Saturday, April 25, 2015

An Excuse For Writer's Block

My current writer's block has nothing to do with a lack of subject matter. As a matter of fact, I just deleted a nicely written paragraph-and-a-half about my first-hand experience with the Church Growth Movement that could have easily launched a compelling series on the topic. It could have also hurt people that I  still hold dear.

Taking stands for the truth has cost me friendships. That will happen again. I agree with those who charge that doctrine divides. Indeed, Jesus brought violent division to First Century Jews to such an extent that many  of His followers suffered persecution and death at the hands of those who believed themselves to be devoted followers of the one true God. He said, quite explicitly, that He would cause division to the degree that people would equate persecuting His disciples with serving God (see John 16:1-4).

So I don't want to bury truth simply to keep myself  comfortable. But neither do I want to speak truth in a malicious manner. People I love are caught in churches that promote Church Growth strategies, and many of them are genuine Christians. I don't mind angering false converts (especially those who prefer deception over truth), but the Lord would have me be patient with those who know Him truly (Galatians 6:1-3). I also have belonged to churches that promoted error, and I remember how gently and gradually the Lord corrected me.

I definitely have a good deal to say about the Church Growth Movement. And you'd be right in assuming that much of what I want to say fails to be complimentary. But in faithfulness to the Lord, I want to make sure that I write with an attitude that reflects both His anger towards sin and His love towards those who sin unintentionally. Until I can figure out how to write with that careful balance, remaining faithful to Him in all respects, I think it best not to directly address the topic. May God guide me as I study and pray.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Quotation

"Does the Church have the courage to become relevant by becoming biblical? Is it willing to break with the cultural habits of the time and propose something quite absurd, like recovering both the word and the meaning of sin? ... Why should the postmortem world believe the Gospel when the Church appears so unsure of its truth that it dresses up that Gospel in the garments of modernity to heighten its interest? ... We need the faith of the ages, not the reconstructions of a therapeutically driven and commercially inspired faith. And we need it, not least, because without it our postmortem world will become starved for the Word of God." (David Wells, LosingOur Virtue, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998; pp. 199, 207, 209.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Faulty Measurements

Sketch  by Michelangelo
My first semester as a college freshman consisted of a Latin class and four inter-related classes (called a Colloquium) on the Renaissance. Within this Colloquium, my classmates and I took Political Science, English Literature, Art History and Philosophy. Our Philosophy class also served as a sort of "home base" where we synthesized the four disciplines. Early on, the Philosophy professor taught that the cornerstone of Renaissance thought hearkened back to an ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras, who said "Man is the measure of all things."

This revival of viewing man, rather than God, as the focal point of life has continued, in varying degrees, to permeate Western Civilization since the Renaissance. It seems to me that the idea enjoys a present resurgence in our postmodern culture. The current twist to this ancient maxim presents personal experience, as opposed to objective fact, as the means of determining "truth." Hence the familiar saying, "What's true for you may not be true for me."

That subjective measuring rod frequently offers non-Christians a convenient buffer against the Gospel's authority. If they can discount Jesus' claim of being Truth Himself (John 14:6), they can dismiss His right to command their obedience. They essentially declare themselves as lords over their own lives (while rarely using that terminology, of course). Like Protagoras, and the Renaissance scholars who dredged him up, they reject Him as Lord in deference to their own self will.

The Christian response, however, must stand firm against man-centered philosophy. We have the responsibility to firmly stand for the truth of God's Word, which has always contradicted humanistic thought. Paul's charge to Timothy applies to all Christians since we each bear the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
The Renaissance may have accomplished many wonderful things, and I will always love Italian Renaissance painting. But my love for Christ necessitates that I believe His Word...even when it is "out of season." Only one Man, because He lived a sinless life, died in the place of sinners and rose from the dead, possesses the ability to be the Measure of all things. Please look to Him as your Standard.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Matter Of Will

People, and single people in particular, strain and struggle to figure out God's will for their lives. I well remember the last few weeks leading up to my 2001 trip to Boston, during which John and I would decide to either become engaged or curtail our relationship.

At 3:00 in the morning I sat in my driveway with three friends and my mom, ready to drive to San Francisco International Airport.  Before the driver put the key in the ignition, we prayed that the Lord would show me and John His will. Several years earlier, I'd gotten dangerously close to marrying a false convert, and the experience taught me how easily my emotions could cloud my judgment. Additionally, two ladies close to me had just filed for divorce, a third girlfriend confided in me about the multiple problems in her marriage. I really didn't want to make a mistake!

Clearly, I married John 14 months later. Our marriage led me into Reformed theology. I now understand that the Lord sovereignly orchestrated many circumstances to bring me and John together. We needed no further sign. He gave us complete freedom to marry based on our shared love for Him. Looking back, I see the ridiculousness of my striving to discern God's will instead of humbly thanking Him for blessing me with the privilege of marrying such a godly man.

Since marrying John, the Lord has developed my understanding of Scripture. Specifically, I've learned through reading the Old Testament that God's will encompasses ever so much more than the minutia of individual lives. As lovingly as He numbers the hairs on our heads (Luke 2:7), His overarching passion centers on displaying His glory through a people who worship Him. Our redemption benefits us, to be sure, but He gave us salvation for His purposes.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)
Rather than scrambling to "hear from God" about whom we should marry or what job we should take, we should search Scripture to learn how we can glorify Him.  As a single, how can you use your freedom from commitment to serve Christ? As John's wife, how can I participate in my marriage so that I glorify Him? Regardless of our marital status, do we live in ways that place the emphasis on Him, or do we clutter our thoughts with demands that He cater to us?

I understand why people want a crystal ball to tell them exactly what God wants for them. But He has adjusted my perspective by convincing me that His greater will deserves much  more attention than the details of my circumstances. If I faithfully respond to those circumstances in ways that reflect His  character, I will have done His will.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Not My Doing

Sigh.

Sermons, such as one that recently showed up in my email inbox, can remind me of how easily people can pervert passages of Scripture into works-based religion. Admittedly, I've struggled for far too many years with the idea that God would revoke my salvation if I sinned badly enough, and I've self-righteously congratulated myself much too often on my supposed obedience. Yet I always returned to the truth that the Lord considers my best efforts to be "filthy rags" in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).

The sermon correctly pointed out that Jesus calls His people to love and serve each other. Sadly, it ended there, completely overlooking the fact that we have the capacity to love and serve only by the power of the resurrected Christ. Worse, the person who preached the sermon implied that our obedience or disobedience to perform acts of love and service determines whether we go to heaven or hell.

Why the omission of salvation only through the blood of Jesus Christ? I don't know! But I praise Him that, in fact, He did die for me, securing my place in heaven.  If I love and serve, I do so out of gratitude for what He did for me.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

More Than My Opinion

A good writer must, above all else, respect words enough to use them accurately. Therefore, it disturbs me to have used the word "opinions" yesterday in reference to the spiritual content of this blog. Even though I well understand my fallibility in grasping and communicating Biblical principles, those principles should never be thought of as merely my opinion.

Our postmodern culture insists that truth depends on personal interpretation. "What's true for you may not be true for me." The only absolute I see in postmodern philosophy is that Bible-believing Christians require silencing. If the culture fails to silence us outright, then it must characterize the Gospel as no more than opinion...and misguided, antiquated opinion at that. Once this characterization establishes itself, people have no difficulty dismissing the Lord and replacing Him with spiritual systems tailored to their own preferences.

Postmodern thought, however, really goes back to the same old humanistic rebellion against the Lord that mankind has perpetrated since Adam and Eve defiantly ate the forbidden fruit. Each of us, unless the Holy Spirit intervenes, trades God's truth for the ideas that we concoct for ourselves.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~~Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)
Certainly, I hold very strong opinions on a variety of matters ranging from the upcoming presidential election to women covering their heads in church services. And I recognize that such matters are legitimately open to debate. But when it comes to the clear teaching of Scripture, I refuse to regard my fidelity to it as subjective opinion. 

I may misunderstand passages of Scripture here and there. When I do, the last thing I need is for people to indulge my opinion! I need people to correct my error by showing me how my ideas deviate from God's word. Remind me that Scripture must be properly understood and interpreted in context so that I'll correctly discern the Lord's truth and apply His truth in accordance with His will. Don't let me settle for my own meager opinion when I need the  firm foundation of His truth. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Wonderful Lethargy Of Spring Fever

All the blogging I did in March depleted me so completely that I just wanted a break. Did I need a break? Really, I'm not sure. Perhaps taking some sort of sabbath from it each week would do me good.

John and I did have a real play-day in Boston Monday, going to the Museum of Fine Arts and then lunch at Quincy Market. I planned to blog about it Tuesday, and then decided chronicling the whole Adventure simply seemed too overwhelming--particularly since the exhibit we specifically went to see  disappointed us.
Time Capsule that Paul Revere and Sam Adams buried in the State House
We enjoyed being in Boston apart from visiting one of John's doctors, to be sure, and we thoroughly delighted in seeing the wonderfully familiar places and faces that this insufferable winter had kept from us. We'd had two other brief visits to Boston this month (both connected with medical appointments), but honestly, none of our three trips inspired me to write.

Sadly, I find myself also floundering when it comes to writing about the Lord. I have beginnings of ideas, so I don't need suggestions for topics. I simply don't want to do the hard work of research and the heavy lifting of developing the ideas I already have.

Call it Spring Fever. You know I'll eventually find myself on some tirade against false teaching or excited rapture about something I've read in God's Word. These vacations from blogging never seem to last long...probably because I so enjoy spouting my thoughts and opinions all over the Internet! But for now let me have my Spring Fever. And pray for me to come back with a better blog than ever.

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