Sex and Trees

Sex Symbols

Sex and Trees

In light of recent events, I’ve had a lot of people ask me if I am going to write something that specifically addresses the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. I think anything I write would just be “white noise” at this point, but I wanted to repost something from a few years ago that might give you a different perspective on Christian sexual ethics in general.

(However, if you would like a pretty good *quick reference with responses to a lot of the common arguments for SSM, this link is pretty good: http://www.compassdistributors.ca/topics/homoargs.htm)

Below is the original article:

Sexuality is one of the most difficult topics for Christians to dialogue with the rest of the world about.  In fact, it might be one of the most difficult subjects to discuss within the Church.

Usually, the conversation is geared toward what is permissible.  Generally, homosexuality, adultery and pornography are right out and on the obvious “bad list” for most of the evangelical world.   Sadly, I am afraid I must use the word “most” in this case as there is certainly a movement of gay-marriage acceptance as a totally Biblical concept within Christianity.

But I’m not here to talk about that.  I think that the Bible is pretty clear on what God has intended marriage to be, and if a person has come to a conclusion that there is no Biblical issue with homosexual activity, then I really don’t think I could reason them out of it.

What I want to talk about is the root of our sin, especially in the sexual world.  This might be a perspective you’ve never thought of before, but hang with me.

Open your Bible to Genesis 2, and you’ll find paradise.  God has placed man and woman in a perfect, lush, wonderful garden.  They are free to roam around in the buff, in perfect relationship with each other and nature and God.  But in Genesis 3, it all falls apart.  Why?

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The serpent convinces Eve that God is holding out on her.  I’ll bet in some way you are tempted to sympathize with her a little bit.  But just think of this for a moment.  God has given Adam and Eve free reign over PARADISE.  There are literally thousands, if not millions of wonderful non-thorny trees and bushes with all kinds of perfect fruits and berries to have their fill of.  But Eve is tricked into focusing on the one tree that she is restricted from.

If you are a parent, have you ever heard your child say something to the effect of, “You never let me do/have/get anything I want!” all while they have a room and back yard full of toys?

I bet you see where I’m going with this.  But have you ever considered that God didn’t have to make existence enjoyable in the first place at all?

As a man, I think women are just great.  They are beautiful, sweet, graceful creatures.  Never mind sexual attraction, they are great friends.  Long before I was married, I had girl friends and girlfriends whom I still think very highly of to this day.  I had the pleasure of knowing them as people.  It is a part of human experience to have meaningful relationships with other people and when those relationships are healthy, they are enjoyable.

God didn’t have to make it like that.  Look at the animal kingdom.  Many animals live solitary lives, only coming together to mate.

And speaking of mating, God didn’t have to make that enjoyable, either.  He could have made it purely instinctual.  He could have made that process completely devoid of meaning, pleasure, intimacy etc.  (I don’t want to write the details here, but Octopi are a prime example.)

So here we are, living on a planet where we can have many different kinds of meaningful relationships we enjoy, but only because God is good and made it that way.  We can have intimate physical and emotional relationships we enjoy, but only because God is good and made it that way.  And yet, when it comes to sex, and most all other sins for that matter, we look at God and say, “You tyrant! You won’t let me have any fun!”

From my perspective as a man (ladies, I understand what you get in a man isn’t all that great compared to what we men get in a woman), I must realize that God didn’t have to give me the opportunity or pleasure of knowing, loving or caring for anyone.  Let alone anything so great as a woman.  Let alone allow me to marry and be intimate with one!

Do I dare shake my fist at God and be angry that he says I should be faithful to the one?

Perhaps we need to remember God’s goodness.   Perhaps we need to remember that God made us for a purpose.  Perhaps we need to remember, “the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord.”  Perhaps we need to remember that it is God’s business what we do with our time, talents, money, mind and, yes, our genitals too.

If you don’t believe me, please read 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6 and see if what I am saying is true.   (It won’t take long)

We are not merely animals, PRAISE GOD.

By Klinton Silvey


Why College students are Really Leaving the Church

I’ve read several articles on the subject of  “Why the youth leave the church.”  Usually the articles give reasons such as, “They were never really saved,” or “they were never taught the importance of fellowship,” or “they weren’t discipled,” and the lists go on.

While I don’t think the points made in the articles are incorrect, I do believe most of the lists are incomplete and do not adequately address one of  the biggest reasons people leave the church after high school. 

It may be that, because they grew up in a culture that was friendlier to Christianity, church leaders don’t realize the need to prepare students for the intellectual challenges to Christianity in a deep way. Regardless, as someone who is much closer to college age than middle age I need to point out a harsh, possibly offensive reality:

Most churches — probably yours — have done and are doing a terrible job teaching people, especially youth, why they should believe Christianity is true. A lot of churches do a great job of teaching what the Bible says, but that does no good if a person does not believe or is later convinced that the Bible is not a supernaturally inspired book!

