Monthly Archives: March 2006
As I write this post, I am sitting in a hotel at 5:00 in the morning in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. Given my utter disregard for common sense which tells me that I shouldn’t write about heavy topics on three and a half hours of sleep, I proceed to go against my better judgment to write about the cover of the April 3rd edition of Time Magazine which reads “Be worried. Be very worried.” The magazine then goes on to tell us exactly why we should be worried-namely global warming and nuclear proliferation in Iran.
Now I admit that these are frightening issues that should be taken seriously by our politicians. I am certainly not one to disregard the nearly unanimous consensus of the scientific community (at least according to Time Magazine and ABC news). But I can’t help thinking to myself “Where is God in all this?” I remember the days of my early childhood when we used to sing a song called “He’s got the whole world in His hands” at revival meetings. I wonder if we American Christians still believe that to be true.
It seems that the idea of the providence of God for His creation is a little out of fashion these days. When we read the headlines that the human race just might be on the verge of extinction, we are apt to believe it. Now don’t get me wrong. To be sure, I believe that, as Christians, we are to be “salt and light in the earth” and are never to disregard our responsibility to take care of God’s creation and restrain evil doers in the world. I also believe that things are going to get worse before they get better. (That is-unless Jesus was mistaken when He talked about the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24. Fat chance on that one.) But let’s remember that the same God who created the earth, the stars, and the galaxies is the same God who sustains them. I hardly believe that the same God who parted the Red Sea, turned water into wine, and sent a fish to swallow up Jonah is suddenly going to take a vacation and allow us poor misguided humans to wipe out our own existence by driving SUV’s. To all my liberal friends who may be reading this article, please note that I am not saying that our government should reject Kyoto or forget about greenhouse gases. To be honest, since my scientific and political knowledge is limited, I am not really sure what should be done about global warming and nuclear proliferation. I’ll leave the answers for these issues to the scientists and the politicians of our day. All I am saying is that the same God who left heaven, came to earth, and defeated the powers of evil through the resurrection of Jesus Christ deserves a little more credit than what we give Him in our daily headlines.
My wife and I had some friends over for dinner the other day who asked us if we had watched the premier of the new show “Unanimous.” Although I have not watched it, I had seen the commercial showing a group of people locked in a creepy basement office fighting over who gets the 1.5 million dollars. I find it a little humorous that this amount is just a half a million dollars more than what Mike Meyer’s “Dr. Evil” character is willing to kill millions of people over in the Austin Powers movies.
It’s a sad day in our society when people are willing to lie, cheat, and degrade themselves in front of millions of people for an amount of money that nearly all can achieve (at least over a life time) through hard work, savings, and sound investing. Since our society has rejected Christ as the meaning of life, we have easily accepted materialism as a substitute. I even saw on the commercial a guy saying that his strategy to win the 1.5 million dollars was to lie and tell everyone he had testicular cancer. It reminds me of the words of Jesus when He said “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?” Apparently, some are willing to take the bargain.
I took my wife to see the movie “Fun with Dick and Jane” last night. Although the movie was funny. I think it was tragic at the same time. The film opens with the quintessential American dream with the beautiful house, cooshy job, fancy car, and even a full time housekeeper. I think the only thing Dick and Jane lacked was the white picket fence. Dick and Jane were the typical keeping-up-with-the-Joneses kind of family. That is, until their world came crashing down when the company that Dick worked for went belly-up in a corruption scandal. After prolonged failures to rectify their situation, poor Dick and Jane had nowhere else to go but a life of robbing banks and convenient stores. Although Dick and Jane are partially redeemed in the film by tricking the greedy, corparate fat cat ex-CEO to start a 400 million dollar pension fund for ex-employees, the film leaves you with the impression of moral superiority of Dick and Jane over their ex-boss. I couldn’t help but leave the film and think to myself “Sure, I’m glad all their coworkers got their pension checks, but what about all the people they had wronged by robbing the banks and the mom -and -pop shops? “
I think it is a common idea that good deeds can somehow cancel out bad deeds. Although this might make sense to us fickle-minded humans, in God’s eyes, that is pure nonsense. The Bible says that “all of our righteousness is like filthy rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6) Because all of us have sinned before God, none of us really have the right to proclaim our own goodness in His sight. That is like saying that Dick and Jane are good people because they tricked their boss into giving them a pension fund even though they had stolen tens of thousands of dollars themselves from other people. Although our sins might not seem like a big deal to us, they are to God.
Here’s the good news. God has this funny habit of loving us anyway. I’m not sure why, but God seems to be obscessed with showing us how much He loves us in spite of our bad behaviour. Perhaps this is why Jesus preferred to hang out with hookers and drunkards over religious people. Religious people tend to trivialize God’s grace by thinking that they deserve it in some way. The other side is that many sinners tend to abuse His grace by disregarding God’s rightful claim over their lives. Both are serious errors. The true way is to accept God’s free gift of grace and to allow Christ to transform us into everything that we are meant to be. It might be the narrow way, but it sure pays off in the end.
