Liberals

Liberals really irritate me sometimes. Of course, there are a fair number of conservatives that have the same effect on me at times. The arguments, debates, and disagreements that ensue between the two extremes are very typically divisive, spiteful, and hateful. It angers me to see this in politics (the current presidential race not withstanding), but it especially angers me when it happens within Christian circles. Both sides become so hard-headed and stiff-necked, completely unwilling to give, so sure that theirs is the right position, and in the process hatred is forged and division created. I suppose that, on the conservative-liberal continuum, I would most likely be classified by others as conservative, though, using that same standard, I would place myself further toward the middle (perhaps a 3.5 on a 10-point scale). Rather, though, I prefer to think of myself as progressive, a position espoused by Scott Garber in a recent edition of his Unconventional Wisdom newsletter. The true progressive is neither conservative nor liberal (though he or she may resemble either at various points in time and on various issues), but rather is someone who continually moves self, and urges others, toward change when change is needed. Part of this mindset (and worldview?) is having the willingness to evaluate one’s own stances on various issues and changing when it is clear that the currently held position is in error, something which, as previously noted, I see few from the extremes willing to do. This is not to put myself up on a pedestal as a monument of “enlightenment” or “self-actualization”, however (for I can be as stiff-necked as the next man). But I do strive for a continual state of self-evaluation and change, ever pursuing and desiring to become more like my Lord (the greatest promoter of change during his earthly ministry).

This frustration with conservatives and liberals has become more and more salient to me again these past few days as I have mulled over a variety of topics currently in debate. I have listened and watched and pondered both sides of all the arguments (for they have been very dichotomous in nature, as they must be, for there can only be two sides, good or evil, right or wrong; the so-called “gray” areas are man-made results of sin, I believe, but that is a matter for another post), and I have seen that neither side is willing to budge. (I do have my own thoughts and ideas and stances on the various issues of what I believe is truly right and good, and I plan to make those more fully known in the coming days and weeks, as I am able. For those of you who actually care enough about what I think to ask my opinion and to read, I ask your continued patience. Taking part in these discussions is very important to me, but they are lower on my priority list right now, at least until I get through a couple more weeks of classes and my summer schedule begins to ease off. I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to much more than my studies and to my wife right now. I appreciate your patience.)

I do not condemn anyone for their stances, for it is not my place to do so. I will, however, disagree when necessary and point out when I think you are wrong. However, I also believe that every man is free to believe as he so desires and will be held accountable to the Lord one day for those beliefs, as well as for those they have led to truth and those they have led into sin and disbelief. Therefore, I take these discussions very seriously, both to seek to better others as well as to hone the rough edges off my own thinking and so, hopefully, to reveal a better and more full view of my Lord (always with the Scriptures open and at my right hand, of course) and bind the fellowship of the Body into a greater unity and further the Kingdom.

Love Is More Than A Feeling

There is a common misconception in our culture that love is a feeling, that it happens automatically, and that the lover has no control over its coming and its going. This is readily apparent in the high divorce rate, in the apathy and carelessness of ‘casual sex’, and in the shamelessness of the media (probably the loudest promoter of this myth). Part of this is probably due to the fact that physical and romantic attractions do encompass a great deal of feeling and emotion, both of which tend to be very salient and thus more easily recognized and, to an extent, more easily defined and demonstrated. And so long as these feelings and emotions continue, love is easy to extend.

The trouble is that love, while inherently very emotional, is really a decision made by the lover on behalf of the loved. It is a definitive commitment, made at a specific point, by the lover that says, “No matter what happens and no matter how my feelings may fluctuate and change, I will love this individual.” Because feelings do shift and change over time, across every topic and issue. That is part of human nature. But what should not change is the commitment to go on loving someone once that love has been extended.

Christ tells His people to love with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Paul encourages husbands to love their wives as themselves and as Christ loved the Church. Conscious decisions. And you know Christ didn’t perform his most magnificent work of love because of feeling. No, indeed, He made a conscious decision, submitting his will to the Father, even though His own emotions were encouraging him otherwise.

So, while you may feel an attraction toward someone, even have a ‘crush’ on them, you cannot say that you are ‘in love’ until you have made that decision to do so. Feelings are tremendous facilitators to love, but all too often they deceive and betray, leaving a trail of broken hearts and broken relationships, when they are placed in the driver’s seat of love and relationships.

Feelings make better servants than masters.

Stem Cells

[Page No Longer Exists]

Yes, I’ve been rather quiet lately. Hazards of the summer-term graduate student, I fear. I hope to have time to focus on something other than my studies again soon, but in the meantime, the link above should provide something to chew on for a bit.

[Incidentally, I wondered a long time ago why we couldn’t do this to begin with, since we’ve known that even adults carry around their own stem cells…. guess the scientific world finally just caught up with my brilliant mind…. ]

Blessings!

