becoming An Answer Bearer

I’ve been thinking about how I think. Socrates lamented that the unexamined life was not worth living. I think he wanted to get at the heart of being. He wanted to know why things were and how they got to be that way. He asked questions and questioned the questions. I’m not sure he ever found what he was looking for, but he enjoyed the journey of inquiry.

My thinking has changed drastically in recent years. I pretty much thought one way all the way through high-school. In college, my thinking sharpened, but was not really altered. I was more aware of the world around me and how other people thought. I was more aware of how I thought and why I believe what I believe.

I think what changed wasn’t really what I believe, but how I live out what I believe. How I relate to others concerning my beliefs and as an expression of my beliefs. Although, I made the transition of believing in Jesus because my mom taught me to and believing Him for myself at the age of 14 or 15, I had still didn’t see things as clearly and as lovingly as I ought.

I could be pretty legalistic and dogmatic at times. I would argue for my worldview without giving thought to how I was perceived by others. I knew I was right in what I believed, but I didn’t realize that my audience was just as committed to their beliefs that I was carelessly trampling. I put truth first and the person second. It wasn’t as bad as it may sound; I didn’t hit anyone over the head with the Bible literally or figuratively. I consistently took a stand for truth in the college classroom. It bothered me deeply to hear the distorted history, philosophy, and faulty logic being promulgated in every subject on a daily basis. The audacity of professors to make such errors in thinking irked me to the core. I was not afraid to correct professors or fellow students. I hit hard in all of my essay and research paper assignments dismantling any arguments against the Christian worldview. I buried myself in apologetics reading material, constantly seeking to learn how to communicate what I believe more effectively to combat the secularism pervading the university.

I am still just as committed to truth and to effectively communicating the Christian worldview. However, I am more committed to experientially knowing Jesus who is the Truth thereby communicating Christ his way and not mine. The worldview change that came about and is coming about still was a matter of the heart and not really of the mind. What I believe did not change, but how I believe it and how I express it changed with a heart change. God broke my heart for people. He gave me compassion. He has transformed my thinking about people so much so that I desire to be ever so kind in communicating Christ that He would be evident in me. Paul said he did not speak with wise and persuasive word, but with the power of God. I think in part, he was saying that he spoke out of his relationship with God and not by his own words.

I have felt called to use my passion for writing in the discipline of apologetics for about ten years. In the last few years I have learned the difference between being one who argues for Christ and being one who is an answer bearer for Christ. Meaning I carry Him who is the Answer within me and it is out of that place that I can bring answers to those questioning the hope that I have in Christ Jesus. I thank the ministry of Ravi Zacharias for my mental understanding of my heart change for it is through his books he has given words to what it means to be an answer bearer. It is not by my might, nor my by strength, but by the power of Christ that I can claim to have any answers at all. Knowledge comes from God and no one can lay claims to what He reveals. I can only point to Him through my answers for if my answers point to myself I have done you a disservice and I don’t have the truth. I hope that all that I write and all that I say points to Him who is the Truth.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Foundation for Justice

James Sire writes in Naming the Elephant, that “ the close connection between ontology [being] and epistemology [knowing] is easy to see: one can know only what is. But there is an equally close connection between ontology and ethics. Ethics deals with the good. But the good must exist in order to be dealt with.” He goes on to explain that one cannot come to a moral ought from a natural is. Therefore to say that something is good or that it is evil presupposes the existence of good and evil. We have to assume their existence. If they exist and are distinguishable then something beyond nature exist by which they are measured.

Atheists Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris often postulate that religion is the cause of the evil in the world, yet they have no standard by which to judge anything as evil for their world consist of pure naturalism as derived through the sciences. However, naturalism is a poor foundation for ethics and morality. How can science tell us what is good? It can tell us the molecular composition of water, but it cannot tell us if someone drowning in that water is good or bad. Science cannot give value to life. Social Darwinianism would presuppose an innate desire for self-preservation, but that also does not lead one to value another’s life.

Still no one doubts that there is injustice in this world. Why? C.S. Lewis argued rightly that for us to be aware of an injustice presupposes that the world ought to be different than it is. So if all there is before us is as it appears and there is nothing that cannot be known scientifically then we would have no awareness of a problem. Conversely, this awareness persists and even the atheists are demanding justice. The only sure foundation for their cry for justice comes from the God they deny.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock.”

Monday, May 12, 2008

Knowing the Author of Life

My last blog was entitled “Being Proceeds Knowing” and was philosophical and rather abstract in nature. Now I will expound with greater specificity.

