Thursday, September 30, 2010

Does Inclusive Truth Exist?

I think that you'll find that all truth is exclusive, not inclusive. For something to be true, it means that the opposite of it isn't true, thats exclusive. For someone to say, that all t-shirts are cool, that exclusive because it means also at the same time that all t-shirts can't be not cool.

Every major religion in the world is exclusive in some ways or another.

Christianity, obviously claims that the only name under which men can be saved is the name of Jesus.

Islam: Claims Allah is the one true God and Muhammad is his prophet.

Hinduism: Claims that there is not one way to heaven but reincarnation and karma that determines how many lifetimes you have before their concept of "heaven."

Buddhism: was started by rejecting the tenets of Hinduism and the caste system. (excludes some Hindu beliefs)

Ba'haism: The most inclusive religion in the world and becomes exclusive by excluding the exlusivists.

This concept is known as the law of non contradiction, meaning that if something is true, its opposite cannot also be true.

This is significant because a lot of people are looking for the all inclusive truth, and it doesn't exist because it can't its not intrinsically possible (another way of saying its not within the realm of possibility.)

I believe that for us to live consistently we must think through our beliefs to their logical conclusion so that we don't end up believing contradictory things and then have our world view shattered when someone comes along and challenges what could be fallible and incorrect assumptions.

I would like to state an alternate means of looking at these same issues, maybe not a popular one in this day and cultural age, but unpopularity doesn't discount an idea from being true anymore than popularity assures truth.

I think that it can be said that

1. The bible is true, it makes this claim of itself and also claims to be God-breathed. (If we don't agree on this point, thats ok, but it does throw a wrench in our starting points on this discussion.)

2. If the bible is true, it cannot also be not true (law of non contradiction.)

3. Things not included in the bible or from other cultures, religions etc. may be true or contain truth in them.

4. For things to be true and their converse to not be true, there must be a measuring stick to determine if they are true or not. I would suggest the Bible would be this measuring stick from point 1.

5. With point 3 being the case and assuming it might be true, we can safely say that things from other cultures etc. (I'm not listing a lot but this could mean everything else not in the bible, so tons of things) contain truth as in accordance with the measure of truth (bible) and be very adept at revealing, displaying, painting a picture of the truth or aspects of it. They don't define it because they can't, because certain aspects of the "everything else" would come into contradiction of the measure and they can't both be true.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Theology vs. Love: Which is more important?

One of the major questions/issues in the church today is what role theology has in the present church. Many of the emerging Christians of this generation boldly claim that theology has been abused and it needs to be relegated to the periphery and Love placed at the center. Christians need to stop systematizing God with theology and focus on the Love, Grace, and Mercy of Jesus.

I think there is a flaw in this logic. The flaw is that people say theology should be replaced with love...

I think that the difference in what is being talked about is what place should theology take in our faith. There seems to be a trend in this generation of post-moderns that love, acceptance, and inclusion of people is central to Christianity and theology is and should be on the periphery of importance.

I don't think this is the way things should be, nor do I think it's the way things are done, even for those claiming that this be the case.

I say this because our world views shape the way we perceive and do everything, our beliefs about life and God define everything. The way we define Christianiaty, love, acceptance, and goodness IS our theology. So though many people claim that love is more important than theology, it's apples to oranges. What we believe about God and how we define love towards others is our theology.

So the question or the issue at hand is not whether theology is central to Christianity, the issue is whether God-centered, bible defined theology is the theology we use? Or do we use a culturally defined, relative definition and application of love, inclusion, mercy etc.

I think that far too often we say theology is abused by Biblical brow-beaters (which often happens) and so our response is to redefine God, Love, and Jesus with culturally appropriate definitions that people "feel" better about.

The issue at hand which is dramatically affecting the entirety of the church and all of its denominations is where we get our definitions of Christianity, God, Love, Jesus, and Grace. For example, the Lutheran church just split over the issue of ordaining homosexuals. It was a theological issue, and half of the church defined "Grace" from the culture which says that homosexuality is a different lifestyle and to be gracious and loving, the church must not discriminate in its pastoral representatives in regards to sexual orientation. Most issues facing the church are theological in nature and the conflict comes in when it comes to where the definitions come from.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Some thoughts about sovereignty...

Most Christians would agree that God is Sovereign. In fact, He is described that way in the bible on numerous occasions. I think where you will find discrepancies in different denominations and flavors of the Christian world is what that actually means.

There are thoughts about sovereignty all across the board. Some would have you believe that means that God knows the future but can't or won't interrupt it, some believe that He doesn't know what the future holds but He knows the millions of potential future scenarios with every decision that's made but doesn't know which of those will come to pass. Some believe that God controls everything that happens and that humans have no ability to choose anything, and some believe this to the degree that evangelism is wasted and missions is fruitless because God is Sovereign and our actions irrelevant to any of His plans and purposes.

There is not time nor space to dive into this topic in a single blog in any depth, nor am I a qualified person to speak too much to this subject, but my aim today is just to identify some of the beliefs or world views we may hold that affect our ability to clearly and objectively navigate this subject.

We tend to believe....