What a great and awesome God we serve! Right after I posted the information about our burglarly, I checked our online bank statement and found that the problem there has been, for the most part, rectified. So we have access to our money again, which is a huge praise!

Elizabeth and I were able to work hard on Saturday night driving carriages, and God allowed us to earn enough money to replace what cash was stolen.

We have also had a couple of friends who were gracious enough to send us some money to help out in our time of need. To you, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have blessed and encouraged us more than you realize.

And now, for the most amazing part of this so far! Last night, I received a phone call from my band director from high school. He teaches a Sunday School class at a little church in WV. He told me that something new occurred this week — he was asked to teach both of the adult Sunday school classes in a combined setting. One part of the lesson talked about questioning your faith. Apparently, our story (and how we looked to God rather than blaming Him) impressed him enough that he felt led to share it with his class as an illustration. He did not ask them for anything, and yet, when class was over, people began coming up to him, handing him money to send to us. From a little 70-80 member church, they collected nearly $275! I share this story, not to impress you with our faith, but to boast in the faithfulness of our loving, compassionate God and the grace of His Body in reaching out to complete strangers in their time of need. Elizabeth and I have been so humbled by this, that God could choose to use us to encourage other believers and to, in turn, encourage us 10-fold.

We still do not fully understand God’s purpose in allowing this, and perhaps never will, but we can, at least, see how He uses all things for His own glory and for the edification of the saints.

Our sense of peace and security is still shaky at this time, so we continue to ask your prayers for this need. It is hard to feel safe in your own home when it has been so rudely violated, but we trust God to protect us.

Thank you for the many emails and phone calls expressing your love, encouragement, and support. It has meant so much to us.

Robbed!

It is now nearly 4 AM on Saturday, and Elizabeth and I are only just getting to bed. We arrived home from carriage driving in downtown Indy at about a quarter to 2, just a couple of hours ago, to find that our townhouse had been broken into, burglarized, and ransacked. It was an obvious smash and dash job, though the burglars had time to completely destroy our living room and upset our computers in our upstairs study. All told, it could have been worse…. they made off with only Liz’s new stereo system (that she received for her birthday last year), our DVD player, a handful of Sega games (but NOT the Sega Genesis itself or my Playstation, all our remote controls, and $160 in cash. The cash itself was crucial to us, as it was the way in which we were going to pay the vet bill for our horses this coming Tuesday, so they could get their annual vaccinations. We called the police, who came and took a statement, and then we called a maintenance man from our complex to come and temporarily fix our back patio door, since the locking mechanism had been broken when it was jimmied open. Needless to say, neither one of us feels very safe tonight. We are sad and discouraged at this setback and wonder most of all why God would allow this to happen to us.

To add insult to injury, a significant bank error has occurred this week that has frozen us out of our primary checking account. To make a long story short, a $28 check that we wrote on Wednesday was mistakenly deducted from our account to the tune of nearly $3,700, overdrawing our account by $2,600!! We are working with our bank to rectify the problem, but it will probably be into next week before we are able to access our money. Needless to say, with tonight’s burglarly, we have no money to get us through until our account is accessible to us again, other than what meager tips we earned from carriage driving this evening.

Your prayers are coveted right now. We know that God has His reasons for allowing this to happen to us right now. We only wish we knew what they are. Lord willing, this will be the extent of the testing He has for us. Pray that we will learn what we are supposed to from these trials.

Forced Worship

[Why is it that I always come up with my best thoughts when I’m driving down the road, listening to jazz, away from any venue where I could possibly actually record my thoughts as they come to me? I really ought to find my mini-recorder and keep it in the Explorer with me….]

I recently just finished up a CD series of Donald Carson, who spoke this past winter at Cedarville University during the annual Staley Lectureship Series. He spoke on the emergent church movement and integration of postmodernism into that movement. Something that he said really stuck out to me — postmodernism holds as one of its primary foundations the establishment of personal experience to determine truth. This method of finding ‘truth’ has crept into the church and influenced it in ways that I, personally, find somewhat alarming.

Something that has stuck in my craw for a few years now has finally been revealed to me, based upon this ‘revelation’. The worship times at Cedarville (during my five-year tenure there), especially the student-led times, often had a feeling of wrongness to them. A good friend of mine described it like this: “It was like they were ‘forcing’ us to worship, like they were saying, ‘Worship, dang it!'” This was in response to the call to worship, where the congregation was called to think on God, to think on all He has done for us, and to worship him with your heart, essentially with your feelings, your emotions. On the surface, this all sounded very good, but something still stuck out as being wrong about it. In reflection now, I see that this call to worship focused almost exclusively on the experience of God, little on the knowledge of Him and on His revealed truth through His Word. And the songs we sang, the worship choruses, were fantastic for building up emotion and describing the experience of God in our lives, but they also left me feeling theologically destitute, frequently neglecting words of Scripture, words of absolute truth to put all my experiences as a Christian, as a follower of Jehovah, into perspective in light of the Almighty One of Heaven, instead paving over them with poetic niceties. (Don’t get me wrong; I believe there is a place for this sort of worship, just not to exclusivity.) This is the wrongness that I perceived there, this almost single-minded focus on the experience, to the near-exclusion of the absolute and powerfully revealed truth of the Bible.

The weakness of this is that each individual interprets the same experience in a slightly different way, thereby gleaning a different version of the ‘truth’ than all the others. Truth suddenly becomes relative to the individual, based upon their own analysis of the experience in question. Multiple psychological studies have shown that people often define reality by their experiences, much more so in today’s world than in any other time in history. Their ideas of what is true and what is not is flavored by the circumstances they encounter each and every day. The trouble is, every single person encounters a different version of the ‘truth’ because of this approach. Of course, a postmodernist would probably now say that this all the more justification for their worldview, that nothing can ever be truly known because every person’s perspective is slightly different, that reality is constantly shifting for everyone because the only basis they have for ‘truth’ is their own experience of the world around them. They would even say that individual interpretation of the Bible as a standard for absolute truth is perpetually flawed and relative to personal experience because everyone is going to interpret the Bible according to the ways in which they perceive and experience the world. And yet, this is a flawed premise, in and of itself, for the Bible can be interpreted according to an unchanging standard and often be applied to a wide variety of circumstances and settings. All this is not to belittle the practicality of experience in determining truth. Paul himself, in many of his epistles to the early church, specifically encouraged the saints to test their faith against their own experiences and knowledge. But he also pointed them to Scripture, pointing out their sins and flaws, pointing them back to the path that leads to Christ. So, while experience is valuable for the testing of our faith and the working of our salvation, it cannot be held up exclusively as the only means for establishing truth because our own interpretations of experiences are frequently flawed and tainted by our finite sensory and cognitive capacities. The one source of truth that I am aware of that never changes (and has never changed over the centuries) is the Holy Scriptures, and while my own experiences help me understand this God that I love a little better and relate to my fellow man, they fall short of the true understanding of Him who I serve. Can I ever hope to know God and His truth fully? No. Not ever, for I am limited in my understanding, and I always, ever will be. But it is not enough to stop me from trying to learn more and understand more, from the only Source of true knowledge, for all the rest of my days. And I expect that I will often be wrong in my understanding. But I can frame my daily experiences within the context of the Word of God, and thereby gain truth and sanity and direction for my life.

Power of Faith

I Peter 1:8-9 – 8Though you have not seen him [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with and inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

What amazes me here is that this whole process is accomplished purely on the power and strength of faith. This might explain why, though I have never completely lost my faith (only faltered), I have not grown as much spiritually over the last year or two as I would have liked. I have not had the sort of faith that draws me to my Saviour, that instills within me the joy of my salvation and a renewal of my spirit, let alone an inexpressible and glorious joy.

And something else that stands out to me is that salvation seems to carry with it two separate processes — one that is carried out once with eternal implications, and one that is continually being carried out. The one-time action is the initial acceptance of God’s gift of salvation. The continual process is the working of my faith to constantly reshape me into a child of God, the throwing off of the ‘old man’. So, salvation is both a one-time act and a continual process of transformation.

Blessed Be…

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I Peter 1:3-9 ESV (emphasis added)

Racism

So, what’s the issue with racism? In the evenings, on my way home from school, I tune in to Scott Sloan out of Cincinnati. Racism in that city has always been such a huge issue, and lately again it has been the subject of a great deal of discussion — blacks accusing whites of racism, whites accusing blacks of the same. It seems just a little bit ridiculous to me.

What I don’t understand is why everyone is so sensitive. Granted, there are still people out there who discriminate against anyone who is not white. And it goes the other direction, too. But the real issue, to me, is that it’s even an issue at all. Sure, people are sinful and foolish and flawed and are going to make judgments based on stereotypes. And you know what? It’s a fact of life. So get over it!!!

We’re all part of the human race, right? So what if your skin is a different shade than mine? So what if your accent and mine don’t match? We’re all still created in God’s image. So what if we’re different, if we come from different cultures, different mindsets? Just because you look different doesn’t mean that you are so different. And frankly, there are people the same race as me who are far more different from me than someone is a different race and culture than I am. And there are people of different races who, except for the color of their skin or the accent in their voice, are virtually identical to me.

It’s so foolish and juvenile to get upset about things just because of skin tones. I wish people would just grow up…..

Jack-of-All-Trades, Master of Words