The first verse of the Bible declares, “In the beginning God. . .” God has always existed. He refers to himself as the I AM for He is existing eternally never having a past or a future for He is not measurable by time. He is the eternal I AM. Genesis 1:1 goes on to declare that God created the heavens and the earth. All of life is created from Him who was uncreated.

How can we know this? We know it because; He has revealed it to us. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they [men] are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).

Therefore the only way finite man can know anything is because “an understanding God made it understood” (James Sire).

Proverbs 1:7 proclaims, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Again in Proverbs 9:10 we read, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Knowing comes from the fear of the Lord, meaning that through awe of Him we can gain knowledge: the greatest knowledge being knowledge of Him, the Holy One. For it is by Him we gain wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

“Isaiah 33:5-7 “ The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill
Zion with justice and righteousness.

He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”

God is the sure foundation of our wisdom and knowledge. It is from Him that all knowledge flows.

God has not only revealed His existence to us, He has made it possible to know not only about Him, but to experientially know Him. The Spanish language actually has two words for “know” one is used when referring to knowing about someone or knowing who someone is without any relationship knowledge of that person. The other is used when someone claims to know a person personally like a friend, brother, or father. God allows us to know Him both ways, but knowing Him personally allows for much greater knowledge about Him.

Paul wrote in Galatians 1:11 “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.”

The message of Christ has been revealed to man. It is not something that is man made. It is not a religion developed by man to find spirituality. This revelation has been continuous from before the beginning of time. It’s one big story that is never ending. And we are invited to partake of that story and live life within it.

Proverbs 8:22-35 reads “I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place . . . I was there when he set the heavens in place. . . Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after to day, rejoicing in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. . . . Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.”

What a spectacular passage of Scripture! This is Jesus talking for in John 1:1-3 it reads “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

Jesus is God and has been eternally with God creating with God the Father all that has been created. He delighted in His creation just as God says in Genesis 1 that “it was good.” In fact, it says specifically that Jesus delighted in mankind. He also says that life is found in Himself. He says if you find me, you find life and you receive God’s favor. The passage in Proverbs was written hundreds of years before the passage in John which is after the incarnation of Christ. Jesus says of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life . . .” (John 14:6).

Knowledge is not the way. Christ is the way. He is the Truth and He is the giver of life. From Him we gain knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in greater measure than we could ever possess without knowing Him experientially. God is the author of this story and He is the only One who makes it understandable. We need to get to know the Author in order to understand the story of life.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Being Precedes Knowing

There always seems to be this great divide between secular knowledge and the knowledge of the things of God. Soren Kierkegaard’s philosophy lent itself to create a schism between faith (religious knowledge) and reason (secular knowledge). He posited that it was satisfactory for the two to contradict for the one need not be rooted in the other in a coherent fashion. Prior to this time period, philosophers searched for a unified world view to explain all of reality. They presupposed a unified reality and attempted to develop a worldview that corresponded to it. Yet Kierkegaard decided to divide knowledge into two streams avoiding the conflict altogether. Henceforth, presuppositions began to change. It was allowable for reason and science to diverge from faith and science began to be supreme over the religious world. Man became the measure of all things. Man’s reason was supreme and autonomous. Science was the discipline by which man could attain knowledge and that science was disengaged from God’s truth as man studied the world to learn about man and not to learn about God.

Eventually, man got disillusioned by the quest for reason and began to posit that it’s all meaningless. Man is no longer the measure of all things, for there is no measuring stick. There are no standards by which to measure. Postmodern philosophers such as Derrida, Focualt, and Rorty began to suggest that all of life is textual and can be analyzed linguistically and found meaningless. There is nothing to support philosophy, science, history, language. There is nothing behind it, they claim. Its support structure has been pulled out from under it because knowledge has nothing that it can rest upon to gain its meaning.

Unless, of course, God really does exist and as James Sire writes in Naming the Elephant, “we can understand the universe because an understanding God made it to be understood.” Or like John Henry Newman says, “Religious Truth is not a portion, but a condition of general knowledge.” Thus God must precede knowledge. Being must come before knowing. God must be in order for language, history, science, art, music, and life to have any purpose at all. Otherwise we are only blobs of matter, so to speak, as the evolutionist maintain. Or as the popular atheist, Richard Dawkins, laments we are merely “dancing to our DNA.”

We know deep in our souls that there is more to life than being meaningless collections of cells dancing to our DNA. We know that we have purpose as we are on a journey looking for that purpose. We value life, because God gave meaning to our lives. Our value comes from Him and all of our desires, hopes, and dreams come from Him. We can know this world around us because He has made it knowable. In Him we live, and move, and have our being.

