Monday, May 25, 2015

From reality T.V. to reality

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. (Proverbs 18:8)

Recently the shocking news broke that one of the Dugar's molested some children when he was a young teenager. Other than that there really isn't much more information to think over.  It was terrible, sinful and in this country anyway, criminal.  I think everyone involved knows this, including Josh.

Normally I would just ignore this kind of stuff.  I never took much interest in the Dugars. I have six children of my own and I just couldn't see the point of ending my week by watching someone else go through the exact same struggles I go through every day (When I was an RN I refused to watch E.R. as well).

Part of me just wants to tell everyone to shut up and mind their own business.  In doing that I take the very real chance of being accused of approving of the act.  I'm not.  But really, who's business is this anyway?  How does this concern %99.999 percent of Americans?  It doesn't really.  It is just gossip and nothing more.  But that is difficult for most to see because of the Dugars' standing as a reality T.V. superstar family.  People have lived their lives vicariously through this family for years and now with this new revelation they feel betrayed.  So it is only natural, after watching this family grow up in their very homes over T.V., that they continue to live the fantasy that they are somehow entitled to an answer.  How could one of our own do this?!

The fact is it wasn't one of our own. We really know virtually nothing about this family as this current situation proves.  Nothing of importance anyway.  We know nothing and are entitled to nothing. So shut up already. What could you possibly add to the conversation anyway?  A gasp?  A cluck of the tongue?  A shake of the head and a mumbled, "How could he?".

Of course, there are others who could care less about the Dugars and their T.V. show.  The news is simply another tidbit in a long line of smut that comes across their twitter feeds and facebook posts and they can't help but repost, retweet, regurge (whatever we call it) because it is a juicy, tasty, lovely morsel of gossip and we just can't help ourselves.  

Others, Christians, brothers and sisters, will forward the "news" with the weak excuse of informing others so that they can "pray" for the Dugars.  Really?!  It saddens me to think there are Christians that are so immature.  Gossip is gossip.  If you dress a pig in your Sunday best, it is still a pig.  This is probably the worse gossip there is because it takes what is clearly sinful and wraps it in a the guise of something as holy and beautiful as prayer.  We've all done it and we all know it is wrong.  So stop it.

This story simply proves what the Bible has said from the beginning.  That sin is a terrible taskmaster.  It eagerly crouches at the door and we must conquer it or become its prey, Something our distant cousin, Cain, discovered.  The story of Cain isn't merely about him making the wrong choice.  He represents the pattern the entire human race would take until the final judgement.  The third chapter of Romans isn't just about bad people.  It speaks of all people, all of which are bad.  But in true Adamic form we try to point to others who are badder than ourselves (at least by our estimation) in order to get God's eyes off of us.

Jesus told a parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector (tax collectors were the icky, sinful, bad people of society back then).  I'll quote this parable in full because I think it is important we all get the point:

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

(Luke 18:10-14 ESV)

I'm not saying that the situation with Josh Dugar should be ignored.  What I am saying is that he is part of a family who is a part of a church which is a part of a wider community complete with law enforcement and they are all more than qualified to deal with the problem.  We need to be concerned about our own camp or, as Aslan put it to the children in Narnia, our own story. If someone forwards you stories like this and you truly feel compelled to do something, pray for them.  Then delete the post and start beating your own chest.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

First things first

This Sunday I'm starting a new series in Sunday school teaching biblical interpretation.  I have taught this class twice already over the past several years, typically using Fee and Stuart's book, "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth", as a text.  This year I only have six weeks and had to trim it down a bit.  So I've decided to skip the text and work on a few subjects that I feel the Church really needs to hear.  Besides choosing a good translation and some necessary definitions like hermeneutics, exegesis and eisgesis, I'm going to focus on our view of God's Word.

The view we have of God's Word, the place it holds in our life, will make a huge difference in how we approach interpretation and the conclusions we come to.  It isn't a secret that for some the Bible simply serves only utilitarian and devotional needs and nothing more.  It gets pulled down from the shelf and dusted off  in order to win an argument or to read when feeling bad or particularly religious. The amount of biblical illiteracy among Christians in America is well document.