That we have the ability to ultimately decide things without interference or influence...
That any/all of our choices are devoid of external influence...
That we can see the world clearly enough to make ultimately free choices...
That for a choice to be "real" it must be free of influence from God...
That for us to be morally responsible for our choices, God cannot ordain that they be...
That God is unaware of the colossal suffering and pain in the world...
That God unjustly allows or ordains the colossal suffering and pain in the world...
That we have a better measure of fairness and justice than God...
That we have the right to call God to the witness stand and demand justification for his actions or inaction that resulted in suffering and pain...
That we could continue existing if God chose to release his "preservation" of the world...
That we can see the big picture objectively enough to sit in judgment of God's actions or inaction...
That things are true because we believe them...
That things are true because we feel them...

So often our judgment as to whether or not God is right, wrong, or just is based on our experience of pain. If all is right in our world, God is not guilty, whenever there is pain, suffering, or death, God why did you let this happen?

We demand that God, the Bible, and beliefs about these two be seen through the eyes of the world, through the paradigms of the secular, political, or universalist.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Righteous vs. Unrighteous

Proverbs 24:16 For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

This verse is so heartening to sinners like myself. I can't tell you how often I need to come to the ocean of free grace and drink away my failings and shortcomings. Many people are so gifted at so many things, yet I seem to only be an expert at letting God down, failing in righteousness, and reverting back to my struggles and sins.

I can't tell you how many times a day I must come to the well and withdraw grace and forgiveness for my failures, it often seems an almost consistent and never ceasing need of God's mercy. I will say that I find verses like Romans 8:1 and Proverbs 24:16 helpful to ward off the shame and guilt that seems to plague my so constant failures.

It is so beautiful and liberating that the difference between the righteous man or woman and unrighteous isn't an issue of moral perfection. It isn't a difference of less failures and sins. It isn't an issue of tally marks for good behavior, it is a heart issue of desiring God, desiring to be with a clean, pure Savior in spite of all of my garbage and filth. It is the desire that drives us to rise again and be with Him after our 7th or 10,000th failure. The righteousness comes not from having less failures than the unrighteous, it comes from God and is displayed by rising again after every fall, every failure.

As one who loves God imperfectly, one who can't seem to get it right so much of the time, how freeing it is to realize that there is no shame, no condemnation, no guilt anymore in Christ. That has been lifted, that guilty verdict was already delivered to me and carried by my Jesus in AD 33. Now no matter how many times I fall, there is always enough grace to allow me to relinquish shame and guilt, to stand up once more through the Cross, and to rediscover the infinite treasure that is Christ.

Want freedom, don't strive towards moral perfection, strive to recognize the magnanimity of Grace in Jesus and display that Grace by depending on Him for the strength to rise again, and again, and again.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Magnitude of Grace

I was briefly doing some study earlier and listing to Pandora when a song about God's
Grace came on. Which song is irrelevant, I don't even remember. What I do remember is being overwhelmed by the concept of Grace. So many authors, pastors, theologians, and men and women of faith have expounded on the idea of God's grace already, but the sheer magnitude of it defies description in words. Human language is so limited to define, explain, and portray concepts like Grace, Beauty, and Forgiveness.

I was overwhelmed by Grace, receiving from God that which we do not deserve. It reminds me of Romans 8:1 Now therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. This verse is a grand slam of significance. Can you imagine what the world, what our lives and relationships would look like if we took this verse to its logical ends. What transformation would come about by a body of people who swam in an ocean of No Condemnation.

We have been given unlimited access to an infinite supply of Grace. How foolishly do we piddle around in our lives with frustrations, grudges, addictions, and tension in relationships. How might we treat the people in our lives if we swam in an ocean of Grace all day every day. What might our marriages, families, children, and friendships look like if took advantage of the unlimited access to infinite grace at our disposal. Why are we so stingy with grace towards other people when we have been given infinite access? Why do we allow offense, defense, petty differences, and pet peeves drive irreconcilable wedges between us? How absurd that we should be hesitant to give out a few buckets of this Grace when there is an unlimited supply at our disposal?

We have received more Grace from God than we will ever be asked to bestow on other people. I am the poster child of chief of sinners. I cannot comprehend how much I have been forgiven in my short life, how deeply I have offended and committed treason against the Gracious Master. Yet He continually calls the wayward sheep home embracing us with open arms and unlimited affection. How have we been given such an incredible deal? How can we turn our backs on this, I don't know even though I so often do.

Let me conclude with a plea for the application of Grace. We are ungracious with people in our lives because we either do not understand how much grace we have received from God, or because we are self-righteous in our belief that we didn't require much Grace. When our eyes are opened to the Niagara Falls of Grace we have and continually receive, only then can we apply this Grace horizontally to our wives, children, friends, and family. Be a conduit of the Grace you have already received, seek to fathom what you have been given so that you might display the Glory of God's Grace in your application of it to other people.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Counterfeit Perception vs. True Reality

I have been realizing in my life lately that there is a huge difference between the counterfeit freedoms, securities, comforts, and wealth of the world, and the True ones offered by Christ. The problem lies not in that they are different but that their difference is one of perception and reality.

