Monthly Archives: August 2006

White trash, hookers, and corporate fat cats

This post was written on 05/17/06. I am recycling it because it recaps very well the theme I have been writing about for the past month about the nature of the gospel.

Just a quick thought for the day. What do white trash, hookers, and corporate fat cats all have in common? All of them are people that Jesus would rather hang out with than self righteous religious people. You don’t believe me? Read the gospels and see what I’m talking about. Jesus was acccused of being a “glutton and a wine bibber ” precisely because He preferred to hang out with the riff-raff of society rather than the religious establishment of His day. Here is another thought, the very fact that Jesus ate and drank with sinners signified that He accepted them just the way they were. If Jesus is any indication of the heart of the Father toward lost people (and He is), then perhaps the gospel that He introduced to the world is precisely this- God loves sinners! It is in opening our hearts to the unconditional love of Jesus Christ that we ourselves are saved and transformed into what we could never be on our own. The problem is that most of us are too proud of ourselves to recognize that we do, in fact, need this unconditional love. This is why Jesus said that tax collectors and harlots (aka crooked lawyers and prostitutes) would enter the kingdom of heaven faster than the pharisees (aka…dignified and proud churchgoers). Let’s keep this in mind as we relate to the world around us. It is only when we receive the grace of Christ for ourselves that we can give the same grace away to others.

Skinhead philosophy

I was watching Primetime last week and they were showing how white supremacists went to southern Mississippi last year to bring aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. At first glance, it seemed like a nice gesture. There was only one little problem. They were only offering food and clothes to white people! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that not a single person accepted their offer. The people were repulsed by such overt racism. This is excellent news because 50 -80 years ago this same part of the country was known for lynching black people for no other reason than the color of their skin. I was glad to see that things have changed since then.

As I was taking my walk yesterday I began to think about the incident further (most of my philosophizing is done while I am doing my power walk, but you probably didn’t want to know that, there I go again revealing my secrets). First, I began to think to myself. Why was the act so repulsive? At least they were trying to help some people. Then I began to think to myself “what if God was like that?” What if God for mysterious reasons known only to Himself decided that He only loved some of humanity and not all?. Just like the skinheads only giving aid to white people, what if God decided that He was only interested in helping some people by saving them from their sins and not all?

Thankfully, I don’t have to speculate any further on this question. The Bible says about Jesus Christ, “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2). Is there any part of this that is unclear? If “God is love” (I John 4:8)as the Bible says, then love is who He is. That means that He loves everybody and wants everybody to be saved. That is why Jesus “tasted death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). I am glad I can confidently say that God loves everybody, not just some people. Although in the end there will be some who will refuse His love and suffer the eternal consequences, God’s heart is open to everybody. I am glad about this. Skinhead philosophy will one day be extinct, God’s love will not.

Aaron’s personal tooth fairy religion

I’ve been thinking lately about starting my own religion. It goes something like this. The tooth fairy is real. I know we have all been told that the tooth fairy is actually our parents, but that is exactly what the tooth fairy wants us to believe. What actually happened when our parents put money under our pillows was the tooth fairy invaded our parents minds and bodies and gave us the money substitutionally through them. Both parents and their children have been unaware of the presence of the tooth fairy for all these years, but the tooth fairy is now wanting all people to know the truth.

Any volunteers for this new religion? I didn’t think so. I remember when I used to work at Steak N Shake a coworker, who was a Wiccan, told me that she believed that everyone should have the right to believe what they want to believe. I remember thinking to myself-sure I should have the right to believe that the moon is made of cheeze, but that doesn’t make it so. But in our brave new postmodern society, religious truth is viewed as something that autonomous individuals determine, not as an objective reality. As author Dan Scott points out in his book The Emerging American Church, the autonomous self is the new American religion.

The problem with the doctrine of the autonomous self is this. On what authority can I claim that the tooth fairy is real or that the moon is made of cheeze? Is this something that has been revealed to me? Does my believing it make it so? When it comes down to it, all propositions are either true or false based on their conformity to objective reality. This is equally true with religious inquiries as it is with scientific inquiries. Most people view science as objective and religion as subjective. I question this premise. If anything, religion is more objective because science can only tell us how nature behaves, not what nature is.