Nonetheless the answer is not to shame people into reading it.  The last thing I want is a bunch of academics who hope to pass the final exam by reading the textbook.  In fact, I loath to hear people refer to the Holy Bible as God's textbook! It is so much more than a mere textbook.  It is God's revelation of himself to humans.

On the other hand, neither is it "God's love letter to me".  Even a casual reading will reveal that any love letter written like the Bible would surely be a showstopper for most budding lovers.  Just read Numbers or Judges.  Again, like the other extreme just mentioned, the Bible is so much more.  Yes, it is the revelation of the God who is love, who loved me so much that he sent his Son to die for me while I was still wallowing and even reveling in my sin.  But too easily the "love letter" moniker leads us to the false view of the centrality of "I" in God's plan.  It isn't about us.  It is about Him.

I recently read a post on Canon Fodder titled "Five Things Every Christian Should be Doing with God’s Word". I would encourage you to read it.  Using Psalm 119, the author goes on to explain the place of the Word of God in every believer's life.  One quote in particular hit home.  Explaining how we should delight in the Law he writes,

"...David has passion, zeal, and excitement for the law and commandments of God.  And the reason for this is not hard to find.  David loves God’s law not because he is a closet legalist.  He loves God’s law because the law reflects God’s own nature and character. He loves God’s law because he loves God–and who God is and what he is like."

This is really what I want my Sunday school class to take away from tomorrow's lesson. Without this passion and delight for God's Word, everything else can easily turn into a mere mental exercise, leaving the Christian smarter but really no better.  Yes, we need to exegete God's Word accurately.  But what a tragedy if that never translates into a love for the One who wrote it.




Friday, May 22, 2015

Culture of fear



An article in Washington Post yesterday covered yet another story of a CHRISTIAN (as Christ-ian, as in the Christ in the Bible) college being criticized for its "anti-LGTB" policies.  In the article a gay female student at one of these CHRISTIAN colleges expressed surprise at the policy (Did I mention that this was a Christian college?).   She  is quoted as saying:

Maybe I can’t go up to people and talk about it.  I thought everybody was O.K. with it...it makes you think twice about who you’re telling what to.

Well, I completely understand where she is coming from.  Our culture is quickly becoming one that is pervaded with the scent of fear.  Here we have a lady going to a Christian college who is afraid that if she talks freely about something her college's policy book clearly states as considered sinful (because that is what the Bible says; the Bible this Christian college bases their beliefs and practices upon) she will be punished.  I completely identify with this person.  As Christians we are in fear of being punished by our government for our beliefs.  I could be fired for them, I could be taken to court for them,  church where I attend could eventually lose its tax status for them, we could eventually be arrested for talking about our beliefs to others in public, our businesses could be shuttered for standing up for them. So yeah, I get the fear thing.

The other day, during family devotions where I brainwash my children into believing there is actually an absolute moral standard in the universe,  I had the pleasure of telling them that some day I could be punished by our government for posting things like this on my blog (which no one really reads).  That to live godly in Christ will bring persecution (2 Timothy 3:12) and that persecution will most certainly be coming in our lifetime.  Why?  Because we have the audacity to believe that there is a God and he has spoken to us by his Word, the Holy Scriptures, and that we can either follow him or man.

Am I afraid?  Yes.  I'm afraid for my family.  After all, I am a father so it is a part of the package deal when you become one.  I am afraid that I won't be able to provide for them should I be denied employment for being a Christian (a real one).  I am afraid for my Church family who are hoping this will all go away, knowing in my heart of hearts it will not.  I know that I just need to trust Jesus, and I do trust him.  But I can't help but struggle with the growing angst welling up inside of me that all hell is about to break loose and most of us are not going to be ready for it.

So welcome to the club, young lady.  The road goes both directions and I guess we are each going to have to stand by our convictions no matter what may come.  Bring it!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Screaming for a king

The following story appeared in the NY Times yesterday.  I'm not going to go into details about what Ginsburg did or said.  The point I think is clear.  She has already decided how she is going to vote and she let everyone know it.  But that really isn't what bothers me the most, although it does bother me.  What bothers me the most is the number of high profile government leaders who are jumping on the bandwagon.  No, not the gay marriage bandwagon.  That is only a red herring.

