Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Being A Grown-Up

I had this thought as I opened the dishwasher to begin unloading it.

Children like to pretend that they are grown-ups.  They play house.  But being a grown-up means taking the responsibility and initiative to do the things that need to be done.

Nobody loves unloading the dishwasher or putting out the trash.  But these things need to be done.  Kids might do such things - but usually under pressure from an adult.  Adults see that things need to be done, and they decide to do them because they accept the responsibilities of adulthood.

Adults get up in the morning to get to work and do the things that need to be done.  Adults go to their job everyday, even when it is difficult.  Adults take care of business, focus on their work and care for their children.  They plan meals, do grocery shopping, do the laundry, mop the floor and fix the broken window.  Grown-ups live in their budget and make sacrifices.  Grown-ups clean up their own mess - and often the messes of others. Somewhere between infancy and adulthood we transition from everyone else taking care of us to being responsible to take care of ourselves and others.

To some extent this is a constant struggle against our innate selfishness.  We want to be served rather than to serve.  We want to be entertained rather than to expend mental and physical energy on work.  We want to sleep in.  We want to eat, but we don't want to cook.  If we cook, we don't want to clean up.  If we clean up, we don't want to empty the drainer.

So we sigh.  But because we are grown-ups we go ahead and take responsibility and do what needs to be done.  Maybe we are pretending a little bit ourselves, but we go ahead and empty the dishwasher - eventually.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Legislating Morality

"You can't legislate morality."  I don't know where that saying came from, but it seems to me that it has always been part of my consciousness - and I'm old enough that my consciousness stretches way back to the last ice age.  Well - not quite - but definitely back into the 60's and 70's.

It seems to me that many people that I agree with on conservative social issues have missed the point.  You cannot legislate morality.

I am not opposed to having laws against things that I consider immoral.  The purpose of civil government is to provide order (versus anarchy) and to maintain peace for the citizens.
(Romans 13:3–4) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 
I'm glad that the government sets up the laws by which we all drive on the same side and mostly all follow the same basic rules of the road.  I am glad to see the police cars out on the highway encouraging people to restrain themselves and follow the rules.  Not everyone DOES follow the rules, but many people do - out of fear if for no other reason.

I am also glad that there are laws against murder and promoting self defense.  It doesn't mean that I am absolutely sure I will not be murdered, but at least the police would investigate if I were murdered - and MAYBE that will restrain my potential murderers.

I believe that abortion is the murder of an unborn child.  I am in favor of laws that would protect the lives of those millions of children who would otherwise be murdered by their own mothers.  It wouldn't save the lives of every unborn child - not by a long shot - but it would save many.

So, I am in favor of such laws and I will vote that way - for politicians who could make a difference in the laws and the judges who have so much influence.

But having said that, I will not use the Church as a tool of the political process to influence the vote.  The political process is the political process.  It certainly has an important place.  But the Church is not a political instrument or a political platform.  The problems of our society are moral problems created by selfishness and immorality in people's hearts.  All the laws in the world cannot change the hearts that are at the root of the problems.  The law has temporary and limited effects in people's lives.  It cannot do anything positive - it only punishes those who do not comply.

But the Church is all about changing people's hearts.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is applied by the Spirit of God to bring about "new birth" -  a conversion from death to life - from spiritual darkness to spiritual light.  The Church is about changing enemies of God into the people of God.  The Church is about ordering our hearts according to the truth as revealed by God to His people.

God's work in people's lives - of which the Church is a part - is miraculous and eternal.  It goes way beyond anything that can be accomplished in the arena of politics.

My point is this.  You can't legislate morality.  When you hijack the Church and divert it from it's life changing mission to use it in the political process - THAT is IMMORAL.  If we win the political battles, but fail to do what we have been commissioned to do - to make disciples for Jesus Christ - then we have sinned against Him.

Keep your eye on the ball.  You cannot legislate morality.  The only real solution to immorality is to have people become genuine followers of Jesus Christ - and for the followers of Jesus Christ to be instructed in the truth of His Word.
(Matthew 28:19–20) Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Grace To Shut Up

(Mark 9:5–6) Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”— because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid.
I have great empathy for Peter in this passage.  He did not know what to say, but felt like he needed to say something... and he is ultimately rebuked by God directly from heaven.

