Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The danger comes when we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that since we've adopted many customs and traditions of our culture and childhood that are good and healthy, everything our culture does is good and worth repeating. This is seen perhaps nowhere clearer than in the celebration of holidays. Some of your fondest memories may include shouting "Happy New Year" at midnight, receiving a heart shaped box of chocolates, hunting for eggs after a sunrise church service, watching fireworks, dressing up in costumes and making yourself sick on your collected candy, sitting around a large table eating turkey with your cousins, or tearing the brightly colored paper off your presents around a gaily decorated tree. And because there are such precious memories associated with the sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and feelings of those holidays we are lulled into thinking that they are all inherently good, after all surely something that feels so right can't be wrong... Or can it? The very word "holidays" points us to the fact that most of these were initially intrinsically religious, and even those that weren't at their inception take on moral value when they are celebrated by a follower of Jesus Christ who is to do everything to the glory of God. If we really do claim to desire to bring every thought and action under submission to the Word of God and the lordship of Jesus Christ, then willful ignorance is no excuse either. Can we disconnect Valentine's Day from it predecessor Lupercalia, the pre-Roman celebration of fertility from Feb. 13-15 to commemorate the she-wolf Lupa suckling Romulus and Remus and worship the Greek god Pan, which was celebrated by shepherds running nude through the streets? Can we redeem objects like the Easter Bunny and colored eggs and return them to their original symbolism of life after death and birth from virginity, or should we discard them as being wholly corrupted by commercialism? Is the "harmless fun" of dressing up in costumes and eating candy a sufficient reason to engage and partake of a holiday that has come to represent witchcraft, ghouls, vampires, zombies, and generally every creature that has been historically viewed as coming from hell? Can a christian celebrate Christmas and justify partaking of a Mass or the sacrificing of the Son of God afresh? To say nothing of the ancient pagan festivals held on Dec. 25 worshiping the "sun god", from which Christmas evolved (Jesus wasn't born anywhere close to Dec. 25)!
While I have an opinion and conviction about every one of these issues - which we should embrace, which to redeem and which to reject - the purpose of this article is not to tell you what to believe but to challenge you to think! To stop doing things just because that's the way you've always done it, or that's what everyone else does, and decide whether what you're doing is consistent with scripture and your obedience to it. With Halloween just a day away, now is a good time to ask ourselves what we are doing and why! I can handle it if you've studied the scriptures and have come up with a conclusion that is different than mine, what drives me crazy is people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and yet have never even stopped to think about how they bring glory to God through every activity they partake in, even the holidays that bring the warm fuzzies.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth:" -I Cor. 13:4-8
This is less a command on how we ought to love and more a simple statement on what love is when it is pure. It suffers long and is kind, not because it has been told that is what it is to do or because the gain is greater than the pain, but because love makes pleasurable what others would see as suffering. The old man who has loved the same woman for more than half a century finds not suffering, but joy in being able to be her support and help when she reaches a point where she can no longer care for herself. The parent who has a handicapped child, finds not sorrow in caring for that child, but a joy in love. Selfishness (or self-love) finds that the dependency of another breeds bitterness, real charity (or an active love for someone outside yourself) finds that it nurtures love.
It envies not, because when you love someone your own happiness hinges more on seeing them happy than it does any good that could be done to you or material things that could be given to you. Envy is the perfect antithesis to love, the more good the object of the love receives, the happier the lover is.
Similarly, pride runs contrary to charity because a heart fixated on another has no time or room left for "looking out for number one". Many times professed love for another is nothing more than another facet of self-love, this becomes evident when one party becomes incensed because they are not receiving for themselves the good they imagined would result from their "love". Unadulterated love seeks not her own but always what is best for the beloved.
Is not easily provoked for love covers a multitude of sins. Love is the master emotion in that it tames, tempers, and directs all others. It is a strange truth that an action that can irritate you when coming from anyone else, can cause you to laugh and look back in nostalgia when done by the beloved. In this way the emotions of anger, pride, and envy are displaced by love.
