Monday, May 4, 2015

Glory - Are You Comfortable?

I find it interesting that we have a general discomfort when we encounter glory and that we often respond by attempting to control it. One way to define glory is to say that it is the manifestation of the presence or nature of God, which is naturally displayed in countless ways through the things he has made. But no matter how beautiful and awesome these things appear, there is something in them (or more accurately in us) that makes us want to turn away or even gain control over them in some way. Think of the beauty of nature, a sunrise, a waterfall, a mountain and how we often respond to seeing such things. Even though they demand our complete attention we are not content with submitting to them in that way. No, we have to turn from them, distract ourselves, or try to capture them for ourselves by taking a picture. Or think of a wedding – being confronted by the beauty and glory of two people committing to each other, of two souls becoming one. Do we not put a great many distractions around it to enable us to turn away, to keep us busy with details? There is the venue, the flowers, the music, the food, the people, the decorations – a seemingly endless list of things to hold our attention so we do not have to confront the glory shining through the thing itself. We will even afterward judge the wedding based off those peripheral details. What I am trying to get across is that it appears that there are two options for us when we encounter glory, we can simply enjoy it, or we can turn away from it by ignoring the claim it is making on us, and it seems that for whatever reason, we prefer the latter.

And Jesus was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. -Matthew 17

Look at this passage; is this not what Peter is doing? Is he not trying to distract himself from the glorious being in front of him? Is he not trying to regain the upper hand in some way, to obtain control? How uncomfortable it is to behold glory – it makes us feel our inadequacies, makes us confront our smallness. And if we feel that discomfort with the glory we see in nature and other humans how much more will we feel it when we come face to face with the one who created those things, who upholds those things, who sustains and wills on those things by his great power.

The reality of the situation is that he has given us a way to see his glory, at least in part. For what is the great glory of God if not that though no man can comprehend him, he comes down to us and reveals himself to us, leaving a record behind so that all could see him. There are many ways you can turn away, trying to explain away what happened, questioning the legitimacy of the record, degrading the moral nature of Jesus, or simply ignoring the things he said while associating yourself with Christianity. It is what, as humans we are prone to do. But make no mistake that each of these is born out of a desire to remain in control, to remain above the God-Man in some respect. There are only two options when encountering Jesus, we must either completely and unashamedly worship him as Lord, or turn away from him. There is no middle ground here. And while this worship will include more than this, it at least involves a person giving up trying to control his own life and allowing Jesus to make him into the being He would have him be. To start this we must trust him, take on his worldview, and obey him.  

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Christianity is confusing

Christianity is confusing.  If you haven't bought into Christianity, you might say this is obvious to you—so many things about it seem to defy human reasoning. But let’s put aside all of the secondary things that trouble you and get to the heart of the matter.

Christian judgment seems backwards
We live in a world in which you are judged and accepted based on performance. Are you beautiful? Kind? Are you talented? Hard-working? Honest? Smart? Creative? Rich? Loving? Someone known for saying and doing the right thing? In our society, it doesn’t matter which route you take to justify your existence. Just do what makes you feel good and everyone should accept you if you’ve done the best you can with what you have, right? But here is what Christianity says:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
Christ died... for the ungodly...??? Not the talented, nor the beautiful, not the smart, hard-working, rich, or creative, but the ungodly?  Let me get this straight. Christianity says that God, an omniscient, infinitely powerful and righteous being of infinite worth, came into our little world, lived a perfect life, and then voluntarily gave up his life… not for the winners, but for the losers? The failures? The bad guys? I could go on, but I think the point is clear—why would anyone sign up for that?

As my old high school history teacher, Jim Owen put it, “They take everybody.”

How would judgment look in your case?
Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “I get it. Some people need this sort of thing. But not me—I'm doing just fine.” But let me ask you to do a thought experiment (props to Francis Schaeffer for this illustration):

Consider all of the things you say everyone should do and all of the things you say no one should do. Let’s not talk about the standards of the bible or any major world religion. Just think about the things you believe. Now, let’s say there is an invisible recorder around your neck.  It only records what you say about how people ought to live, as well as what you actually think, say, and do, both in public and private, and during your entire life.

