Saturday, July 25, 2009

Worldliness

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the father is not in him". 1 John 2:15

Thomas Jefferson famously created a bible that was unlike any other created. He went through the scriptures and carefully removed all teachings he did not agree with. He created the "Jefferson Bible". A book that complimented and accorded with his personal worldview. Thus he removed any supernatural interventions, anything pertaining to God's wrath against sin, hell, and any other teaching that contradicted his views. Such an action brings a wincing response from most Christians. But in all truth we all to some degree are guilty of the same mistake that Jefferson made. Making the bible out to say what we would like it to say rather than what it truly proclaims.


After all our generation (named generation Y) more than any other is influenced by this notion of individual truth. And although within Christendom many would stand poingnantly on the fact that truth is Christ and we are his. The daily manner in which we live does little to indicate that we are a people who have been liberated from the bondage of the world. We are quick to justify and acculturate many of the teachings of the bible as pertinent only to the 1st century or simply to not investigate our actions closely to examine if we have fallen prey to worldliness.


I can't help but think that in our desire to be relevant we have lost sight of much of the cross and our call to live in such a manner that our example draws others to proclaim that there must be something so much greater that explains such behavior. A simple look at your own life will likely draw out that for many of us this this is not the case. Like when was the last time you abstained from a movie because you felt it was not honoring to God, a TV show, ejected a CD whose language profaned God or his creation, gave up something or downsized for something that worked just as well, simply so that you would be able to bless something or someone other than yourself. Abstained from reading fashion magazines simply to refrain from the trashiness that many bring?


I can't help but think that in our efforts to right the wrongs of our parents and not be fundamentalist we have loosed our moral compasses and have become innoculated to a world that beckons to make us impotent and destroy us. I don't think that worldliness is something that suddenly rips us from the bosom of Christ. Rather it is subtle and insiduious. It creeps in and over a period of slow drifting. Drifting that doesn't take place in a way that is always easy to identify. Drifters may still be there on sunday, still sing the worship songs, and still seem ok. But inside are drifting, drifting away from the cross and further towards the world. Sin no longer convicts them as it once did, no longer seems as big of a deal, and slowly their affection for Jesus grows dim and passion for his kingdom begans to placate.

Charles Spurgeon put well 150 years ago he stated " The more the Church in her acts and her maxims, the more true is her testimony for Christ." Spurgeon emboldens his congregation to live in a manner that displayed the awesomeness of Christ and his desire for holiness. But this thinking has been removed. We seem to desire just enough of the world to tolerate it without become intoxicated from its power. The world has permeated almost every facet of our culture. Love for this world looks radically different than the love for God that the bible commands. Joel Bleeke define the goal of worldly people this way. He said their goal "is to move forward rather than upward, to live horizontally rather than vertically. They seek after outward prosperity rather than holiness. They burst with selfish desires rather than heartfelt supplications. If they do not deny God, they ignore Him, or else they use him only for their selfish ends..." How often is this the case, how many have fallen in love with the creation of the world and its inhabitants rather than truly fallen in love with the creator of the universe. Like what are our goals? What drives us? Financil security? More friends? Successful children? Spouse? or are our goals more upward? To obey and glorify God above all other aspects of life. Is this the pinnacle of our existence?

Make no mistake it is neither the person who abstains from the world entirely, nor the person who engages it who has mastered the art of being in the world and not of it. It is a matter of the heart. External indicators are not always as accurate as we like to think and can be incredibly misleading. Worldliness is internal. It is the inner cravings of a man that lead him into worldliness, aqquiring what John Owen said was " living affections for dying things".

But praise Christ that through the cross we have imputed righteousness through the cross to cleanse us of sin and imparted righteousness to allow us to walk in freedom from the lusts of this world. May we do well to listen to Spurgeons plea that as Christians we "Dwell where the cries of Calvary can be heard" and in doing this the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. May we press to eradicate our lives of love for this world, but realize and meditate on the cross, its power, the ramifications of the cross and our Lord.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mature Masculinity

At the Heart of Mature Masculinity is a sense of Benevolent responsibility to lead, to provide for, and to protect women in ways appropriate to a man's differing relationships, which in fulfillment of their roles give glory to God...

This is not an exhaustive definition of Masculinity, there is much more to masculinity, but there is not less. And make no mistake it is possible for a man embody many traits that socially are associated with masculinity (i.e. hunting, fishing, fighting, sportsmanship, be an outdoorsman) while at the same time remain "immature" with regards to true and biblical manhood. If there does not exist this "sense of responsibility" to lead, provide, and protect, his masculinity is at best incomplete and may even be distorted...

The word sense here is most appropriate because it does not merit the necessity of a woman or the interaction with women for a man to develop or to have maturity with regards to his masculinity. For example if he is single in the mission field working with indigenous groups, he is at combat, in a monestary, imprisoned, these circumstances do little to negate ones maturity. Neither does this sense need to be actualized in order to meet the criterion for mature masculinty. The man can remain single and celibate and still have a mature sense of responsiblilty that permeates and influences the way he interacts with women, talks to women, relates to pornography or sexually illicit material found in cultural media of all kinds, and even the way he interacts with the marriages of men around him. It also does not mean that he in all situations is enabled to fulfill this burning desire within him. For example a man who has contracted a life crippling disease that leaves him bed ridden and unable to provide for and protect his wife is still capable of recognizing and sensing this desire to provide for and protect for his wife and children even if the wife has now assumed the responsibility as breadwinner.

The term "benevolent" is meant to express the manner of this responsibility and indicate how it is to be served to the women around him. Men are meant to lead biblically as Christ demonstrated becoming the servant in all relationships around them, not lording their leadership in a self-aggrandizing or dictatorial way. But rather they are to fully relay the expression of the golden rule with regards to their female relationships. (Matt 6)
It is a "responsibility", it is a God-given trust for the good of all his creation, it is a duty, one for which men will give an account. Clearly illustrated in Genesis 3:9 when God says first to Adam "where are you?" even may have sinned before Adam but he was the first called to give an account. This does not belittle the responsibility of women, it simply signifies mans unique responsibility.
To "lead" this is perhaps the most often misunderstood trait of masculinity. The term "lead" is somewhat nebulous pending the context in which it is used. Biblical and masculine leadership expresses itself not in the demand to be served but in the strength and conviction to serve and sacrifice for the good of those he is leading and in this case specifically for the good of woman. It imitates and embodies the model laid out by the teachings of Jesus and his moving sacrifice on the cross for his bride. It does this by serving and leading in ways that attempt to draw out the strengths of those on whom their leadership falls. Simply put a good leader does not aim to demonstrate his superiority over others but rather to bring out all of the strengths that will move them in their desired direction. The man must do this not by assuming and enforcing his leadership but advocating for it.
To "provide" is not to belittle or inhibit a woman's role in maintaining support for the family or for society but that his benevolent and loving desire to provide practically unfolds in that when their is no bread on the table it is the man who should feel a responsibility to get it there. This does not mean that the women can't help. This is clearly seen from Gen. 3 when the man receives his curse to work the land.

To "protect", at the core of mature manhood is the desire to protect. The mature masculinty produces a desire to suffer for the safety of other, to step forth into harms way in hopes of protecting his wife, family, loved ones, life, or truth. Few would contend that this is without virtue, just as few would lable it the women's job to play this role of protection in the place of her husband or for his protection. Such an opinion would be a distorted and perverted one that across cultures does not seem to align.

All of these actions and virtues lie deeply rooted in a regenerated heart that has been transformed, it is only through this that man is able to truly love like Christ loved the Church. But manhood has little to do with being married, just as it has little to do with much of what society would deem "manly". It is mans God-given responsibility to lead, provide for, and protect the women no matter the nature of their relationship. The clearest example of mature masculine leadership took place on the cross, and we as men are now charged to glorify God by behaving, leading, protecting, and providing for those around them, especially the women in their lives.



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

True Wealth

"I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)" Rev 2:9
"We are treated as poor...yet making many rich" 2 Cor 6:10


The teachings of Christ heavily include the topic of wealth, money, and spending. This man who did not own a home, have a savings account, and was socially speaking a 1st century Jewish peasant, he would however defy all previously held notions towards finances. Christ would speak almost 25% of the time on the topic of money. The teachings all centered on the fact that "you cannot serve two masters" and if you treasure the things of this world your heart will be here and fixed on more filling your life wiuth things rather than filling the kingdom with souls.

It seems that perhaps we have missed it. In a country where everything is accesible and right at our fingertips it seems as though most of us have fallen for the lie. That it is simply not our calling to deny ourselves, perhaps downsize our house, trade in our luxury SUV or sedan for something more affordable in light of the fact that over a billion people do not have water, over thirty thousand children will starve to death today, and a majority of the world lives off of what we spend in a week.
The bible recognizes that we have an innate sinful ability to withhold our lives from God, as though portions of it were ours, but the epistles constantly command us to aknowledge that Gods heart breaks for the hungry, the tired, the lonely, the widow, the abandoned. I see camper after camper up here. So many of which come from homes that operate in a manner of wealth that I do not even think one could quantify. But they are either spoiled, distasteful, or lazy, or lonely, angry, and just not led. I don't know where the fathers of so many began to justify and move in the direction that we need more, I need to work more and the mothers agreed... That it would be better if there was less Dad around but more things in the house...

But the problem continues not only in our greed for more but in our self consumption. We are an adulterous people who desire far too often God's creation rather than him. Its as though all of us have become heavily addicted to material possesions and justify these addictions by looking at the person above us and saying well its not like I have "..." and thus its ok. It is confusing. Our comforts tend to far outweigh our pursuit of God. Most of us would probably admit that what we want is a comfortable life in a beautiful suburban home, with a beatiful spouse and children, a good job that allows us to give 10% (a number well below the givings of God's people in the OT) a long life, die in our sleep, and no hell.

I am not sure how I would explain so much to so many of the saints at the feast in heaven, or how I would explain my life to God if my life fell in this pattern...

Christ give us the passion and understanding of your incredible sacrifice, how you who created everything became a man possesing nothing and that your actions further allow us to worship you by giving up some things and through you possessing everything...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

New York New York


I am sitting on a bus on the corner of 33rd and seventh avenue in New York city. Leaving the epicenter of world culture, capitalism, and cultural diversity is something of bittersweet this evening. On the one hand I am beginning my journey back towards my home, family, and life, but I am leaving behind a friend whose loyalty, love, commitment, patience, and wisdom have punctured into my heart and soul. The past days have brought into my life moments of intense joy in the fellowship of my closest of friends along with those of whom these friends live most intimately. But they also have enlightened my heart to a world I had previously only been able to imagine. This educational experience has left me deeply challenged on a number of levels.

NYC is unlike any other, a empire of extremely where poor meet rich, young meet old, religions foster the zealous and the careless, where you find the hungry and the full, men and women of every age, size, shape color, sexual orientation, social stratification, and race.


The city quickly revealed my own prejudices, pride, and sense of entitlement. I don't see the world like God does, I see things from a very homogenous, elitist, suburban perspective. But what made New York so beautiful is that it truly is a shadow of things yet to come...New York mirrors so much the heavenly city Augustine wrote of 1600 years ago in his famous work "City of God". Both the to be "New" City of heaven and New York City seem to share so much in common. Both are both enormous cities filled with people of every tribe and tongue gathered together in harmony. Though in no way is New York redeemed and thus its citizens pursuit is very unlike the holistic pursuit of the Citizens of the New Heaven who pursue God and his glory, where as the citizens of New York wholehearted pursuiis the dollar bill. But similiarly people from every walk of life come together and dwell together. There is even a large Garden in the middle. How close a resemblance does this city hold to our soon and future "City of God".
May the God of Power, strength, love, passion, and compassion have mercy on this City and bring revival to its gates. Jesus you see all mankind as image bearers, forgive us my God, forgive me...

-revelation 5:1-14
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.


Amen




Friday, July 10, 2009

Fear

"The only thing we have to fear is fear it'self - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Karl Marx reasoned that the greatest human motivation was fear. By using intimidation and fear you are able to force individuals into a paralysis that incapacitates them from being able to function, and conditions them to behave in a manner that is not only beneath their capabilities but also fail to even see their own potential.
The Christian is not to fall prey to this folly. Make no mistake fear is a good and Godly thing when its faculties are directed in reverence to the Lord. Scripture is clear that one cannot love God, be a Christian, or even have any wisdom if they do not fear God. There are millions and millions of very brilliant people who have been educated very well and regarded as intelligent by the world around them, who are also fools. The absence of Christ is the absence of wisdom, not practical or theoretical wisdom but true biblical wisdom. Thus fear is a good thing and a godly thing, but only when this fear is in the Lord.
We all fall prey to a number of other "sinful" fears that shroud themselves behind a veneer of humility, which in reality is truly the result of Pride and sin. Fears of failure, fears of inadequacy, fears of the future, fear of death, fear of being alone, fear of letting others down, all of these scream out our deeply ingrained pridefulness. We afraid to soil our name instead of consumed with bringing glory to God's name. We neglect to hold onto his promises, that he will give us the desires of our Heart, when we delight in him, and fail to trust that our heavenly father is working not only for his glory but our good. Often our fear is from a supposed inadequacy as if God made a mistake or could possibly need us to be just a little bit more intelligent, attractive, talented, or gifted to accomplish his good and perfect will. We replace the God of the bible and make others around us god by seeking their approval and acceptance this is called "peer pressure" in middle school and "people pleasing" in adulthood . We place God behind our own desires and wish to accomplish his will as long as it coincides with our will (ie finding our spouse, having children, living in the suburbs, and having a great church). And fail to trust him(the opposite of fear) and instead surrender over our lives to a number of other idols that were good things but when made god replacing things they became bad things.
Fear is among the greatest tools that satan uses the inhibit the gospel. But as a Christian you have not been given a spirit of Timidity (lit gk word cowardice), but of power, love and discipline-2 Tim 1:7. Therefore let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.-Hebrews 12:1-3
The sin of Fear is a subtle and incredibly disguised one. It provokes mercy from others around us, which is good. But we must also recognize that much of our sin is rooted in the fact that we are worried more about what people will think of us, than what they do think of God. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom... fear of others, our embarrassment, our failure, our life not being as good as we hope, all of these are sin and have no place in the Kingdom.
Thus in a sense FDR was right but in a sense very wrong. His words were meant to foster courage and encourage other not to fear, and the only thing they have to fear is being affected and influenced by fear. We are to follow a similar pattern knowing that we have nothing to fear but only to trust in our God who will provide for all our needs.