It thinks no evil and while this has been termed by some to be "looking through rose colored glasses" or "being in the honeymoon phase" the scripture considers it a laudable attribute of love. That everything about the beloved would be filtered through the mindset that would interpret the best intentions every time is a reality that we know from experience, and of all the aspects mentioned here this is perhaps the one I most want to facilitate in all my relationships. To always think the best of someone until proven otherwise, is a valuable trait.
Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in truth. While the world is happy to embrace most of these descriptions as they cling to their own definition of love and place it on a pedestal above everything else, this clause here is rejected by them for they often place their god of "love" above law and truth. True love however, does not rejoice in iniquity. Therefore, any perversion or disobedience that one would attempt to justify in the name of love, is not! Those who would cover their wounds of adultery or fornication with the balm of love will find that it is a cleansing agent that stings not one that numbs. The homosexuals that would take it to be their lawyer will find that it is their judge! While love may be the master emotion, it is not the master of ethics, it too finds its very being in obedience to the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Not through naivety, but because it is love and therefore finds it a privilege to bear extra, that the beloved may bear less. It believes things are different this time; though it has not forgotten the offences previously committed, it is willing to risk further injury if the reward is a relationship with the object of its affection. Hopes always for the best, never losing hope or throwing in the towel regardless of the merits or history of the individual, for the hope is grounded in love. Love endures all things, the situations and circumstances surrounding you are peripheral and can be endured and that easily if only all is well between the two of you. And so the marriage vows promise "For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health".
Charity never fails. Of all the descriptors this one informs me that this kind of charity is divinely given, for everything that originates from man is destined to eventually fail, love on the other hand has its author and highest form in heaven and has been given to men as the primary check to evil ultimately winning in this world.
"There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell." -C. S. Lewis
Thursday, August 2, 2012
I read a blog post this past weekend that attempted to establish the premise that everyone in the Aurora, CO theater was a coward because no one charged the gunman and tried to take him down. I found the opinion piece extremely disturbing, not only because of the level of heartlessness it would take to attempt to blame the victims for the crime, but because of the blatant disregard for the facts of what happened there. For starters, he completely ignored every story of the men who died shielding their girlfriends from the spray of bullets. In his haste to defend his presupposed premise of cowardice he completely overlooked the obvious acts of courage and bravery.
He compared this event to the passengers aboard United Airlines 93 who overwhelmed the terrorists and courageously crashed it into the Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001. There are a few problems with that comparison though. First, the passengers that day had already been made aware that the terrorists were turning the planes into missiles and therefore their own best chance for survival was to retake the plane. Second, the terrorists on that plane were not armed to the teeth with assault shotguns, semi-automatic AR-15s, handguns and body armor. Third, they had time to consult with one another and come up with a synchronized plan. On the other hand, the theater goers on the night of July 20th were taken by surprise by a man whom they initially thought was part of the movie, then hit with smoke grenades, and by the time they knew what was going on the entire thing was over, from the time he walked through the exit door to the time the shooting stopped was under five minutes. Just a few minutes of utter pandemonium and chaos! The two events were so dissimilar in their basic elements that to attempt to compare the two is a disservice to the heroes from both attacks.
Lastly, my disagreement with his point hinges on his assumption that courage must take an offensive strategy. Thomas Aquinas on the other hand said, "The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack them". In my opinion, it would have been easier in a moment of panic to charge the gunman and leave my loved ones to fend for themselves, than it would have been to stay hunched over them as I heard the killer and his shots moving ever closer to my aisle. But "easier" rarely equals "right" or "brave" and in this situation I side with Mr. Aquinas, I salute the incredible courage shown by those who chose to withstand the danger of being shot while protecting their girlfriends over the option of madly attacking the villain.
This author attempted to form the premise that bravery always attacks the danger, but I think the flaw in that assertion should be obvious, the only person in that theater that was a real coward, was the one doing the attacking!