Fast forward to “judgment day.” Let’s say there is a God, and your "case number" is called.  God says, "I will judge you only on the basis of your own words.”  Then God removes that recorder from your neck and hits the play button. How would you do?
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Rom. 2:1-3
My Case
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the route that tells me the truth about myself and yet, gives me hope outside of myself.  I'll take the route that prevents me from feeling better than anyone else when I know I'm no better.  I'll put God's grace up against anything else—career, money, power, moralism, intelligence, romance—just give me grace.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” - Acts 17:30-31 

Still confused?  Here's a suggestion.  Go to a church where the gospel is preached.  Find a church where the people don't just say, "God hates sin," but go to a place where people can say, "...while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Talk to those people.  Not sure where to look?  Here's my shameless plug: if you're near Columbus on Easter, come and check out our church:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Our Desperate Need for God

"For in him we live, and move, and have our being."
These are the words of Paul the apostle, speaking to the men of Athens who were quite religious, as they had objects of worship to many different gods. However, it appears that they were aware that they were still missing something on some level even though they could never quite find out what exactly it was. Paul is explaining to them that what they are missing is that the one God who created the world is the same God who gives men everything they have and is the One who is "not far from any of them." Today I want to look at the implications of that statement because if Paul is correct, it means that God is so much more then what people often think of him. It means that he is more than a being who sits back and watches his creation. It means that he is more than some impersonal force that we must appease to secure our future well being. It means that he is much closer than we might have ever imagined, yea even so much closer than we would dare to think. Because if it is true that we live, move, and exist in Him then it is also true that we need him, oh so desperately need him, even "need him as our body never needed food or air, need him as our soul never hungered after joy, or peace, or pleasure." Need him so desperately that it might just terrify us to see the extent of it.
But if that is true, then why don't we feel it? Why do so many of us seem to get along "just fine" without him? I will submit to you that we don't feel it because we have lost our sensitivity to it. We have turned to other things that seem to satisfy our needs, that make us feel safe and secure, that make us feel adequate in ourselves. I am reminded of the story of Dorian Gray. A man who hid his soul in a picture in the attic. A man who appeared perfect, while inwardly he was rotting away. A man who could refrain from facing his true condition by never venturing into the recesses of his house. A man who could be oblivious to his deepest needs because they were buried from his sight.
In a way, we can choose to do the same. We can bury our need for God deep within the recesses of our being. We can focus on the superficial aspects of life. We can ignore the need for long enough to come to the conclusion that we don't even have it. But if Paul is correct then that need is there. A need that is not only relegated to some future event but a need that is with us at every moment. A need that supersedes our need for food, for air; a need that consists in existence itself. A need that Jesus Christ came to reveal and lives forever to satisfy. I will submit to you that our purpose is to recognize this need, even to come to know and experience this need - to learn more and more just how desperately we need our God. I would say that this is a taste of what Jesus meant when he said that the greatest commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Faith versus reason?

Some people say that there are two types of people in this world: people of faith and people of reason; people who live in the spiritual realm and (scientific) people who live in the empirical realm; people who "believe" and people who think and consider evidence.  Is it really that simple?  Is there really such a divide between people?  Take a look at the videos below and decide for yourself.

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” - John 1:46

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Reality of our Universe

Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 

In the previous post I stressed the importance of thinking about the serious questions of life and in this post I want to address why. Jesus answers that question with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” or in other words, life under God’s authority is now available to all, it’s here. Why now? Because who God is and what he wants has now been revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus tell us to think again about life because he is introducing a whole new way TO think about life, even a whole new way to live. A life that he declares is a better life, even the best possible life - a life that corresponds to the reality of our universe. And what exactly is the reality of our universe? 

I will submit that we can see and feel indications of this reality in life. There are certain things that we hold in the highest regard, things that we think are the very best. Among these things is a person who is willing to give everything up for others. Story after story creates “heroes” who deny themselves on behalf of others and we applaud these stories again and again. Take for example the character from the movie, Seven Pounds. The story follows a man who gives up everything, even his own heart and eyes to seven different people. Watching these events unfold brings most people to tears. We call it beautiful, heart wrenching, maybe even life-changing. We want that character to be real, we want him to be our dad, our brother, and maybe even hope to become like him ourselves. We have something in us telling us that that is how life ought to be lived, that is how people ought to behave, that must be the truest way TO live, that should be the reality of our world…. why? I will submit to you that we feel and think this way because that IS the reality of our universe. We live in a universe created and maintained by an all-powerful, omnipresent God who is exactly that kind of person, who dies as much as a God can die to bring life to the creatures that he has made. We see it as is the true life because it is the real life.

Either life is a terrible cruel joke, a meaningless existence which only dreams of something higher, a container of the worst kind of empty promises OR it is a gift from our Creator, the perfect Father, in whom we truly “live, and move, and have our being.” 

