Saturday, October 26, 2013

The High Cost of Recognizing Personhood

I drive the way the most uptight Pharisee would drive. No more than five over. No closer than two seconds. Constantly judging other drivers, especially those who dare to approach my back bumper. “Feckless dog, you have entered my response zone!”

I must stop this dangerous passive-aggressive tactic of backing off my gas on an uphill slope to terrorize tailgaters. Who will rescue me from this legalistic trap, this gall of bitterness? Thanks be to God, Who reminds me that my fellow drivers are people, like me and like people I love, flawed, broken, afraid. They don’t know what I’ve gone through and I can't imagine what’s troubling them.

The reproductive rights debate has to do with the personhood of the unborn. Do they have the rights of people? Our constitution declared slaves three-fifths people. Our founding fathers knew slaves were people, created in the image of God. Everyone knew. Those who owned slaves received in themselves the due penalty for their sins. It came down upon them like the wrath of God.

What is the cost of acknowledging the Personhood of God, the Father Almighty, the Lord Jesus Christ His Only Son, the Holy Spirit the Lord, the Giver of life? It is pricey. No doubt.

IMHO: Atheists act like the most religious of religious people. They think like theologians. They boldly declare what God could and would do. What He could and would not do. They proselytize.

“The fool says in his heart that there is no God (Psalm 14:1).” That doesn’t mean the atheist is stupid. It means he’s afraid. He’s hurting. So he rebels against his Creator. Did he miss the grace of God? Does he miss the greatest friend a man could ever have? Jesus.

Lately I’ve been going over the synoptic gospels again and again. What’s hit me the hardest? The voice of Jesus. No cold logic there. Only: passion, certainty, beauty. He says what truly is. His words are so true that we struggle to take them literally. He marveled at our unbelief. He called us hypocrites for looking on the surface of things. His words will never pass away. His words are powerful. They are majestic. They break the cedar. They do the impossible. They transport us from the dark dungeon to His glorious kingdom of light. They save us.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Gospel According to Firefly 1.0: Too Pretty to Die

Firefly’s creator, Joss Whedon is no man’s evangelical Christian. About God, Joss says that he doesn’t believe in the Sky Bully. It’s said he’s an atheist, influenced by existential philosophy. So why should I, a Bible-believing, evangelical Christian, blog about the Gospel according to Firefly? Because it’s a magnificently well-crafted story and all such stories—regardless of how fictitious—provide us with an insight into those deeper truths bound up beyond our vision with the everyday realities of life. And, honestly, I like Firefly and when you like something you see things in it that you want to see. There. I’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room. Let the blog begin.

 

Those who know Firefly know it well. They don’t need a synopsis, which is good because I could never do it justice. We love Firefly because it’s about creating family in a broken world. It begins with the Battle of Serenity Valley where Sgt. Malcolm Reynolds and his fellow Browncoats are defeated by the Alliance. But the battle was not the only thing lost in Serenity Valley that day.
During the battle Mal barks the order to call in some go-ram air support. We see—as he kisses his crucifix and tells a petrified solder that God won’t let them die because they’re too pretty—that he was looking for two types of support from above, one from the Browncoats and one from God.

 

In an alternate opening that didn’t have enough action for Fox medical ships finally arrive to care for the wounded after the crushing defeat. Zoe thanks God for them, but Mal spits out some bitter response informing us that God’s help was—from Mal’s perspective—too little, too late. We get that message anyway later when Mal tells Shepherd Book that he is welcome on the ship, but Shepherd’s God isn’t.

It’s easy to relate to Mal (portrayed brilliantly by Nathan Fillion). We’ve all had disappointments. We all see the brokenness of the world, the injustice, the cruelty. River Tam proves to us that the Alliance is not just inefficient. It is a great bully, showing no pity, stopping at nothing to achieve its ends, breaking real people. River Tam’s father and mother abandoned her, sided with the Alliance. Joss is pointing out that God’s authority structure is itself broken and it is breaking people’s hearts. By contrast, the Companion is the respected one. To fit in with this system you have to prostitute yourself.

Jesus slept in the boat during a dangerous storm and his disciples woke him up and asked him, “Don’t you care if we drown?” The prophet Habakkuk prayed, “How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted (Habakkuk 1:2–4 NIV84).” Taking our punishment on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God is not the Sky Bully. Free will cuts every which way. The community of God from all eternity has been completely committed to one another in love. God created us in his image with a free will. We have chosen to turn away and all kind of dysfunction has followed, but God has provided forgiveness for us in Jesus. He is the way for us to enter this family of love. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29–30 NIV84).”

We can hold on to our bitterness. We can rail against God for failing us, but there is a Shepherd traveling with us on our journey. That Shepherd is spoken of in the Book and he is reaching out to each one of us right now.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Not Ashamed

Not Ashamed of the Gospel


The Good News that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, lived a perfect life, died for our sins and was raised from the dead still changes lives today. It still answers life’s most difficult questions, meets people’s deepest needs and reunites us with our Creator.