Moreover, in Christ we find the fulfillment of all life. John 1:3 says, “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.” He is the author of all creation and the only way to learn about that creation is through His Truth. Faith and reason are inseparable for it is all rooted in Him and when we try and divide it is when we create great errors of thinking. All of life must be measured through Him and cannot be disengaged from His Truth. It is only possible to know anything at all because God exist. He is the one we need to know in order to see all else clearly.

C.S. Lewis rightly puts it this way, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Revival Is Here And Is Coming

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” wrote Charles Dickens. We live in perilous times and in marvelous times simultaneously. The massive loss of life in Berma is reaching incredible numbers of 100,000 people. A number of lives I cannot conceive. I hear of constant volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and fires all throughout the world. However, at the same time I hear of God working in amazing power throughout the world. Right now in Lakeland, Florida hundreds of people are being healed every night. Angels are showing up. Children are having dreams and visions of Jesus and of ministering angels. People are experiences the tangible presence of the living God being poured out. It is prophesied that from here this revival will sweep America from the east coast to the west coast like a tsunami wave bringing winds of change. People who travel to Florida are bringing back this power and releasing it to their own communities. This is happening in Morningstar in Fort Mill, South Carolina and at Bethel Church in Redding, California. And some sparks are starting to ignite in my home city. All is building toward the revealing of the King to the entire earth. It may take years yet, but all of creation is groaning awaiting the coming King. We cannot ignore the signs of the times. These may just be the beginnings of the birthing pains as written about in Matthew 24. But something is stirring.

C.S. Lewis writes in The Chronicles of Narnia, “Aslan is on the move.” Aslan is the fantastical representation of Christ. God is on the move. In one book, Lucy ask Aslan when he will return. He responds “soon.” She asks more boldly “when is soon?” Aslan retorts, “I call all times soon.”

Many say people have been saying for years that Christ is returning and they think that means any new talk of His return is useless. However, we’ve been getting closer to His return for 2000 years. He is coming back soon. Even 2000 years ago one could honestly say that He is coming back soon. We don’t know the day or the hour, but we know the King is coming. Will we pay attention to our times? Or will we sleep and slumber as the world cries out around us for the living God? We are to be His vessels in this earth. We are to be His witnesses. We must carry His presence to a hurting broken world. We must understand our call. We must realize we are heirs of the Kingdom of God. We carry the Kingdom of God within us and upon us. If ever there was a time to rise up and seek first the Kingdom of God, it is now. God is on the move.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

World of Truth

Have you ever stopped to wonder why it is even important to learn? Why do we spend twenty plus years in school learning? Why do we spend thousands of dollars on a college education? Is it all just to land the best job? Or could it be to better our understanding of the world around us and how best to take our place in that world? Yet for many it is both and for some it may be neither. I would wager that most believe that what they are learning is true and factual and deserving of their time and money in acquiring an education. That would be a fair assumption if learning is truly valued by students. Here is where the difficulty comes. Many professors advocate that Truth and Facts do not exist. That it is impossible for something to be absolutely true. Never mind that the statement is then itself false, we are still asked to accept this philosophy. However the statement begs the question of why value education at all if we really cannot discover facts and truths? Why become a professor and teach when you have no truth to share? The word professor comes from the Latin word meaning “one who professes truth.” How then can a professor with such a belief system actually live up the meaning of the title he or she carries?

Stop and think for a minute of a world where no one believes in a standard of truth and where no facts can be purported. This world would have to be absent of a system of justice, of laws, of courts, of law enforcement for there would be no law to enforce if nothing is true and no evidence to convict if no facts exist. The passions of mankind would be free from any bonds of truth standards and all behaviors would be equally acceptable. The horrors of such a society would be unimaginable to us who take the existence of truth for granted. The person who advocates such a belief would not be able to live in the world that belief would create if carried out to its end.

So I ask, are we truly prepared to accept a philosophy of no truth? Have we really counted the cost? If you value education it follows to value truth and facts or else you are wasting your time.

Representing God

Time and again the question of evil arises to the forefront of discussion about the existence of God. The popular question levied against the Christian theist is “How could God exist if there is so much evil in the world?”

The questioner typically fails to realize that they are presupposing the Christian worldview in order to posit the question. To acknowledge the existence of evil is to acknowledge the existence of good. One has to presuppose that good and evil exist and can be differentiated between. Moreover, one has to believe that good is better than evil in order to charge God with derelict of duty.