It is too easy to say the first thing that comes into my mind and end up communicating things that I did not intend.  So far I've never received an audible rebuke from heaven, but I am sure that many times God has disapproved of my outbursts.
(James 1:19–20) ¶ So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
I should have kept my mouth closed and my ears open.  I should have kept my temper and my pride in check.  I should have rested my confidence in God and held my peace.  I should have thought through the implications of what I was about to say.  I should have been careful about who I was contradicting and where I was contradicting them.  I should have been more careful with what I thought would be humorous - and realized that someone would not think it was funny, or that it was funny at their expense.  I should have had the grace to shut up.

As I have matured, I have slowly learned that I don't need to express everything I think.  I don't need to correct every error I encounter - and especially not where it will embarrass the other person.  Sometimes, if I listen for a little while longer or ask a few questions, I will learn that I was mistaken in the first place about what the person was saying.  Other times, I need to have longsuffering & mercy on people who have the same problem I do.  They talk too much.
(Proverbs 17:28)  Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.
I don't want to be a silent fool.  I want to be a person who is often silent because he is wise.  Lord, give me the grace to shut up.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Crime & Punishment

How can there be justice unless the punishment perfectly fits the crime?

For example, if a thief steals $2.00 we expect a different punishment than if he steals $20,000.00.  If someone accidentally drops a gun and it shoots a person, that is different than if he deliberately shot the person from ambush.

But how can justice be served in any of these cases?  To have a thief pay back the money is not justice because there is no punishment.  But how much punishment is appropriate?  The Old Testament standard a required 20% penalty in addition to the restitution.  To cut off the hand of a thief (as is done in some cultures) seems overly severe.  The Old Testament "eye for an eye" standard set a LIMIT on punishment so that the punishment would fit the crime.

Most people would agree that the punishment SHOULD fit the crime, but how can we agree on what that means in any given circumstance?  The requirements of the law might satisfy a majority of the people, but there will be some who think the punishment is too harsh and some who think the punishment is too lenient. 

Beyond that, the application of "justice" is not necessarily even.  One murdering rapist gets off on a technicality while another gets the death penalty.  There is plenty of evidence that the skin color or the educational attainment or the socioeconomic standing of the person will affect the outcome of the trial and the punishment imposed by the court.

What of limits on "cruel and unusual" punishment?  If someone kidnaps, abuses, tortures and kills a child, how could society begin to mete out real justice?  If he was sentenced to death in the USA he would still have 30 years or so to live in prison before his appeals ran out.  Then, if he is put to death, it must be painless.  Is this justice?  Some would say he should be tortured to death, but then how are we not stooping to the same level of brutal barbarism as the criminal?

How can there be real justice?  It is a cinch that real justice - absolute justice - cannot be achieved in our societies.  Only some criminals are caught.  Of these only some are convicted.  Of these different ones will get different sentences.  In every case the court imposed punishment will be imperfect and limited.

But there is God and He is just!

While our understanding and power are limited, God is infinite, all powerful and eternal.  We can only catch some - but God will catch all.  Our courts are flawed, but God's judgment is perfect.  We can only deal with people in this life, but God can deal with them for eternity.

But consider the rest of the story.  While we are concerned with justice for crimes against other people,  God is also concerned with justice for crimes against Himself.  Our crimes against humans are one aspect of that, but the deeper issue is our responsibility to recognize, submit to and obey the one who created humans.  Since God is infinitely good, our rebellion against Him is even more offensive than the most heinous crime of humans against other humans.
(Revelation 20:12–15) And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

God's justice is perfect, and we all deserve the ultimate sentence.  But praise God that He provided a way of answering the demands of justice against our sin while granting mercy and grace to those who call on Him in faith.
(2 Corinthians 5:21) For He made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
 (1 Peter 2:24) who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 

In the work of Jesus Christ we have both justice and mercy.  He paid the just punishment for the sins of everyone who will call on Him for salvation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Obscurity Endures!

The Frank & Earnest comic from 9/14 shows them sitting on a park bench with a dazed look on their faces.  Frank is speaking.  "Fame is fleeting... but obscurity just drags on and on."

Ha, ha, ha!  That is exactly right!  I will print that out and post it on my study wall.

I am sure that I am not the only person in the world who was ever bothered by his obscurity.  Human pride shouts, "Look at ME!"  I am special!  I am talented!  I am strong!  I am smart!  I am special!  We spend our time jumping up and down and shouting (one way or another) hoping that people will notice us and we will rise from obscurity to fame.

Is there any evidence?

What about blogging?  Here I am blogging!  Why am I blogging?  Well, I have some ideas to share - things I think could be helpful to thinking people.  Do I care at all if anyone reads my blog?  You know I do - and so do ALL bloggers and tweeters and facebook posters.