It’s hard for us to admit but we all know that the enemy of our souls has enslaved us. None of us do all the good that we know we should do. All of us do things we are ashamed of. We deeply wound the ones we love the most. The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, has an answer for us. He is the answer. We can find peace in Him.

Each of us is on a spiritual journey. God is calling to us as we walk along. God, the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father, is drawing us to the Good Shepherd Who will care for us.

After Adam defied God in the garden, God called to him, “Where are you?” God knew where Adam was and He knows where you are in your spiritual journey, but He wants you to know.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Mathew 11:28-30 New International Version).”

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Spirit of Grace and of Supplication

My Lenten Prayer


Stephen, the church’s first martyr, was stoned to death by an angry mob in Jerusalem after quoting the prophet Amos (who was himself quoting God): “’Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of Molech and the star of your god Rephan, the idols you made to worship. Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon (Acts 7:42–43 NIV84).” Any study of the Old Testament makes it clear that the people of Israel had a problem with backsliding. They also had a vowel problem. You read that right. They didn’t have any vowels in their alphabet so if they went one generation without pronouncing a word the next generation would not know how to pronounce it. Do you really think they stopped using the name of God (YHWH) because they were afraid to take the name of the LORD in vain? The meaning of that commandment is obvious. It means that if you take an oath in God’s name then you had better fulfill it. Talking about the false prophets Jeremiah said, “They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship (Jeremiah 23:27 NIV84).”

What has the church of the Lord Jesus Christ forgotten? Our Lord told the church in Ephesus: “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place (Revelation 2:4–6 NIV84).” I know the church hasn’t forgotten how to pray. I am deeply grateful to God for all the people who have prayed for me. Yet I believe that previous generations of Christians knew something that few of us know about today. They knew how to call out to God for lost souls. They knew how to intercede for the lost. Even as Elijah called upon God for rain, these brothers and sisters cried out to God and when they did men and women turned from darkness to light, from the power of the evil one to the power of God.

Maybe you’re reading this and you think, “What is this numbskull talking about?” Maybe you know how to intercede for the lost. Maybe God has given you great victory in prayer and many have been turned back to God. Then help the rest of us.

This Lent I am calling upon God to teach us to pray, to give us a renewed spirit of intercession for the lost. I am praying that the Lord Jesus Christ will again pour out on His church a renewed spirit of intercession. Oh, that the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Trinity, Who proceeds from the Father, would renew us this Lent and move us to call upon God. We don’t know how to pray as we ought to. May He pray through us with cries and groans that cannot be uttered in articulate speech.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives (Zechariah 12:10–14 NIV84).


Saturday, February 16, 2013

When the Foundations Are Destroyed

Why I Was Wrong to Vote to Approve Same-Sex Marriage


I am convinced that my Heavenly Father just took me to the woodshed by asking me something like, “If what the state calls marriage is so different than what I call marriage then why isn’t it OK for a Christian man and woman to claim to be married in My sight without a marriage license?”

I was totally busted. This is not the first time God has accused me of darkening His counsel with words without knowledge. “O God,” I replied, “I really hate the culture wars.”

I’m not afraid of same-sex marriage. It’s contrary to God’s Holy Law, but—as I don’t believe it’s my place to impose God’s Law on society—I decided it was merely a legal commitment between two people. Our commitments make us stronger and, in this way, society itself is stronger. By that logic, we should completely rethink our opposition to polygamy.

What about the children? That argument did not move me. I imagine that there are heterosexual couples that are worse parents than same-sex couples. The Apostle Paul told us that it’s only when there is at least one committed Christian parent that the children are set apart for Him. Regardless of a nation’s laws, God works in people’s lives and draws them to the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Isn’t it spiritual adultery to expect the state to support God’s work of evangelism? God is mighty to save. Let’s ask Uzzah if the Creator of heaven and earth needs our transportation services or our support when things seem unstable in His kingdom (2nd Samuel 6).

The religious liberty argument definitely did not move me. The Bible teaches that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19b NIV84).” I’m ready to lay down my life right now for the gospel. I’m prepared to pay any price to obey God. Shout Amen, somebody! Some worry about persecution. They ask if they will have the strength to die for Christ. I don’t have the strength to live for Him. Thankfully, He gives us His grace. I need to take better advantage of that, and when I truly commit myself to live a godly life in Christ Jesus I have His assurance that I will be persecuted. At this point everybody is being very nice to me. What’s wrong with this picture?

“God will judge this nation for rejecting His Law.” Yes, Jeremiah. You’re absolutely right. God always judges sin. Obedience brings blessings and disobedience brings punishment. The wrath of God is constantly being revealed against those who suppress the truth by their wickedness (Romans 1:18). Tell me about it. I’m as stubborn and stiff-necked as the next guy. That’s why I spend so much quality time with my heavenly Father in the woodshed.

Was it so wrong for me to want same-sex couples to have to live with the marriage tax penalty? Romans chapter thirteen teaches us that God works through the state. Legal marriage has been established by God. I see that now.