The question truly is how is it possible to ask this question without first accepting God’s existence? And if you then accept God’s existence, what is being asked? Truly one is asking about the nature of God. People aren’t so interested in loving a God who causes suffering or withholds His power to end suffering. Surely if this God of the Christians is a good God this world would not look so bad.

There are many today who do not have a Christian worldview and honestly do not know this God of which we speak. They can only hear what we say through their worldview and their assumptions of His non-existence. We are not even on the same playing field. We say “God” and they think of a judgmental vindictive Deity that sits back and ignores the worlds suffering. We say “Jesus” with the full knowledge of whom we speak and they only know the wimp of a man portrayed in mass media.

We must communicate the fullness of who God reveals Himself to be. All of creation points to His glory. All of history testifies of the Christ who is to come and who came and is to come again. We must communicate and example the love God has for mankind. We must show His heart of compassion for those who suffer. He knows full well of our suffering as His Son suffered as a man so that He could reconcile us to Himself which is the only answer for the worlds suffering. Because of His never ending love, He does not force us to love Him and thus the suffering in the world continues because mankind chooses to go our own way instead of the way that is everlasting life. We must allow the heart of the Father to be revealed through us to a suffering world. If we as Christians communicate judgment and harshness that is what people will think of our God.

I am reminded of when the religious leaders of Jesus day caught a woman in adultery and prepared to stone her. Jesus responded, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Jesus, being without sin, could have invoked judgment against her, and yet He did not for Jesus had the heart of the Father. Jesus never did anything He didn’t see His Father doing and His Father wasn’t throwing any stones toward this woman.

Our lives are living testimonies of God’s character and when we act out of accordance with His nature we misrepresent God to a watching world. If every Christian did what we saw our Father doing and only said what we heard Him say because we have been transformed into the likeness of His Son, these accusations against His character would come to an end. We must be His witnesses in all we do, giving testimony of His everlasting love and goodness.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Gravity of Reality

Truth is what is despite one's belief or acceptance of its validity. To illustrate this point, let us look at the law of gravity. Everything on earth is subject to the law of gravity. If I take a ball and throw it into the air it will fall to the ground (unless something else stops its trajectory). I can disbelieve in the law of gravity all I want to and it won't change a thing. The reality of the law of gravity will continue on unabated by my disbelief. The same is true of anything that is reality. Most would agree on the law of gravity and that it applies to all cultures and all times regardless of ones understanding or acceptance of the fact. However, the same people would disagree that spiritual truth can be the same for all cultures and all times. Somehow we have no issue with relegating spirituality to personal preference, cultures, or opinions. We certainly don't want anyone claiming to have the Truth in a manner that is outside of ones personal opinion or preference. Its taboo to make a spiritual truth claim for all people in all cultures and all times. Notwithstanding, the majority of spiritual worldviews are mutually exclusive. Truth by its very nature is exclusive of all that is not true. Just the same, it grates on the conscience of our culture to accept one worldview as all encompassing. However, like gravity the worldview that is Truth was not created by man anymore than the law of gravity was a man made invention. Gravity was not dreamed up by man and then made a universal law of physics. No, it was always there and at one point was discovered by man and explained by man. What goes up always came down before the discovery of the law of gravity the same as after the discovery. The same is true with reality. The truth of reality is what is no matter who believes it or accepts it as such. It goes on being true irrespective of what man thinks about it because it is true and no amount of disbelief can change that fact.

We must be lovers of truth. We must seek out that truth and discover to know it. A person wouldn't get by in this world very well if they disbelieved in gravity and simply walked off a ledge, cliff, or building at a whim like they were the Roadrunner or Coyote. Likewise, a person cannot get along well in life living in contradiction to reality. Albert Einstein said he didn't believe in universal morality, but he had to live as if he did to get by in life. His beliefs and actions did not add up for reality continued to be real despite what he wanted to believe. We can continue to say that our worldview (beliefs about life) are culturally or personally relative, but if we take an honest look at how we live and how life works we must acknowledge that our beliefs don't line up with reality. We must not live lives in constant conflict of the contradiction between our philosophy and the reality in which we live. We must not invent our belief system. We must discover what is truly is. The Roadrunner might be able to run off a cliff and survive the sudden realization of gravity unscathed, but this suspended reality doesn't work in real life. Ones worldview must be philosophically sound as well as practically livable in a real world.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Religion Breeds Atheism

You've heard the saying, "rules without relationship breeds rebellion." I think this is also true stated as, "Christianity devoid of relationship with God breeds rebellion." I keep meeting people, in person or on-line, who tried Christianity and turned from it to atheism. Usually their stories are similar. Christianity for them was a bunch of rules that they saw the most religious among their community breaking. Christianity was merely a religion with nothing going for it as all it had to offer was a bunch of religious activities and social club meetings. In their experience, Christianity was empty and lifeless. It was their parents' choice, but not theirs. Besides, once they got to college they learned that all of it was a farce anyway. The Bible had errors as it was unhistorical, unscientific and altogether irrelevant to modern life. No reasonable person would believe in it and no reasonable person would believe God exist for it is a scientific fact that we are merely products of evolution though no one is quite sure about the origin of the process of evolution.