Jesus believed this, Jesus lived this, and he calls us to to join him in this invisible reality that pervades us. He calls us to put our trust in Him and he promises to be with us, to transform us, and to continue working in us until we are one with him. It is not a call to better yourself or to fix yourself - it’s a call to entrust your life to the only One who can.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Age of (Lazy) Skepticism

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
These are the first words of Jesus in the gospel according to Mark and I find it very interesting that the first command that Jesus gives is “repent” because that literally means “to think again” or “to rethink”. I say I find it interesting because it is not rare to find people who view Christians as people who do the exact opposite – who don’t think and refuse to think. And while I will not deny that there are Christians who give support to this view, I will submit that this problem is not limited to Christians but is fast becoming the default condition in the world in which we live. You could call this the age of skepticism, where people are encouraged to question but NOT to take the time to seriously think about the question. There is a skepticism that encourages thought and discovery but that is not the kind of skepticism that you will see flourishing today, where people are content to pass through life without seriously considering the big questions of life. An example might help - two men are both skeptical about the existence of the state of Michigan. They both have one or two good reasons for this skepticism but here is where they differ: one of the men uses this skepticism to delve into the evidence, to search out for the truth, to find answers to the hard questions while the other uses his skepticism to disregard the question altogether, to stop seriously thinking any more about the issue, relying on that one reason to support his choice.
Here is the point, regardless of whether or not you say you believe in Jesus Christ, have you thought about it? I mean really thought about it? Have you read and considered the words of Jesus himself? Have you read and considered ANY of the writings of the many great thinkers of the past – Christian and non-Christian? Have you used your skepticism to search out the truth, to stimulate thinking? Or have you become content living the rest of your life without seriously investigating whether or not your beliefs are true? Whether or not your beliefs correspond with reality? Jesus believed that his words, his life, his worldview would hold up under serious thinking. He commands us to think again about life. To think again about serious questions related to our existence. To think again about a life spent with him. Will you?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Isaiah, Chesterton, and Isaiah

If I had my two year old son's energy and youthful sense of wonder, I could probably run a marathon every day.  I would never get tired, and it would never get old.  The way he runs back and forth across the same path on the floor over and over and over; the way he can keep singing the same song without it ever getting old; the way he can keep asking for the same book every night; and his ability to continue to be entertained by the same episode of the same children's show over and over again--it reminds me of something G.K. Chesterton said.

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
-G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
 I don't know the details of how God creates and sustains creation, but I believe we do see a faint glimpse of his infinite power when we see the vitality of children.  Even more astonishing is that we human beings have the least wisdom when our energy is at its peak.  Yet God not only has infinite power, but infinite wisdom to go along with it.
Have you not known? Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

-Isaiah 40:28-31

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Who is God?

I heard a quote recently that had more truth in it then I initially thought. It was similar to the following: A dog looks at his owner and thinks, “This person feeds me, and houses me, and protects me, and loves me… he must be god.” A cat looks at his owner and thinks, “This person feeds me, and houses me, and protects me, and loves me… I must be god.”
While humorous, I was brought to think on the radically different lifestyles that emerge out of the two mindsets presented here. The first of course being a life of gratitude, obedience, and joy with the second being a life of entitlement, stubbornness, and bitterness. And while it may be relatively easy to go through life without ever consciously thinking, “I must be god” it is certainly much more difficult, if not impossible, to go through life without subconsciously believing it. I would say it is especially true in this service centered society in which we live where people (or machines) do things for us all the time. But this kind of society also allows us to see this subconscious belief - where we will destroy phones, scream at ATM machines, and curse out slow drivers because “We are god and are entitled to get what we want!!!”
This is why the first step to get out of this mindset is to realize and fully believe that “we are not god.” Yes, we have a lot of things that nearly fulfill our every wish. Yes, we have people all around us who constantly serve us but the only reason that we have any of this is because other people took pity on us and helped us. It started when we were born into this world as a helpless infant and it has continued to this day. If other people did not take pity on us and help us nothing that we have accomplished would have been possible. We just don’t often realize it, as Dallas Willard explains, "People often do not want to accept that they can only live on the basis of pity from others, that the good that comes to them is rarely 'deserved.'"
I say this is the first step because I think coming to this realization produces a question. And that is, “If I am not god, then who is?” or in other words “If I am not meant to live for myself, then who am I meant to live for?” And while there have been many answers given to this question I agree with what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 4:39, “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.” There is one God and He is who we were all meant to live for.
The Lord has given us everything that we have – He has given us the ability to work, eat, sleep, laugh, and play. He is the ultimate provider and the giver of life. The question is how will we respond? Will we presume that this life that has been given to us is our own, that we are god? Or will we “ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name” and live a life of gratitude, obedience, and joy unto Him? This is the good life that God wants for us and the life that Christ calls us to with the words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

"Those Christians and Their Morality..."

