Saturday, December 30, 2017

10 Reasons Why 2017 was a Great Year

1. The Museum of the Bible opened in Washington D.C. - I'm so pleased to see the Museum of the Bible open in Washington D.C. This is an important step to helping people understand the historical value of the scriptures and the textual authenticity of the manuscripts.  It also signals to the people of the country a simple fact: The Bible is an indelible core aspect of our history, society, and culture.  Western civilization has been crafted by the Bible, the reformation, and the enlightenment.  

2. The Trump Administration officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital - Isn't it interesting how the world often refuses to acknowledge even the most obvious things?  Especially when it comes to Israel, the most hated little country in the world at the United Nations, we see time and again that Israel is treated to a different set of standards than the rest of the nations of the world.  Why is that? Why does antisemitism rear it's ugly head time and again in human history?  It's a bold move by the Trump administration to officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, something most of us already knew, has now be put in ink and recognized for the world to see. 

3. The Little Sisters of the Poor won at the Supreme Court - A Catholic order was being pressured by Obamacare regulations to provide free birth control, includiing abortifacients (birth control that causes a mini-abortion) against their beliefs.  The Obama administration was legislating against these nuns for years, and finally the Little Sisters won at the Supreme Court and are now free to live according to their faith beliefs.  

4. Weekly Bible Studies at the White House - Something like this hasn't happened in over one hundred years.  Bible Studies at the White House.  So many of us trash the Trump administration and toss around hyperbole and criticism of past remarks made by the man.  But the truth is the Trump administration has been more conservative and more friendly to Christians than Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford to name a few.  The hypocrisy is a bit glaring.  Bible studies in the White House!  I'm not saying everyone in the White House is a saint, far from it, but they're studying the word of God.  That's always a good thing.  

5. The Weinstein Revelation - This ugly event has a strong silver lining, and the silver lining is that women who have victimized, and men for that matter, are now being heard and the people who victimized them are now being called to account for what they've done.  It's ugly, but it's the truth and it's coming out.  That's always a good thing.  

6. Hurricane Harvey Relief and Support - How was this a good thing?  Hurricane Harvey was a tragic disaster that caused harm to many, but it also showed how Americans can come together and help each other.  The response was amazing, and millions in donations and hours of volunteering help came pouring in.  80% of the aid came from Christians.  

7. ISIS is being defeated in the Middle East - hundreds of thousands of Christians in the Middle East have been displaced, persecuted, and murdered amongst the chaos caused by ISIS.  The United Nations refused to even recognize the genocide of Christians in the Middle East.  In addition the American news media didn't cover this genocide, aside from Fox News.  But now we have a new administration that is taking the threat of ISIS seriously, without pushing a "spreading democracy" foreign policy.  That's a very good thing.

8. Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court - A pro-life constitutional conservative was appointed to the Supreme Court.  That's a big deal.  Imagine the nightmare we'd be facing today if Hillary Clinton was elected, and proceeded to nominate a progressive social justice warrior who views the Constitution as a barrier to secular progress.  We'd see the final collapse of religious freedom, and eventually the criminalization of Christianity.  

9. Trump's Battle with the Mainstream Media - I was so tired of the last eight years, of so many in our culture calling Christians bigoted, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, and so on and so forth.  And there was no firm voice willing to contend with this narrative.  And by the end of the eight years of the Obama administration we saw the DOJ pushing transgender bathrooms in public schools.  When would the insanity end?  The news media has enjoyed open game on Christians for the last 20 years, and beyond.  And finally someone is fighting back, and speaking the truth.  We as Christians have often been guilty of being too timid, of being too frightened and afraid of offending anyone, that we fail to speak with a clear voice in regard to truth and falsehood.  There is a time to turn the other cheek, and there is a time to speak up regarding the truth.  It's been refreshing to see someone fight back against the constant lies and false narratives of the news media. 

10. The Supreme Court allowed Trinity Lutheran Learning Center access to public funds to upgrade it's gravel playground - Trinity was initially refused access to public funds to improve their playground simply because they were a religious organization.  The Supreme Court voted 7-2 to reverse that discriminatory ruling against organizations of faith.  This ruling also ensured that religious institutions applying for government aid after the hurricane Harvey incident would be eligible to receive aid.  That's a big deal.  

In conclusion, yes, there were many negatives to 2017, there were many terrorist attacks, wild fires, hurricanes, and sex scandals.  We saw a darker side to the media, to Congress, and Hollywood.  But we also saw hope, as the truth began to come out.  We saw through struggle and tragedy people pulling together to love and support one another in times of need.  Isn't that what life is often like on Earth?  We see trial, tragedy, and the depravity of human nature coming out, but through it all we see God's hand of providence guiding from darkness, toward His light, which is of course, Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.  2017 was a challenge, but also a blessing in disguise.  Let's pray and hope that the same will be true of 2018.  God bless you. 

