Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Sum of it All

It is hard to believe that yesterday marked three years since I started this blog as a place to share thoughts, slices of my life, and things God is showing me. I wanted to keep it personal, not tied into my position as pastor, to give me freedom to share things separate from our fellowship—maybe thoughts on a candidate, etc. I had hoped for a "community" to form with lots of comments and sharing back and forth, but that hasn't happened, and that's OK. Now and then (often when I'm about to quit the blog) someone will tell me it really touched or helped them and I'll get a little fire to continue as I'll realize it is being read, and is doing some good. Well, this post is sort of a "sum of it all" for me. I know it's rather long but, hey, it's only once a year you get to "sum it all up" . . .

Reflecting on these three years and the things that have happened in them in the world, in my life, and on this blog, I think I am noticing something that is at the center of almost every issue we face. It is the absence of absolutes. It is really stunning in its simplicity, but that is the sum of it all, in a way. If you look around at the world and the issues in our nation and the lives of many Christians it can be summed up as revolving around absolutes, or the lack of.

Interestingly (and encouraging to me) is that as it seems the world is heading farther and farther from recognizing absolutes, and farther and farther into a realm of opinion and tolerance and relativism, I have noticed myself becoming even more firmly convinced of the absolute truth of Genesis (Creation and the Flood), and hence the Bible, and hence of God—to borrow an expression on a t-shirt I was given, "God said it. I believe it. That's settles it."

Whether the issue is gay marriage, abortion, adultery, fornication, how we use our time, how we use our resources, what we vote on, what purpose we find in our life, what we think about things like miracles today or spiritual warfare or the origin of life, or whatever, it really comes down to one of two things. Either everyone has a valid opinion, and everyone's opinion is equal, and we can argue into infinity with each other about our opinions . . . or God has something to say about something and what He says matters, and what we say doesn't. That's it, really. If God is real, and if His Word is trustworthy, then what He says defines right and wrong. President Obama (or anyone else) can express his stands on issues and give his opinions on them all he wants. If God is real, and the Bible is real, and the President's opinions don't line up with God's, then he is wrong. Plain and simple.

I hear way too much these days that begins with, "I think . . ." or "I feel . . ." or "In my opinion . . ." Honestly, it really doesn't matter to me. (I care about you, so what you think and feel is important to me to help me understand you, but not in affecting my views.) Why? Because Jesus said that God alone is good. Therefore if He is real then He alone can define good and right. So all that really matters is if I am aligned with Him or not. Even our evangelism is so wishy washy and arrogant. We "persuade" people to "try" Jesus. Either He is real, and He is holy, and galaxies are birthed in Him, and He speaks and worlds are created, and if we come into His presence our way and not His we are consumed .  . . or He's not. That's it. Period. If those things are true it is sheer arrogance and pride heading to damnation to "decide" if we are going to trust Him, or believe Him, or follow Him, or to decide on moral issues based on our opinion instead of what He says. And if He's not real, and not those things, then party on. Debate ad naseum your opinion against another's and realize in the end it doesn't matter because we'll all die and feed worms and that's the end. Or, as Paul wrote, "What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.' " (1 Corinthians 15:32)

I was really awakened the other day listening to an audio drama (Jonathan Park) that our family enjoys when they took quotes from Darwin's life chronicling his journey from religion to evolution and total rejection of Jesus. He rejected Genesis, then the Bible, then Jesus. It was a journey, and I see that happening all around us. It is sad, because if the evidence were simply shown, without the bias and tainting of scientists trying to squash and conform it into their millions and billions of years framework, it would clearly point to a literal Creation and flood as described in the Bible. But, we have made bad science our god, and from it rejected the Bible, and from that rejected absolutes. And, it is a rejection of absolutes, stemming from a rejection of the Bible, that has us exactly where we are now—a sea of opinions and a worship of college degrees that we call "enlightenment" but which are really journeys into darkness.

Isn't it funny how many people reject an absolute standard of right and wrong, but are the first to cry out, "It's not fair" or "It's not right" or "this should be allowed and not that" or who profess to be right and that others are wrong? By what standard? Says who? Even more funny (because if I don't laugh, I'll get angry or cry) are the number of professing Christians who claim to believe in a God and absolutes, and then live (and speak) based on their opinions and sense of right and wrong, and not on His. I don't know. Maybe I'm getting cranky, but a person's opinion, including my own, matters less and less to me the older I get. I just want to know, "What does God say?" and then make that my own. His opinion is all that matters. He alone is good. And, I guess, that is the "sum of it all" for me. Life is too short to waste days and years of it chasing vain ideas and opinions. Let God be God, and don't try and be Him for Him. He alone is worthy and our lives are best spent worshipping Him, following Him, sharing Him, and standing for Him, no matter the cost in this world—we have all of eternity to share in the pleasures He has prepared for us.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Absolute Truth

I know that I have shared about an experience I had with a philosophy professor at West Point before, but it was brought back to my mind this weekend when Mary Ann and I were asked to share our testimony at another church. As we talked about it, and shared, I was struck that possibly my first real wake up to the fact that there might be absolute truth that was not dependent on my attitude toward it came in the halls of West Point . . .