“[T]hink of us as a fleet of ships sailing in formation. The voyage will be a success only, in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another’s way; and secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. . . . But there is one thing we have not yet taken into account.  We have not asked where the fleet is trying to get to…”
-C.S. Lewis

Modern people feel pretty strongly about morality.  But based on the above analogy, we aren’t thinking very carefully about this subject (despite our feelings) if we haven’t answered at least three questions: (1) How must I live to avoid hurting others? (2) How must I live to avoid hurting myself? And (3) what am I made for?  Most people begin and end with the first question.  We often say it is okay to “do whatever you want as long as you’re not hurting anyone.”  But as Lewis goes on to explain, the second question is equally important.  How can you expect the ships to steer carefully to avoid colliding with one another if each ship is in such bad shape that it can barely be steered at all?  In other words, how can I avoid harming others if I don’t have any control over myself?  So some people will admit that you shouldn’t do things that are bad for you.

But is that enough?  Is it okay to do whatever you want unless you hurt yourself or someone else?  Returning to the ship analogy, we must first be able to explain why the ships are in the water at all.  Is there a destination?  Is there a purpose?  If not, the first two questions have no ground to stand on.  By neglecting to think about question no. 3, we’ve left out something essential to our ethics—the foundation!  How can we say the ships shouldn’t collide with each other if we don’t know why the ships are in the water to begin with?  Perhaps they’ve decided to destroy each other, like warships.  Perhaps they feel as if they were made to destroy each other.  Or worse—perhaps they feel that they were built to seek victory at all costs.  If you think I’m just exaggerating, consider the suicide bombers, kamikaze pilots, or the 9/11 hijackers of our world.  Could we condemn their behavior?  Could we condemn the cut-throat mentality of corporate America?  And how about people who set themselves on fire for political reasons?  What could you say to such a person? “Your life has no purpose.  So do whatever you want… but not that!”  The existentialist philosophers have been unable to provide any coherent answers.

As a Christian, I believe that morality must be grounded in the creator.  There is room for social and personal ethics, but they will only take us so far.  As 1 Corinthians 8:6 says, all things exist for God.  He is our foundation.  Without him, morality is subjective and arbitrary, and whoever has the most power wins, right or wrong.  But with God as our foundation, we will begin to find real, coherent answers to our moral problems.  Each one of us will feel uncomfortable with this at some point.  But if we are seeking a source of truth that transcends each individual, isn’t that exactly what we should expect?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In His Image

I'm sure that all have had a moment in their life when they were dealing with feelings of inadequacy.  As men, we constantly wonder, am I good enough?  Do I have what it takes?  We fear failure simply for the fact that it shows others that we couldn't do it, we weren't enough, we didn't have what it took.  The same goes for our spiritual walk.  Every time we hit a bump in the road or take a detour and fall into sin we end up feeling like we failed.  Even Paul experienced this so much so that he went on to say, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.... For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.... What a wretched man I am!" [Rom 7:15-18,24]

How many times do we look in the mirror, seeing only the sin that seems to keep us down, and think of ourselves as wretched men?  Some of you might say not enough and others might say all the time.  While the first response might point to someone who has yet to acknowledge their sin and give it up to Christ, the latter would suggest someone stuck in a narrow view of themselves wherein they only see their sin and are forgetting that Jesus died to cleanse us of the sin in our lives.  Scripture says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." [Rom 3:23]  The problem lies in that we live in a fleshly world when we were made for a spiritual one.  Too many times I think we don't read Rom 7:18 slow enough to realize that it is through our sinful nature that good does not dwell in us.  That doesn't mean good is never found within us.

On the contrary, upon the creation of man, God called us good.  In Romans 6, Paul says that only those who forsake the flesh and walk in spirit will see God.  While it's good to recognize this and understand that without the spirits' guidance, and certainly without Christ's blood, we would have no escape from sin, dealing with this problem is usually more difficult than simply acknowledging it.  It is, however, a good starting point.  In fact, it is the only starting point.  Paul doesn't simply stop at pointing out the sinful nature but, instead he continues on , saying, "Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" [Rom 7:25]  Likewise, Romans 3 goes on to say we "are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ." [Rom 3:24]

I must clarify at this point that my purpose in writing this is not to give you some three step program on how to resist the flesh.  Anyone who tries to box the walk of faith into a system is missing the point.  Rather, my hope is that you will gain some perspective into who you are, or can be, through Christ by taking a look at what man was created to be.  The enemy would love it if we simply got stuck at looking at how far we fall short of the life we were created for that we fail to ever actually take so much as a glimpse at that life.  Many times we get so caught up in how much of a wretch we are and how much sin this flesh of ours has caused us to do that we neglect to remember one big important factor.  We were made in His image!  HIS!  As in the God almighty of the universe.  The creator of all things.  The alpha and the omega.  The great and wondrous hosts of hosts.

What are the implications of truly accepting this and holding on tightly to that fact?  Consider a sculptor who sets out to create his masterpiece.  Upon completing his work I would imagine he would take much pleasure in admiring it.  Now say shortly after he makes it, someone else comes along and places a scratch on it.  Would it no longer be his masterpiece?  Would he still not love it?  I would venture to say yes.  After all, the sculpture is a reflection of the work of the artist and not the vandal.  In the same way we are a reflection of our creator's work in us.  We were not made to sin but rather to reflect God's grace to the rest of the world much like Moses did upon being in the presence of God.  Therefore, I urge you to view yourselves as masterpieces of the one true God.  While we are full of scratches from this fleshly world, God still saw His original design as good and us as worth redeeming.  Thus, we have Christ, of whom we should hold on to, who is continually restoring us to our intended condition so that we may truly be the image of God for which we were created to be. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Self Centered Life

In his book, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis points out the following: 
There is a difference between a life that is selfish and one that is self centered: for in a selfish life my mind could be directed toward a thousand things, not one of which is myself. The distinction is not unimportant. One of the happiest men and the most pleasing companions I have known was intensely selfish. On the other hand I have known people capable of real sacrifice whose lives were nevertheless a misery to themselves and to others, because self-concern and self-pity filled all their thoughts. Either condition will destroy the soul in the end. But till the end, give me the man who takes the best of everything (even at my expense) and then talks of other things, rather than the man who serves me and talks of himself, and whose very kindnesses are a continual reproach, a continual demand for pity, gratitude, and admiration.

This quote struck me because in my experience I have found that it is terribly easy to fall into a self centered life that is not selfish at all. For example, take a man who spends every minute of his life doing things for others. It would not appear that such a man was living a self centered life. However, he would be if he was thinking of himself the entire time he was doing those things. It is important to note that this is NOT the kind of life that Jesus lived or that he wants us to live. Yes, he did live his life doing things for others. But no, his mind was not fixed on himself, but on God the Father the entire time. It wasn't a selfish life, AND it wasn't a self centered life. And THIS is the life that he calls us to as well when he commands us to, "Follow me". So I encourage you to reflect on your life. Who/What is it that dominates your thoughts? How would you classify your life? Selfish? Self centered? Or Christ-like?

And I believe that the true question is not whether your life is self centered or not because lets face it, to a certain extent we all live a self centered life. The better question would be whether your life is becoming a more self centered or less self centered kind of life. Do you find that God is on your mind more than he was before, or less? Do you find yourself more concerned with what God thinks of your actions and less concerned with what other people think or the opposite. Are you becoming more like Christ or less like him? As Lewis pointed out the selfish and self centered lives will inevitably end in ruin. However, Jesus himself demonstrated that the Christ-like life will endure and flourish even beyond the grave.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Stepford God

People approach the idea of having a relationship with Jesus in at least three different ways. One approach is to simply reject the idea—to reason that there is no god, or at least not a god we can know. The second approach is an improvement, but not by much. Under this view, there is a god, but not a god with a mind of his own. You don’t follow god. He follows you. The last approach is to take Jesus as he intends to be taken—as Lord and savior. To demonstrate these approaches, I’ve used an illustration that other writers and speakers have used, which is based on the Stepford Wives films. In the 1975 film, the husbands kill their wives and replace them with emotionless robots. The robots look like the wives, but they exist only for their husbands’ personal pleasure. In the 2004 film, the wives aren’t dead, but they might as well be. Their husbands control their minds using microchips.

1. The Stepford God: The Original
God does not speak. We may have reasons to say that there is a god (e.g. the rational intelligibility of the universe), but not a god we can have a relationship with. If God exists, he is not concerned with human affairs. As far as we can tell, he has no interest in prayers, morality, changing people, suffering, death, or the afterlife. These are merely human concerns. If anything can be done about them, it must be done by us. We must build the solutions. And when all of our buildings collapse… well, let’s not worry about that. At least we tried. What we cannot build simply cannot exist. Anyone who says anything different probably isn't telling the truth. And if God says anything different, someone probably put a lie in his mouth. How do we know? Because “the true God” does not speak. How do we know? Well... we cannot be completely sure.  After all, that would make us omniscient! But we think the old philosopher was probably right: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” But don’t worry. We have replaced him with our own creations, and they will probably work... probably.

2. The Stepford God: The Remake
God is not dead. God is alive and speaking. How do I know? Because he says whatever I want him to say. He does whatever I want him to do. And he gives me whatever I want. If things aren't going my way, I'm just not trusting him enough. But God wants to give me everything I want. He is always on my side, always agreeing with me and never contradicting me. He loves me just the way I am, and he would never try to change me. And he is very concerned with human affairs, especially mine. In fact, he is so concerned that he seems to have no independent will of his own. But he is not dead! I'm not sure why he would need to die anyway (then again, I am worth dying for). But I didn’t kill him... I only put a microchip in his brain.