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Shepherds in the Night

Merry Christmas! I love Christmas. I love this time of year. I don’t necessarily love the snow, though it is beautiful. It’s beautiful for a while at least! God bless you today. Jesus Christ is Lord today, tomorrow and everyday. I need Him now. He reigns over reality and He lives in me. He lives in me, He lives in you, and much more, He reigns over the universe, over all of history, and over reality itself. In fact His presence holds reality together. He is present everywhere.

Christmas is the time when we recall with joy the coming of Jesus into human history. Jesus was born, but the son of God is eternally existent. Before God established time, space, and physical matter, Christ was. And Christ is, and will always be. This is a concept insanely difficult for us as finite beings to understand. To understand infinity would mean setting aside time itself. Yet Christ left timelessness to become finite like us. Why leave aside such glory? Why set aside such majesty? Why come into the world He made?

He'd probably walked in human form before. Angels do it all the time. He exists throughout His universe, without being specifically united to it. Yet He came into the world in the same way we did, as an unborn baby, coming into the womb of his mother, and he was born, on some date, we don’t know what day, it wasn’t necessarily December 25th, though it could’ve been, but in any case, December 25th is the day we recall the fact that Jesus came.

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time being amazed about all of this. It all seems so normal and often repeated that I can’t seem to summon amazement or much wonder. But I’m like that. I’m not easily impressed and I’m often at least a bit pessimistic.

God came in human form? Why is that such a big deal? God can do anything, why does coming in human form mean so much? I’m not sure exactly. It’s mysterious and beautiful. It’s also quite simple. Jesus was born, in Bethlehem, in the middle east, about two thousand years ago. I wish I had video of this event, I’m a visual learner, that’s how I understand things. When I think in my mind’s eye, if you know what I mean, I see visuals. I’m a visual learner and a visual thinker. Audio is secondary, I learn by hearing. Last of my abilities to learn comes in the written form. So it’s really hard to understand this from reading it off a page.

But in Luke we see this event play out in beautiful form, in Luke chapter two you see this event play out. And there are flocks of sheep in these hills. It’s at night, probably very dark. I wonder what kind of night it was? Was it particularly cold? Was there dew settled on the ground? Were the sheep loud that night or were they eerily silent? Was it like one of those nights that make you feel like a blanket of darkness is wrapped around you and you feel oddly safe in the failing light? I bet it was just like that. I bet there was a sense of anticipation in the air, like the moment before a storm, when everything is charged with energy and pressure. Sometimes the anticipation is greater than the release, and you feel exhausted once the storm begins. But I suppose at this event it would’ve been quite different.

Was there a wind blowing through the valley? Or was it totally still? Many were probably caught off guard completely, but I bet there was one or two who felt or knew deep down something special was about to happen. I’ve known people like that, they seem to have a sixth sense for how time and history play themselves out. Yet I’ve also known people who dream about things that are to come. Think of Pontius Pilate’s wife who warned him that she had been having dreams about Jesus and pleaded with Pilate to not harm Jesus. Maybe there was a dreamer there that night. Maybe not.

The glory of God cuts forth into reality that night. And what’s the reaction of the shepherds? Total fear. They are so afraid. That’s the common reaction, fear and trembling at the incredible glory of God. They are shocked. I wonder what it was like. The glory of God is an interesting concept when looked at topically in the scriptures. It’s woven through the books of the Bible like a beautiful mystery. It seems to be the presence of God at least partially unvarnished.

Jesus came not in full glory, but in human form and there was nothing about him physically that distinguished him from other people. So the world didn’t recognize him. They couldn’t understand it. For those who did, they feared it, and they tried to kill him. But for others they celebrated his coming and welcomed it.

So the glory of God is the partial representation of the presence of God. Why add the qualifier “partial?” Because the full presence of God is destructive to humanity, at least in it’s fullest expression in the face of God. It’s so powerful and severe that anyone brought into God’s full presence would be immediately totally annihilated.

So God’s glory breaks into the night. Was it bright? What was it like? I’m not certain. I’ve witnessed parts of God’s glory, I think many of us have, when we hear a beautiful sermon, or during worship, or watching a beautiful sunset, or looking up at the moon at night, or hugging our children or husband or wife, but this expression of God’s glory seems to be a moment where God relays his own beauty to us. He shows us the beauty of who He is in an expression of the unified complexity of his being. We witness his timelessness, we witness his power, we witness his beauty, we witness his creative genius and we realize and feel a fuller expression of his own love for us. That’s what it means to experience the glory of God. Yet to experience the glory of God is to come face to face with God’s holiness, meaning the full just nature of God. It’s the realization of God’s perfection, how perfect he is in every way, how wonderfully just his system is and the perfect justice of his mind and personality. This is both beautiful, and terrifying, because at that moment we both realize the incredible beauty of God’s perfect just nature and we also realize the incredible depths of how low we fall short and how filthy we are in own selfish attitudes and selfish ways of living and our own debased desires that seem to totally rule over us. Oh, it’s so terrible, and when we see that glory of God we realize our accountability, and we realize God’s love for us and we also realize our own utter guilt before Him.