Now, this is article is no attack on my pastors or youth pastor. I imagine they did what they knew how to do and taught what they thought was important and followed the examples that they had.  I would imagine that a lot of what I will say might be “greek” to you. But times have changed and I promise you that your under-30 crowd is dealing with these issues.

Your youth-group kids are going to enter a college-world (if not a high school) that is openly hostile to the Christian faith. Be assured, your students will be challenged to defend — using evidence — every aspect of their faith. And most Christians, regardless of age, don’t know what the evidence is; and many of those who do, don’t know how to explain it.

As I see it, there seem to be two options which are regularly tried:

1. Try to convince students and parents (for those youths in your church who are lucky enough to have Christian parents) to go to private Christian high schools and colleges where they will be sheltered for a few more years or home-school.

2. Try to convince the youth of your church who choose to go to secular schools to avoid the parties and find a church. Hope and pray for the best even though statistically 60–70% won’t be seen in a church again. 

I would like to suggest to you a third option:

3. Give them the strong, battle-tested armor they need so no matter where they go they will be prepared to withstand all attacks and be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Greg Kokul — a great defender of the faith — compares learning Christian apologetics (rational, clear and complete arguments like a lawyer would make) is like putting on a bullet-proof vest. However, the only way a company or a police officer can put complete trust in that vest is to put it on a stand and shoot bullets at it. If a bullet gets through, then that area of the vest needs to be examined and reinforced.

Too many times, Christians only listen to teachers or learn from those with whom they already agree. We like to feel like the smartest people in the room and we like to be confirmed. That is just a fact of life. For example, I would bet almost everyone reading this who watches cable news has a particular news channel that they watch almost exclusively because “the other news people are biased.” What you really mean is that you disagree with the political point of view of the commentators on the other channel and you don’t want to hear what they have to say.

We have the same problem in Christianity, only worse. There is often strong opposition to listening to speakers or teachers who are decidedly for us and for Christ and for the gospel just because they are part of another denomination! If we won’t listen to allies, then we certainly won’t listen to opposition, and, therefore, will be wholly unprepared to teach others why they should believe that God is real, what the Bible says is true and why our interpretation of it is the best doctrine.

It’s easy to be confident in your own rightness when you shut out all disagreement.

You can’t shut out disagreement in the college classroom.

You can’t shut out disagreement in the workplace.

We equip students with vests made of all sorts of “what we believe” materials, but the armor plating of “why we believe it” is missing. Then we send them off, heads held high, into a battlefield of intellectual snipers who are great at finding any weakness in the armor. Next week, I’ll discuss three major “weak spots” in Christian education.

This kind of argument is not the kind of "apologia" mentioned in scripture.  God always backed Himself up with evidence.

This kind of argument is not the kind of “apologia” mentioned in scripture. God always backed Himself up with evidence.

Cracks in the Armor:

While the motivations of those doing the questioning varies, it has been my experience that Christianity is tried in three major areas; and the truth is, a lot of times the skeptic has valid points that deserve deep, caring answers and not clever one-liners.

Area #1: The problem of evil.

If you cant sympathize with people who find this to be a problem, then you just arent thinking or youve never had any real tragedy in your life. The argument is usually something like this:

“Christians believe in an all-loving, all-powerful God, and yet we see horrible suffering around the world. Infants and children starve to death every day. Innocents are slaughtered. Babies are stillborn. Natural disasters kill thousands. Groups like ISIS rape, kill and enslave. Now, if God is so loving and so powerful, why does he let this continue? You say it has to do with free-will and people choosing to do wrong things, but God didnt have to make a world like this in the first place. Didnt he know how terrible it would be? And then, some of these people, after living horrible lives and never even hearing about Jesus, God then sends them to Hell for enternity!? It seems to make a lot more sense that if there is a god, at best he doesnt care or at worst is actually malicious.

Area #2: What we observe in science contradicts the Bible.

I would say there are definitely some valid points made in these arguments, especially against particular schools of creationism. All Christians ought to learn, with an open mind the strengths and weaknesses both scientifically and textually, of young-earth creationism, gap theory, day-age creationism, framework theory and theistic evolution. However, if you are not willing to learn from the proponents of each view, then dont bother. Belief systems should be judged fairly by the best they have to offer and not just by their critics. At any rate, the argument that what we can clearly observe contradicts the Bible usually contains elements such as:

“Doesnt the Bible say that the universe is only 6,000 years old? We can easily disprove that! The only reason cell phones, space travel and atomic bombs work is because we have calculated the speed of light. We know that galaxies really are millions of light-years away. We saw a star explode that was 114,000 light years away. When was that supposed to have happened if not 114,000 years ago? You say God can make anything look like anything He wants? If that is how He operates, then no evidence counts for the Bible any more than it does fo the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Is outer space just a big illusion? Am I really supposed to believe that the megaladon giant shark, the deep sea creatures with razor-sharp teeth and the tyranosaurus all lived 6,000 years ago and that they were herbivores! No death before sin, right? I cant look at evidence because sin messes up my logic? Well what about your logic? We are about to land a satellite on a comet that is 219 million miles away and hurtling through space at 64,000 mph. Obviously, we can calculate something correctly using our minds.