I was concentrating in Philosophy, had no good thoughts or affection or belief toward God, and enjoyed tremendously studying the different philosophers, ideas about life, etc. I had dabbled in New Age in the past, and found intellectual discussions of different theories, ideas, etc., to be challenging and fun, but there was no urgency to them or any really conviction that any one might be right. It was fun, a game, a challenge to debate and see who was "smarter" or quicker. I loved it.

I remember, distinctly, studying moral relativism in one of my classes (which basically says that different morals and ethics are right for different people and cultures) and thinking, "That sounds fair/good/right." It made sense, each group or people should develop what was right for them, and that made it right for them . . . hence "right."

I shared my "conversion" to moral relativism with one of my professor and I will never forget the pit in my stomach when he, in all sincerity, talked to me in the hallway and said, basically, "Erick, if I truly believed you were a moral relativist I would do everything I could to get you removed from the academy." I was stunned. This wasn't a game, and it wasn't just about having fun debating ideas and philosophies. This guy was talking about something so real as being kicked out of the academy! Of having to go home to all my family and friends having been kicked out of West Point!

It was a true revelatory moment (though my surrender to Jesus was still years away) in which, maybe for the first time, I was confronted with the fact that there might not be "many truths" that were each right for those living them, but that there might be some truth that was absolute, and did not depend on my opinion or acceptance of it. Absolute truth . . . what a concept! This man was so convinced of the danger of a morally relativistic approach in the hands of someone who would be wielding power that he was prepared to put himself on the line and try and have me removed from West Point.

I have since found out that this man is a Christian, and I have since realized how right and "true" he was (and is). There are absolute truths and rights and wrongs—and truth defined by those in power, or the masses, is a "truly" scary concept . . . one that can justify about any horror or atrocity or abuse of power. Yet, in this day and age, how rare to find someone who is willing to put all they are on the line to stand up for truth, for a truth that is not relative, but that is true regardless of whether the whole world . . . or no one . . . believes it.

There is absolute truth, and we will all answer to it . . . and at that moment when we do our "opinions," or lack of opinions, will mean nothing. All that will matter is whether or not we embraced the truth. This applies to eternity—and to issues in life. It is not relative. There is no one good but God alone. All that matters is whether we embrace Him and His ways or not. All our best defenses, or procrastinations, or accomplishments will mean nothing if we aren't on the "right" side of truth. Call it intolerant. Call it unloving. Call it what you will. It doesn't change the fact that God is true, and His ways are right, and anything else is not. The most loving thing we can do is to stand for that fact, as servants of others, in love and humility and self sacrificing, no matter what it costs us, and in every area (Heaven, Hell, salvation, Scripture interpretation, lifestyle choices, habits, right, wrong, etc). We are dealing with far more than a few years here on earth. We are dealing with forever.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

19 Years Ago & A Contrast of "Churches"

19 Years Ago
Isn't she beautiful!
I posted this picture on Facebook today with the comments: Nineteen years ago today was one of the best years of my life! Thanks, Lord, for bringing me an amazing wife! I love her more every day! If you had told me, 19 years ago today, that 19 years later we'd have 2 daughters, 2 cows, 5 chickens, be living on 40 acres, pastoring a church, and a volunteer fire fighter I'd have said you were crazy! God has such better plans for us than any we could make for ourselves! Multiple of you subscribed to this blog by email were there, that day, standing up front with us. Thanks for all of your love and support!

A Contrast of "Churches"
Yesterday we took some relatives from Germany to the building our fellowship meets at. It might have been the highlight of their visit, and it was a real eye opener for me. They were blown away that we had a kitchen in the building, a bathroom, and activities for the youth, as well as some rooms where we have special decorations and things for the smaller kids where they are taught special lessons geared toward their ages. Our relatives said that for them going to church was going into a building (with no bathrooms), sitting still for an hour, all ages together, and leaving. I found it such a contrast—where "church" is a building and a service. We strive so hard here to make the building and service second and to be the church, or body of Christ, a family. It was a reminder to me of how blessed we are to be family and to fellowship, and how grateful I am that the men I serve with and the body we are surrounded by don't want simply a building and a service, but to be Christ's body at work. It isn't always easy—we all have a lot of warts and bumps and imperfections, and we don't always get along or act in a way that would honor God—but the effort is so worth it. When "church" is simply a building or service it is not "church" the way God intends it. But when the body is the body, one member, together in love and united in Him with Him as the head, that is the church being the church the way God intended, and it will draw people to it and ultimately to Him.


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