Nobody wants to be obscure!  We want millions of followers!  We want fame and fortune.  We want our own reality show!  We want to win "America's Got Talent!"

We had better get over it!
(James 4:6) ¶ But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”
Fame and obscurity are relative terms.  If you are consumed with a desire for fame, you will never be satisfied, no matter how famous or infamous you become.  (Consider the incredible, self-destructive, made for the tabloids lives of many famous people.  Too much is never enough!)

You may feel you are obscure - but you are the most important person in someone's life.  Everyone has a sphere of influence in which they affect people's lives.  A kind word or a smile from you can make someone's day.  Your service to the people you know might be the best thing that happens to them this week.  You are famous in their lives.  You are a blessing to them.

No, you are not likely to be a household name around the world.  (Be thankful!  Who wants that kind of responsibility?)  I am convinced that 75% of the two dozen hits on my blog each day are just computer robots!  (That explains why they never leave comments.  Sad - just two dozen hits and most are not even real people!)

Oh, well.  I hope that what I have written is an encouragement to those of you who are real people!  That is the secret - do your best to be helpful to the people in your circle of influence.  Don't worry about the fame that this world has to offer.  As Frank says, "Fame is fleeting..."

But God knows who you are.
(2 Timothy 2:19) Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Running The Race

(Hebrews 12:1) Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
It seems simple. The Christian's life is like a race.

But it is not so simple.  It is an endurance race that lasts our lifetime.  It is, by its nature, difficult.  Every step requires effort.  Every moment we decide again to stay the course.  Every day reveals new challenges of rough terrain, narrow paths, confusing options and the temptation to give up.

But we have encouragement from the Lord.  There is a "cloud of witnesses" who have lived by faith through difficult times and whose testimonies are found in Scripture.  They speak with a united voice to say, "The Lord is faithful and sufficient."

Our perfect example is Jesus our Savior.
(Hebrews 12:2–3) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 ¶ For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 
Jesus never slipped, never faltered and never despaired.  He never wavered, but always obeyed the Father.  By His obedience Jesus faced down our greatest obstacles - sin and death - so that we don't have too.

Lay aside every weight. 

The Lord says, "lay aside every weight."  We need to examine each thing we pick up and see if it is part of the race - or just extra weight.  It is so easy to accumulate things that hinder us in our race - physical stuff, entertainment, people, politics, hobbies, interests, fears, pride, loves, jobs, obsessions, hatreds, resentments, grudges, self-pity, ambition, lies, superstitions - the list is endless. 

When we allow these things to bog us down we are like a distracted driver - talking on the phone, texting, drinking coffee and applying make-up while traveling 70 miles per hour just ten feet from the car in front of us.  We are a disaster just waiting to happen.  There will be a sudden turn, a flash of brake lights, and we will be off the road!

Hang up and drive.  Lay aside every weight.  Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Run with endurance - for the glory of God.
(Colossians 3:17) And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Notes On 9/11

Today is the ninth  anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the USA.  I remember the call from my daughter telling me that a plane had hit the first tower and my naive thoughts about what must be wrong with the air traffic control system to allow such an accident.

The events of that day were certainly horrible by every measure.

My heart still goes out to those who so suddenly lost people dear to them.

Death is a certainty - but we expect it to come after some warning.  We expect aging and illness to announce the approach of death.  We expect there to be time to say good-bye and, "I love you."  I am sorry for those whose lives were so rudely interrupted by the wicked machinations of evil people.

Lessons Learned:
  1. Remember to cherish your loved ones.
  2. Tell people how much you love them.
  3. Don't take a single day for granted.
  4. Make sure you are ready to face eternity.
  5. Note the stark difference between religions that require people to establish their own righteousness and biblical Christianity, which offers God's righteousness to men through the work of Christ, by God's grace, received by faith.

Friday, September 10, 2010

BAPTISTS: Elder Rule or Congregational Government?

I was with a group of Baptist pastors recently where the question of "elder rule" came up.  Elder rule means that the pastor or pastors make the decisions in the church.  Elder rule is the opposite of congregational rule.  The question that was raised was whether or not this was true to Baptist church polity.

Nobody argued that most Baptist churches in North America have traditionally held to congregational rule.  On the other hand, everyone in this group knew that over the past 50 years many Baptists in North America have moved away from congregational polity and toward elder rule.  This evolution was not generally a matter of doctrinal conviction, but of pragmatic efficiencies.  It is easier to run a church when you don't have to get the whole church together to make decisions.

Some pastors said that while congregational rule is the norm in North America, Baptists in other countries and on other continents have other forms of church governance.  Someone suggested that church government probably reflects the civil government.  (I tend to doubt that.  Think about it - dictatorial governments, monarchies, etc.)