Father you are worthy of Honor, glory, respect, reverence, admiration, love, and all of our fear. Teach us to trust you knowing we walk by faith not by sight. Forgive us our trespasses of the fear of man, loneliness, and failing. You are good Jesus and we trust you...



Thursday, July 2, 2009

Truth

When The Times invited several eminent authors to write essays on the theme "What's Wrong with the World?" Chesterton's contribution took the form of a letter:

Dear Sirs,
I am.
Sincerely yours,
G. K. Chesterton

It doesn't take long to recognize that something has gone terribly wrong in the world. Famine, disease, rape, death, destruction, and on and on and on. But from a macro level and a micro level the infiltration of sin has tainted every aspect of our world. Everything has fallen under the control (all under God's ultimate control) of Satan (1 John 5). Since the fall in Genesis 3 man has lived under the powerful grip of sin. Being born continuously into sin. This took place in the Garden of Eden when Eve listened to Satan's manipulative lies and was deceived, while her husband sat in sinful silence. These two sins of omission and commission embark our race into a world that has since been clearly under the power of the evil one.

But truth shines through in a timeless way amidst an everchanging world. Since Satan's lies to our first parents we have all fallen prey to deceit and deception. Satan's lie to Eve in the garden was not one of rediculous proportions but a subtle and slight manipulation of God's words and command.

"Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" He then goes on to assure that she will not die, but rather will be like God being able to distinguish good from evil. She falls for this lie and in her efforts to make herself more like God. (Clearly from scripture we find an interesting teaching because on the one hand a desire to be like God in virtue, humility, purity, holiness, all are good things, but to desire to be like God in power, authority, and dominion is clearly satanic.) But the lie, Jesus calls Satan the Father of lies John 8:44. And this is the problem we face. Christ will say that when Satan speaks he speaks only lies, which are his native tongue. So sin which is a quality of Satan not God, is always a distortion and a deception of true and abundant life.
The sins of Lust, Doubt, despair, materialism, etc... All revolve highly around lies.
The sins of self deprecation (eating disorders, unhealthy thinking habits, self hate) all of these are highly centered around the notion that you are not enough. Heavily influenced by the culture around you men and women began to feel inadequate amidst what they believe to be the standards of beauty. This is a direct violation of the Imago Dei and you belittle the image of God, listening to a lie of our world (a world under the control of the devil).
The sins of physical lust and sexual desire outside of a marriage bed, all sacrifice what was meant to be a gift that was a component of true intimacy (simply a small component not the fullness of it)and trade them for immediate gratification. Often these desires for intimacy trace back to a number of issues and complexes but in the end what we find is men and women falling for the lie that this false intimacy will fill the vacant and hollow cavity inside their chest and it only further empties it out.
Materialism, again we fall victim to the lie that things, positions, wealth, jobs, prestige, homes, cars, etc... that all of these will in some way improve our quality of life and Jesus taught openly against this, saying that there is no connection between life and wealth (Luke 12, Matt 5). We are in danger of falling for the lie that something new will entreat us, that we need this, that we deserve this, that life is too short and we have worked hard. Oh God help us, let us not fall to Satan's lies, and end up worshipping the temporal with our lives rather than the eternal.
But again it is the lie... Satan constantly toils to deceive and destroy us, his every desire is your demise. He longs to destruct your life, steal, kill, and remove all hopes of life, true abundant life from your soul.
But we have acres of hopes in the midst of such deceit. His name is Jesus he is the way, the TRUTH, and the life. He is our remedy for such lies, he is our rock in times of trial, he is our anthem of praise when the storms of life, lies, and sin come upon us. Praise God that he is beyond deception, he breathes truth into the most unlikely of places for the glory of his name and he is our Truth. He has provided a way out (1 cor 10) and he will be faithful to show us the way that leads to life, not death. Our King of Glory and truth
Lead us in the way everlasting Lord...

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