That’s why they were afraid. Shepherds were the lowliest of people, not very well respected in society. They were the taxi drivers of their day, the truck drivers, the bar tenders, and the manure shovelers of their day. By the way there is nothing wrong with those professions. But I’m just saying, it’s not like the glory and presence of God came down to a group of senators having lunch, or in that time, a king or a group of leaders, or a throne room, nope, God’s revelation came to a group of Mcdonalds workers walking home from work. A bunch of nobodies by the world’s standards.

And God came forth to them, and apparently “the angel of the Lord” appeared. This is a hot button right here. Some say the angel of the Lord is actually Jesus. But that wouldn’t make much sense since Jesus was in the womb at that point, about to be born. Speaking of which, good thing there wasn’t a planned parenthood next to the Inn that night aye? Just putting that out there. I’m sure they would’ve found a room for Mary, on tax payer dollars at the PP death center. Moving on. The angel of the Lord has also been speculated to be the arch angel Michael or Gabriel, Gabriel was the angel who spoke to Mary the mother of Jesus I believe. I don’t recall if Gabriel also spoke to Elizabeth, the high priest father, or Joseph. But at this point it’s not a major concern.

The angel of the Lord gives a message to the shepherds: Jesus is coming. Go check it out yourself. They’re given a sign, and told that they’ll find Jesus in a manger.

Then something crazy happens, apparently a heavenly host appears around this single angel and they praise the Lord singing glory to God in the highest heaven and peace to those on whom his favor rests. So glory to God, and peace to his people.

Peace is a rare commodity in this life. And Jesus said we would have trouble. I’ve had much trouble in my life. Though compared to most in the world, I’ve lived a life of luxury. But I don’t think that diminishes the reality of the suffering that all people endure. Whether it’s in abject poverty or in luxury and wealth, misery is the constant companion of humanity. Misery, sin, suffering, and sorrow, we know about those things. But we try to stay positive. We try to overcome every obstacle. We look for the good. We learn to love the small things. Yet we struggle.

Jesus came to bring peace to us, and hope for those in the shackles of sin. Sin is the real problem. We like to call it a “slip up” or a “mistake” or a “an issue we have” or other curt answers. But sin is what it really is. Sin, seated beneath our composed figure, our quick jabs and intellectual answers and scientific examinations, sin is that selfish, plotting designing self interested obsession beneath the surface that attempts to guide all situations to our own favor. It’s the selfie stick. It’s the me me me lifestyle. And Jesus came to set us free from that, so we can be free to put God before self, and to serve others instead of constantly serving ourselves.

That’s what the world needs more of, and it all began with God coming into the world, and calling out to the shepherds, to spread the word, that hope was kindled. Hope is sweet, like nectar. It’s rare in this crusty dark world when every day our soul grows a little colder, a little more dusty, a little more empty, a little more dress, breaking into pieces, until we can hardly stand it. I suppose that’s why just a word from God, just a moment of the realization of his presence with us, is enough to bring us to tears.

God revealed himself and a big chunk of his plan to the shepherds in the wilderness tending their flocks at night. And he reveals himself to us during the Christmas season, if that is, we can slow down long enough to ponder his presence. If we can slow down long enough to take in the Christmas spirit, to smell the Christmas air, to enjoy the Christmas times with friends and family and children and grandchildren. So Merry Christmas, and don’t miss those moments when God speaks to us in the darkness, in the quiet times, when we’re tending our flocks, and God bursts forth onto the scene sometimes in words, sometimes in feelings and stray thoughts that float in to transform our lives.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Delta Force Christians - Be One

We've seen many improvements in modern day Christianity in the past twenty years, but it still seems like overall Christians in our day and age struggle with Bible knowledge, putting theory into practice, and taking effective action against problems of the times. 

Many Christians today in the west live dormant Christian lives.  They are not growing, vibrant, active Christians.  

We want to be more than just luke-warm, run of the mill believers.  We want to be glowing, passionate 100% on fire for Jesus Christians!  That's what I want anyway.  I want the real thing, 100% genuine, and I want to do it.  I want to live it.

It's a stereotype to assume that "most Christians are hypocrites."  Actually I see in my life that most Christians I encounter are really trying their best to live it.  And I see a lot of good being done by people of faith in the world.  A fairly recent example is that 80% of aid to the hurricane Harvey disaster area was from Christian organizations.  