I want to tell you a story about the time I went to church and discovered that I had no clothes on. It actually started like any other normal Sunday morning. To tell you the truth, I actually don’t remember much of the details except for the fact that, as soon as I walked into church, I noticed that I felt a little different than usual. When I looked down and discovered the reason, I immediately threw my hands over myself thinking that it might be possible that if I was really inconspicuous, maybe nobody else would notice. Yeah right! Now let’s think about that logically for a moment. If you were naked in a public place, do you really think that no one would notice if you tried to cover yourself up with your own hands?
It’s funny how logic seems to be thrown out the window when we sinful human beings get caught with our pants down. It kind of reminds me of Adam and Eve when they sinned against God and realized that they were naked. The Bible says that as soon as they discovered that they were naked, they “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” The Bible also says that they tried to hide themselves when God came looking for them. Isn’t that a bit like us today? When we get caught with our pants down before God, we either hide or we try to cover ourselves with religious works and good deeds. The truth is that all of us are naked before God because of our sins. We may try to cover ourselves up by our own efforts, but we can’t hide our true selves from Him. Our desperate need is to have Christ clothe us with His righteousness so that we can stand before God unashamed. As you may have figured out already, the above story never took place in reality. It was a dream I had once. If it were true I would be writing this post from a mental institution. If you think that I was crazy when I thought that no one would notice if I tried to cover myself with my own hands, try standing before God on judgement day and asking him to let you into heaven based on your own merits. Repent and trust in Christ today. You’ll be glad you did on judgement day.
Question: Since your blog is called “Bible Answers for Seekers”, I have a question for you:
What Scriptures can you think of that features:
AND: What does this say about how God wants to relate to us and how he wants us to relate to him?
I know this is a big question, but I bet your up to it, and I am interested in your take on it.
Answer: My sincere thanks for your confidence Nate. I’ll give an example of all three. As for irony, my favorite is the story in the book of Esther of Haman getting hung on the same gallow that he prepared for Mordecai. Oops! As for sarcasm, I think the Apostle Paul wins the sharpest tongue prize in his two letters to the Corinthians. But, then again, who can blame him? I’d be a bit miffed too if I planted a church and was beaten, stoned, robbed, and shipwrecked only to have a bunch of pious, puffed-up, super-apostle wannabees steal my congregation and accuse me of being a thief and a panzie. As for comedy- how about God giving a theological discourse to Balaam through an ass? Or asking Ezekiel to eat his own dung? Or making King Saul prophesy for an entire day naked? Or forcing Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the known world at the time, to act like a donkey for 7 years? (Let’s pray that God decides not to do a replay of that one in our day and age) I think what all of this teaches us about God is that He is a personal being who is interested in the full range of human experience. (Unlike Hinduism and Buddhism which teach that God is impersonal and that material reality is ultimately illusional) After all, if the crux of Christianity is God sharing His life with us, what would that life be like without a bit of humor from time to time?
For all of my conservative friends. Take a deep breath in….Take a deep breath out. Feel better now? The headline to this post is not a political statement, it’s a statement about the character of God. What do I mean by the statement “God is Liberal”? I have in mind the passage in the book of James chapter 1:5 which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The thought struck me the other day as I was reading this passage that God never does anything half-heartedly. When God gives. He gives liberally. Here is another passage that brings out the same idea. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. (John 1:16) God’s greatest gift that He can give to mankind is the gift of Himself. And when it comes to sharing His life and nature with sinful human beings, He chooses to give us His fullness, not just a part of Himself. (Of course, the condition is that you have to receive Him by faith. He doesn’t just force Himself on you.) I guess you can say that God is an extremist in that His hatred for sin pales in comparison to His extreme love for sinners. As the Bible says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Most of us would die for a family member or a close friend, or even a helpless innocent. But to die a torturous death to save your enemies? If that’s not liberal love, I don’t know what is.
I was flipping through the channels one day and I happened to catch a segment on the popular ABC Family Channel show “Whose Line is It Anyway?”. This is a show where four comedians have to improvise funny scenarios at the suggestions of the audience and the host Drew Carey. The theme of the segment was “rejected state slogans.” I about fell over my chair in laughter when the bald Canadian guy said “Come to Florida and die.” Believe it or not, it actually took me a while to get that one. I think it came to me several days later that the comedian was actually making a reference to Florida being a state where people go to retire. (Side note-this is further proof that you don’t have to be an exceptionally bright guy to be a theologian.)