Someone pointed out that even Baptists in North America don't include congregational church government in the "B-A-P-T-I-S-T" acrostic that they use to teach the distinctive teachings of Baptists. (i.e., Biblical authority, Autonomy of the local church, Priesthood of all believers, Two ordinances - believer's baptism & the Lord's supper, Individual soul liberty, Separation of church and state, Two Offices - Pastor & Deacon.) 

Someone else said that congregational rule was much less important to Baptists than local church autonomy.  I think he was suggesting that autonomous churches allow other autonomous churches to tune their polity to suit themselves.  True enough.

It is absolutely true that individual autonomous churches will vary in their polity as laid out in their constitution and by-laws.  Constitutions and by-laws are not divinely inspired.  They are there to make sure we do things decently and in order.  Different churches will be slightly different.

It is impossible for churches to be completely congregational.  For an extreme example, a pastor is granted authority to preach and teach and counsel as he sees fit.  He doesn't need to have a vote of the church on every decision he makes.  Similarly, pastor's and deacons and other church leaders are granted some degree of authority for taking care of the business of the church.  Usually they can spend a limited amount of money for the church and make certain business decisions for the church without consulting the congregation.

The degree of delegated authority will vary greatly from church to church.  I have no problem with that.  But I have a big problem - a theological problem - with moving completely to full fledged ELDER RULE.

My concerns are centered under the "P" in the BAPTIST acrostic - the Priesthood of all believers.  We believe that all believers are on equal footing in Christ.  All believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit.  All believers have access to the word of God and the illumination of the Spirit of God.  All believers have access to God in prayer.  All believers have the same Mediator - Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:9)But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
(Colossians 3:11) where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
(Galatians 3:28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 12:1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. (Note: "reasonable service of religious ministry.")
(1 Timothy 2:5) For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
The point is that there is no Christian leadership class that is somehow more spiritual or has better access to God than another class of believers.  Some believers are less mature.  Some believers are disobedient.  But all believers are on the same ground - disciples of Jesus Christ.  Congregational church government is an expression of this truth.

I have no problem with a Baptist church having multiple pastors, calling the multiple pastors "elders," or delegating various authority to the elders & deacons to achieve some pragmatic efficiencies in ministry - AS LONG AS THEY DON'T FORGET THAT THE CONGREGATION OWNS THE AUTHORITY DELEGATED TO THEM.

But when pastors and deacons and church boards operate as if they were self perpetuating leaders with a divine right to rule they are neglecting some important aspects of doctrine that Baptists have traditionally held dear.  Beyond that, they are in jeopardy of falling afoul of the caution given by Peter.
(1 Peter 5:2–3) Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  NOR AS BEING LORDS OVER THOSE ENTRUSTED TO YOU, but being examples to the flock;

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wolf Warnings

(Acts 20:28–29) Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  
I like "shepherding the church" by leading the flock in the systematic study of the Bible.  But a shepherd also has to keep an eye out for wolves.

Now wolves don't usually come right up to the shepherd and reveal themselves as wolves, so you need to watch the sheep.  If there is a wolf at the edge of the flock, the sheep are unsettled.  The wolves are lurking there, upsetting and harassing the sheep with bad doctrine.

It helps when some of the sheep send the shepherd an e-mail or a text or they call on the phone with the questions raised by the wolf.  And that is exactly what has happened.  There are wolves bothering my flock!  It is time for me to take up "the rod" (a shepherd's club) and protect my flock.  It is time to go to the Scriptures with the specific purpose of attacking a false doctrine and teaching the truth in its place.  My goal is to strengthen the sheep with the truth and give them some clubs to use in beating back the wolves.
(Acts 20:30) Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Burning The Koran

"Dove World Outreach Center" doesn't sound like the name of a hate group, but it evidently is.  They have announced that September 11, 2010 is "Burn A Koran Day."  They plan to do just that.
  • Despite the fact that it will likely inflame passions around the world.
  • Despite the fact that it will likely endanger American Troops (and others)
  • Despite the fact that they can't get a permit from the fire department
I suppose that if burning a Koran was vitally important to their mission of "world outreach" they could justify breaking the law and costing some people their lives.  But it is hard for me to see what kind of outreach they hope to accomplish.  Is their message really, "We hate you?"  What kind of outreach is that?

I think that instead of spending time burning Korans the folks at the "Dove World Outreach Center" should spend some time reading their Bibles.  In particular they should read the following passages.
(Matthew 5:43–48) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
(Romans 12:18–21) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Stephen Hawking Says...