The strength of the Christian faith is that it makes claims that are either true or false based on historical events. Either Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead or He didn’t. I believe He did and have good reasons to do so based on the historical evidence. And because I believe this, I have sufficient authority to claim that the hope of eternal life that Jesus came to give is objectively true. It sure beats believing in the tooth fairy.

A healthy debate with a Pastor on the Middle East crisis

I thought you all might enjoy a healthy debate between myself and a pastor in central Missouri. Pastor Tim sent an article about doctored photos in Lebanon that falsify civilian casualties. I thought the article was a bit one-sided so I wrote him an e-mail. Below is the correspondance that took place.

Hello Pastor Tim,

Thank you for your e-mail about doctored photos. I
don’t mean to be contentious here, but does this
really change anything? If you look at “Kevin’s sites
in the Hot Zone” at Yahoo.com you will see that,
despite some misinformation in the media, many
civilians were actually targeted in Lebanon. I’m not
taking sides here. I just think that Christians
should be objective in evaluating the suffering on
both sides of the conflict.

Blessings to you and your ministry.

Aaron

Aaron,

Thanks for the dialogue. It is so hard to get all the points that need
to
be said into a 30 sentence article. 🙂

I like to share my article with as many contacts as possible, but, of
course, it is written for the general secular public in a secular
newspaper.
The reason for this article was to point out the doctored photo by Mr.
Hajj
and several other unethical journalistic snafoos concerning the Lebanon
crisis. I find many people are not aware of how biased their news can
be
coming from CNN, New York Times, Reuters and others and are just simply
not
informed about some of these facts.

Of course we are hurting for Lebanon as a country. This conflict has
destroyed much of what they worked for for the last 25 years. And, of
course, there are deaths of innocent civilians. Many are just
innocents
caught in the middle of something they don’t want to be part of.

And you are right. While in the secular world, people tend to be hard
on
Israel because of what they hear in the media, people in the church
world
are a little overboard in their Zionism. The Israeli troops, like all
troops, are not always innocent in their conduct of war. But here are
some
other enlightening things to consider…

1. The country of Lebanon decided over the last 20 years to
co-habitate
with Hezbollah. They were officially represented in the military and
even
in cabinet posts. Whether this was by choice or by intimidation is
hard to
determine. The reality is that their country harbored terrorists.

2. Would Hezbollah kill civilians themselves and blame it on Israelis
in
order to sway public opinion? Of course they would. They are
terrorists.
Killing innocent civilians is part of what they do. There is evidence
that
this has, in fact, occurred in some instances in Lebanon.

3. Would Hezbollah kill civilians who are deemed political opponents
during
the chaos of conflict? You bet they would. In fact, they
systematically
do. Some analysts expect to find a couple mass graves in the future
attributed to Hezbollah actions during this conflict.

4. Israel views the death of her civilians as tragedy. Hezbollah
views the
death of “her” civilians as opportunity. That is why Hezbollah will
purposefully imbed their troops with civilians (often unwilling
civilians).
There is a clash here of world-views.

5. While it is tragic many civilians were injured or killed attempting
to
flee the conflict (like the bus), we must also realize that many of
them
were given days to leave through repeated warnings by the Israelis.
Many of
them refused based on their solidarity with Hezbollah. They were
willing to
be human shields.

6. Cease Fire? The only reason Hezbollah or any other Islamic
terrorist
group ever yields to a cease fire is to re-arm and re-organize. They
have
no intention of a lasting peace. This principle is imbedded in Islam
from
Mohammed himself who signed a peace treaty with a city he could not
defeat.
After 2 years of strengthening his position, he broke the treaty and
took
the city.

7. The news media tends to say, “what everyone really wants is an end
to
the hostilities.” But that is not true. What many of us want is an
end to
Hezbollah. That would be good for everybody.

Does the reality of doctored photos change anything? I respectfully
submit
that it does. The doctored photos would lead one to believe that
ending
human suffering in this situation is to stop the “bad guys” the
Israelis.
The real way to end human suffering here is to end Hezbollah.