3. The True God
“[T]his is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. . . . For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (Jn 17:3, 18:37).
There is a God, and we can know him by believing in his son. Jesus Christ lived, died, and was raised from the dead. As a result, we can have a relationship with God. This means that God is not distant, and we have something much better than an abstraction. We have direct access to the God who created the universe—and he loves us! Yet we do not just call him our loving savior.  We also call him our Lord.  If he is anything less than that, then how could we possibly call him God?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Worldviews: Destiny

"Human life and consciousness requires, by its very nature, a projected future." -Dallas Willard

The fourth question that we will look at in this series is that of Destiny: What does our future hold? It is essential to our existence that we hold onto a vision of what is to come. You could say that we are obsessed with the future, always moving and acting in response to what we believe lies ahead. The future is what gives meaning to our daily actions, its what enlivens and empowers us to continue and persist. It gives us hope. But there is seemingly an end point for each one of us, a finish line for our life. We call this death. The question is, if death is the absolute end for each one of us how can we possibly live with the knowledge that there ultimately is no future for us? We will look at three different ways that we can approach this:

The first is that we can simply ignore it. We can disregard the fact that we will ever die, we can remove it from our thinking. We can live as if this life will go on for eternity, as if death is so far away that it is infinitely minute and thus worthless to even consider. But this won't change the fact that death is coming, and there will most likely come a point where we must consider it and despair is sure to follow. The following excerpt from Jean-Paul Sartre's The Wall (can find it here - illustrates this point very well - this is from a man who is going to be executed the following day:
"At that moment I felt that I had my whole life in front of me and I thought, "It's a damned lie." It was worth nothing because it was finished. I wondered how I'd been able to walk, to laugh with the girls: I wouldn't have moved so much as my little finger if I had only imagined I would die like this. My life was in front of me, shut, closed, like a bag and yet everything inside of it was unfinished. For an instant I tried to judge it. I wanted to tell myself, this is a beautiful life. But I couldn't pass judgment on it; it was only a sketch; I had spent my time counterfeiting eternity, I had understood nothing. I missed nothing: there were so many things I could have missed, the taste of manzanilla or the baths I took in summer in a little creek near Cadiz; but death had disenchanted everything."
However, there is another option if we don't want to simply ignore it. We can vicariously continue through our fellow man. We can take "my future" and move it to "our future". The future of man or the future of this earth. Yes we will die but the human race will remain and go on to multiply and flourish. We can take heart that our race will not die out and we can do our part to ensure that it continues. But even here, the despair will set in when we realize that our race and our universe has an expiration date - eventually everything will collapse and there will be nothing left of any of us.

Is it inevitable then? Are we doomed to live in the dread and despair that death brings?
Absolutely not! There is third option that does not end in despair but in joy and it comes when we place our trust in the only person to ever defeat death, that is Jesus Christ who has "abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." He says that "Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." Jesus Christ ensures our future and by doing so he gives meaning and hope to us right now. And when we die we will enter into the "joy of our Lord" (Matt 25:21), our bodies will be transformed into glorious ones (Phil 3:21), and we will rule with Him forever and ever (Rev 2:26, 3:21).

As such the follower of Christ is not afraid of death as others are (see but can experience death with confidence knowing that better things await and can presently live a life full of love, joy, and hope that is only found in the one and only eternal God.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Worldviews, Morality: What is good?

In Plato's dialogue, Euthyphro, Socrates asks the title character whether that which is pious is loved by the gods because it is pious, or whether it is pious because it is loved by the gods. In other words, Socrates wishes to know if something is pious merely because the gods have ordained and determined it to be pious or is there actually a universal understanding of piety that the gods recognize and thus love.

I would say the same question could be asked of morality. Is something good, or evil, because God has stated that it is good, or was it good to begin with, and thus God recognizes and supports its goodness?

Morality in a Post-Modern World

The prevailing belief in our post-modern culture supports the latter proposition: Good exists in and of itself, and if there is a god, that being must recognize and support the existence of that good. Defining good, however, is much more difficult. In fact, this worldview has often refused to define that which is good, and instead chosen to focus on decrying that which is evil. Evil, of course, would be anything that harms or injures another individual who did not deserve to have that harm occur. Evil would include murders, thefts, assaults, defrauding, and a host of actions which cause pain and hardship to those who are undeserving. Good, as an undefined opposite, is simply everything else; those actions that do not directly cause harm or injury to other individuals. Thus, in popular culture, good is often left undefined, and in our increasingly post-modern culture, is a decision of each individual's conscience.

Religious Morality

In opposition, the vast majority of world religions would say that good does not exist in and of itself, but instead, by the decrees and determinations of God. That means that something that is good is only that which God has determined and decreed to be good; that which is evil is that which God has determined and decreed to be evil. In this worldview, there is a strict code of morality. There is no room for personal determinations or decisions on conscience. Instead, there is only a clearly defined code of moral law.