We perceive externally that people driving nice cars with large houses and bank accounts have freedom, security, wealth, and comfort because we have been conditioned to perceive the external appearance of these as a sign of the true, internal presence of them. I am realizing how false this is and how crafty the enemy has been to deceive us into thinking so. We are so surrounded by the world, its values and paradigms that it is difficult for us to divorce our thinking and world views from the secular values.

We rely on our sight and perceptions as a measure of Truth instead of trusting in the Word or Spirit to measure those. True Freedom, True Security, True Comfort, and True Wealth is found in Christ and in Him alone.

True freedom: is not found in external conditions of the ability to make choices, go places, and follow our thoughts and desires with no inhibitions. True freedom is found at the Cross and liberates us regardless of external situations. The inmate in solitary confinement who has found Christ and abides in Him has more freedom than the Donald Trumps, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffets. He is free in his confinement because the freedom is found completely outside of the limitations of the physical universe. His Spirit can soar with Christ, wallowing in oceans of joy because of the infinite value of Christ removes all of the perceived, physical limitations. The circumstances of confinement cannot contain the Christ abider because the world was Created in, and through, and for Christ-- with no limitations whatsoever.

True security: is not found in armored cars, alarm systems, hired bodyguards, and political peace, it is found in Christ. Being secure in Christ means that He is caring for you with infinite love and immortal sovereignty. He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1) He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Rom. 8) Secure in the power and care of God's sovereign rule over the world means that no physical danger or injury, no harm, no death, nothing can come to you but what God has allowed or ordained in His infinite love and wisdom. (This could become a much longer discussion about the sovereignty of God, and perhaps it will, although it will likely not be a unanimously popular one.)

True comfort: is not found in plush seating, expensive limos, 1st class tickets, and Armani suits. It transcends the physical expression of comfort to an inward satisfaction and peace in Christ. Comfort can be sitting on a hard cement floor because you are sitting there with the Master in His arms. Comfort can be living on the streets trusting in the good and merciful sovereignty of God. Comfort can be an uncomfortable situation with chronic pain where your only solace comes in crying out to Christ for the grace and strength to hold on until He releases you from the terminal cancer.

True wealth: is not measured by numbers, accounts, land holdings, or status symbols. Wealth is measured by having and valuing what is Truly valuable. A person with diamonds and gold galore yet uses them for door stops and paper weights is not wealthy. Wealth is measured by both possession and value. To be wealthy we must not only possess what is truly valuable (Christ) but we must value it supremely as it merits. Using a diamond as a paperweight and door stop doesn't diminish the value of the diamond, it reveals the poverty of the owner because he is not valuing the valuable. Christ is unequivocally the most valuable thing we could ever conceive, and our wealth is measured in how much we recognize and treasure Him. Our indifference to Christ does nothing to diminish His value or glory, but our wealth is measured in our value of Him. If you want to be the wealthiest person in the world, then treasure Him more than anyone else in existence and you shall be.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Settling for less than the Truth about God's presence

I often read in people's prayers, jottings of scripture or encouragements to one another a quote from Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three have gathered in my name, I am there in their midst." This is most often quoted as a type of encouragement for people to ensure them that God recognizes their gathering in groups of at least 2-3 people and that He will be present when we gather in groups of at least that size.

We are settling when we look at this scripture in that light. If we read the context of this scripture, it is spoken specifically about church discipline and how the church should handle when people are outwardly living a lifestyle contrary to Biblical teaching, or when they are sinning against one another. When we use this scripture to encourage people that God will be with us, amongst us, we are selling the Truth of the Gospel short. This verse is way too powerful and promising for us to limit it to God being present when we gather in small groups. Besides the fact that Jesus promises at the end of the same book that He will be with us always even to the end of the age. So the actual promises of God are even better than the ones we often choose to lean on.

This scripture in Matthew is so much better than just saying God will be with us when we get together, He is promising us that when we are hurt, wounded, offended, sinned against that when we get together and pray that their prayer will be answered. How much more promising is this that God ensures that during the most difficult times of a Church, when people are actively living in sin and actively sinning against other people that prayer Will Be Done. It Will Be Answered, it Will Be Addressed, it Will Happen.

The principle that God is with us is true, but it's better than than. Jesus says that He is with us always, the Spirit is forever living inside of us, the Father is constantly without fail guiding and protecting us. When we are in groups of twos and threes and especially when we are alone. How much greater is the promise that when you are alone, rejected, hurting, afraid, in danger, persecuted, injured, that He is Always with you, always protecting, guiding and living inside of you. That is 1000 times better than the requirement that there must be two or three present.

The times we often need God's presence the most are when we are alone. Imagine those living in closed, hostile countries surrounded by tens of thousands of hostile individuals from other religions. No other believers for hundreds of miles. Can they be encouraged to know that God is present when another person or two are available for prayer? No, the Truth that He is always with us until the end of the age, the truth that He never leaves us, never forsakes us, never forgets us, is always present, always active, always knowing, always loving is so much better than the one we often quote out of context.

It is true that when two or three are gathered God is among them, but the greater, truer representation of that is that He is always there...