Would any of these questions make you uncomfortable? I know they certainly struck a chord with me. How would you answer them? Do you need to do some studying?

Area #3: Christians are immoral and judgmental.

These arguments are the ones we see most commonly in the news media and pop culture, and like the others, they should be taken seriously. Sometimes they sound like:

“Why are you Christians so against two people who genuinely care about each other spending the rest of their lives together just because they are of the same gender? Why cant people just be who they are inside? It isnt hurting you, so why dont you just stay out of it? Why should we all have to abide by morals written thousands of years ago? Even you Christians have changed. Men and women used to wear robes to the floor to be modest. You certainly dont do that anymore! You talk about things prohibited in the Old Testament, but you eat ham! Also, how many people have been killed in the name of Christ? Jesus said not to judge.

I Peter 3:15 (NASB) says, always being ready to make a defense (apolgia: a legal term like the defense a lawyer would make) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…”

This verse needs to be fulfilled now more than ever. I beg you to honestly consider how prepared you are to address some of the arguments Ive listed. It could be that you are very unprepared. It could be that you might need to learn from people with whom you think you disagree.

But I would ask you to put yourself in the shoes of your young people and imagine being faced with these sorts of questions.

My freshman year at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, I thought I knew why people ought to believe the Bible. I had watched Dr. Dino, and he made minced-meat of the arguments non-believers would have. I was in a BMA church every time the doors were open since birth! I was prepared.

Wrong.

I wasnt prepared at all. I had only been given a caricature of what other people believed, thought and felt. I had only been taught from a narrow perspective and didnt even know that other schools of interpretation existed within conservative, Bible-believing Christianity.

The worst part is, I am pretty sure I drove people further away from Christ by my ignorance-fueled arrogance and the apologeticsI had been taught. I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again.

What will you do to make your youth more prepared than I was?

Under the leading of the Holy Sprit, I have dedicated my life to contending for the faith in the arena of thought. I have a great list of resources on these subjects and would love to talk with you or your youth. For more information, visit lifeinprogressministries.com.


The Reality of Grammy Idols

I was so utterly discouraged Wednesday after my talk to nearly 150 teen girls, I couldn’t even write this article.  I couldn’t look at their evaluations of my program and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t overcome my despair.  I was spent.

See, mid-day on Monday I began preparing for my speech to this group.   Since I am now in my thirties — can’t believe I’m saying that —I thought it might be a good idea to do a little research and figure out what’s hot and trending in pop culture to get a better grip on where most teenage minds reside.  So, I checked my DVR for the Grammy’s.  Now before you stop reading because you are thinking, “here we go, again” I hope you’ll hear me out.

I’ll admit, I primarily began watching because I really do need to understand teen culture and music is a good indicator, but if I’m honest, I also wanted to see Taylor Swift perform.  I don’t know why.  So, after a quick view of what I’m guessing was one-third of Beyonce’ and JayZ’s earth-shattering performance, I skimmed through in search of Taylor.  On my fast-forward journey I grew more and more irritated with the outfits, or lack-there-of, the extremely sexual choreography and the very dark and down right weird stuff.  I watched all of Taylor.  Her dress was gorgeous.  Her performance was what I expected and I truly wanted to jump through the TV and give her a hug when she was done.  She looked so hurt by that guy.  Seriously.  After that, I skimmed through a couple more morally disgusting jokes and performances and called it a day.  I didn’t watch most of it.

I had seen enough.

As I thought about the “show” I started to feel my reaction coming on strong.  This is MESSED UP.  I was mad.  Why are we so eager to support, applaud and give credit to these people?  Because they are famous, talented, beautiful and rich?  I guess so.  Are people really this enthralled by raunchy sex appeal?  Do we not see vulgarity as wrong anymore?  As quickly as I’m asking the questions, the answer came — yes.  Morality has no place in our culture.  Right is relative.  Tolerance and acceptance are our only beliefs and Yonce’ (as the girls I spoke to lovingly call her), JayZ, Katy Perry and the like are our nation’s most popular preachers.  Hollywood elite craft and deliver the message.  We accept. They set the standard.  We give them a golden statue and keep the cash flow goin’ so they can build their empires.  It’s crazy.  Ironically, many of their own children probably aren’t allowed to watch!