The Biblical View of Morality

However, God's view of good is starkly different from both of these views. The Bible doesn't tell us that something is good because God determined it to be so or because it was good and God recognized it as so. Instead, the Bible simply tells us that God -IS- good. In other words, that which is good is that which is from God, serves God, and pleases God.

For example, when the rich young ruler addressed Christ as "good teacher," and asked Him how to inherit eternal life, Christ's first response was, "Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone." (Luke 18:19) In this passage, Christ did not deny his deity. Instead, he merely refuted the young man's statement. The young man believed that Christ was good because of his value and wisdom as a teacher. Essentially, he believed that Christ was good because He could discern the moral code that would grant eternal life. But Christ's initial response was simple: there is no good, except for God. It's fitting, then, that Christ answered the young man's question with the simple command to "Follow Me."

Therefore, to be good, something must be related to or in service of God. In Romans, Paul quotes the Psalmist as saying, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God ... there is no one who does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12) Simply put, Paul recognizes that no one is good, and no one does good, because no one seeks after God. Goodness, then, is not something that can tangibly be pursued. It is not something that can be reached or obtained. Instead, goodness is the result of pursuing the will of the only One who is good, God. To be good, then, means to follow and seek after God. It means to obey His will, purposefully and devotedly.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Worldviews: Does Life Have a Purpose?

[A]ll things were created through him and for him. . . . [I]n him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16-17 ESV)
We were made to glorify God. Some skeptics say that there is no God and life is ultimately meaningless. But no healthy human being lives that way. So they say we must construct meaning for ourselves, claiming we can then be free to have more fun. As Albert Camus put it, maybe "the struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart." Here's the problem. If life is ultimately meaningless, everything you experience will be meaningless too.
You may still, in the lowest sense, have a “good time”; but just in so far as it becomes very good, just in so far as it ever threatens to push you on from cold sensuality into real warmth and enthusiasm and joy, so afar you will be forced to feel the hopeless disharmony between your own emotions and the universe in which you really live.
-C.S. Lewis
Continuing to perform a meaningless act does not make it meaningful. Life is absurd unless there really is an eternal, all-powerful God who gives meaning.
[W]hoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24 ESV)
This verse reveals a paradoxical truth that is hard to surrender to. We love ourselves a lot! And freedom really is a good thing. But real freedom is not just freedom from. Genuine freedom is freedom for something. Consider the art we admire. No one sees Starry Night Over the Rhone and says, “Too bad Van Gogh imposed his will on that poor canvas.” What makes that canvas so amazing is that it reflects the will of an amazing artist. Similarly, when you submit your life to God, you can experience genuine freedom and fulfillment. If I live to glorify myself, concerned only with my selfish impulses and ambitions, I will shrink into despair and obscurity. But if I live to glorify Jesus, his word guarantees that I will be “raised in glory.” (1 Cr. 15:43).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why bother with origin?

An imperative part of any worldview is the question of origin: How did we get here? This question has been debated time and time again. Why, then, is it so important as Christians that we know and understand our worldview? Consider Psalm 19:1: 
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." 
The psalmist here looks at all the glory and complexity of the world, and attributes it right to God. He cannot view the sky and the heavens without seeing they are a part of God's testimony of creation. The appreciation and respect for God is strengthened when the world is viewed as his "handiwork." We cannot view the world as something that occurred by chance, and God simply as an afterthought. The complexity of the world attests that it was designed. This is best put by this quote from Einstein:
“I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.”
From examining the most complex aspects of the sciences, it is clear that God's power is boundless and beyond what we humans can fully grasp. We can't comprehend everything. After making that realization, it's no longer a step of "blind faith" to believe the universe was created by God, but we then can see the complexity of the universe as God's handiwork.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Worldviews Apart

Every person has a worldview, a framework through which to interpret the world. When preaching the gospel, Christians should be prepared to present the Christian worldview to people who do not already understand or accept it. Over the next few months, we will discuss how the Christian worldview answers four very important questions:
(1) Origins – where did we come from and why does it matter?
(2) Morality – do good and evil exist, and if so, how do we know?
(3) Meaning – does life have a purpose?
(4) Destiny – what happens after I die?

Whether Christian or not, most people can provide some kind of answer to each question. But do the answers fit together coherently? Have we really considered the implications of our beliefs? Consider the question of morality. Some people say we have beliefs about morality, and they claim that these beliefs are nothing but beliefs. But then they insist that we can and must be good people. Similarly, some people say life is meaningless in the beginning and meaningless in the end. Yet they insist that we search for meaning during the present.