It's often like that.  The money-grubbing prosperity gospel types, and the sex scandal pastors, they are always on the front pages making us shake our heads in dismay.  Meanwhile organizations like the Salvation Army, Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse, and a thousand other organizations are in the backdrop quietly helping people and speaking life into darkness and they never, never, never get any sort of publicity nationally unless there is a sex scandal or some sort of corruption or scandal.  It's not right, but what can you do? 

As a Christian world we have many warriors on the frontlines of this battle between good and evil, and usually the best ones don't ever get recognized in modern news media.  Only the bad ones get the media attention.  But I imagine we'll hear many names we never knew in glory who did more than we ever realized for the cause of Christ.  

Nabeel Qureshi was one, he's dead now, at the age of 34.  Another is Marilyn Hickey the "mother of Pakistan" and another that comes to mind is Amy Orr-Ewing who brought a stack of Bibles to the Taliban.  The vicar of Baghdad Canon Andrew White, and his work with the refugee Christians in Iraq also comes to mind, there are hundreds, and thousands and millions of heroes out there that never get a moments credit or attention from our corrupt, wicked, disgusting, secular news media. They might get 30 seconds on Fox News, or a few minutes on CBN, but not much more than that.  Meanwhile there is genocide against Christians in the middle east, and the media won't talk about that either because it doesn't fit their false narrative of western imperialist oppression.  But that's alright.  Because God sees them.  And they don't want credit.  They don't want glory from the world.  They want glory for God almighty.  And they've given it to him in ample supply.

My message to you today, and to myself as well, is this: Be one of them.

Be a real, powerhouse, strong, mighty, heroic Christian follower of Jesus.  Don't be a sleepy luke-warm Christian, sitting in the pew half asleep, engaging in debauchery during the week, half caught in the world, half in the spirit.  Really live it out.  Really do it!  

There are many kinds of Christians.  There are the civilians. They do very little.  Then there are the foot soldiers of the kingdom.  They do a bit of work here and there, but are poorly trained and easily picked off by the enemy in battle.  

Next there are rangers.  Rangers are veterans of the field, they're tough and they've got the bruises and scars to prove it.  They can fight, and they can survive.  But there is still somethings that they can't do.  They aren't elite.  They don't have the skills necessary, and they haven't gone far enough into their training and wisdom and the truth of the scriptures to be truly heroic, though they do a great deal of good.  

Then there are the Delta Force Christians.  These heroes are legendary.  A squad of 12 demons and their human puppets could go up against them, and they can take them all on single-handedly.  They have true communion with God almighty.  His Spirit goes with them in full force.  They transform communities just by their presence.  They radiate the power of Christ.  

They are ninjas when it comes to spiritual warfare. They're like master chief in battle with the covenant.  Be one of these heroes.  How?  I'm glad you asked.

1. Walk in Step with Jesus - Stay close to Jesus.  The enemy fears Christ.  The power of Christ is unstoppable.  And as long as you are following the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, you're unstoppable.  Your a ninja. If you walk closely with Christ and keep your eyes on Christ, the enemy will shiver.  And you'll be able to fight every battle in His strength and win through the suffering.

2. Believe with Total Certainty - Belief is power.  And the hotter and more glowing and burning is your trusting faith in God, the more power you have.  There is really no limit on this, build it, higher, higher and higher.  You'll be unstoppable.  The Spirit of God will delight in ministering through you, and on you. 

3. Know Spiritual Warfare - a good beginning to study and understand spiritual warfare is by reading C.S. Lewis' book Letters to Wormwood.  It'll help you understand how the enemy targets you and non-believers.  Understand how the enemy will attack you, and understand the power God gives you to counter-strike.

4. Wear the Armor of God daily - Don't overlook the armor of God formula.  Wear the helmet of salvation - be assured of your eternal life in Christ.  Wear the breastplate of righteousness - know that you are washed in the blood of Christ and made pure by Him alone. Put on the belt of truth and understand truth, girded up in truth, and wear the shoes of the readiness of the gospel, always be ready to share about Jesus and let the Spirit lead you to do so.  Lift up the shield of faith against the lies of the enemy that are so deadly, and strike with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Know your Bible, know your word, and walk in step with the Spirit in applying it.  

5. Study Deeply - Discern all things.  Understand and be savvy of culture, of politics, philosophy, worldview, key issues of your day and age, and the underpinning beliefs on the people around you.  Understand what they love and what they fear, know what society is talking about, and understand and perceive how future events will unfold and understand how Christian truth applies to every situation.  This means reading books, watching presentations by leaders, listening to audiobooks, watching documentaries, and studying all things to be understanding of the times.  This step is crucial, and separates the rangers from the delta force.  Rangers fight on emotional and physical levels effectively, delta force fight on spiritual levels, philosophical levels, and understand that what they are fighting is not a person or even an idea, but a struggle between two sides in a spiritual conflict.  