It didn’t take long for my overactive mind to make a spiritual application to the funny sketch. A simple thought came to me. “What if Christian evangelists started advertising our faith that way? Come to Jesus and die!” The idea may sound like a public relations nightmare for Christianity, but, strangely, I don’t think Jesus would really mind. After all, it was He who said “He who desires to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” In another place he said “He who comes after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” In modern parlance, that would be akin to saying “Come follow me to the electric chair!” Doesn’t sound too appealing at first glance. But then again, maybe self denial really isn’t so bad. After all, isn’t it one of the golden rules of happiness that unhappy people are generally selfish people? You don’t have to be a spoiled, pampered brat to be selfish, all you have to do is live for the pleasures of this world and forget about the God who created you. Jesus challenges us all to die to our selfish desires and live for His desires. I don’t know about you, but I’ll gladly give my life for the one who loved me and gave Himself to die on the cross for me. Why live for earth when you can live for heaven?
Last week I was preaching the gospel on the beautiful island of Grenada in the South Carbibean. (I know what you’re thinking and I agree with you. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.) Given that I was already feeling completely guilty for enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze of the Caribbean while my friends and family were suffering through winter storms in Missouri, I decided that there had to be some reason why God had sent me to this lovely island. It did not take me that long to discover the reason. I was told that over 30 percent of the island had been swept into the heresy of Seventh Day Adventism. Seventh Day Adventists believe that in addition to faith in Jesus, you have to observe the sabbath on Saturday to be saved. In other words, in their view, salvation consists of faith in Jesus plus strict observance of the Law of Moses. So their equation of salvation goes something like this: Faith + Works = Salvation. This idea is basically a rehash of the Galatian heresy that the Apostle Paul wrote the entire book of Galatians to contradict. If you think the word “heresy” is a little too strong a word to use in our postmodern relativistic age, you may be doubly offended at what the Apostle Paul had to say about those who sought to impose Judaism on Gentile believers. He wished that those who taught that circumcision was necessary for salvation would simply “mutilate themselves” (Galatians 5:12)! Although Paul would certainly not win an award for diplomacy, his logic was crystal clear. “If righteousness comes through the law, than Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21) Elsewhere he writes “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:28) What does the word “conclude” mean? It means end of discussion! The true equation for salvation is Faith = Salvation + Works. We are saved by faith plus nothing. Our works are evidence that our faith in Christ is genuine. In other words, true faith will always result in a changed life (Ephesians 2:10). I find it interesting that Seventh Day Adventists claim to believe the entire New Testament, which would include the writings of Paul. Perhaps these modern day Judaizers need to double check their references.
Last Sunday at church, our pastor preached a message that I think hit home for everyone. He talked about simple common courtesy that Christians should display in their every day lives. He was then cruel enough to give examples just so that every member of the congregation would know exactly what he was talking about. He gave examples like not stomping your foot at the hostess of your favorite restaurant when you haven’t been acknowledged yet or being courteous in your driving on the highway. While I consider myself to be a genuinely nice person, I couldn’t help but think about all the times that I have acted like a spoiled brat in the past few weeks when things haven’t gone may way. For me, instead of taking it out on others, my preferred method is wollering in self-pity. When I was at my brother’s house, I was working on my first post for this blog and after I had hit the button “republish the entire blog”, I expected to see the post right away. When I didn’t see it right away, I naturally concluded that there was a technical glitch with my particular blog that had somehow bypassed all the millions of other users of the Blogger software. I then proceeded to bore my family to misery with all of my technological woes that I was certain happened to me and no one else on the planet. About a half hour later my brother checked my blog and proceeded to show me that my post had indeed been published. It just took a little time. Needless to say I was a little humbled. I know that I am not nearly as patient as I ought to be. Thank God for grace! I think we all need a little ego buster from time to time.
Have you ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? I didn’t think so. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the novel you’ve probably heard about but never read. It happens to be the book that fanned the flames of our nation into the Civil War. When president Abraham Lincoln met the author Harriet Beecher Stowe, he reportedly said to her, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the story of a slave named Tom who is sold to the south and has to endure unspeakable treatment as the personal property of the degenerate cotton plantation owner Simon Legree. Simon Legree, whose power hungry nature drives him to complete insanity and extreme cruelty, is the very definition of the term “white trash.” The slave Tom happens to be a devout Christian who is constantly proving to everyone around him that being black is not equal to being without a soul. What is so heart -gripping about this novel is the author’s constant appeal to the Christian conscience of the readers. What is terrifying is that so many of her readers used Christianity as a means to justify their positions on slavery. This is an excellent example of what happens when Christians build walls around themselves and cease to extend the love of Christ to those different than themselves. It shows the tragic consequences of what happens when the Body of Christ neglects the teaching of Scripture that “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female.” This novel should be required reading for every Christian in the free world.