Friday, July 27, 2012
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Sunday, February 5, 2012
The Ten Commandments are almost universally held by modern evangelicalism as the basis for morality and the groundwork on which our system of obedience to God is built. Certainly, we understand that Jesus expanded the understanding of them from strictly physical to obedience from the heart, but in essence that only serves to strengthen their purpose not undermine it. The teaching by Jesus that anger against your brother without cause is a sin (based on the command not to murder) presupposes that the physical act of murder is, without question, a sin. It surprises me then, how little dialogue there is about the fourth commandment in modern evangelicalism and is thought (or at least practiced) by most to be the only one of the Ten Commandments to be non-binding for today’s followers of the one true God. My attempt here is to call back our attention to this commandment that is directly referred to and taught on from Genesis through (at least) Hebrews, and not our attention only but our obedience. I will attempt to do this by outlining five points, first, at creation we see The Principle Established, in the law we see The Command Solidified, in the prophets we have The Idea Expanded, in the gospels we have Its Existence Reiterated, and in the epistles we’re shown The Day Exposed.
I. The principle established.
The first reference we have to the seventh day being set apart from the others as different and distinct by God is found in the second chapter of the bible.
Gen 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
Gen 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Here’s the curious thing about this being the one command generally set aside in our culture today as being an extinct part of the mosaic law; it’s the one command that has it’s root in the beginning of the world when everything was still perfect and untainted by sin. All other nine commands were only necessary because of sin. In a perfect world there was no command given about having no other gods before Jehovah, making graven images, taking God’s name in vain, honoring parents, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, or not coveting, and yet there was a principle laid down that the seventh day was blessed and sanctified as separate from the others. So the argument that keeping a seventh day holy was abolished along with the Jewish feasts and holy days is debunked from the beginning of the bible. This was a creation mandate, and notice that it, like everything else already created, was altogether good and for the benefit of mankind.
II. The command solidified.
Exo 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
Exo 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
Exo 20:11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Listed among the Ten Commandments, the moral obligations for God’s people, on the first tablet - those laws dealing with our responsibility toward God – is included this command to keep one day out of seven holy unto the Lord. However, it is here that God tells his people what is meant by the day being blessed and sanctified, it was to be a good thing and a help to them. It was to be a day in which they could put aside the affects of the curse, the difficulty and sweat of their work, and spend one day a week, like Adam and Eve in the beginning, focused solely on worshipping God and fellowshipping with him with their fellows. Lost men look at this command with their twisted priorities and natural distaste for everything pertaining to God and see a day of lost profit, a day of boredom and a waste of time. But for a child of God this command is gracious and helpful, one day every week to put aside those things that are our duties, work to provide for our families, and indulge in those things that are our pleasures, time spent with our friends and families worshipping God and learning more of him. The fact that this was even a necessary command speaks to the depravity of man’s heart, for he either he is lazy wants to shirk from his duty to work six days or else he is greedy and wants to spend every day pursuing his own gain without any regard for relationship with his Creator.
III. The Idea Expanded.
Here’s the amazing thing about the depravity of man, every command that God gives us we try to find to a loophole to exploit, and everything he gives us for our own good we find a way to twist to our own detriment. God established and subsequently solidified one day which was to be separate from the other six days for man to put aside his work, rest and worship God. Israel then took that command and said, “All he said is that we can’t work on that day, he didn’t say we can’t play” and so traditions and practices were installed which allowed for the Israelites to technically keep the letter of the law (not the part about keeping it holy, but satisfactorily in their minds by not doing any of their weekday work) and yet waste the opportunity to fulfill the spirit of the command by squandering the day away with their own pleasures and pursuits instead of using it as a day of rest, worship and devotion to God. This led the prophet Isaiah to decry their practices and spell out what was expected of them each sabbath.