First, there is no such thing as gay marriage. There never will be.  Second, a vast majority of gays have no interest in getting married.  Why is that important?  Because legalizing marriage between gays isn't really the agenda of the small militant group of gays who are running the show.  It hasn't been for a long time.  It is about forcing everyone (and I mean everyone) to celebrate their sin.  They will not be happy until everyone (and I mean everyone) lauds their lifestyle and completely agrees with it.  Until then they will continue to seek to make any dissenter pay dearly for their sins.

In the case of marriage the endgame is not  "gay marriage" but to get rid of marriage altogether.  This is what bothers me about these politicians and church leaders doing what they are doing, all the time winking, fist bumping and elbow jabbing as if they have a joke only they and their gay friends get.  They just don't seem to see what is coming down the tracks.  The end of marriage.

Ask yourself this: If gays are allowed, legally, to get married, what is stopping three men or four women from getting married?  What about three men and a woman?  How about a woman marrying herself or the Eiffel tower? (No, seriously, those last two happened!)  The problem is when marriage becomes everything it becomes nothing and this is where we are headed.   So smile away.

I can't hate on the politicians and church leaders too much.  They are just the kind of leaders a lot of Americans want. Typical God move: instead of punishing us for our sins by taking away our toys, he is punishing us be giving us exactly what we've been screaming for.  King Saul is in the building.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Ameri-who?

And yet another book about America in biblical prophecy is making its rounds. I haven't read it yet so I'll refrain from naming the culprit until I've done so.  Apparently those who are reading it are either too young or too old to remember the 70's and 80's.  I even have a book on my shelf, that I've never read, called "America in Prophecy".  Why do I keep it?  For a chuckle I guess.

I really don't want to read the latest book because I don't have the time to read yet another account of how America figures into biblical prophecy.  I simply don't think I can stomach the terrible hermeneutics that are needed to come to the conclusions arrived at in these sorts of books.  But if I don't read it I'll be told I have no right to judge.  Here is how it usually works.  First, I research the book and read the conclusions arrived at by other sources I trust.  Second, I decide if the book is comparable to an already existent heresy or heretical book that has already been written and debunked.  If this is the case, I don't bother reading the book and I warn others away form it.  However, for some this is simply an odd way to judge heresy.  Apparently whenever an old heresy, which has already been condemned by the church, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of years ago, is re-imaged for our ever so intelligent modern generation, I am suppose to invest myself fully in it in order to determine if I agree with all those super smart, super holy people that have come before me.  Apparently some people have lots of extra time on their hands.

I have been "forced" to read The Shack and Heaven is for Real so far and frankly I'm just not up to doing it again.  I've not had my mind changed from my opinion held before I read it.  The last read involved a ten page review of the book concerning which most people I gave it to (because they asked) either never read it or didn't really care one way or the other once they did (both groups consisting on a very, very small sampling).

Anyway, here is a question:  What if America isn't that special (gasp!)?   Not only is America not in the Bible in any way shape or form, but what if America simply does not matter to God when it comes to his eschatology? What if America, like so many other nations that have come before it, is doomed to simply decay and disappear?   What if (I realize this is going to sound crazy) what God really cares about are the people in America and not actually America itself?

Ha!  Got you!  I'm just kidding.  America really is in the Bible.  It shows up at least once:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

Note the words, all nations? America is definitely a nation and definitely needs Jesus. Does the church need more than this when it comes to America in the Bible?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Word of the day: Soft-heresy

I know, it isn't a word but a phrase, so I cheated and hyphenated it.  What is soft-heresy?  It is, categorically, heresy, but it is indirect and so close to being biblical that it fools people into thinking it is right or at least not heretical enough to worth a second glance. Neither would it be considered a damnable heresy.  For the uninitiated a damnable heresy is such that if one holds the view expressed by the heresy they bar themselves from the kingdom of heaven mainly due to the fact they are believing a false gospel (Gal. 1:7-9).   One example of this would be the belief that Jesus is not God but rather a man who became a God.  Another would be the belief that Jesus was spirit and never man in the flesh.