Christians should bear the weight of responsibility for this process, not the atheists. Atheism is becoming popular. Just look at the end aisle next to the inspiration section at your local book store. You will see such books as The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins or books attacking Christianity by Sam Harris such as The End of Faith, or for a more philosophical selection there are Daniel Dennett's books.

Those who are raising children need to lead them into an encounter with God by modeling that lifestyle and showing them the Father's heart. We cannot just teach morality to them and take them to church every week. It's not enough. We do need to train them in the evidences for their faith so that they can be a calm firm voice in their schools for the truth of Christ. But even more they need to know God experientially. He has to be undeniably real to them because they live a life in connection with Him. Christianity is not a religion, it is reality and it is a relationship with God. When we lose sight of that all we have is religion because it becomes something about man instead of something about God.

So many people believe they have given God a try because they were raised in church or because their parents were Christians. But they never encountered Him, and now they believe He must not be and their hope is lost. From then on they lump all Christians into the same religion mold as many do not stand out to them as any different then the ones they saw had nothing to offer.

We must get connected to God. Bill Johnson says that we owe people an encounter with God. If we don't get connected to the source we can't show life to a dying world. We can't show hope to the hopeless and peace to those in turmoil. We have no freedom to offer the captives and no healing to offer the hurting and broken. We have no real love to offer the rejected. How can we minister without being filled up with God by encountering Him?

We know He is there for His presence is everywhere. There is nowhere we can go from His presence. Likewise (to borrow an illustration from A.W. Tozer) we know the sun exist even on a cloudy day, we still know it is there. But how much more glorious is it when we see the sun shining and we feel its warmth on a nice sunny day. God is with us always. But to live like we are meant to live we must experience His presence like we experience the warmth and brightness of the sun. We must encounter Him. I have nothing to offer the world if I don't first seek after Him and know Him more and more. I am just as negligent in this as most people or more than most people.

My words are to myself even more than anyone reading them. I have encountered God before and I know that I know that I know that He is. But I need to encounter Him more so that I can be a greater light to shine hope in the lives trapped in darkness. For they do not even know they are in darkness until they see the light. We must each be that light that testifies of Christ.

Heaven's Glasses

How often do we examine how we look at the world? Os Guinness aptly puts it this way, "we think with our worldview, but not about it." We must examine how we look at the world and not just go on looking at it that way without any understanding as to if our most basic assumptions about life are in line with reality.

Often people speak of how different people look at the world through different sets of glasses. Usually such people are trying to argue that every different set of glasses or view point is equally valid or equally biased. While all lenses can contain bias to that way of viewing the world, not all can be equally valid. Moreover, the existence of a bias does not always need to carry a negative connotation. If something is true and a person is biased toward that truth than that is a good position to be in and not a negative one. We must examine the lenses we use, clean them off, or even change prescriptions and get new glasses if our glasses are fogging up our view of the world. Our glasses need to be the clearest way of seeing the world so that we don’t stumble through it and miss all that could be seen by failing to alter our lenses to adequately correspond with reality.

Contrary to popular belief, there is a worldview that is the best prescription lenses anyone can ever see through. C.S. Lewis famously wrote, "I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen." The Christian worldview, as put forth in the Bible, is the way of seeing all things clearly. Granted, while we live on this earth we shall only know in part and see in part, but the only way we can truly see as clearly as possible is through the worldview that is Christ Jesus. Jesus claimed of himself to be the way, the truth, and the life. Therefore, it is by Him that we see all things clearly. By belief and surrender to Christ we can have our minds transformed thus gaining new glasses to see the world as it was meant to be seen.

Many posit that they must see to believe, but in truth believing is seeing. This certainly does not mean that we should be living in blind faith. There is a plethora of evidence for belief in Christ Jesus, but until that belief is solidified in our hearts and minds we cannot fully see as we were created to see. There is a whole new world to discover if only we will gain the worldview of heaven through Christ Jesus. How better to see the world, but through the eyes of He who created it?