The myth of Sisyphus comes to mind. Are we like the condemned king, endlessly rolling a rock up a steep hill only to have it roll back to the bottom? Or is there something better?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Fallacy of "Love"

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” - Rick Warren
 I'm not sure who this post is for. Is it for Christians who are struggling to balance the competing interests of loving those around them while holding fast to their biblical convictions about sin? Or is it for the multitude of non-Christians who refuse to understand how a person could 'love' them and yet vehemently oppose their way of life. I guess, in short, I hope both sides might find a bit of encouragement here.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest of all the commandments were, his response was simple and poignant, "Love God with everything you are, and then love your neighbors as much as you love yourself." (paraphrased from Matthew 22:37-39). Of course, the One who gave that command was also the greatest example of living such love out. No one in history, and no fictional character ever dreamed up, could match the outpour and depth of Christ's love. Every word, every action, every thought and desire was focused on first loving and glorifying the Father, and then loving and redeeming us.

But love, Christ's love, was not merely a gesture of goodwill and support. It was just not endless compassion, sympathy, acceptance and mercy. Instead, Christ's love was something much more powerful: it was the desire to see a fallen world redeemed to the Father, a desire to see individuals transformed from corrupted beings of darkness into vessels of the Father's glory. You see, Christ loved us with a fervent and unending passion, but He didn't love our lifestyle. He didn't love our vanity, our pride, our immorality, our wickedness. He didn't love our sin. He didn't love the life choices that prevented us from full fellowship with the Father. And so, He came to love us, and in that love, He showed goodwill, support, compassion, sympathy, acceptance and mercy, but He also rebuked, criticised, admonished and exhorted us. He embraced the sinner with open arms but also condemned the life that sinner lived. And ultimately, He died, not to save the lives of those who followed Him, but to give us a new life, one separate from the corruption and sin that plague us.

The gospels are rife with demonstrations of this love. In John 8, he tells the adulteress woman, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." Jesus loved her, He accepted her, He forgave her, but He also told her that her lifestyle was wrong and that it must change. He didn't condemn her, but He -did- condemn her lifestyle. He didn't tell her that it was her life to live how she wanted, or that she could choose whatever lifestyle best suited her. Instead, He loved her, and in showing that love, told her to change her ways.

So, then, when Christ says to love your neighbors as yourself, that doesn't mean we sit idly by and watch the world languish in lifestyles that celebrate the destructive power of sin. Instead, it means that we too should burn with the passion to see our neighbors embrace the grace and mercy of the Father and become those incorruptible, sinless vessels of His glory. Not because we've reached that stage (God knows Christians, including myself, have sins enough of their own) but because we know that we're called to something greater. So when Christians preach against all sorts of immorality, its not because we hate you, or fear you, or want to condemn you, or want to judge you and villainize you to make ourselves feel superior. Instead, we do it because we love you. We do it because our hearts are broken to see the corruption that runs rampant through ourselves and our neighbors. We do it because we want to see the mercy, power and glory of God realized in you, like it has been so wonderfully realized in us. So, non-Christians, realize that we don't hate you, but we also can't support a lifestyle that God has clearly condemned. He wants something greater for you, and so do we.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Has America Become Content With Superficial Christianity?

I'm not a big fan of excessive complaining, and I even consider myself an optimist.  But certain things about the expression of Christianity in America worry me, especially when I start to see them in myself:

Instead of trusting in the Lord, even with our money, we are content with putting “In God We Trust” on our money.

Rather than honoring Christ the Lord as holy in our hearts, we are content with honoring Him on our t-shirts and facebook profiles.

Jesus said to take up your cross and follow Him, but we are content with taking crosses and putting them up on our walls, and following Christian blogs, podcasts, and "tweets."

We were told to be diligent to make our calling and election sure, but we are content with being diligent in electing politicians who are Christians for sure.

When we should be asking if the Lord’s laws are written on people’s hearts and on their minds, we are content with having them written on courthouse monuments and in our nation’s statutes.

Are we becoming content with superficial Christianity?

Monday, June 18, 2012


Convicted. That is the word that describes my experience whilst reading "Life Together" by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I will let his words make up the rest of this post.

"We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will constantly be crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions. We may pass them by, preoccupied with our more important tasks, as the priest passed by the man who had fallen among thieves, perhaps - reading the Bible(Luke 10). When we do that we pass by the visible sign of the Cross raised athwart our path to show us that, not our way, but God's way must be done.

It is a strange fact that Christians and ministers frequently consider their work so important and urgent that they will allow nothing to disturb them. They think they are doing God a service in this, but actually they are disdaining God's "crooked yet straight path" (Gottfried Arnold). They do not want a life that is crossed and balked. But it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.

Only where hands are not too good for deeds of love and mercy in everyday helpfulness can the mouth joyfully and convincingly proclaim the message of God's love and mercy."