If you do these things, you'll be of great use for the kingdom of God. God is real.  Heaven is real and hell is real.  We're at war and each day is a battle. We're called to knowledge, wisdom, discern, prayer, study, and spiritual warfare.  God works through us.  He calls us to do great deeds in His name.  Now is the time.  Take up your spiritual armor, and take your stand against the enemy.  Speak the truth and don't be afraid. The Lord will be with you.  

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Tension Between Spirit and Sin: The Struggle of Every Christian

I didn't come to Jesus for Jesus.  I came to Jesus, I flew to Jesus, cried out to Jesus, because I believed he could save me.  My motives weren't perfect or pure or righteous. I came because I was desperate, broken, and lost.  We come to Christ in brokenness, with the most shallow motives. Thankfully that's all it takes, honestly coming to Christ in desperate need.  

And I want to live a pure and holy life.  Oh how I want that, each day, I desperately want that.  I want to live a pure and holy life.  I want my thoughts to be pure.  But they aren't.  I want my body to be pure.  But it isn't.  And I want my entire heart's longing to be to do my God's will, to obediently follow his plan for my life.  But that hasn't been my experience either.  At least not to the extent that I desire.  I want it all, now.  

It's good to desire to live a holy life. It's a passion we've lost touch with in modern times.  We're rich in faith, but broke in obedience. We wanna do what we wanna do.  We want to go see the violent serial killer movie.  We want to gossip. We want to complain and coarsely joke. We want to flirt a bit with that coworker, with that friend on Facebook, and our girlfriend or boyfriend, our husband and wife won't even notice.  It's not a huge deal, right?  Just some innocent flirting. But we're called to a different lifestyle than all that.  And it turns out that what begins as "no big deal" soon can become a disaster of life changing proportions. 

It's important to remember the order.  We have been cleansed, changed, made clean, and had our sins abolished and removed completely by one factor: Jesus Christ, and His life, death, and resurrection.  That's all.  Paid in full, by Jesus.  Saved in full by Jesus.  We're new people because of Jesus. I add nothing to that equation but my own sin, brokenness and need.  My part one could say is repentance, but even that requires the presence of God, in Spirit and in truth.  He guides it all. It's all Him in salvation, in saving me, all Him and none of me.  It's a gift you see: A beautiful, precious gift. 

Secondary to that is that we seek to live holy lives, because of what Christ has already done for us.  If we labor because we believe that we will be justified before God because of our good deeds or because of our growth in holiness, we've become pharisees, hypocrites, trying to barter our way into heaven. It's nonsense.  And garbage.  Christ has paid it all.  And our love for God and our amazement at what he's done for us is what spurs us to live a holy and pure lifestyle each day. We're amazed afterward that Jesus has saved us, which motivates us to live in daily growth and relationship with our heavenly Father. 

Beautiful isn't it?  Yes. So we want to live a holy life because he's saved us.  So we want to set aside sin.  We puzzle through sins in our lives and fight against them one by one as the Spirit leads us. Sins, well, they are an interesting thing.  How so you ask? Well, some sins are more acceptable than others.  We all know that it's sinful to use drugs, or drink to get drunk, or smoke cigarettes, or commit adultery against your spouse, or engage in homosexual activity, or  lying, or cheating, or stealing, or any of the other more focused on sins.  We should fight against those sins, and fight hard.  

But what about the less known sins?  What about gossiping?  Maybe we notice when others do it but when we do it, do we except ourselves?  "Well, I'm just venting."  That sort of thing?  Or do we complain and murmur against those in authority over us?  Do we whisper against them?  That's not what God has for us.  That's not honoring to him.  Thankfully, he gives us the power and encouragement to do better.  And we'll love more, and feel better when we do.  It may be tough at first, but once we establish that new lifestyle, and fight for it, we'll see that in time it'll become second nature. 

Another often ignored sin is pride.  It's a prominent American sin, as they say, the celebrity pastor, with the super white teeth, I swear sometimes theres a 'ting' noise in my head when they smile.  And it's all about them.  It's all about pride, how many people I've saved, how many people we've served, how many millions of dollars raised, how many statistics stacked up to show needs met.  And pretty soon, slowly but surely, it's all about the person and God is secondary.  

Or it can be simply pride in work, pride in that job title, pride in what we do each day, or pride in our abilities, or how well we say it.  Think about that.  If everything is going well in life, and it rarely is I admit, but often when things are going so well, for so long, and people are singing our praises, pride that most dangerous of sins is beginning to seep in and take hold.  Oh Lord save us from pride.  Humble us, and crush our pride in your cleansing fire.  

Workaholism is another rather interesting sinful lifestyle.  It's well approved of in American culture.  In fact I've seen people get in little contests over it.  "I put in 13 hours yesterday."  "Oh yeah that's nothing I put in 15 hours the other day."  

Another way of putting it: martyrdom.  Sometimes we can play the martyr.  This is prominent in the Salvation Army my denomination during Christmas.  We assume that we're so important, that we always have to be there, and to just constantly die for the cause out there, putting in long, long hours because God can't do it without us.  What foolishness is that!  Don't get me wrong, there are times when we must serve for long hours, and work hard, but if it's constant, and it's always happening, there is a problem.  We're probably neglecting our wife or husband, our family, our friends, and even the people we serve.  It's madness. But hey, the world can't turn without us right?  

Be aware of the culturally approved of sins.  And fight against them, just as you'd fight against the more obvious sins like pornography, lust, greed, envy, coveting, and the like.  Fight against the hidden sins, as well as the obvious ones.  We should, become of what Christ has done for us.  He wants us to live pure lives.  So let's do it.  

I was reading a book by Charles Spurgeon, and he was indicating the need to love God for God.  And I think that's probably quite true.  But I don't think we necessarily end up in the family that way.  We come because we're lost, we're desperate, we know we need something different, and we come because Christ is the truth.  And it's actually real and true.  I think over time as Christ changes us our motives also change.  More and more we love God for God.  We love to receive love from God and we love to give love back to God.  It's a relational thing that we grow more and more into as God changes us into the likeness of Christ.

What Charles Spurgeon said later that I often come back to is the more we love God and the more we grow like Christ, the more we lament our own sinfulness.  Thats me everyday.  I lament how I fall short.  I lament how God has done so much to change my life and give me a new life and remove all my sins and give me Jesus, and my response is to lust in my mind?  My response is to be selfish and self-interested?  My response is to be crabby and rude to my friends?  We all do these things.  And we all wrestle with the "between state" we're in right now.

We're between worlds, we're between heaven and earth.  We're saved by grace through faith in Christ, yet we still struggle between the sinful nature and the Holy Spirit.  We're citizens of heaven, yet we still live in the broken Earth realm. We are clean, perfect in Christ, yet we sludge through the muck and grime of this life with all it's tantalizing allurements and minefields of stumbling blocks.  

So we find in ourselves so many tensions, tensions between holiness and sinfulness, love and apathy, Christ-like service and cold-hearted self interest, speaking truth and telling lies, feeling the presence of God and feeling utterly alone, preaching an amazing Spirit filled message then cursing out your neighbor on the way home, giving a beautiful gift of grace then judging someone and condemning them to hell.  It's crazy. It's challenging. But we don't have to pretend we're perfect.  It's OK to admit this stuff.  It helps others who struggle when we do.  

Yet we yearn inwardly for something more, we yearn inwardly to be truly as Christ is.  And that's just the gift we'll receive after we die.  The thing which we yearn for, to be truly 100% like Christ, will ultimately be fulfilled completely in the next life when we are gathered to God, to live in His presence forever in the eternal city.  We yearn for that state of eternity, for that expression of true holiness outwardly and inwardly.  And it's a beautiful hope for us.  

We lament our sinfulness because we're growing toward Jesus.  We're being conformed to the image of Christ.  We lament that we can't lament more.  We struggle that we don't struggle.  We want more of God.  We lament that we don't want more of God. We want to want more of God.  That's the tension we face in this life.  We're between worlds, we're becoming more like Christ, yet we still struggle with the sin nature.  We're of heaven, yet on Earth.  We've had our victory over the enemy through Christ Jesus, yet we continue to fight and struggle each day.  Don't be afraid when you face the tension here, the battle here, the struggles here, it's exactly how it's set up and it's what your suppose to be feeling.  Keep pushing forward and know that every Christian is fighting the same battle everyday.  

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Does God Exist? Sex Scandals, Scientific Inquiry, and the Search for True Fulfillment

“Has anyone provided proof of God’s inexistence? Not even close. Has quantum cosmology explained the emergence of the universe or why it is here? Not even close. Have our sciences explained why our universe seems to be fine-tuned to allow for the existence of life? Not even close. Are physicists and biologists willing to believe in anything so long as it is not religious thought? Close enough. Has rationalism and moral thought provided us with an understanding of what is good, what is right, and what is moral? Not close enough. Has secularism in the terrible 20th century been a force for good? Not even close, to being close. Is there a narrow and oppressive orthodoxy in the sciences? Close enough. Does anything in the sciences or their philosophy justify the claim that religious belief is irrational? Not even in the ball park. Is scientific atheism a frivolous exercise in intellectual contempt? Dead on.”
― David Berlinski, The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (By an agnostic scientist)

I was bell ringing yesterday, for the Salvation Army, at the red kettle, and a guy walked past me and said, "Who wrote the Bible?" And then he walked inside. I couldn't help but think of Pontius Pilate when he was talking to Jesus. And Pontius Pilate asked Jesus the question: "What is truth?" An amazing question, asked to Jesus himself. But Pilate didn't wait for the answer, he simply walked away. He didn't really want an answer. I could answer the question, who wrote the Bible, the answer is that God inspired many authors over thousands of years to bring the Bible together, but one must desire an answer.

