Tuesday, October 25, 2011

On What Authority?

"On what authority?" It is a very powerful question that cuts straight to the heart of most of the values issues relating to us today. If a person says that something is OK (or not OK), it is the simple question that cuts through everything else and gets straight to the heart of the matter. For me, on the issues the Bible addresses, the answer to the question is clear, "Because God says so in His written Word." But, for someone who rejects the Bible as God's written Word and as inerrant, we must simply ask them what makes the things right they say are right, or wrong that they say are wrong . . . "On what authority?"

When I was at West Point I was not a Christian, and I concentrated in philosophy. I remember thinking, for a season, that I was a moral relativist after hearing about that line of thought. I found myself saying, "Why not? What is right for some is right for them, and what is right for others is right for them." An officer there, who I many years later found to be a Christian, talked to me in private and told me that if he truly thought I was a moral relativist he'd do his best to have me removed from the academy. He said it was a very dangerous position to hold, especially for people who will be in positions of influence. I was stunned. I was rocked to my core. To me it was as simple issue of debating philosophy and playing with different belief systems, and he saw it as deeply serious.

Today, I couldn't agree with him more. Moral relativism—the idea that people come up with what is right for them and their culture—is incredibly dangerous and can lead to societies that euthanize the elderly, abort babies, selectively eliminate races, enslave certain classes, etc. And it comes from determining what is right for them. But, moral relativism is a philosophy predicated on error. It ignores that there is one God who is Lord of all, and who defines right and wrong. It ignores that there are absolute rights and wrongs. It ignores that we are accountable to our Creator, and that there is someone bigger than us. It ignores the fact that, in the end, it will not matter if we think something is right or wrong, but only what He thinks is right or wrong.

The quickest way that I know to cut to the chase and find out the core philosophy or foundation of someone and their arguments is to ask the most basic of questions . . . "On what authority do you base your opinion?"

Monday, October 24, 2011

History-Cookbook Fundraiser

Hello All! As readers know, I rarely mix my pastoring and youth leading with this blog as it is my personal blog, but since so many of you heard about the youth group's fund raising history-cookbook Mary Ann and I spent most of the summer working on (and some of you even sent us recipes for it!) I wanted to take a moment to announce: "It is here!" (The applause is resounding, especially from this house!)

If you want to read more about More Treasures Under the Oaks, or request a copy via PayPal (you don't have to have a PayPal account to do so), you can do so at our fellowship's web page: http://www.truelifecf.org/cookbook.htm. We are asking for a $12 donation per book, and all proceeds from the book go to the youth group and the outreach work we do to local youth (neither Mary Ann or I or any individual receive anything for this book). The postage is a little steep for a single copy, but because of our rural location we can't go to the post office to weigh individual orders so we are using flat rate priority envelopes and boxes. Of course, and I mean it!, don't feel any, any pressure to request a copy.

The book turned out wonderfully, and I don't say that because Mary Ann and I wrote it and typeset it. Simply, God's hand was on it. It is 224 pages of local history and photographs and recipes, with a special, large section on outdoor cooking (barbecuing, grilling, Dutch oven, smoking, etc). Many of the stories we recorded have never been in print before as God led us to interview old timers who have since died or moved and whose stories have never been written down in the past. In many cases these old timers gave us their scrapbooks with photographs never published before and told us to take them for as long as we needed and use what we wanted from them. God is woven throughout the book in scattered verses and the section titles, plus multiple of the articles and other writings. We have received wonderful feedback on the book so far, and it is exciting to me to hear how many people are reading it cover to cover who have never set foot inside the church building or will never hear me teaching or read my blog. It is exciting to realize they will read verses from God's written word, hear the story of a Creation-Scientist with a PhD in Evolutionary Biology who used to be an avid anti-Christian and evolutionist (a recipe from him is in the book), read how our area is not a slice of Heaven, but a shadow of Heaven, all as they read stories of treasures, wild-west shootouts, pioneer life in our area, and so much more! To God be the Glory! Whether or not you get a copy, please keep this in prayer as both a wonderful fund raiser for our youth, and as a door into people's hearts and homes in the region that otherwise might have stayed closed.

Friday, October 14, 2011

She Considered Him Faithful . . .

I know faith has been used, at times, like a club that beats someone up further who hasn't been healed or seen a prayer answered and heard the words, "You don't have enough faith." That is sad. Faith is a beautiful word when used in the context of our confidence and trust in God, His Word, His character, His goodness, His promises. And, yes, faith does, often, play a role in God moving—the Bible is filled with stories of people whose faith caused something to happen—and it also records God moving in other times when it seems no faith was involved.

I have been teaching recently on the amazing, divine invitation we have from God as Christians to surrender our will and "kingdom" to His will and "kingdom" and to let His will be done where we have a realm of influence. It is amazing and awe inspiring and exciting that God invites us to colabor with Him and to be a part of His will and work—that He dwells in us, leads us, and offers Himself to us to partner in plans eternal, and to be a part of His kingdom driving back darkness. How could we ever buy the lie that we can somehow, on our own, make decisions for our life that will give us more happiness, meaning, purpose, joy, security, etc. then partnering with our Creator in the very plans and works He created us for?! Yet, how often each day we decide we can better secure our happiness or security or meaning than He can. It is so foolish . . . and yet, a lie we fall for far too often.

These last few Sundays I've been talking about some of the reasons we don't surrender to His will. Sometimes we don't want to give up control—our lives are already so regulated and to give up even more control of them seems to diminish us. Or, maybe we don't trust God—I know we'd never admit that, but it is true at some level for most of us. Maybe we don't trust Him to make us happy, or to speak to us, or to take care of us. Maybe we are afraid that what we think we need isn't what He thinks we need when He promises to take care of our needs. Maybe we are offended or angry at God because of something that happened to us once, or a prayer that wasn't answered, and it makes it hard for us to trust Him. There are so many reasons we might resist His will and choose our own in any given moment of our life.

One of the most powerful and revealing verses in the Bible to me is Hebrews 11:11. It says, "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised." Sarah, who mocked and didn't believe, had a promise from God for a child. At some point, after her mocking, it seems she stopped and took her unbelief captive to something and that gave her faith. Her faith brought out the life and power that was dormant in God's promise, waiting, and it came to pass. So, what did she take her unbelief captive to? To God Himself. To His character. Somewhere in there she stopped, recognized the lie and the error of her thinking, and realized just who it was that promised her. It was God! The God who created the Heavens! And, by taking her doubts and, maybe, fears, captive to the person of God Himself they melted away and were replaced by a faith that brought life to God's promise and she received the power to conceive. Her faith brought power, and life.

When we look at ourselves, we find, I believe, one of two things. If we are arrogant and proud we find a false confidence built on frail and temporal bodies and minds. If we are self-critical and even honest with ourselves we find little confidence because we realize how limited we are and how fragile we are. But, when we look at God we find something else, altogether! We find an all powerful God who loves us beyond measure and who never leaves us or forsakes us. We find a God who invites us to colabor with Him and to partake in the Kingdom's resources to bring His will and plans together. We find a Creator who created us for special works and leads us in fulfilling them, hence fulfilling the very purpose we were created for. We find a God who breathes out stars and yet says to us, "I want to spend eternity with you!" Suddenly, when we consider Him and not ourselves, His capability and not ours, His wisdom and not ours, His power and not ours, our faith is increased and the impossible becomes possible when it is Him leading us.

Sarah was bound by the world and her experience and her limitation. If formed the basis of her expectation, and in those boundaries she had no expectation of a child. But then she considered Him, and who He is, and His character and nature and power, and she realized that, while she is frail, He is faithful, and He has promised, and she was filled with faith and believed. And the power to conceive came upon her.

What has God invited you to colabor in? Are you considering yourself, or Him, in your assessing of it. When our own capability and resources form the outer boundary of our expectations the boundaries are small . . . but when He leads and we surrender and His capability and resources form the outer boundaries of our expectations, we find there are, in fact, no boundaries that exceed His capacity. He is faithful, even when we are not. Let us consider Him . . .

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Religious Test for President?

A recent article on FOX News reported on Mitt Romney wanting Rick Perry to apologize for a pastor's comments about Mormonism being a cult. In the article it quoted Mitt as saying, "Gov. Perry selected an individual to introduce him, who then used religion as a basis for which he said he would endorse Gov. Perry, and as a reason to not support me," Romney said. "I would call upon Gov. Perry to repudiate the sentiment and the remarks made by that pastor."

There is a huge error, I believe, in Mitt's statement. While I do not believe our nation can, or should, have a religious test for offices as a law, I find it ignorant and irresponsible for people to say individuals should not use religion as a basis for personal voting choices and endorsements. To me this is just one more inroad of the enemy that has already so powerfully succeeded in blocking faith from life—to so many faith has become a thing for Sunday and heaven, whereas science and their own strength and capability are left to provide the "real" answers to "real" life.

We find so many who have bowed to science's words over God's Word, and so many who find themselves in a hollow gospel that saves Jesus for Heaven, but leaves them alone to walk through life on a day to day basis and deal with all of life's "stuff" on their own. Now we are told (or at least it is implied) that someone shouldn't use religion as a basis for endorsing and supporting a candidate (or not endorsing or supporting one). How sad! Do we realize that if everyone who proclaimed to be a Christian actually voted on their faith and not on their own definition or right and wrong, or on their own economic best interests, we'd have a majority every time? Already, it seems to me, too few people are voting (or caring about) God's values and priorities.

If we don't understand a candidates world view then how can we possibly understand what makes that candidate tick, or how they will vote on issues that aren't even on the table for discussion yet? How can we understand a candidate if we don't understand their attitude toward right and wrong, man's condition, good and evil, humans and the environment, etc.? If someone is true to their world view it will define everything they do! For people who believe in evolution, they will find themselves believing that in man the answer will eventually be found because we just keep getting better and better. On the other hand, a Creationist recognizes the fall and decay of man and the absolute necessity for God to move and man to move in partnership with Him. To the evolutionist we are equal to animals and plants, but to a Creationist we are clear that we are custodians of them and that they were given to us for us, but not as our equal. To an atheist there is no absolute standard of right and wrong and moral relativism is the rule. To a Christian God is the source of right and wrong. To an atheist there is no explanation for evil, but to a Christian we see evil as real and having a source, and we are careful in dealing with people ruled by it.

On and on we could list the issues that should be dramatically affected by our faith and world view. If we are true to it, and it isn't just a political expediency to woo a mass of voters, it will be the very definition of who we are, how we act, etc. It should be true for every individual, not just politicians, but in the case of those running for office it is, to me, sheer ignorance and foolishness to imply a candidates faith should not be an issue in individuals deciding who they will support. To the contrary, I wish more professing Christians actually voted the way they feel God's Word reveals God would feel on an issue.


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