Isa 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Isa 58:14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Isaiah’s explanation of the sabbath was that the Israelites were to not only forsake their work on that day but also forsake their recreational activities, whether it be travel (foot), activities (ways), or conversation (speak). Again, to a mind at enmity with God, this seems extremely restrictive, as though God is trying to force on us a day in which we are not allowed to do anything joyous, but that the day should be spent afflicting ourselves. But the idea of not doing our pleasure on God’s holy day does not exclude us from doing HIS pleasure on his holy day, and those things that God finds pleasure in ought to be a joy to us as well.
How many Christians do you know – you’ve probably said it yourself - who have said, “I would love to spend much more time than I do in my personal devotions, but there are only so many hours in the day” or “I’d love to socialize and visit more often, to get to know some more people in the church, but I’m always so busy” or “If I just had some more time I’d get to some of those good christian books I’ve been wanting to read for some time now” and yet they use Sunday afternoons as their time to wash the car, cut the grass, or go grocery shopping. Or else they spend that time watching football, reading the funnies and napping. God has given us an entire day to follow those pursuits that we claim we’d like to do as good followers of Jesus Christ if we just had the time, yet our actions betray our words and the truth comes out that no matter how much time we have we will give little more than what is squeezed out of us to something other than our self-centered desires.
IV. Its existence reiterated.
The argument is often made that 1. If obeying the sabbath were important in the gospel age why is the New Testament silent on reiterating its importance, and/or 2. Jesus came and fulfilled the law, putting an end to its ceremonial aspects. Ignoring for a moment the fact that sabbath day is one of the creation mandates, of which Jesus abolished none (marriage, work, dominion, etc…) let us consider whether Jesus actually spoke on the command to keep the sabbath day holy and if so what he said about it.
Mat 22:35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
Mat 22:36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:3 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Not only did Jesus mention the fourth commandment, he included it as part of the greatest commandment given to men! When asked by this lawyer what was the greatest commandment given in the law, Jesus replied in essence that it was the first table, on which man is told how his love toward God ought to be expressed and that the next most important was a close second and that was the second table by which we are told how to show love to our fellow man. Jesus could have taken this time to say, “Well I’ll tell you what the least important command is, it’s that outdated notion of keeping one day holy, you ought to spend every minute in holy obedience to God therefore nullifying the necessity of one day.” But instead he did the exact opposite, he said it is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and every Jew listening knew what he was intimating; have no other gods before Jehovah, make no graven images to worship, don’t take his name in vain, and keep his day holy!
V. The Day Exposed
A frequent question raised by many on this issue is, “If this sabbath observance still exists for us, why have we changed it from the seventh day to the first?” That answer is found in Hebrews.
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Heb 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
The King James Version of the English bible unfortunately obscures the meaning of this text thus we have long missed its importance in the discussion of keeping the sabbath in the gospel age and on which day it is to be kept. The word translated as “rest” in Heb. 3:11, 18, 4:1, 3, 5, 8, 10, 11 are all translated from the Greek word katapausis which is defined as “repose, cessation from labor, rest”. However, the word translated in as “rest” in verse 9 is a completely different word; it is the Greek word sabbatismos which is literally “a sabbatism, a sabbath day”. With that understanding then, look at how that verse reads, There remaineth therefore a sabbath/day of rest for the people of God. He then proceeds to tell us when that sabbath or day of rest is, as the sabbath in the Old Testament was predicated on God the Father finishing his work of creation, so our day of rest under the New Testament is kept on that day in which God the Son finished his work of creating a new creature in salvation; i.e. The first day of the week, Sunday.
In conclusion I hope you see as I have that this is not a ceremonial law, it was established from the beginning, solidified as a moral law, exposited by Isaiah, reaffirmed by Jesus and explained by Paul why it has moved from Saturday to Sunday. It is as binding on us as it was on Adam and Eve, Moses, Isaiah, and the lawyer who was a Pharisee, and it is for our benefit and help just as it always has been. It is a frightful sign that so many who claim to love God, fight tooth and nail not to keep this command, let us not be named among that number.