Some are looking for a real answer.  Others are looking for an excuse to set aside the question.  We want what we want you see.  I'm not excluded from this.  I've fell to temptations and I'm sure I'll fall again.  Thankfully I'm also able to stand afterward.  

We want what we want.  And we don't want a God to get in the way, isn't it true?  I think it's true.  It seems true to me.  After all this world is full of so many temptations and so many pleasurable exercises.  And if a God exists, and this God is concerned with morality, then it follows that we are then morally accountable to this being.  And if we're accountable, then we'd have to act differently, and resist temptations.  But that's difficult, and it goes against our own nature, to indulge in these pleasures.  Thus it's easier to ignore and suppress this sense of God, and turn away from the question and enjoy the sensualities even if they offer only momentary pleasure. 

Naked and afraid? Yes, yes indeed.

We'd rather masturbate in a closet, or pop pills, or slam beers at the seedy pub, or take a new harlot home with us each night.  We're so afraid.  We're so dissatisfied.  I see it on their faces. They've found no lasting pleasure in those places, those twenty-something men, they look angry, lost, and perpetually dissatisfied with the boring affects of lust and evil.  So weary, and so sad. 

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

It brings to mind the recent string of exposed sex scandals in Hollywood, politics and the news media. Let's see here... Harvey Weinstein, Andy Signore, Roy Price (Amazon), Chris Savino (director and writer), Lockhart Steele (Vox), Robert Scoble, John Besh (TV personality), James Toback (director), Terry Richardson, Ken Baker (E! news), Mark Helprin, Kevin Spacey (actor), Kirt Webster, Andy Dick, Jeff Hoover, David Gilad, Ed Westwick, Jeffrey Tambor (actor), Louis CK, Roy Moore, Eddie Berganza, Ben Affleck, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Glenn Thrush (New York Times journalist), Matt Lauer (NBC Reporter), Garrison Keillor, and John Conyers (List source via Steve Deace Show, CR TV). 

Very interesting, don't you think?  Many of these men are very important leaders, in government, in media, and in entertainment.  And then it's discovered what the truth is about the human heart.  The human heart hasn't changed.  The sexual revolution has consequences.  Of course we ought to look to our own conduct first.  Do we at least attempt to live up to the Christian standard?  Or do we live double lives, as many of these men did? 

All of this to ask ourselves: Do we really care if God exists?  If so, then we ought to agree to one standard: We're on a search for the truth.  Both a Christian and an atheist ought to be able to agree on that.  What we want is the real truth, nothing less, nothing more.  We have to go where the truth takes us.  And it was the famous atheist Antony Flew, who eventually realized, based on his own scientific inquiry, that if he is really following the truth wherever it goes, then he had to admit, that atheism was no longer tenable for him.  He realized science itself showed that to believe in God was reasonable.  He didn't become a Christian, but he renounced atheism.  

Let's talk about reality.  As I walking to the van this morning, to drive to St. Charles for church, in the midst of boys town, the LGBTQ neighborhood of Chicago, I stopped in my tracks as a big plump bunny rabbit stood there looking at me.  And I was amazed.  I can't help it, I really can't.  I just can't believe something like a rabbit even exists.  It's always somewhat astonishing to me, when I saw a flight of geese, or a squirrel, or a cat or dog.  These creatures are absolutely insane.  They're insanely complicated anatomically.  Their bodies store insanely complex systems that all work in conjunction to build life and sustain life.  It's madness in a part of my mind still caught in the naturalistic materialist evolutionary view I was indoctrinated into in public school and government funded college education.  Because by all appearances, from this natural worldview, it's just completely impossible for such a complex being to exist and have come together through random chance.  It's just not possible given all we've learned about the complexity of DNA, the systems of the body, and all of the unified complexity that relies on pre-built systems operating in conjunction to sustain itself.  Time and chance destroys, and breaks down systems, it doesn't build complexity.  If I passed a book into your hands, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and I said,"This book evolved from trees and branches and time and chance adjustments over billions of years." You'd look at me flatly and reply, "Your a liar."  Which would be true.  We know a book didn't evolve.  It was written by an author, and published by a printing house.  Why then, when we see a rabbit, or even more so a thinking, feeling, speaking human being, which is a thousand times more complex than the book, came about from random chance, from an explosion from nothing, at the beginning of time, that caused planets to be formed, and life to climb from the pond scum, to think, write books, and build cities.  It's madness.  