On the other hand plain heresy can be any teaching that is contrary to the sound teaching of the Scripture, but isn't of such a nature that one would forfeit salvation if they held to it. Some people prefer to avoid the harshness of using the word heresy and instead use the phrase false doctrine or heterodoxy.  One such heresy would be the belief that God expects believers to be circumcised or that one must not eat pork (i.e., the dietary laws of the O.T.) or even hold a deistic evolutionary view of creation.  Although clearly contrary to the teachings of the N.T., one could still hold such views and be a true follower of Christ. Many denominational variations are the result of such heresies or false teachings and I could spend many pages listing them.

Finally, there are heresies which, although not damnable, are rather benign looking. So much so that many Christians receive them as part of their theological package without even questioning their biblical veracity.  I've started calling these soft-heresies.  Think of them as analogous to soft-porn.  Soft-porn is still porn.  It is addictive and enticing and easily causes the viewer to think thoughts that are ungodly and dangerous.  Regular porn (including hardcore) is easily identified as wrong by most (I wish I could say all) evangelicals. But soft-porn flies under the radar of most.  If they go to a movie that shows a women in her underwear, perhaps topless or rear nudity, or a couple making love they will hardly bat an eye.  They see it in underwear ads in catalogs or pass through particular sections in the mall and don't even give it a second thought. Some would argue from this that we have matured enough as a culture to not let such things bother us.  We've gotten over it.  But the truth is we simply have been desensitized to it.  We, as the prophet Jeremiah lamented, "no longer know how to blush" (Jeremiah 8:12).  But this desensitization doesn't keep us safe from the damage.  It simply sets us up for a fall when the damage does occur.  It blindsides us.

Soft-heresy serves a similar function.  We've become so use to it that we think of it as normal theology.  We think it biblical because it looks and sounds biblical.  But in the end it is very destructive.  What are some examples?  Well, some forms of the word of faith movement fall under this.  Some forms of the health and wealth gospel movement would be here too.  Much of what is coming out of the so-called latter rain movement would also fall under this label.  "Wait, aren't the teachings in these movements heretical?" you ask.  Yes they are.  However mainline churches aren't accepting the teachings of these movements wholesale.  Rather they are allowing bits and pieces of these teachings to enter their lives and churches.  They are embracing flavors of these teachings without, at least in their own minds, accepting the entire framework of the false doctrines.

Another more specific example would be Jesus Calling, the devotional by Sarah Young in which she is(and this is the only way I can explain it)  quite literally channeling Jesus.  What she writes sounds biblical.  In fact, much of it is biblical in that what she says Jesus is telling her can be found in the Bible.  However, the problem comes from the fact she is speaking for God.  Believers, even those in conservative, non-charismatic, churches are reading this book and raving about it.  So if it is (mostly) biblical what is my problem?  Once believers accept, either explicitly or implicitly, the idea that believers can channel God or at least say "Thus says the Lord..." (even if it is only implied) they open themselves to a whole number of potential problems.  Top on the list is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture which gets thrown out the window.  Soon they are accepting teachings and testimonies that, although not anti-biblical, are not biblical either.  Think "Heaven is for Real". It is a slippery slope.  After all, if God can speak outside of his Word then what is to say his Word is complete or, for that matter, even right for our culture and times?  Perhaps God has changed his mind on some things such as homosexuality, divorce, the roles of men and women or even the way of salvation? Before long we are running to the next person telling us that "God told them" or we are hearing voices ourselves and God's Word becomes supplementary at best.

I truly wish I could say I am being melodramatic here, but the fact is our modern church is a testament to the harm soft-heresy eventually leads to.  What are we to do about it?  First, we need to get back to studying our Bibles as the inerrant Word of God, wholly sufficient and completely truthful. Second, we need to call a spade a spade.  If someone is teaching outside of God's Word things about God, heaven, hell or any part of our faith we need confront them, in love, using the only true "Thus says the Lord": the Bible.  The days are short, the times are evil and the enemy has dressed himself as a sheep and is ravaging the flock.  Now is not the time to be Mr. (or Mrs.) nice-guy.  Now is the time to stand up for the truth and preach, in season and out, the whole council of God.