Reuters - September 3, 2010
In "The Grand Design," co-authored with U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking says a new series of theories made a creator of the universe redundant, according to the Times newspaper which published extracts on Thursday.
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," Hawking writes.
Stephen Hawking is a famous theoretical physicist and atheist - though saying so is redundant since his theories have always been in pursuit of explaining away the Designer while examining the intricacies of a universe so obviously designed.  Is it interesting to you that his new book is entitled, "The Grand Design?"

But the quote above shows one of the major flaws of Hawking's reasoning.  "Because there is a law such as gravity..." ignores the question of where that law of gravity originated.  Gravity has no reality apart from a physical universe.  If there was a law of gravity - but no physical universe to be affected by gravity - there would be nothing for gravity to act upon.  Not even Stephen Hawking can make that scenario go bang.  So the question, Dr. Hawking, is not just how did things come to be organized as they are organized, but where did all this stuff come from to start?

God doesn't claim to have made the things that we find in the universe out of things that already existed.  God claims to have made EVERYTHING that exists - and the laws that govern those things.

Stephen Hawking can say anything he wants to say.  He can say there is no "need" for God.  He can say matter organizes itself into complex systems.  (Though how he explains away the second law of thermodynamics is a mystery.)  He can say that life simply springs into existence from non-life.  (Though this has never been observed and, in fact, nobody has ever been able to create life out of non-living things even on purpose.)  He can say whatever he wants - and people who don't want to reckon with God can take comfort in his pronouncements.

But God says,
(Genesis 1:1)  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
(2 Peter 3:3–7) knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts,
4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water,
6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.
7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.


(Hebrews 1:1–3) God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 
Sometimes people excuse their unbelief because of the bad behavior of people who are supposedly Christians.  They say, "The church is full of hypocrites."

And to some extent they are right.  The church is full of people whose aspirations to holiness far exceed their performance.  Christians are not perfect people and some people who claim to be Christians are not genuinely converted.  Hopefully, imperfect Christians have humble hearts and a genuine love for Christ.  In that case they admit their imperfections and continue to strive to do better.  Unfortunately, some are proud and self-righteous so they continue in brazen bad behavior.  They give Christianity a bad name.

But in the end, the unbeliever's excuse is just an excuse.

The truth of Christianity doesn't depend on any Christian's perfections.  Christianity depends entirely on the perfections of Jesus Christ and the truth of His claims to be God and Savior.
  • He is God & The one who reveals God perfectly to men.
  • He lived a sinless life of perfect obedience to God's commands and moral standards.
  • He died as a sinless substitute to take upon Himself the wrath of God against my sin.
  • He rose again from the dead to demonstrate His victory over death and hell.
  • He offers forgiveness of sins and His own righteousness to everyone who trusts Him.
  • He is coming again to bring everything to its final consummation.

Even if I could not point to a single Christian whose life had been transformed by Jesus Christ (though I can,) it would not matter.  The point is not the pragmatic offer of a change in your life (though that is real.)  The point is that Jesus is exactly Who He claimed to be and following Him is worth it, even if you have to follow Him alone.
(John 14:6) ¶ Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Eagle In My Backyard

A few days ago I was startled to look up and see an eagle about 30 yards away from me. Eagles are massive compared to vultures and my first thought was it must be a great gray heron - they have a wide wingspan too.

But it was an eagle. I grabbed my binoculars and watched as it rode the updrafts in lazy circles. Eagle wings, eagle head, eagle tail - an eagle. Right in my back yard! Lola and I took turns with the binoculars until the eagle disappeared at great altitude somewhere in the direction of the Akron-Canton Airport.

Wow! I've lived in places where eagles were common, but I didn't expect to see one in suburban Canton!

It is hard to miss an eagle up close, but I am sure I would not have noticed this eagle if it had flown over at ten thousand feet. His sudden appearance in my back yard was unmistakeable and undeniable - there are eagles around us.

I think this is true of Christ as well. We know His promise "I am with you always," and "I will never leave you or forsake you," and "where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." But we sometimes (often) don't perceive His presence because we don't expect to find Him here with us.

We miss the "Wow!" We don't grab the binoculars. We don't celebrate.

But when people demonstrate the work of God in their heart through the fruit of the Spirit of God - Jesus is there. When people are converted from unbelief to faith in God - Jesus is there. When believers enjoy sweet fellowship in worship together instead of worldly competition and suspicion - Jesus is there.

Keep your eyes open and be encouraged. Jesus is among us!