Blessings and appreciation for all you do,
Pastor Tim

Hello Pastor Tim,

Thank you for your response. I am in full agreement
with you that Hizbollah is a terrorist organization
who should not be equated with the Israeli army nor
the Israeli government. Any thinking person would
recognize that if Hizbollah did not exist and there
were no attacks on Israeli soil coming from inside
Lebanon, then Israel would mind its own business and
live at peace with the people of Lebanon. I also
think that it is hypocritical on Lebanon’s part to
shoot rockets into Israel targetting Israeli citizens
and then cry foul when Israel retaliates. I also agree
that any thinking person should recognize that the
cause of Israel, which is self-defense, is just and
the cause of Hizbollah (annihilation of Israel) is
unjust. So no one can question the end result
intended by Israel with any moral integrity (so long
as the end result is self-preservation and not
an encroachment on other sovereign nations)

This does not mean, however, that the means in which
Israel carries out its self-defence is closed to moral
examination. Although, as you point out, the media
does distort the facts at times, I think Christians
are a bit too self-defensive when a clear thinking
person in the media raises the issue of
proportionality. Although I can not say for sure
either way if Israel has applied Biblical
principles of morality in their tacticts, I think the question is
an appropriate one.

I also think that any lasting peace in the region
should deal with the land mines on Lebanese soil
placed by Israel during their earlier occupation.
Just as Israelis have a right to live in security
without being bombarded by rockets from Hizbollah, so
the people of Lebanon should have a right to walk on
their own soil without being blown to pieces by a land
mine.

Bottom line- Hizbollah should be disarmed and the land
mines should be removed. Christians, while not being
naive to the evils of Hizbollah’s cause, should make
every attempt to make peace on both sides of the
border.

I appreciate your convictions on this issue. You
raise some good points. Blessings to you and your
ministry.

Aaron

The gospel of condemnation

I was watching Prime Time last night and they did a segment on twins at war in the womb. They showed the story of a young woman and her husband who were expecting identical twins. Everything was going well until the mother sensed she was having problems. It turned out in the ultrasound that one of the fetuses was stealing blood from the other fetus. In order to correct the situation, the doctors performed a surgery, but to no avail. The couple was then faced with a heart-wrenching choice. Should they abort one baby and save the other or should they risk losing both children by doing nothing?

Understandably, both parents were in agony over the decision. How could they choose one child over the other? At the same time, how could they risk losing both lives when they could save one? The father, evidently God-conscious, prayed that God would make the decision for him. The next day, one of the babies died. He never had to make that decision. After the other baby was born, it died a few days later.

Not only did my heart go out to this couple, this indicident also gave me an opportunity for a little moral reflection. What could this couple have done? I imagine if they had chosen to abort one of the fetuses to save the other, some in the Christian right would have screamed bloody murder. But then, what about the other side? I imagine that some on the far left would have practically accused them of double homicide if they had made a conscious choice not to abort one baby to save the other. The far left would have accused them of sacrificing both of their babies at the altar of their moral convictions.

And then I imagine there are some Christians who would say that if the young couple would have had enough faith, then God would have healed both babies. They take the wonderful Scriptures that inspire faith for miracles and then turn them around to bash the heads of those who seem unable to put their faith muscles to work.

What is my point in all this? My point is that in our search for moral and spiritual absolutes, we can easily miss the heart of Jesus who came “not to condemn the world, but to save the world.” We also forget that, according to Jesus, mercy is one of the “weightier matters of the law.” As long as we are on this side of eternity, life will not only be filled with black and white decisions, but every shade of grey in between. Somehow, I think God understands this much better than we humans who are ever too eager to assert our moral superiority over others.

The gospel of salvation can easily become the gospel of condemnation on both sides of the current culture war. The good news is that Jesus died and rose again to give this couple the hope that they will one day see both their babies again. It’s about time we Christians drop our superiority complexes and start pointing people to the good news.

Should Christians tithe off their gross or net income?

Question: What’s your take on tithing on gross income vs tithing on net income? Just interested in your opinion, not trying to trick or trap you.

Answer: The answer is whichever one you believe in more. Tithing should be done as an act of faith, not obligation. Here is an article which deals with every verse in the Bible on tithing. It is long, but well worth reading. I hope you find this helpful.

Adding to Scripture

As much as all of us hate to admit it, we tend to read the Bible with pre-conceived ideas and assumptions. When we read Scripture, our brain is not only recording what we are reading, but also recalling every sermon we have ever heard or every book we have ever read regarding a certain passage.

Here is an example from the book of Revelation 20:11-15. Here is how the passage is written in the New King James Version:

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

That is what the passage actually says. Here is how I have always read this passage: All who face the Great White Throne Judgment will be cast into the lake of fire. I am sure if you have been a Christian for a while you have heard this interpretation and, like me, you have never challenged it.