The human eye itself, and the feathers of a peacock, caused Darwin to shutter. Because he knew within, that such incredible complexity, with the human eye's ability to focus based on distance, to see and perceive color and light, and words on the page, that the idea that such came about through random chance was absurd in the extreme. 

A day before, while I was bell ringing for my overlords at the Salvation Army, I was at a supermarket next to a small wooded area.  And I watched an owl fly across the area and land on a tree hooting as it flied.  And once again, I was entranced by the beauty and splendor of the natural world.  I felt like God was communicating with me, in His own subtle way, given the importance of the owl to my own spiritual journey. Not a massive profound moment, just a little nod in the back drop. It was an encouraging moment.  But at the same time it was frustrating to me: Why does God communicate so subtly?  Why won't he come out and show himself?  Why won't he speak more directly to me?  These are real issues, and I wrestle with them.  But I had never thought this way before.  I had never really engaged with even the possibility of God!  

But we've been indoctrinated haven't we?  We've been sold a bill of goods, evolutionary biology, materialism, and the American good life.  But what is education anyway?  Perhaps it's more of a fraud than we realize, at least in our day and age.  And not only education, but news, television, internet, and other forms of media.

"Education, the great mumbo-jumbo and fraud of the age, purports to equip us to live and is prescribed as a universal remedy for everything from juvenile delinquency to premature senility. For the most part it only serves to enlarge stupidity, inflate conceit, enhance credulity and put those subjected to it at the mercy of brain-washers with printing presses, radio and TV at their disposal." Malcolm Muggeridge, in the "Observer", 1966

I looked at that rabbit in awe this morning... and another part of my mind, indoctrinated into naturalism, was set free from the chains of the spirit of the age, and flew up with the birds, seeing the obvious and apparent truth: God made the universe, the Earth, the animals, and the human soul.

Six years ago it was hummingbirds, watching their beaks dip into the tulips and flowers cross-pollinating the plants, and numerous walks in the depths of night listening to the most beautiful human composed music and staring in awe at the stars in the night sky, the full moon, and the trees and deer prancing through the night mists... All of these things shook my worldview to the core. And I think of Jupiter the cosmic vacuum that protects the Earth from being pummeled by meteors.  The fact that life could not exist on Earth if it weren't for lightning and earthquakes.  It's so very amazing.  How many millions of balancing equations must we see before we're willing to admit the self-evident truth?  God, an intelligent free agent of incredible power designed this universe, the Earth, the natural systems, the animals, and the human race to live in it and perceive it all.   

If you're still questioning these things, read some books, read the best atheists, read the best Christians, the best scientists, and authors, don't be afraid to go anywhere.  But I think you'll find, if you use your plain reason, that this God is real, has created the universe, and has spoken through history in the words of the Bible.  I'd encourage you to engage in that journey.  View this website, do some Google searches, read some books, and watch some documentaries.  If you want some suggestions for viewing or reading check out the section titled "Must Watch / Books." 

In conclusion, we are complex beings, with complex thoughts and complex bodies that keep us going.  We have so many desires that cause us to want to flee from God and ignore God and shun God.  Why?  Because we want what we want.  But perhaps you'd come to realize that something much greater than these 2-dimensional sexual pleasures and physical pleasures and drug-induced pleasures is waiting for you.  All of these sensual pleasures leave us empty.  We need God.  It's such an annoying little phrase, but it just seems to be true.   I was the last one who wanted to embrace this fact.  But I eventually did.  

And let me tell you something:  I still wrestle with God daily.  I still struggle with complex issues like evil and suffering, and the infinite nature of God, and God in relation to time, and how there can be an infinite God with nothing before it, and what that says about the nature of the universe and the nature of God, and the nature of humanity, and how God reveals himself and why God doesn't just come out and show himself, and all these teachings in the Bible.  I still wrestle with it!  And I struggle with sin, and desiring sexual contact while being a single male in my early thirties.  It's tough!  But I'm a Christian today.  And it's OK to be a Christian and struggle with deep questions and real life struggles.  Some Christians will pretend they are perfect, but it's just not true.  We all struggle.  And I'm OK with admitting that.  So it's OK to wrestle with these issues.  Do it.  Wrestle with God.  Argue with God. Talk to God. Read his word and ask for answers.  Ask for Jesus to reveal himself to you.  Seek him. And ask the big questions. 

Do it.  Just do it.  It's worth it.  It's an incredible journey that opens up into a beautiful glowing underground cavern of mystery and beauty and intrigue and wonder.  It's worth it.  You come.  

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