I thought about it all day Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday as I was driving to St. Louis.  I prayed and prayed, “Lord, what would you have me do?”  As I arrived at the school, I felt compelled to share with the girls how Christian Grammy nominee, Natalie Grant, left the Grammys early because it was so ridiculous.  After all, my presentation was on personal branding, image and character.  I thought the story would be a great way to conclude.

Here’s the thing; the girls totally did not get it.  It may because I didn’t communicate it well.  But, I have nine years of experience speaking to crowds just like this one.  I don’t think, in this case, I was the issue.  They cheered at my first mention of the Grammys.  Clearly, they LOVE Beyoncé.  They’ve never heard of Natalie Grant, not surprising, but you should know this was a private, Christian school.  I have spoken to over 80,000 teenagers and I’m telling you, these girls turned on me when I merely alluded to the idea that Yonce’ had been inappropriate.  They were absolutely dumbfounded at the thought of a Grammy nominee walking out.  Why?  They could not, in any way, wrap their minds around the notion that ANYTHING had been wrong at, with, or surrounding the Grammys.  They thought it was awesome.  I kept looking for faces that might show a glimpse of agreement with me.  None.

The bell rang, they handed in their evaluations and they were gone.  I was devastated.

Listen Christians; we have got to stop being gray.  We have got to stop being lukewarm.  We have got to stop allowing our children and the teens in our lives to go day-to-day thinking it is perfectly acceptable to act like a sex object, witch or whatever.  It is NOT okay.  You can call it art, you can call it performance, you can call it creativity, you can call it entertainment, you can even call it freedom of expression.  But, you, Christian, cannot call it right and you cannot act like it is no big deal.  It is profane.  It is a slap in the face of your creator.  It is WRONG.  WRONG.  Say the word.  Things that are profane are not beautiful.  Profanity is not to be celebrated, but exposed.  The church has been quiet or found ignorant while our culture has adopted, promoted and established profane idols of worship.  We’ve allowed our enemy to silence us and now I feel like an ancient prophet screaming,  “Stop the madness!  Turn back.  Destroy these idols or they will destroy us.”

This is nothing new.  This is what the enemy does.  He takes things, people, that were designed to be beautiful, created for eternal purpose and he destroys them.  The enemy perverts them.  What you saw — or hopefully didn’t see — was perversion.  Is Beyoncé talented and beautiful?  Of course!  But what God designed for His glory has been debauched.  The same formula could be said for nearly every artist that took the stage.  How does it happen?  Simple.  They — we — are born absolutely depraved.

The same formula would be said of me if Satan had his way.

God is love AND God is holy.  Everyone wants to talk about His love, but scarcely — especially in our pop culture and mainstream media — can you find anyone who wants to discuss His holiness.  The media push young people to believe that God loves everyone and therefore accepts everyone no matter what they do.  They push that since God made our emotions; whatever we feel must be okay.  OR, since there is no God, we can decide what’s good, bad, right and wrong.  Either way, we are in control.  They insist when you try to debate, discuss, reason or disagree with them, you’re an idiotic fool.  Get this: their god is not the God of the Bible.  Their god is one they have fabricated for their own comfort, ultimately resulting in the god of self.  They live to build their own kingdoms and to glorify themselves.  They DO NOT care about, nor do they know the God Christianity proclaims.

The God of the Bible, the only One who has revealed and proven Himself for thousands of years has not and will not tolerate sin. Nor does He casually overlook sin.  He never will.  God does not accept people the way they are!  Hello!?  There would have been NO REASON for Christ and the cross if that statement were true.  All people are not acceptable in the eyes of God.  Think about it.  We are only acceptable in the eyes of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s it.  Unless we have been “born again” by faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, we are not acceptable.  He takes what is corrupt, does away with it and replaces it with something better, His righteousness.  He redeems.  We praise Him for His grace because we have done NOTHING to deserve that chance.  That was ALL Him.  He chose us.  While we were still sinners, messed up, Christ died for us — all of us.

Jesus came to free us from sin and the death trap that it is.  He came to give us life.  He did that.  We did nothing.  Some choose to reject Him.  They don’t want what He offers.  They prefer their sin to His righteousness.  They don’t want to surrender their life to a God they can’t see.  They don’t want to be told what is right and what is wrong by a divine creator.  It is their right to make that choice (only because God created us with a free will to do so, ironically) but the REALITY is every knee is going to bow.  Every tongue that is making money mocking the holy God of the Bible now will someday confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Mark His words, it will happen.

But in the meantime, I don’t want a whole generation of people to be deceived by the enemy because I’m too afraid to speak out and proclaim the truth.

It is time we stand together and stand up for truth.  The human body is not a sex object and sexuality is sacred.  There is right and wrong.  Our Creator defines it.  We can prove morality.  If you claim Christianity, you must stop supporting and watching things that are profane in the eyes of your maker.  STOP.  Christ lives in you and is with you.  You must grasp what it means that your body is a temple of the living God.  You must stop putting trash in your mind.  You must believe God when he says those who sow to the flesh will reap corruption.  And stop justifying it.  Stop allowing your kids to bathe in this trash.  If you think your daughter is fine, I dare you to look at her iTunes account.  Check her list of artists and songs.  Google some lyrics.   This is what she’s listening to when you’re trying to get her attention. Parents, stand in the gap for your kids!  Get your own mind right.  Teach that there is in fact a line.  It is well past crossed and we cannot sit back and act like all is well.  All is not well.  I know because I saw it on the faces of 150 girls who have no idea why they matter or if their life has value.  They have no idea who they are or who they are supposed to be.  They have no idea that their body is a precious gift.  They have no clue despair and destruction wait for them at the hand of their enemy.  He is deceiving a generation and we are letting him.

There’s hope.  Christ asks us to be that hope.  He asks us to be salt and to be light, to push back the darkness and to share the TRUTH.   Smash the idols.  I believe if we are faithful to do our part, to be obedient to His commands, He will be faithful to do His.

I’m in.  Are you?


Truth, tolerance, logic

Why Bother With Apologetics?

If you believe in Jesus, then apologetics is for you; it is not just for “intellectuals.” The clearest definition I’ve heard is that apologetics is the communication and defense of the Christian gospel. I have heard some speakers say that “God does not need His people to defend Him.” Of course that is true in a literal sense, as if God is in danger. But God certainly uses people to speak for Him. God certainly does not accept blasphemy. And God does engage people intellectually. “Come now, let us reason together says the Lord…” (Isa. 1:18 ESV) So, if you’re thinking, “our faith doesn’t need defending,” I would challenge that assumption.

Consider I Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…”

The word translated to “defense” in this word is the Greek word apologia, from which the word “apologetics” comes. The word is used seven other times in the New Testament (Acts 22:1; 25:16; I Cor. 9:3; II Cor. 10:5-6; Phil. 1:7; II Tim. 4:16). Apologia was a word used to describe the defense that a lawyer would make for a client in a court of law. It does not imply a clever “one-liner” response.

I can’t remember who it was, but I once heard someone compare the need for teaching apologetics to teaching a missionary the language of the nation he is evangelizing. That’s a great illustration because that is what apologetics is all about – speaking the language of our culture. And the language of our culture is skepticism.

Christianity Today recently ran an article titled “Watch Out, Pastors, Millennials are Fact-Checking Your Sermons,” which revealed a Barna Group survey showing that about 40% of church-going Millennials will research and fact-check truth claims made by their pastor. Millennials are those born between the 1980’s and 2000s. They are the now teenagers through age 33.

They have good reason for this. Millennial Christians cannot afford to be uneducated in their beliefs. We live in a time where the Christian faith is put on trial daily. If Christians, especially those in high school and college, do not know how to defend their faith with truth and logic, or if they make any false claims, they will be intellectually chewed up and spit out.

For years, Christians have thought that sensual temptation is the biggest danger for the college-goer, but that is secondary. The biggest problem for the Christian in college is that they are made to feel stupid for believing in Jesus. Church, we must prepare our young people to face the intellectual challenges that the world is bringing upon them. Christianity is for the heart and mind.

Non-believers have legitimate questions to ask us such as, “If God exists, and is all loving and all powerful, why is there so much suffering and evil,” or “Why do you believe the Bible is the word of God other than because it says it’s the word of God?” or “What evidence is there that Jesus actually rose from the dead?” A lack of reasonable, logical answers to these and other questions are barriers to belief.

But there are good answers to be had, and I have personally witnessed people come to faith in Christ shortly after meeting a Christian who could dialogue with them and answer some of these questions. It was like the spiritual and intellectual walls of Jericho came crashing down and the Holy Spirit flooded the city!

For so long, we have been taught that we should believe that what the Bible says is true because the Bible is the Word of God because the Bible says it is the Word of God. This does no good unless we realize that we ought to believe the Bible is the Word of God because what the Bible says is true! The truths of the Bible do not need to be taken on “blind faith.” God’s word can stand up to any challenge, and that’s what apologetics is for. We have a most reasonable faith.

However, we must always remember the second half of I Peter 3:15: “…do it with gentleness and respect…” The art of apologetics is not a weapon. It must always be associated with evangelism. Winning an argument is not the goal. Winning a soul to Christ, is. Our world is searching for answers, and it is our duty as Christians to do our absolute best to show them that answer. There are many resources available to help you and your church delve into this wonderful, rich world of apologetics. Check out the “ASK” program at RZIM.org or visit sites such as apologetics315.com or bethinking.org to get started.


What if Pope Francis is right?

Pope Francis recently asked if God would forgive those who do not believe in him.  (Read about it here.)

His response, according to the Guardian:

“Given – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart,” the pope wrote, “the question for those who do not believe in God is to abide by their own conscience. There is sin, also for those who have no faith, in going against one’s conscience. Listening to it and abiding by it means making up one’s mind about what is good and evil.”

Now there is a lot of taking the Pope out of context, such as The Independent, which ran the headline “Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven.”  I don’t believe that the Pope is saying atheists go to heaven as some papers are trying to say, but it does seem like a plausible interpretation that the Pope is saying that following the conscience is the main thing atheists need to do because going against it could mean sin.

So, is the Pope right or wrong? 

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That’s the wrong question to ask.

Let’s assume the Pope is right, and in some ways I think he is.  I agree that “God’s mercy has no limits, if He is approached with a sincere and repentant heart.”  But I’m willing to go a step further. Let’s just pretend that the Pope really was saying that atheists could go to heaven if they would just act according to their consciences.

Would it be good news if just “following our consciences” was the answer? I say NO.

People are excited about the prospect that the Pope, who is kind of the BMOC of religion in the world, might have said that essentially following your conscience is enough is because of an underlying assumption that people are good.  People are not good.  Their, our, consciences are corrupted.  But even if our consciences were perfect, we all violate what our conscience tells us. So, if following our consciences was the answer, we would all be in trouble.

So regardless of what the Pope did or didn’t say, the real questions to ask are these:

1. Am I truly good?

2. If not, how on earth can I fix it?

The short answers:

1. No.

2. You can’t.

These questions essentially capture the whole story of the Bible.  We’re broken.  From Adam and Eve, (who broke a command) to Cain (who didn’t break a command but still sinned, and I would dare say, violated his conscience) to Paul the great evangelist who cries out from his heart, “who shall rescue me from this body of death?!” we are all sinners.  We are all spiritually dead.

So God intervened and sent the son to take on all our deadness and give us life.  And that’s what the Gospel is really all about.  The Gospel isn’t about making bad people good; it’s about making dead people live.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (*Present tense) in Him shall not perish, but have (*Present tense) eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 NASB   “*” denotes editors note.

But for those of you who still think that what the Pope maybe, hopefully said is true, keep reading.

18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.”.

 

 

 

 

 


Tired of being told to “Love God More?”

Love God more.

What does that even mean?  If you are like me, maybe you can relate to this:

You are sitting in church, and the pastor says that the most important thing is to love God the most.  You agree, so you decide right then and there that you are going to do just that.  You don’t know exactly what it looks like, but “in your heart” you are just going to will yourself to love God more and that’s that.

Basically, what has happened is that we have reduced love to an intellectual decision.  I think I love God more than anything, therefore I do.  But is that what it really means to love God?  I suppose that it is definitely true that you should think of God above all, but that’s a little dry.  The problem is that our English word “Love” really encompasses a lot of things.  So I’m going to throw out some new words for you.

Infatuated with.  Passionate about.  Appreciate.  Admire.  Fun. Find interesting.   How would like to truly be able to describe your relationship with God in terms like these?  I know these sound more like terms that remind you of your first girlfriend/boyfriend, but that is EXACTLY what I’m going for.

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If you have ever had a significant other, you know that the early days of that relationship are EXCITING!  That person is all you can think about.  You talk about him/her with you friends.  You call them.  You look through all of their Facebook pictures.  Every day is a new adventure, and, whatever you think it means, you start to fall in love with them.

Unfortunately, most of us have never felt this way about God.  But you can.  And he wants you to.  But you will never feel this way about God by willing yourself to “love him more.”

What you need to do is study.  Yes, study.  It sounds yucky and reminds you of school, but hear me out.  That honeymoon phase with your earthly significant other was exciting because you are constantly learning about them, and they are excited to learn about you too.  I’m sure you can think of a time where you had a bad first impression of someone, but came to love them by learning more about them.  Or maybe you thought some type of art or music was dumb, but learned to appreciate it later in life.  Knowledge leads to love.

Unfortunately many of us believe — or go to a church that believes — they have it all figured out when it comes to God.

But you/they/we don’t.

I’ve got news for you, your theology and understanding of the Bible and the great mysteries of God will never be perfect.  Ever.

Maybe the reason you aren’t totally infatuated/in love with/interested in God is because you don’t realize there is so much more to know!  Do you think you truly understand the depths of his love? You don’t.  Do you think you know all there is to know about his character? Nope.  Do you really understand how God is weaving the events of history to the benefit of those who love him? Really.  Can you fathom the intricacies of how God holds this universe together just so you can have life?

The fact is, that God is so majestic and wonderful and holy, yet so personal that there is never an end to “getting to know” or dare I say, “dating” him.

Of course there are doctrines that are set in stone, such as Jesus’ s death on the cross.  And we can be confident of this because they are straightforward in the Bible, and pass the logical tests for truth.  But that doesn’t mean you fully understand it.  It doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to learn, or that some of your doctrines need questioning.

There is a difference between questioning God and his word and questioning your understanding of it.  And if you are willing to humble yourself and let God teach you through his Holy Spirit, he will reveal himself to you in BRAND NEW  ways and you will, in fact, begin to love God more.

 

 


Prayer is good, but…

Yea, my first blog post as part of Life in Progress Ministries!  Very exciting times.  Klinton, myself and our spouses are anticipating that God will accomplish great things and open many doors of opportunity for this ministry.

I want to share something on my mind and heart today, a conviction really.  All of us can relate to going through times when we had no clue what to do.  We had no clue what our next move should be, no clue what to think or how to behave.  So, we began to pray.  Prayer is good.  Prayer changes things.  There IS power in prayer.  Prayer is the way we communicate with God; giving thanks, asking for provision, begging for help, repenting of sin…you know the drill.  But, have you ever considered that prayer is an incomplete way to communicate with God?

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Klinton and I were discussing this morning how desperately we need fresh knowledge of God.  We need to know who He is and what He wants.  God is an incomprehensible and complex being. (Which is what makes a relationship with Him forever thrilling!) There is so much to know!  Ironically, as I minister to women,most — if not all — are faithfully praying.  They need help.  They need encouragement.  They need comfort.  They need answers.  They need hope.  They NEED.  And prayer is a proper response.  Please don’t get me wrong.  But, I’m wondering if prayer is enough?  Prayer is YOUR word to God.  What you and I most need is HIS word to us.  We need knowledge for decision making, knowledge for understanding, knowledge for comfort, and knowledge for life.  We need to know.

I have been guilty of only praying and expecting answers.  I’m learning that God speaks to me through prayer, but more directly and more personally through His word.  There have been times in my life that I have tried to take spiritual shortcuts to get answers.  I’ve asked someone else, read articles, watched TV programs and read blogs.  To be honest, at times the answers I found did pacify, but they never satisfied.  I’ve learned not to sacrifice Biblical knowledge under the banner of prayer.  Pray.  Prayer is beautiful and necessary.  But, also open your Bible and discover God for yourself.  Reading and studying and meditating on the Word of God is life-changing and life-giving.  It is the Word that gives life.  Jesus said,  “it is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life.”  Jesus said man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. God’s word should be life to the believer.  Yet, so few self-proclaimed believers know the Bible.  Does anybody else see the problem?

I love these verses that so eloquently explain why we have the written Word:

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4 (ESV)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

The more I study the Bible, the more I realize how much I need it and how complete it is in covering my every need; spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically.   It is the scriptures that change me.  It is the scriptures that reveal God to me.  It is the scriptures that give me hope, purpose and direction for my life.  Sadly, I am often guilty of passively reviewing the Bible or depending on someone else to teach me what it says and what it means.  The Holy Spirit desires to be our teacher…God…your teacher.  Who better?  Don’t take the shortcuts for finding answers.  Gain the knowledge you need for your life.  Pray.  Go to church.  But, take time to study and examine God’s word for yourself.

“The scriptures are written for our use and benefit, as much as for those to whom they were first given.  Those are most learned who are most mighty in the Scriptures.”  Matthew Henry

 

 

 


Truth, tolerance, logic

Truth, Logic and Tolerance

Ask any random stranger if they are reasonable, and almost all will either tell you they are reasonable or at the very least will jokingly tell you they aren’t via some cliché line about how their therapist says they are.

Unfortunately, I do not think any of us are as reasonable as we think we are.

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I often thought of “reasonable” as meaning fair or moderate. This is one definition of the word, but the core of a reasonable person is the ability to exercise reason. All of this seems intuitive at first, but in practice, it is not. The ability to reason requires a person to understand sound logic. It is at this point of understanding logic that I have an intellectual bone to pick with our culture and with our education system.

(Before I pick this bone, I want to say that I am writing about education at large. This is not a direct attack on the Potosi School District in any way. In fact, what I have to say applies just as much to a place like Mizzou as it does to an elementary school. )

Did you know there are fundamental rules of logic? Of course you did, but I bet you couldn’t state them. I couldn’t. Neither in grade school nor college had I ever been taught the basic fundamentals of logic. Yet I found myself answering “critical thinking” questions throughout grade school.

Critical thinking begins with good logic. And teaching students to think critically without first establishing the rules of logic is like trying to teach algebra to someone who doesn’t know how to multiply or divide.

Have a look at the four fundamental laws of logic:

1. The law of non-contradiction: A thing or idea or statement etc., cannot both be true and not true in the same way at the same time. For example, black cannot be white and simultaneously black at the same time.
2. The law of the excluded middle: A statement is either true or false.
3. The law of identity: A thing is what it is. As in, it has a specific nature. For example, I am 5’9” tall, and that does not change even if I say (or wish) I am taller.
4. The law of rational inference: There should be sufficient reason for a thing to happen. For example: If A=B, and B=C, then A=C.

As I said before, many think that logic is implied in critical thinking, but after working as a teaching assistant at Mizzou, I can tell you that contradictions run wild in the essays of many college students.

What is even worse is that these laws do not just apply to abstract thought, they apply to our day-to-day lives as well. Finances, morality, philosophy, law, lifestyles etc. all are thrown into chaos when a person chooses a particular course of action and hopes for a better result than what these laws would dictate.

See, the reason one uses the laws of logic is to come to a conclusion about what is true or not true. However, our culture, especially academia and the social sciences is questioning the idea that truth exists in a shift of thought that some call “postmodernism.”

To clarify, let me compare this to modernism.  Modernism is the system of thought that is exemplified in the scientific method.  The idea is that there are some things we do not know, but if we develop a hypothesis and test it, we can come to a conclusion about what is true.  Modernism assumes that there are some things that are absolutely true and in the marketplace of ideas, we can debate, experiment, and test assumptions to argue for what is true.

Postmodernism rests on a foundation that says there is no such thing as absolute truth because all truth is relative to the preconceived notions we were all raised with depending on our upbringing.

For example, you might think that cannibalism is absolutely bad.  However, to someone who was raised in a cannibalistic tribe, it is good — nourishing in fact.  And, it is not their fault they were raised that way.  So, who are you to say they are wrong for what they believe?

A less striking picture of postmodern thought could be that where one person sees a forest, someone else might see “just” a group of trees, and a bird might see a home, and a lumberjack might see a business opportunity.  For the postmodern, the nature of all things is dependent on the interpretation of the viewer.

On the surface, some of these basic tenants of postmodern thought seem to make sense, but with just a little more digging, the foundations of postmodernism fall apart.  Postmodern thought can also lead to incoherency and extreme views about people who do believe that there are some absolute truths to argue for.

It is under this postmodern view that the word “tolerance” is being redefined.

In the good old days, tolerance meant that you could completely disagree with the ideas another person had, but you would respect the right of that person to hold whatever view they wished. However, you could still maintain that there is, in fact, right and wrong, and make arguments for what is true or morally acceptable.

Under the postmodern view, it is not OK to even believe that some things are right or wrong. Being “tolerant” to post moderns means accepting all views as equally valid. Agreeing to disagree, or even respecting another’s view is not enough. If you say someone else is wrong, postmodern celebrities such as Oprah would say you are intolerant.

I would argue that acceptance is not even enough in the pop-culture today. The shift is that now you must endorse and even advocate whatever beliefs, lifestyle or decisions anyone else holds — unless, of course, that person chooses to believe that there is such a thing as truth. In that case, the truth-believing person is to be labeled as an intolerant bigot.

I find myself agreeing with the man who said that this postmodern view is a kind of “philosophical stupidity the likes of which has never been unleashed on mankind.” Under a little scrutiny, the system falls apart.

For example, let’s examine this statement: “There is no absolute truth.”
I wonder, is that statement true? Absolutely?

The same sort of question could be asked of the statement, “All truth is relative.” That statement is true relative to what? Is it absolutely true because if it is, then we are looking at a pronouncement that is not relative and disproves its own self. If that statement is relative to something that is not absolute, then we don’t have to regard it.

Problems arise for the postmodern view on tolerance as well. Postmodern tolerance means one must agree with and accept all things or be labeled as intolerant. Not only is this contradictory, it is incoherent.

You cannot tolerate someone with whom you already agree. The very word tolerance means that you believe someone else is wrong in some way.

To look at a belief or action and say, “I think that is wrong,” is not intolerant as long as you are not advocating violence or ostracizing the person with whom you disagree.

But to ridicule and label people as narrow-minded bigots because they hold to a certain view of truth is intolerant.

And this happens all the time in pop-culture and mainstream media with the vitriol usually directed towards people of monotheistic faiths and social conservatives — all in the name of tolerance.

It is hypocrisy.

However, it is easy for me to imagine someone who holds to a postmodern view of the world to ask, “Klint, who ever said everything had to be coherent?” To them, I would simply reply, “Would you like me to give you a coherent answer?”