But is that what this passage actually says? Read it again. Pay special attention to verse 15. For your convenience, I have provided several translations for this verse so you don’t miss the point.

Do you see it? Does this open up doors to possibilities most of us have never considered? I don’t know. But what I do know is all of us need to review our assumptions from time to time. I’d rather challenge my assumptions than add to Scripture. I can be wrong. Scripture can not.

Adding to the gospel

I would like to give my readers a little pop quiz. What must a person believe to be a Christian? This is a multiple choice quiz.

A. The universe is less than 10,000 years old.
B. You must tithe off your gross income, not your net income.
C. Women are created to be subjugated to men.
D. Global warming is a left-wing conspiracy.
E. God wants the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights to be annexed to the State of Israel and all remaining peoples to be either driven out or in subjugation to the Jewish people.
F. Everyone in the Western Hemisphere who lived and died before 1492 will be in hell for eternity.
G. God tortures people endlessly in literal flames.
H. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.

Only one of these statements is the correct answer. Can you guess which one? Everything else, if made compulsory to become a Christian, is adding to the gospel. Is it any wonder why the world doesn’t want to hear our “good news?”

The day I became Knight Rider

Here is a little something you probably did not want to know about me, but since I am already in the habit of revealing way too much about myself to my readers anyway, I’m going to embarrass myself even more. Okay…here goes. When I was 7 years old, I was a huge fan of Davd Hasselhoff. Of course I didn’t know his name back then, all I knew is that I really wanted to be Knight Rider. I guess that is understandable. After all, what 7 year old would not want a talking trans-am? It wasn’t till I was 24 and watching a rerun of Knight Rider that I discovered that Hasselhoff’s acting was substandard. I actually saw a rerun of Knight Rider when I was in Uganda and thought to myself, I never realized this guy couldn’t act. But then again, who cares about acting skills when you are 7 years old?

When I graduated from high school my parents displayed a story on a poster board that I had written in the second grade. In the story I took a magic pill and turned 21. Not only did I have hair under my arm pits (I’m not making this up. That is actually in the story) but I was Knight Rider as well. My exact words at 7 years old was -“Okay Kit-actervate turbo booster!” Notice that I spelled the word “activate” just how it sounded to me.

Believe it or not, I actually have a point to this embarrassing story. Sometimes I think to myself, what if things actually worked that way?” What if I could have taken a magic pill at 7 years old and all of the sudden skip the next 14 years, develop big muscles, and become a totally hip crime fighting machine? As ridiculous as this sounds, I think that is exactly what a lot of us try to do with God. We have this crazy notion that, somehow, God is going to turn us into superhero Christians without the process of growth in between. I don’t know about you, but now that I am 28, I am sure glad that God did not answer the request of my fanciful 7-year old imagination. I wouldn’t trade any of those 14 years that I would have rather skipped at the time, and neither would I trade the last 7 years of my life for all the treasures of the world. I think we would all do well if we could learn to enjoy where we are in life as God moves us forward to our final destination. After all, even superheroes start out in diapers.

So you think you can preach?

I was watching “America’s Got Talent” with my wife last night and I made a silly comment that I wonder what would have happened if I had auditioned for the show by preaching a five minute sermon. Of course, I would have been booed off the stage, but the thought occurred to me that preaching is as much of an art form as singing or dancing. It cuts to the human heart and calls for change.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a society that says, “Don’t preach to me.” “You can’t force your religion on anybody.” A friend at my high school reunion jokingly asked if I had brought bats and clubs with me that night. I replied that I had left them in the trunk of my car. I find it interesting that the Bible says, “God has in due time manifested His Word through preaching.” God has blessed me to be friends with many preachers from all over the world. I know red-neck hillbilly preachers in America, low caste preachers in India, persecuted preachers in Pakistan and China, outcast preachers in Muslim dominated West Africa, as well as refined preachers who preach to the upper classes of society. And I can say in my heart-I love them all.

Whether we like it or not, preachers are here to stay because they are the conscience of society. I know that some white men actually can dance, but I can not. So I think I will stick to my preaching profession. Perhaps I’ll start a new reality show on Fox called “So you think you can preach?”

%d bloggers like this: