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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

4 Quotes With Many Applications

Have you ever had one of those moments when you read or heard something  and the saying just clicked in your head, and you can say 'I get it now'?

Like most, I've had many of those moments, but four of them stand out especially in my mind and I'd like to share them with you.

The following are four quotes that have profoundly impacted how I approach my Christian walk and have helped me to better understand why I believe certain spiritual truths.

Perhaps these quotes can assist you in your spiritual journey as they have assisted me in mine.

The Glory of God

A common attack on or concern with the God of the Bible is His apparent affinity for exaltation.

We are commanded to love God, worship Him, put Him first, seek His ways, praise His name, follow after Him faithfully for all of our days. (Matt. 23:37; Matt 6:33; Matt. 4:19; 1 Cor. 11:1; Psalm 147:1)

God is even seen in Scripture exalting Himself. (Isaiah 48:11; Ephesians 1)

As a Christian, I see no problem with this, in fact, I delight in it, but I won't pretend that it wasn't somewhat...awkward when I was faced with the question of 'is God a narcissist'.

I thought I knew the answer to the question, but I couldn't convey it with adequate persuasiveness to a questioner.

I understood that God is God, but God, as I see Him in Scripture, isn't primarily concerned that He be praised simply because He is worthy of praise.

Then I read this quote from influential preacher John Piper:

In view of God's infinitely admirable beauty and power and wisdom what would his love to a creature involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would show him most loving? There is only one possible answer, isn't there? HIMSELF! If God would give us the best, the most satisfying, that is, if he would love us perfectly, he must offer us no less than himself for our contemplation and fellowship. - John Piper

Something just clicked.

It made sense that God would exalt Himself, draw attention to Himself, and command us to do the same, not just so that He could enjoy the praise, but so that we could benefit in the sharing of God's glory.

God doesn't need us to glorify Him, but our ultimate spiritual health depends on God being glorified.

And by glorifying Himself and commanding us to do the same, God is showing His love for us by drawing our attention to the only thing we really need: 


Hollow Religion

This next one hurt.

If you know me, you  I love to debate, and study theology.

I am a firm believer in the ability of the sanctified mind to come to rational decision based on the truth, which is one reason why I wholeheartedly support healthy robust debate in the Church.

I began studying all the "ologies" that I could and it seemed every day I found a new "theo-group" I belonged too.

Until one day I read this and it clicked:

"When the exhaustive exegesis of God's Word doesn't create people transformed into the image of Jesus, we have missed the forest for the trees" - Jen Hatmaker from her book "7".

I felt ashamed.

 I often found myself getting so caught up in systematizing my theology that I forgot stop and think about what affect it should have in the way I live my life, in general, and especially how I walk with the Lord.

What does it matter if I can explain why I reject speaking in tongues, if the earthly words I speak don't communicate Christ.

What good are all my "ists", and "ologies" and "isms", if I they don't motivate me to better love God, know Him and help others know and love Him as well?

Worse than that I had spurned the faith tradition I was brought up in, for the Restoration Movement had long put an emphasis on tearing down all of the theologies and dogmas that separate believers, and instead looking for the lowest common denominator, so as not to leave anyone out of the fellowship of the Body that God Himself has not left out.

Since reading that quote, I try now to give precedence to those doctrines which are explicitly taught in Scripture and to focus on the more practical aspects of theology.

But, more than that, I've fallen again in love with my beautiful king by re-making Him the center of my life, having been released from the chains of a dusty religion that stimulates the brain, but leaves the soul longing.

My Eyes Have Seen...

 “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” -C.S. Lewis

I only discovered this next quote a week or so ago, and the "aha moment" was immediate.

I have been a Christian since August 20th 2006 and was adopted by Christian parent's who raised me to know, love, and respect God.

Before 2008 I was couldn't thoroughly explain to you the many arguments for God's existence, nor could I have rebutted many of the critiques of my faith (praise God I have learned much since then!)

Nonetheless, my faith in God, the inspiration of Scripture, and the deity of Christ have been unmoveable pillars in my life, not because of any argument, but because I have seen with my eyes the truth of Christianity.

And not only with my eyes, however, but with my heart too.

Christian theism just makes sense to me.

That God, the Creator and Designer of the cosmos, Ground of objective moral values and duties, our Heavenly Father, Risen Lord and Holy Spirit, Three in One, is living and active.

Not only because I have "seen" God, but because in seeing God I see everything else. 

He In I and I In Him

There is a song that says "every move I make, I make in You" which accentuates 
that fact that, as Christians, we are not our own.

We are the adopted offspring of the living God, called, protected, and sustained by Him.

His Holy Spirit indwell us and we have put on His Son in our baptism.

God's influence touches every aspect of our lives, and in him we delight ourselves.

Our goal is to be in lock step with God and His holy commands. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

For the Scriptures say:

'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.' (Acts 17:28)

What else needs to be said?


Do you have a favorite quote spiritual or otherwise? Feel free to leave it in the comment box below.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Evangelism: The Christian Anti-Bullying Initiative

If you can separate "mild" teasing from bullying I was never really bullied outright, but have often been marginalized and shunned by peers for being unable to fit into a certain mold.

For this reason, I often found it better safer to watch certain social interactions from afar because it wasn't worth getting directly involved and facing the risk of rejection.

Please understand that I am not trying to paint myself as a victim; I have a cadre of amazing friends and family who are very supportive. 

 I simply want the reader to understand that probably like you, I have a personal connection to the subject of bullying.

There was no "aha" moment that offset the insecurities that came from repeated peer rejection, but it was a gradual understanding that my self-worth is not defined by who likes me, how many friends I have, how well I can compete, or how well I can conform.

Change started when I began to find myself in the person of Jesus Christ, and suddenly who was paying attention to me or what negative things people were saying to me or about me mattered very little.

I could dare to love and not worry about being broken, because I was no longer afraid of brokenness.

I could reach out with the love of Jesus, like never before because I had been brought down low, and experienced the rejuvenation and splendor that a personal encounter with the love of Jesus brings.

Not that I hadn't experienced these things before, but that in allowing God to carry me through the fire, I gained a new perspective on who I am and who He is, and my faith was strengthened as a result

Like the song says, "I still slip, I still fall, but I always run back to you".

I'm not perfected yet, and I still fall back into some of my seclusionary and self-deprecating tendencies, but I know it is in Jesus where I am found and derive my meaning and purpose, which means no one and nothing can take it away from me.

Jesus Christ has done for me (and so many others) what no self-help seminar, no treatment, no anti-bullying or "be yourself" initiative could ever do: he gave me hope and life that transcended everything else in the world, so that no matter what else was going on I know I am standing firm on a rock that can not be shaken.

For even though I was a undeserving sinner, Jesus Christ died for me.

That is the Christian bullying initiative: knowing and loving Jesus, and taking pains to help others know and love him as well.

We have a sacred duty as people of God to stand up for those who are being bullied, marginalized, and beaten down.

In Amos chapter 5, the prophet Amos chides God's people on God's behalf.


Amos explains:
I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!"

Does this passage describe you? 

Is your life full of outward gifts to God, but devoid of justice and righteousness?

Satan's goal is to break the one being bullied, to make them think there is no hope and that they're worthless.

Or,  just as well, to help find their "hope" in something temporal and carnal, away from God, that gives the appearance of stability, but in the end will come crashing down around them.
For the Bible says: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death". (Proverb 16:25)

It is our duty as Christians to make sure that doesn't happen, by the grace and power of God.

Are you with me so far?

Then let's switch gears for a moment.

Like I said earlier, I am not a victim.

While I've never shoved someone into a locker or gone out of my way to verbally abuse a person, I have long struggled with gossip and controlling my tongue.

I cringe when I look back at me "younger" days and the "off the cuff" comments I'd make to people without thinking.

Sarcasm, was the name of the game, and if you attacked me, I'd attack right back.

I remember telling a girl that I was raised better than her.

I remember bragging to a boy in 2nd grade that I was smarter that him.

I sometimes treated friends like dirt because I was insecure and controlling.

I've said things to family members that are simply shameful.

Believe me I am not a victim.

Why am I you telling all of this?

Because, as Christians, we must preach that God's love is not just for the bullied, but for the bully as well.

Many man-made endeavors that deal with bullying have little or nothing to offer the bully, which is what makes Christianity unique among secular anti-bullying programs.

This is important, because in one way or another we've all been bullies.

Our message is that Christ's blood was shed for all, available to all, and intended for all. (1 John 2:2)

As Christians, we can offer the oppressed and their oppressors freedom in Christ, the joy of knowing and loving God, deliverance from sin and self, and the promise of new Life, among so many other things.  

So I urge you to actively stand against thugs, and stand up for the oppressed, with love and care, and to lift high name of Jesus, so that all men (bullies and the bullied) might leave the mire of their circumstances and cast all their cares upon the One who cares for them.

For it is in Jesus, alone, that bullying meets its match.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Does the Bible Support Slavery? A Reply To Dan Savage

In my last blog post, I gave some "big picture" thoughts concerning the recent allegations made against the Bible, by gay activist, far-left Progressive, and atheist Dan Savage.

I suggested that his tone and rhetoric was one more example of the increase in virulent, fundamentalist atheism in our country (and its acceptance thereof), and that the Church needs to meet this challenge with love, prayer, study and active evangelism.

(It is not necessary to read that last post to understand this one, for I will be quoting Dan directly).

 In this post, however, I will be zeroing in on some of the specific problems Dan has with the Biblical text and seeing what various scholars have to say about his particular claims.

But, before I do that, I want to make something clear from the onset:

I do not pretend to believe that Dan Savage's disgust with Holy Scripture has anything to do with what he thinks it says about slavery.

In other words, if every supposed "pro-slavery" passage in Scripture was removed, he would find something else to harp on.

Why is this?

Because the Bible condemns Dan's homosexual lifestyle choice.

That is not to say that Dan chose to have same-sex attraction (which I don't believe), rather that he chooses to a gay lifestyle, to please his flesh, in the same way that some with SSA choose to live a celibate lifestyle, out of obedience to God.

I think that Dan and I are in agreement that the only thing standing in the way of  total acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle in the United States is the Word of God, and that once the Bible is removed from its place of respect, then the floodgates will open and Dan's position on homosexuality will be the cultural norm.

That is why Dan hates the Bible.

(Not to mention the message of hope for people with same-sex attraction [and those without], found on the pages of Scripture, which directly contradicts his world-view).

With that in mind let's look at some of Dan's claims:

 "We ignore bull**it in the Bible about all sorts of things. The Bible is a radically pro slavery document. Slave-owners waved Bibles over their head during the Civil War and justified it". (emphasis mine)

He then goes on to say, "The shortest book in the New Testament is a letter from Paul to a Christian slave owner about owning his Christian slave. And Paul doesn't say 'Christians don't own people', Paul talks about how Christians own people".

As you can see these are pretty steep charges against the Bible, charges that I believe are based on ignorance of some very key things, crucial to understanding the biblical teachings correctly.

The New Testament and Slavery-
Dan indicts the Apostle Paul for not saying "Christians don't own people", in one of the letters Paul wrote to a Christian slave-owner named Philemon.
But before we examine the book of Philemon, let's look at what the New Testament actually has to say about slavery.

Dr. Paul Copan, who has a Phd. in philosophy with an emphasis in philosophy of religion, addresses this very issue:

"Though critics claim New Testament writers keep quiet about slavery, we see a subtle opposition to it in various ways. 

We can confidently say that Paul would have considered antebellum slavery with its slave trade to be an abomination — an utter violation of human dignity and an act of human theft. 

In Paul’s vice list in 1 Timothy 1:9,10, he expounds on the fifth through the ninth commandments (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). 

There Paul condemns “slave traders” who steal what is not rightfully theirs.

 One question that remains, however, is that if Paul would have opposed the Southern slave trade, if he were alive then, why does the New Testament seem so quiet about slavery abolishment?"

Let's read further, again from Dr. Copan:

"Critics wonder why Paul or New Testament writers (cp. 1 Peter 2:18–20) did not condemn slavery and tell masters to release their slaves. 

We need to first separate this question from other considerations.

 New Testament writers’ position on the negative status of slavery was clear on various points: (a) they repudiated slave trading; (b) they affirmed the full human dignity and equal spiritual status of slaves; (c) they encouraged slaves to acquire their freedom whenever possible (1 Corinthians 7:20–22); (d) their revolutionary Christian affirmations, if taken seriously, would help tear apart the fabric of the institution of slavery, which is what took full effect several centuries later — in the eventual eradication of slavery in Europe; and (e) in Revelation 18:11–13, doomed Babylon (the world of God-opposers) stands condemned because she had treated humans as “cargo,” having trafficked in “slaves [literally ‘bodies’] and human lives” (verse 13, NASB). (emphasis/underline mine)

This repudiation of treating humans as cargo assumes the doctrine of the image of God in all human beings."

So in the New Testament we see a ringing condemnation of the very core of slavery, as it was understood in South and elsewhere. 

Furthermore, Dr. Glenn Sunshine expounds on the folly of immediate abolitionism in Roman times:

  "Christianity has in fact been history’s major force for the freeing of slaves. Immediate abolition was realistically impossible in New Testament times: The Romans would have treated it as insurrection, and the inevitable bloodshed to follow it would have produced greater evil than would have been alleviated by abolition. 

The injunction to “obey” was thus temporary and contextual. It was also tempered with instructions to masters to treat slaves reasonably, as fellow human beings. Eventually slavery “virtually disappeared” from Europe under Christianity’s influence, as social historian Rodney Stark stated in “For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery” (p. 299)."

Rather than (1.) blithely going around shouting "free the slaves", which would have resulted in a bloody and immediate put-down, leaving those in in servitude worse off than they were before,  or (2.) developing an ethic of "how Christians own people", as Dan suggests is the case in Scripture, Paul and other biblical authors advocate that slaves should be treated absolutely the same as anyone else, that they should take hold of freedom if possible, and that to treat a slave or any person in such a manner as to disparage their God-given dignity is sinful.

It is these principles that would eventually lead to the abolitionist movements in Europe and the United States.

Philemon and Onesimus-

For my readers who are not Christians, the book of Philemon concerns a slave (Onesimus) who runs away from his Christian slave-owner (Philemon) and becomes Christian himself, as a result of meeting Paul the Apostle.
Now while Dan is right that Paul doesn't use the words "Christians don't own people" when talking to Philemon, no honest person could construe his words to Philemon as pro-slavery.

In the book (only one chapter long) Paul implores Philemon to accept Onesimus unto himself as a "beloved brother" not a slave (v.16), to "welcome him" as he would Paul, as a "partner"; (v.17).

Here is further insight from Copan:

"Paul, who had declared that in Christ there is “neither slave nor free” (Galatians 3:28), could appeal to Philemon based on (a) Paul’s personal knowledge of Philemon (who wasn’t a physical threat to Onesimus—which Exodus 21:16
presumes); (b) the spiritual debt Philemon himself owed Paul
; and (c)
the new brotherly relationship in Christ between Onesimus and Philemon. (empahsis/underline mine)

Thus Paul elsewhere can appeal to Christian masters—who have
their own heavenly Master—to treat their slaves justly, impartially, and
without threatening (Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 4:1). And if slaves can
gain their freedom (1 Corinthians 7:21), Paul encouraged this" 

 This was not a treatise on how Christians "own people", but a description of how Christians are to treat people--all people--regardless of their status, slave or free.

So we can see that Bible is not a "radically pro-slavery document" or a "pro-slavery document" at all, in any sense, as Dan contends.

One is left to wonder if this step-by-step approach to slavery also taken by Abraham Lincoln, would have branded Lincoln "radically pro-slavery" in the eyes of Dan Savage?

Christian Anti-Slavery Leaders-

Space does not permit me to expound on the massive effect that the Bible had on the anti-slavery movement in Europe and the U.S., but I do want to highlight believing men and women who took up their "Swords" (Hebrews 4:12; Ephesians 6:17) and fought for the dignity of all of God's creatures.

Elijah Parish Lovejoy (November 9, 1802 – November 7, 1837) was an American Presbyterian minister, journalist, newspaper editor and abolitionist. He was brutally murdered by pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois during their attack on his warehouse to destroy his press and abolitionist materials. (Wikipedia)

 Charles Grandison Finney  (August 29, 1792 – August 16, 1875) In addition to becoming a popular Christian evangelist, Finney was involved with the abolitionist movement and frequently denounced slavery from the pulpit. In 1835, he moved to Ohio where he became a professor and later president of Oberlin College from 1851 to 1866. Oberlin became active early in the movement to end slavery and was among the first American colleges to co-educate blacks and women with white men. (Wikipedia)

Harriet Beecher Stowe (June 14, 1811 – July 1, 1896) was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom. It energized anti-slavery forces in the American North, while provoking widespread anger in the South. (Wikipedia)

William Wilberforce (24 August 1759 – 29 July 1833) was a British politician, philanthropist, and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade....In 1785, he underwent a conversion experience and became an evangelical Christian, resulting in major changes to his lifestyle and a lifelong concern for reform....and he soon became one of the leading English abolitionists. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. (Wikipedia)

There are hundreds of others, but I think you get the picture.

 Hundreds of books and articles have been written on the subject of the Bible and slavery, on both sides of the issue so for Dan Savage, a sex-columnist, to think that he can just proclaim that the Bible supports slavery is naive at best, but I think we've shown that it is also untrue.

As evidenced by his proof-texting of Deuteronomy 22:13-21, Dan shows himself unable or unwilling to make the distinction between prescriptive laws ("thus sayest the Lord") and descriptions of laws, and God's temporal and specific commands, versus general and fixed ones.

Christians must understand that the world will not sit calmly as we explain the biblical positions on contentious issues as long as the "Savage Mentality" spreads. 

 The New Atheists are only concerned with the eradication of religion, not the truth about God or Bible doctrines.

While we know that in the end there pursuits will prove vain, undoubtedly many will be duped into believing the muck that has been raked onto the inspired text of Scripture and be led astray.

It is our job to convey to the world what the Bible actually says about these subjects and so much more, so that we can remove the veil of moral and intellectual superiority from the eyes of fundamentalist atheists and show them their sin so that he may be saved.

 This is a tall order, but by the grace and power of God it is possible.

Sources used:

Apologetics 315

I'd also recommend this longer refutation of Mr. Savage: